Thursday, April 26, 2007

What's all the fuzz about? My thread of thought!

Kim's blog entries on goodies from her mom made me think about threads. I've been reading about all this hype regarding aging thread and how one must discard it or use it for basting a quilt, which I do not do! Why is it that all of a sudden, old thread is no longer good anymore? I guess everything has a expiry date, so why not thread! Well, I beg to differ.

If you think about this logically, which is something I tend to do too often, it really doesn't make sense! If thread aged and became brittle, wouldn't antique quilts be falling apart by now? What of the clothing? The quality of thread today is much better than what our fore mothers had. Have you noticed that antique quilts are still holding up despite the abuse some have been subjected too! You see, I too have inherited some old spools of threads from my grandmother, Coat and Clark's to be precise, on wooden spools.

Now, my grandmother took good care of her things. Like most people of her generation, she kept the spools in a little cardboard box, away from dust and light. Keeping in the frame of mind of my grandmother's generation, waste not want not, I began using it for hand sewing. I use these cute little spools of thread for the binding. For me, they work better than the 100% cotton I use for machine piecing. I can use a long strand of thread and don't have to worry about fraying from the friction of the continuous in and out that occurs with hand sewing the binding.

A while back I had the opportunity to visit a Gammil dealer to check those babies out! They are sweet but not what I needed at the moment. I also had the pleasure of talking about thread quality with the owner and the importance of sewing with a good quality thread, Egyptian cotton - long staple being the best. I was informed that the quality of thread can be measured by the amount of thread fuzz in your bobbin case. Thread fuzz is created by the unevenness of the cotton used, those little uneven spins that can be seen under a microscope.

Now, I have always considered fuzz a normal byproduct of sewing. On Carolyn's quilt I had used a Coats & Clark 100% cotton thread for machine quilting. When it came time to cleaning out the bobbing case for another project, I noticed there was a lot of fuzz. On the Welcome quilt, I used monofilament on top and Metler Silk finish thread in the bobbin. After machine quilting I cleaned out my bobbin case and found almost no fuzz. Grant it, there was not as much machine quilting on this quilt but still, I would have expected a bit of fuzz. I also remember doing larger projects using Metler and didn't have as much fuzz.

From this, I can safely say that "higher" quality thread give off less thread fuzz than "lower" quality thread. When I say lower, I do not mean those cheap 10 cent a spool threads. I consider Coat & Clarks to be a good quality thread. They've been around for a long time. What next?

If I choose to spend money on a "higher" quality thread, to whom or what am I doing the favour? Is it my machine, because it won't have to deal with so much fuzz. If I clean it often, which one should do, does it really matter? If I use the "higher" quality, am I doing the Bernina Service technician a favour because my machine won't be a fuzzy mess? What of my treadle machine? It's been around for ages and has had "lower" quality thread and amazingly it still works beautifully!

The point I'm trying to make is, does it really matter what thread you use if you're diligent about cleaning and maintaining your machine? Doesn't it all boil down to what you like and can afford? For some, Coat and Clark works not only because of quality but also because of affordability. I just bought a cone of Alex Anderson's new Master Piecing thread to test. I paid $26.00 for 3,000 yards. That's not cheap! We won't go into the "it never goes on sale and I can't use a Joann's coupon either!"

I'm curious to read what your thoughts are on thread. What do you use and are you concerned with aging thread!

Oh, just in case my sister is reading my blog, which I doubt, let it be known that I'm keeping a close eye on my mother's thread collection too!

Gosh, this is a long thread! Thanks for reading that far!


Darlene said...

Thread, what's good and what's bad has long been a discussion among quilters just like the quality of fabric; chain store vs quilt store. For a long time I used Star thread in my machine - it was relatively inexpensive and goodness knows we go through a lot of thread. Then I was chastised in a class and told that I should be using Mettler, afterall my machine had been calibrated for Mettler. So hanging my head in shame I started using Mettler. BTW, I find it to be fuzzy. I use Mettler more than anything else however several of my local quilting friends use Coats and Clark and love it. So, it boils down to a personal preference.

On a Newsgroup several years ago someone once pointed out that our mothers and such never worried about how much fuzz thread created - LOL. True!

Wendy said...

You've raised some very good questions. When I first started sewing in high school I used the cheapest thread and it kept breaking. So then I discovered thread is important. I don't think just because it's old that the thread is rotten. If kept away from sun I think the thread is fine. Now I only use Aurifil thread, it's made of Egyptian cotton and when I use it I don't have as much fuzz as with Mettler. Aurifil might seem expensive but it would take 3 spools of Mettler to 1 spool of Aurifil. Sorry this is so long.

Kim said...

What a can of worms you've opened, Carole! LOL! When I started quilting, I used Star for piecing and Mettler for quilting. I still use Star, although I've tried many other threads. Mettler never had large spools in the colors I wanted, so I went through a ton of those little spools. Then I started using Valdani hand-dyed variegated in a lot of my quilting. I also like YLI. Recently, I started buying Essentials from Connecting Threads, which has some nice colors but is probably similar in quality to Star. A lot of quilters like to piece with Aurifil, but I'm hesitant because it's only a two-ply and won't hold up as long as a three-ply--I guess it's a matter of a trade off; two ply will lay flatter. The newest brand I've tried for piecing is Presencia, which is recommended by Harriet Hargreave and is said to leave almost no fuzz. Wrong! Maybe a little less, and it's a good thread but I didn't think it quite lived up to the hype. So generally these days I piece with Star or Essentials and quilt with Valdani, YLI, or Essentials. (And that doesn't even get into applique thread! LOL!)

