10.02.2012

Your Sewing Thread Under A Microscope || Visually Understanding Thread Quality








  This post is in no way to influence you to one brand or another.  I was not paid by any thread company for this post.  

After purchasing my first sewing machine, it sparked a desire to learn more about sewing thread quality since I suffered from a lot of issues with my last machine.  There are hundreds of sewing threads to choose from, and I find it to be a bit overwhelming.  Though my BERNINA came with Mettler thread, I have heard great things about Aurifil, and I couldn't wait to try it out on my machine.  But it got me thinking about why the Mettler brand came with my machine.  Does it meet BERNINA standards?  Or is there a contract between Mettler and BERNINA?  Or does my BERNINA dealer favor Mettler above all other brands?   And what is the fuss about Aurifil?  Is it really that great?  How do these brands compare to those available at JoAnn Fabrics?



I must preface by saying I am in no way a thread expert.  I just wanted to know a little more about the threads I was using and reading about on other blogs.  I decided the only way I could really tell the quality of a thread was to visually examine it, feel it between my fingers, and handle it in my machine.  Today, I will share with you what your thread looks like under a microscope.  Unfortunately, I cannot help you with the feel of the thread nor how it handles in a particular machine since we all use a variety of sewing machines.

I gathered up 28 different sewing threads from JoAnn Fabrics, a longarm quilting specialist, and a few from my own sewing box.  There are hundreds of threads out there, and it is not in my financial favor to buy every thread possible.   But I am hoping you will find this post helpful in the least.



WHY IS LINT AN ISSUE?

Lint or dust can cause issues down the road for almost any machine.  When you dry clothes, lint comes off in the dryer.  The same thing happens when your thread runs through a needle.  Usually, you will see lint collect around the feed dogs, the bobbin case, and above the needle.  Lint is an inevitable enemy in sewing, but choosing the right, high quality thread for your machine can help reduce it.  If your machine is not cleaned regularly, your machine will perform less effectively.  Lint can absorb oils, which can wear out your machine.  Lint will become impacted over time too if not taken care of causing further issues with your machine.

Loosely twisted threads and thread breaks contribute to lint.  If you have tried several brands of sewing thread on your machine, you are sure to notice some brands produce more lint than others.  I notice this when my BERNINA dealership uses Mettler thread.  There's always a bit more lint and dust than I am use to.  That doesn't necessarily mean Mettler is a bad brand, but with my machine, it produces more lint than I care for.


QUICK VOCABULARY

I didn't want to write a post about the technical side of thread selection, but if you are new to sewing or do not understand the different types of sewing/quilting threads available, here is a good reference link for you.

For thread terminology click here.

SO WHAT DOES YOUR THREAD LOOK LIKE UNDER A MICROSCOPE?

All photos were taken by my husband with a microscope.  (Thank you!)  When you are looking at these photos, check for loose fibers, how many twists it has, and how smooth the thread is.

Some specialty threads were used just for the fun of it.  I thought you might enjoy seeing synthetics as well.

Threads are listed alphabetically by brand.





































WHAT THREAD DO I USE?

after reading this post, you may be wondering what thread I sew with.  I use Aurifil, but it looks like Gutermann and Superior Threads will be included in my next thread purchases.  I will continue to sew with Aurifil.  I get little lint from Aurifil, and it doesn't break on me when I am sewing at higher speeds, but I can't wait to see what the other brands do in my machine.  There were lots of brands I was not able to get my hands on for this post, and I am sorry if yours was not included.

HELPFUL RESOURCES FOR FURTHER READING 


http://www.taunton.com/promotions/pdf/Threads_ThreadEssentials.pdf

http://www.amefird.com/technical-tools/thread-education/thread-science/

http://www.superiorthreads.com/education/reference-guides/thread-characteristics-types-and-characteristics-of-thread


WHAT THREAD SHOULD I USE FOR A CERTAIN PROJECT?  This link will bring up a PDF from Superior Threads.


