I don't know how many of you receive the regular newsletter from Superior Threads, but since they allow the educational portion of their newsletter to be shared, I thought I would post some of their info on threads. They have just started a new series of educational pieces on Threads, and this is the first one, taken from the mid-June 2013newsletter. I hope you find it useful.
What is the difference between Quilting and EmbroideryThreads?
generation ago, there were very few thread choices. It was almost is
if one type of thread was used for every project, whether that was
piecing, quilting, clothing construction, upholstery, and so on. Times
have changed and much better quality products are available today.
Thread has become more specialized to enhance and improve our sewing
There are differences between quilting, embroidery, bobbin, applique, serger, upholstery, and, construction threads. In this newsletter we will discuss the differences between quilting and embroidery threads. Other threads will be discussed in future newsletters.
The most common machine quilting threads are cotton and polyester. If you have heard “don’t use polyester in your quilt because it will tear the fabric,” that is the biggest myth in the quilting world. (Click here to read about that myth)
Cotton Thread Facts
Low Quality Short staple cotton. If the label does not specify the staple length, most likely it is short staple. Companies do not print “short staple cotton” on the label because that is nothing to brag about.
Medium Quality Long staple cotton.
Highest Quality Extra-long staple Egyptian-grown cotton
Egyptian cotton 99% of cotton products labeled as Egyptian cotton are lying. Egypt does not grow enough cotton to make all those “Egyptian cotton” bed sheets, towels, clothes, and threads. In fact, Egypt grows less than 1% of the world’s cotton. Countries such as Greece, Mali, and Syria grow more cotton than Egypt. So why is the term Egyptian cotton so coveted? Egyptian cotton is the best grade and most manufacturers want that label on their cotton products, whether honest or not. I’ve even seen labels stating “Egyptian cotton, Made in India.” As far as I can discern, Superior is the only thread company that can honestly say “Extra-long staple Egyptian-grown cotton.” We buy our extra-long staple cotton in Egypt and turn it into King Tut and MasterPiece thread.
Mercerized A term printed on the label when there is nothing else to brag about. It tends to divert your attention from the fact that it is not Extra-long staple Egyptian-grown cotton. Mercerized cotton is a good thing and nearly all cotton thread is automatically mercerized during the production process. Whether the cotton labels states Mercerized or not, it probably is.
Polyester Thread Facts
Spun poly is a less expensive grade of polyester threads. It has a fuzzy appearance similar to cotton and produces some lint when sewing. It is primarily used for clothing construction, including serger thread. It is stronger than comparable wt. cotton threads. Our spun poly quilting thread is Poly Quilter, a #30/3-ply variegated thread which is in the heavier thread category. Our new Tailor Made thread is also spun poly and recommended for clothing construction and serger applications, not quilting.
Multi-filament polyester is smooth, lint free, and stronger than spun poly. It is more expensive that spun poly threads and is a much cleaner thread, meaning very little or no lint. Threads in this group are Bottom Line, So Fine #50, So Fine #40 (variegated), and So Fine #30.
Trilobal multi-filament polyester has a nice high sheen. Traditional trilobal poly is not as strong as regular multi-filament polyester, but a new HTT (High Tenacity (strength) Trilobal) polyester has recently been developed. Magnifico, Fantastico (variegated), and Twist are HTT polyester threads.
Poly-wrapped poly core thread is made with a multi-filament polyester thread core and then wrapped with a spun poly thread. The appearance is like cotton due to the outer spun poly wrap, but it has the strength of multi-filament polyester due to the inner core. It is less expensive than a 100% multi-filament poly thread. Omni is poly-wrapped poly core thread.
1. Embroidery threads usually have a looser twist than quilting threads. The tighter the twist, the less the sheen.
2. Depending on the machine and embroidery speed, embroidery threads may not require the strength of a quilting thread.
3. Most embroidery threads are two-ply to preserve the high sheen.
Due to the three differences just described, embroidery threads are usually less expensive than quilting threads.
Rayon Traditionally, the most common embroidery threads have been rayon. Rayon is a half natural/half manufactured fiber with a beautiful sheen. The problems with rayon threads are twofold:
a. most rayon is not colorfast (meaning bleach-safe), and
b. rayon is a weak fiber.
Rayon production also causes substantial pollution so the U.S. banned domestic rayon production many years ago.
Polyester For a high sheen look, the best thread for embroidery is trilobal polyester or HTT (high tenacity trilobal poly). These polyester threads have a sheen equal to that of rayon, are stronger, and are colorfast. HTT polyester is much stronger than regular trilobal poly.
Is there a thread that is suitable for both quilting and embroidery?
Many threads can be used for both. It depends on what look you want to obtain in your project. Some people embroidery with cotton because that is the look they want. Some quilt with polyester because they like a high sheen thread or a strong, very fine thread. If you want both high sheen and high strength for both embroidery and quilting, the best choice is HTT polyester such as Magnifico or Fantastico (variegated). These are like hybrid threads, combining two features into a single thread. Magnifico is much stronger than regular trilobal polyester threads. It has already replaced our former Highlights (regular trilobal poly) line of threads. It is available in 200 solid colors. Fantastico is the exact same thread type, but in variegated colors. There are currently 20 colors of Fantastico available, but over 100 more are in process.
Used with permission from Bob Purcell, www.superiorthreads.com