When you’re a passionate longarm quilter (like me) you not only want your quilts to look fabulous, you also want them to stand the test of time and use. Choosing the thread that will hold your quilt together is a big decision. Since our Handi Quilter machines can handle any thread you choose to use, you can make a great decision from everything that’s available. In this blog post, let’s delve into thread durability and explore the factors that influence the strength and resilience of our quilting threads.
Thread Durability Factors
The foundation of thread durability lies in its material composition. Cotton, polyester, silk, and nylon are among the most common choices for longarm quilting threads. Each fiber has its unique characteristics, affecting factors such as tensile strength, elasticity, and resistance to wear. The two most common fibers are cotton and polyester.
Cotton thread is a popular choice for quilting. Like any material it comes with advantages and disadvantages.
Cotton is a natural fiber, making it an environmentally friendly choice. It is biodegradable and renewable, contributing to sustainability in the textile industry. Cotton thread is strong and durable.
Cotton thread has a tendency to produce lint. This may require more frequent cleaning and maintenance to ensure smooth quilting. Cotton thread may be more susceptible to wear and abrasion over time compared to some synthetic threads. This can be a consideration for quilts that will be subject to heavy use or frequent washing. Think baby quilts, kids quilts, couch quilts.
Silk thread is a luxurious and versatile option for quilting. It has a natural sheen that adds an elegant and luxurious touch to quilting projects. Despite its delicate appearance, silk thread is surprisingly strong and durable. Silk thread produces minimal lint. It is finer than many other types of thread, making it suitable for intricate quilting such as micro background fills or quilting designs with a lot of overstitching.
One of the significant drawbacks of silk thread is its cost. Silk is a luxurious material, and as a result, silk thread tends to be more expensive compared to other thread options. Although silk thread is strong, it may not be the best choice for heavy-duty quilting projects or those that will be subject to a lot of wear and tear. In such cases, a more robust thread may be preferred. It may be a good choice for wall hangings or art quilts because of its luster.
Nylon is a popular choice for embroidery but it is not often used for quilting. There are better choices than nylon in almost every instance.
Colorfastness: Polyester is a much better choice if you want the colors to last through many washings.
Strength: Cotton or poly are better choices for a strong thread. One drawback of nylon thread is its elasticity. It tends to break rather than stretch. That’s not a good scenario if you tug or sit on a quilt. It also tends to become brittle after multiple washing with today’s detergents.
Thickness: Nylon thread tends to have a thicker appearance compared to some other threads. While this can be an advantage for adding texture to a quilt, it may not be the best choice for intricate or detailed quilting designs.
Invisible thread: When you want to use a clear or invisible thread, poly is a better choice than nylon. Poly stretches better, is thinner and is more heat resistant.
The weight of the thread significantly impacts its durability. Threads come in various weights, ranging from lightweight to heavy-duty. Thicker threads often provide more strength, making them suitable for quilts that will undergo frequent use and washing. However, the weight should be balanced with the intricacy of your quilting design to ensure smooth and even stitches without too much thread build-up.
You’ll find the weight on the thread packaging, usually right on the cone or spool. One thing you need to know about weight is the higher the number, the thinner the thread. So 100 wt thread is very fine. 12 wt thread is about the thickest thread that will go through a machine needle. Thread weight can also be designated by #. So #40 is a 40 weight thread. The most common threads for most quilting is in the 30-60 weight range.
This is an important aspect that sometimes gets overlooked by quilters when choosing threads. Thread ply refers to the number of individual strands that are twisted together to form a single thread. The ply of a thread affects its strength, thickness, and overall durability. You’ll find the ply information right along with the weight on most high quality threads. So if you see #40/3 on the spool, it is a 40 weight 3 ply thread.The more plys the stronger the thread.
How to Choose?
It ultimately depends on the quilter’s preferences, the intended use of the quilt, and the desired look you are going for. But the more you know the better decisions you can make. Pretty much the same as anything else in life, right? Next week we’ll get to the more aesthetic and fun aspects of thread choice. So stay tuned.
Quilt Every Day!
by Mary Beth Krapil