Video from Superior Threads "How thread is twisted"  (The quality in threads)



Still not sure about the twist?  Here I have collaged Mettler, Aurifil, and Superior Threads next to one another, so you can visually see what a tighter twist looks like.  All are 100% cotton.



How to test a thread's shelf life.  (Did you even know that existed?)


Superior Thread Guarantee

Okay, so it may seem like I am pushing Superior Threads on you guys, and I want you to know that I am not.  I do want you to know that I like Superior Threads.   I like them because they are so matter-of-fact.   No bull crap.  No beating around the bush.  They tell you how it is, and they offer a wide array of information that is easy to find on their website.  They do a lot to educate the consumer whether it's on their website or YouTube.  You can apply this knowledge to other brands to help you make the best decision for you and your machine.

Here's their guarantee, which also explains what you should look for in high quality thread.

In the thread world, the highest quality thread should be guaranteed to work--even metallic thread. We absolutely guarantee all Superior products. If one does not work as intended, we'll buy it back. Quality thread should be smooth, free of bumps or slubs, without excess fuzz, and have a tight, smooth, consistent twist. It will keep your machine much cleaner which means fewer problems for you. If you could view a variety of threads though a magnifying glass, you would be amazed at the difference. The real test is in using it. You and your machine can tell the difference


So what are your thoughts?  What thread are you using now?  Do you like it?  Will you change your thread choice after reading this post?



peaceout
A special thank you goes out to my husband for willing to skip a lunch break and take photos instead. Thank you Cathy of Quilting Cowgirl for supplying me with extra threads I did not own.  

I'm sharing this with: Lily's Quilts

52 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post and great job on the microscope details.. I am currently using superior and gutterman, but i do find it best to quilt using superior threads.. Am thinking to try aurifil.. So this post definitely is helpful.

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  2. I recently tried Aurifil after using Coats & Clark for years (Joann coupons and sales, you know how it goes) - I couldn't believe the difference in how my Babylock handles it! The Coats & Clark wasn't bad, but the lint was terrible and thread would break from time to time. I'll have to check out Superior Threads, too! Thanks for the great information!

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  3. What an amazing compilation! I love the scientific meets crafty of this post :)... I'd be happy to send you a spool of connecting threads' cotton - that's what I use, and I've loved it though I have never tried Aurifil. If you'd like me to send you a spool, (and if your hubby's willing to microscope it) email me your addy!

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    1. I looove connecting threads, I was hoping there was a picture of that one too :)

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  4. Wow this is an amazing post! I guess it took a while to put together so thanks for your effort, I've recently been introduced to Aurifil (winning a Pat Bravo box set!) and love it, but still using Gutermann for my vintage sheet sewing.

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  5. FASCINATING. I'll be honest-- I use Coats and Clark poly for almost everything because it's cheap and someone gave me about a hundred spools when I started sewing. I still haven't used it all. But I'm going to try Auriful. Amazing to see the difference. I've avoided cotton thread in the past because there were a few rolls in the same lot of Coats and Clark thread I talked about and they snap at the slightest tug.

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  6. OOOHHH YES! Thread makes all the difference. And different colors can function differently too, darker colors are more problematic especially with the cheap stuff due to more dye. My machine simply won't sew with coats and clarks black thread-- if I can't use the black thread of a brand, I don't buy it. I'm a gutterman buyer, and I try to stock up when it's 50% off at Joanns....

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  7. This was so cool! I love the pictures! I find my modern machine is super picky about thread. And I can only really use bobbin thread for quilting. I love my featherweight because the tread dosent matter. Except trying to Yli is left so much lint! I like the older cotton covered polys.

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  8. Wonderful post! Thanks for the visuals - they certainly tell the story.

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  9. I too love Aurifil and Superior. I have tried Coats quilting thread, and can't do FMQ with it. I still use occasionally if I'm doing straight lines, but other than that, it doent's take any pressure to break. NOT worth it. Aurifil and Superior rock with all types of quilting. And there are great colors. Great post!!!

