Wednesday, December 7, 2022

I was a self professed thread snob

This question was posted on a quilting group I follow on Facebook.

"Quilting police, ignore this post - I'd like to ask a question that may give some of you a coronary.....

New(ish) quilter here - I know why I'm not *supposed* to use those inexpensive overlock/serger polyester thread cones to sew quilts (thinner, doesn't show as much, hides stitches, etc), but why in reality is it actually "wrong" or "bad"? I've pieced and quilted (stitched in the ditch mostly) a few quilts with it, and I thought they've turned out great.
Cotton thread users, please set aside judgment/comments - I'm just looking for a way to enjoy my craft without breaking the bank.

Does anyone else use (or have you used) the overlock thread, and what have you found out? And if I do eventually switch to cotton to quilt, can I still piece with the overlock thread? Personal experiences only, please - I've done plenty of googling myself, but it's hard to trust since so many people get paid to advertise a specific brand.

PS new to the group - who is Jack?"

This was my answer to this new(ish) quilter.

I am a recovering thread “snob”. I was a cotton purist until I heard about long arm quilting with Glide poly. During this journey to thread freedom this is what I’ve learned:

1. Good cotton thread is strong and I prefer to piece with it. I use Aurifil mostly but also Connecting Threads brand for piecing.

2. Glide poly is slippery for piecing and stitches can unravel easily. I know this because my daughter used glide to make a quilt top that had lots of unraveling when I was quilting it for her. The price for Glide is reasonable. I almost exclusively use Glide for long arming but also love Superior but the price in Canada is 3x what a Glide is.

3. I had one of my first Bonnie Hunter quilts (Carolina Christmas) quilted by someone else and she used Cotton long arm thread. Within ten years I had to “skin” the quilt (unstitch the long arm stitches with “Jack”) because the cotton stitches were popping all over the quilt. I was so disappointed. But I ended up restoring it and I’m so glad I did. It was worth it to be able to keep one of my favourite quilts. But lesson learned about cheap cotton long arm thread. The snap test is what I use for determining if I will use it. (PS - Jack is a stitch ripper).

Before restoration.  Stitches popping all over the quilt.

Before restoration

Restored.  New batting, new backing, new quilting with Glide thread.

3. Lint is a factor for me. Cotton thread is more linty for sewing machine and my long arm.
On a sewing machine it just means cleaning regularly. On a long arm it can cause stitch quality issues.

4. I echo what others have said about the technology of thread improving.

5. I still have some prejudice about serger cones, at least the cheapest ones, but I guess it stands to reason that technology has improved them as well.

Bottom line: 

I put my heart and soul into my quilts and I don’t want them falling apart prematurely because I used crappy thread. I use the best I can afford for fabric and thread and enjoy myself. I tend to keep from mixing fibers but it’s not a hard and fast rule. For example I make linen clothing and I use 100% cotton thread on it (both natural fibers) because linen thread is coarse, expensive and hard to come by. In my perfect world it would be linen thread too. I guess I really am a purist at heart.

So many good answers here. Enjoy your quilting journey

If you'd like to chime in on this thread conversation, leave me a comment.  I'd especially like to know:

1.  Your favourite thread for machine piecing;
2.  Your favourite thread for hand quilting;
3.  Your favourite thread for english paper piecing (ie hexies);
4.  Your favourite thread for binding;
5.  Your favourite thread for quilting (either by domestic or longarm).

And go!

Until next time,