Let’s chat about thread

I’ve been quilting for a long long time.  When I learned to quilt, we traced our quilt piece shapes onto cardboard, cut those out with scissors, then traced around the cardboard template onto the fabric with a sharp pencil.  That line served as our sewing line, and we had to redraw a quarter inch seam allowance.  THEN, we cut out the fabric with our good fabric scissors.  We used cotton for our fabric, cotton for our batting, and cotton for our thread.

We were taught that the widely available polyester threads would eventually cut into the fabric at the seams, and our hard work would be a tattered, shredded mess.

Enter longarm quilting machines.   Cotton thread is lovely and has its place, but it is the lintiest thread you can use (some are lintier than others, true, but of all thread contents, cotton leaves the most lint in our bobbin cases).  With new advances in thread technology, polyester thread has been my longarm thread of choice for the past 6 years.

Today’s Superior Threads Newsletter debunks the “polyester will eat through your cotton fabric” myth in typical Bob Purcell (owner of Superior Threads) fashion.  (the following excerpt is used with permission from Bob at Superior Threads)

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Busting the Biggest Myth in the Quilting World
Will polyester thread really tear the fabric in my quilt?

Everyone has some cotton T-shirts.  One of the most popular brands is Hanes.  One day I called Hanes and asked them what kind of thread they use to sew their cotton T-Shirts.  Here is how the phone conversations went:
Bob: “What kind of thread do you use to sew your cotton T-Shirts?”
Hanes: “Why do you want to know?”
Bob: “I love thread.  I’m doing research.”
Hanes: “Just a minute please.”
By the time I spoke to a third person and convinced them I was not a corporate spy who was trying to get them in trouble for labeling a T-Shirt as 100% cotton even though they use polyester thread, I was told they do indeed use polyester thread to sew their cotton T-Shirts.  A 100% cotton T-shirt gets a lot more wear and tear than a quilt.  If it were true that polyester thread will tear through the cotton quilt fabric, it would do the same to a T-shirt and at a much faster rate due to the extreme wear and tear a T-shirt receives.  Yet I have never seen the thread in a T-shirt seam tear through the fabric as a result of normal or even heavy use.  It does not happen.
If we used an extremely strong and wiry thread with a very low quality flimsy or delicate fabric, yes, it is possible that the thread, regardless whether it is polyester or cotton or silk, could tear through the fabric, but when we quilt, we do not combine an extra strong wiry thread with a low quality flimsy fabric.  If we use quality thread and quality fabric, we are well balanced and whether we use cotton, polyester, silk, or metallic thread, there is absolutely no need to worry about the thread tearing through the fabric.

So where did this “polyester-thread-will-tear-through-the-fabric” rumor begin?  Most likely it is a case of tradition turning into a rumor and eventually becoming a commonly accepted belief.  Great Grandma used cotton because that is all she had.  She taught Grandma, Grandma taught Mom, and Mom taught me and cotton became the only acceptable thread to use when quilting.  Sometimes traditions are stronger than truth.  It is perfectly fine to use a good polyester, metallic, silk, or cotton thread in your quilt.  Let’s go defeat those bad myths.

Thanks, Bob!  Now, excuse me, I have a quilt to load on the longarm, and some So Fine poly thread to wind on my bobbin!

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Let’s chat about thread

  1. Good stuff! Love reading your article, Susan!

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