All About Thread
There are a lot of options when it
comes to embroidery thread. Choosing the right one can take a project from
ordinary to extraordinary. Read on to learn about thread and how to make the best selection every time.
For example, if 40 kilome- ters of thread weighs one kilogram,
then the thread is 40-wt. If a kilogram only holds 30 kilometers, then it’s
30-wt. The higher the number in
weight, the finer the thread is. Most
professionally digitized designs are in- tended to use 40-wt. two-ply thread. If a different thread is chosen, adjust- ments to the embroidery machine’s
settings may be necessary.
A good time to choose a finer thread is when you’re stitching dense
Ply refers to the number of strands that twist together to form the final
thread. Higher ply numbers will make a thicker thread — for example,
three-ply thread is thicker than two- ply thread.
Twist is the number of turns per inch the plys are twisted. A small twist number may cause fraying or break- age, while too many twists may cause knotting, looping or snarling. Quality thread has a well-balanced twist.
Denier is the measure of synthetic fibers. It’s the opposite of weight, in that weight is the length measure- ment of a fixed weight, and denier is the weight measurement of a fixed length — 9,000 meters, to be exact. Denier is measured in grams per ply. Most embroidery thread is 120d/2, which means that it is two plies of 120-denier fiber twisted
To make spun thread, cotton or polyester fibers are spun into single yarns and then twisted together. Spun thread usually produces lint. High- quality thread produces less lint than lower quality, and polyester produces less lint than cotton.
Core threads have a poly core with spun cotton or polyester fibers
wrapped around it. They have fuzz on the surface, but the continuous fila- ment core gives the thread strength and durability.
Textured thread is made of polyes- ter or nylon filaments that are mechani- cally textured for fuzz and stretch. This
thread type is voluminous, elastic, soft, full, thermally insulating and moisture- transporting.
Filament threads are made from multiple continuous strands of poly- ester, rayon or nylon twisted together. They have little to no lint and are soft and shiny. Rayon is the weakest fila- ment thread and isn’t particularly color- fast. Nylon melts easily, and it becomes brittle and tends to discolor over time. Polyester is soft, strong and colorfast.
Monofilament thread is a single strand of nylon or polyester. The latter has a higher heat tolerance than the former; nylon may melt under the iron.
Finishes are the final touch on the thread production process. Thread with soft finishes are dyed and lubricated.
Mercerized thread is treated in a solution to make the fibers swell, which controls tension, improves dye recep- tion, and adds luster and strength.
Thread that is gassed is passed through a flame to reduce fuzz and increase sheen.
Glazed thread has starches and chemicals added to it, which increases luster, strengthens resistance to abrasion and keeps the plies together. Glazing produces a glossy, hard finish to protect the thread, but the glaze can rub off and gum up the needle, so it is only recom- mended for hand work.
- Formulated to shrink on contact with heat, producing a smocked effect.
- Works best with running, stippling or zig-zag stitches, simple embroidery, grid, swirls and quilting designs.
- Use steam generously when press- ing, but don’t touch the iron di- rectly to the thread unless you are prepared for it to shrink about 30% immediately. Stabilizing can help to control the shrinkage.
- Use with soft, lightweight fabrics that gather easily for best
- Available in 40-
- Usually used in the
- For maximum puckering, use as both top and bobbin threads and stitch with a 65/9 to 80/12
- Glows in the dark or under black light for up to 15 hours.
- Picks up light from artificial and natural
- Made from polypropylene or polyes- ter and comes in 30-, 35- and 40-wt.
- Wash in cool water or dry clean; don’t use bleach.
- Dry on low; use a press cloth when ironing.
- Available in 40-
- Use a 80/12 to 100/16 needle that is specifically for metallic thread, or use a titanium or topstitching needle.
- Use with designs that have long
- Best with soft materials and
- Use cut-away stabilizer rather than tear-away.
- Machine wash in hot water up to 140ºF; don’t use bleach.
- Cool iron or dry
- Charges with
- May need up to 30 minutes to
- Thread appears white or pastel when embroidered, but turns to a brighter hue when exposed to
sunlight; out of the sun, it will return to its original color.
- Use in combination with regular embroidery thread to produce colorful designs.
- Available in 40-
- Should be used with a size 12
- Machine wash in cool
Don’t use bleach or iron directly on the embroidery
- Only available in 12-
- Is three times thicker than stan- dard thread.
- Has a fuzzy, matte
- Creates soft, fluffy textured
- Use with medium- to heavyweight fabrics, such as wool, linen and lightweight
- Combine with another fiber, such as acrylic, to give a crewel effect.
- After stitching, the embroidery can be brushed to give the thread a soft, fluffy texture.
- Use a 100 or 110 needle, very low tension and cut-away stabilizer.
- Available in many colors, ranging from subtle gradations of one color (also called ombre) to bold and bright blocks of several colors.
- Two different thread colors can be twisted together for a mottled
- Three-ply, reflective and
- Comes in 50-
- Use a 75/11 to 80/12 size
Bonding is the application of a spe- cial resin to continuous filament nylon or polyester thread. It produces a tough, smooth coat that resists abrasion and keeps plies secure.
Thread comes on small vertical spools, bigger spools, mini-cones, cones and king cones. Choose small spools if your goal is to collect a variety of colors. Large spools run smoothly and are a good choice for collecting basic colors. Thread unwinds more eas- ily from larger spools.
Larger spools may fit directly on some machines with either a vertical or horizontal spool pin, while others may require a separate, independent thread stand to sit behind or next to the machine. A favorite work-around for this is to place a large spool or cone in a cup or mug by the machine, which keeps it in place while allowing it to move as necessary.
Parallel-wound thread has each wind sitting parallel to the one before it. Each row of thread on the spool is one thread thickness below the previ- ous row. The thread unwinds from the spool one row at a time from top to bottom and back again. It works best
on a vertical spool pin. Using a horizon- tal spool pin pulls the thread over the spool end, which may cause twisting, kinking, fraying and breakage.
Cross-wound thread crosses over itself, winding in a Z-pattern up and down the spool. Place these threads on a horizontal spool pin so the thread pulls over the spool’s upper edge.
Wrap thread in plastic wrap and keep it in a cool, dry place (ideally 68º with 60% humidity). Keep it out of direct sun- light so it won’t fade or dry out — dry, brittle thread will break and fray.