Anonymous said...

I so enjoyed reading this! People get wayyyy to emotional about thread! My policy is that if it works for you and fits your budget, then it's fine thread. I think a lot of the teachers do a real disservice with their proselytizing over thread brands. I have read, over time, of THREE different thread brands that Harriett Hargrave recommends. One wonders if she recommends what she is given free to use. What's the big deal about cleaning out some lint anyway? I do try new threads but I don't throw out the old - I use it up! I do currently like Masterpiece for piecing but I think Mettler silk-finish and Aurifil are equally good. My Mom uses SoFine (poly) for piecing. It makes her happy. Do you need any other justification?

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

I think there is a difference when we're talking about thread quality and machine maintenance between mechanical and electronic machines. I need to keep my electronic machine CLEAN, all the time or things can go downhill fast! I use Mettler almost exclusively there and OESD embroidery thread w/ Metler in the bobbin. On my mechanical machine, both at home and the one I use at church for quilt ministry, I can (and do!)use old, cast-off donated spools of 'who knows what' thread with absolutely no difficulty at all! Great post!

swooze said...

I pondered this topic as well but it had to do more with using cotton/poly instead of cotton only for piecing. The first quilt I made fell apart. Not sure if that was the thread, the fabric, momma the washaholic or my piecing skills. Nice post!

Leigh said...

Gee am I glad we don't seem to have so many choices over here or if we do I don't know about them.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss:-))

Leah Spencer said...

I don't *think* I'm a thread snob... I've just recently switched from aurifil to Essential threads due to the price. Shucks, I have a quilt that was pieced with 4 different threads - Guttermann, C&C, Aurifil and Essential threads.

I am picky about the thread's condition. I had problems with C&C badly linting up my machine. I also wasn't happy with the fact it wasn't 100% cotton.

So, I switched to JoAnn's Guttermann threads. 100%, slightly less linty, but the price wasn't encouraging.

Then I had a chance to buy some Aurifil for about $5/spool (half off) and I used that for about 9 months... but I started to run out of some, especially colors that go well with piecing.

So that spurred me to try out Essential threads. I'm liking it so far - isn't as linty as the first two. It's thicker than Aurifil, so that kinda comforts me. It also seems to hold together better. I've had a few borders seams slowly start to come undone with aurifil, but haven't run into that problem with Essential. It is harder to seam rip your mistake though. :)

Pros and cons everywhere. :)

Alisa said...

Nice post about thread, I'm there with you. I just ordered some Essential from Connecting Threads, because the price was WAY better than any thread I could buy here in town. And cost counts when you think of how much thread one can use in a year of quilting.

SuBee said...

LOL - almost as hot a topic as "pre-wash or not?" I prefer a very long Egyptian cotton for piecing just because it's so fine, either Aurifil or Superior. For quilting I like a coarser thicker thread, and don't really care what it is or what it costs. Star is fine, Coats&Clark is fine and the 30 year old wooden spools I found in a cigar box at an auction worked great!

Pam said...

Interesting thread about thread.

I just had an issue with some YLI thread that I had bought about 10 years ago. It was beige quilting thread and it had separated into three strands and I couldn't use it. It was one of those big spools - so I was a bit distressed. I began pulling off the separated thread and after about 5 meters, the thread was fine again.

I would think that if thread is kept dry and dust free it should last a long time. The thread companies probably need us to think it doesn't last as long so we buy more :))

Quilter Kathy said...

I have and use all kinds of thread. I decide based on colour and availability and what works with a specific project. But I do know some people are very militant about thread choice!
The only thread I don't like to use after 15 years+ of quilting is "invisible".

Betty said...

I'm definitly a thread snob also. As a longarm quilter I can 'justify' my addiction for thread. It's as bad as fabric. Since I've been buying less fabric, I can buy more thread! My favorite is the KING TUT egyption cotton. That's about all I use for top thread, and I use either pre-wound bobbins or BOTTOM line in the bobbin. For my domestic machine (Pfaff) I use STAR thread. Haven't hand quilted in awhile, but generally use Metzler.

Evelyn aka Starfishy said...

In Austria, I've only found 1 store that carries thread and I have no idea of the content, but that is what I use when I am over there.

In North America - who can pass up a 50% off sale at Joanne's on thread - Coats & Clark usually - cotton wrapped poly. That is just fine with me too.

For sewing clothes I will often use 100% poly or Gutterman - because I order fabric on-line and my supplier will color match and include thread in the order. Very helpful when you live about 2 hours from a store that sells thread!

Lint? Oh sure, my machine collect lint, but I clean it out every bobbin change - or at least my drop in bobbin machines because otherwise the lint collects under the bobbin and causes jams. If sewing on an older machine with the bobbin-chase - this isn't a problem.

Only thing I think of - don't use 100% poly thread on your quilting projects because if you iron at the cotton setting you run the risk of melting your thread and all your hard work will come apart.



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