Sunday, March 24, 2013

Thread again, the thick and the thin of it

A commenter asked what kind of thread I use for the black stitching I did on the red umbrellas piece.

I use Sulky 12 weight cotton thread. It is pretty thick thread for a sewing machine and I need to use a top stitch needle with a large eye for it to work.

I really like the effect I get with it, but it has been temperamental to use. It is both thick and kind of soft and I have had the experience of having it begin to shred as I'm stitching, so that part of a ply is backing up into a wad behind the needle until it finally breaks. I had a spool with not too much left on it and I decided it might be a good candidate to try out the Sharon Schamber trick of soaking the thread with mineral oil before using it. I did not drop the spool into a container of oil as she describes, but put some mineral oil in a small plastic squeeze bottle and squeezed it up and down over the thread all around the spool.  I was really surprised at how quickly the thread absorbed the oil. It was not at all messy, with no oily feel or residue on anything. And I think it helped. The thread really seemed to flow smoothly through the machine and I had no splitting or breakage.

I got hooked on this thread for the bolder stitching kind of like one gets hooked on drugs. When I went to Cleveland for the taping of the Quilting Arts TV segments several years ago I had some sample pieces that I had done that decorative stitching on using my regular black Star brand thread. There were two very nice ladies there from the Sulky company who were doing a segment for the show too. One of them was looking at my samples in the green room and asked what thread I was using. I told her and she said, "we have a thicker thread that you might really like for this. I'll send you some." Sure enough, a couple weeks later a little box with six spools arrived at my front door. And now I am hooked. There you go. Sad story of a tragic addiction.

Now, my report on the cheap thread I bought from Connecting Threads. Remember this?

I used it exclusively (except for the aforementioned black top stitching) in the construction and quilting of the red umbrellas. I love it. It sews just beautifully—no slubs, no shredding, no breaking, no tangling. I did not notice any significant amount of lint. I am still thinking that "lint" argument is specious. I notice far less lint in my machine since I have been using so many recycled fabrics, which have been washed enough times to pretty well eliminate their lint. I know that new fabrics are lint-y—some more than others—and I can't imagine that a delicate strand of thread would contribute anywhere near the lint that cotton fabrics do. The thread conversation continued at this month's SAQA meeting and revolved again around the need to use "good" fancy, expensive thread for the safety of both your machine and your work! I did not protest or disagree. Nobody wants to hear it. I really think there is a kind of person who truly believes that the more you spend on your materials and tools and machine the better your work will be. The luxury of nice "stuff" is always agreeable, but it only goes so far. And besides I think this really reasonable thread is really nice! I think I will buy myself a little red sports car with all the money I am saving on thread.


  1. Mineral oil, eh? will definitely give it a go!

  2. I am surprised that your computerized machine will accept the Sulky 12, which is so much thicker than regular weight thread. On my non-computerized Pfaff 1222e I use #8 and #5 perle cotton and a 100 top stitch needle and have no problems. I do have to rewind the perle from a skein or ball to a spool, but it is quick work. This is one of the reasons I use a 39 year old machine. Love, Del

  3. You'd look great tootling around in your fancy red car!!!

    Glad to hear you like the "cheap thread". I have been wanting to buy more but waiting for a sale.

    A couple years ago some friends turned me onto Sewer's Aid. I was having trouble with thread breaking as I sewed and had tried everything I could think of. They told me to squeeze the SA liquid all over the thread spool and let it soak in. It worked! I looked at my bottle and it doesn't say what it is exactly...but I'm guessing it's the same concept as the mineral oil treatment.

  4. Anonymous5:34 AM

    Thanks for the update on the Connecting Threads thread. The only reason I haven't tried it is because I have a good supply of Star threads that I've used for years and haven't needed thread. However, at Expo a year ago I bought a dozen spools of Aurifil cotton in neutral colors. I have had some trouble with Aurifil breaking. I think I'll try the mineral oil treatment and see if that solves the problem.

  5. Your observation on how much you spend for your materials and machines put me in mind of those "would be" Ansel Adams sorts who invariably ask "what kind of camera" is being used. My favorite tale is that of a woman asking a famous photographer how he got such wonderful photos. His reply - "F8 and be there". It is the operator, not the machine. :D

  6. Love all this info! I'm hoping to stop at my favorite fabric store today as I shop with the gals. Hope they have the heavier weight Sulky thread. Also, great news about the Connecting Threads thread. Send them an email telling them you praised their thread + the address of your link. I bet you'll get something good in the mail.
    Thanks again,
    Hugs from Mary

  7. Yeah, thread thrift doesn't transfer to shoes. The more you spend, the better! LOL I have to agree with you on the thread post, Terry- rarely have I encountered 'bad' thread as long as I stick to major brands. I'll keep the oil trick handy if I do have trouble- thanks! I remember a way back when someone told us about running a line of oil up the side of a spool to smooth out any problems, never heard of soaking it. Whatever works! Thanks for your good info.

  8. Yeah, Sulky 12wt is my crack of choice but only for handwork. I will go four ply with it. Have not thought of feeding it to the Janome, picky as he is, but the Featherweight loves it. find a local dealer...

  9. I will be looking for a quilt of you in a sporty red car, breezing through a Latin American town to the red umbrella patio!

  10. I've been absolutely addicted to Sulky 12 wt thread or quite awhile! I use it when I free motion quilt my felted pieces, and I use in on art cards a lot. I LOVE it and have not had the issue you mentioned. I use a topstitch needle as well.

    Generally, I use Superior, Aurifil and Sulky threads but I do have a lot of Coats and Clark's dual duty spools left from my earlier sewist days. Quite honestly, it works just fine in all of my machines (vintage and modern)

  11. I saw a few examples of your beautiful work on another site and decided to stop for a visit. Glad I caught this post. I've been wondering about the quality of Connecting Threads I know. And your comment on mineral oil on your thread ... I just had a shop owner and Juki dealer tell me the same thing. Her directions were to use the same oil that your machine uses. She drops her spool in the oil until it's absorbed, takes it out and lets it sit for 24 hours.

  12. No thread snobs here either! I've collected a fair amount of vintage cotton thread over the years that supposedly has a 40 year shelf life. I've thrown out 2 spools out of hundreds so it's been a good investment. I've also just doubled regular old mercerized cotton with a 100 needle. This might not work with all machines but in my Bernina 830 the thread lies on each side of the tension disc and feeds nicely.

    I'd use the Sulky 12 should they decide to send me some :)