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  10. Love the post! Thanks so much for the microscopic visuals! I've been using Aurifil and Superior for years...love them both!

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  11. I used to use Gutterman or whatever random thread I had in my stash that matched. Then I thought I would try Aurifil to see what the hype is all about. The difference is amazing! I also have a Bernina and there is noticeably less lint when I use Aurifil and it's a smoother sewing experience. Quilting with Aurifil and a machine quilting needle has changed my quilting experience for the better! I couldn't go back now!

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  12. I have always used Sulky 40 Rayon for embroidery in my Designer SE.
    In the last year I have been using Aurifil. It does produce some lint. I can only imagine what the others would do. Now that I have a Bernina I will continue to use the Aurifil for embroidery and piecing. Gutterman has always been my go to thread for mending by hand. The threads seen under the microscope is really eye opening.
    Thank you so much for this information.
    Sally@babystepsquilting.com

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  13. Such a great post and very imformative. I sew with Aurifil and have for quite a while, I see a big differnce in the amount of lint that I get.

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  14. So informative. I just bought some Aurifil thread but I think I may try some Superior. I have tried YLI but my sewing machine doesn't like it so I'll use it for my long arm. This was a great post and I learned A Lot. Thank you for your time and say thank you to your hubby.

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  15. Thank you ever so much for writing this awesome blog!For years I have used Gutterman threads only because it was the only thread available. Thanks to online shops I now am able to get what ever thread needed:) I have to admit my favourit is SoFine 50wt both for sewing and quilting. I have also found that the lint increases depending on what needle used. If using a topstitch needle (bigger eye and with a groove)when sewing the lint will reduce with almost any kind of thread.

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  16. Great post. I'm an Aurifil and Superior fan from way back but I do use the C&C and Mettler I have around if it's the only thread I have in a color I need. One thing about thread, to be fair -- if someone gives you a big quantity of thread it may be too old. Experts will advise you not to use old thread. It's dried out = brittle, linty and breakable. I am not sure what counts as "old" but certainly more than 10 years, and maybe even five years. I inherited a lovely box of wooden C&C spools from my husband's grandmother. It's charming and I have it as a keepsake but I will never put it in my machine or even hand-sew with it.

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  17. Terrific post, thanks for the wealth of information! I use Gutermann for piecing and King Tut from Superior for quilting. I've tried one or two other quilting threads but I love the King Tut and always come back to it. I won some Aurifil but haven't received it yet; am sort of leery to try it 'cause I suspect I'l get hooked and my thread budget will have to be amended!!

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  18. Wow! Thanks to you and your hubby for putting this together :-) I just bought some Aurifil, but I haven't used it yet. I have been using Coats & Clark, and the lint is a HUGE problem. I definitely look forward to investing in more spools of higher quality thread and making the transition :-) I love the videos from Superior. It would be great for Aurifil, Isacord and Presencia to create videos about their products, too.

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  19. I also have a Bernina and choosing threads just depends on what project I'm working on. I'm not a typical quilter as I usually use metallics, rayons, silks, monofilament...all the odd threads when I quilt (even then, I use only high quality threads). I use cotton for piecing and for that I always choose Aurifil. I won't even consider any other thread. You have to experiment and choose a thread that works with your machine. If you are having lint and thread breakage issues, truly do yourself a favor and up your thread quality. Yes, it may be more expensive, but your sewing experience will be so much more enjoyable.

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  20. Très intéressant!! C'est vrai que les qualités de fils sont vraiment très différentes les unes des autres!! J'utilise toujours Aurifil et parfois Gutermann.

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  21. Nice post. I saw Alex had featured it on Facebook. I use Aurifil, Mettler and Gutterman, although I am just using the Gutterman to get rid of my stash. Mettler is nice, but I am just a huge fan of Aurifil.

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  22. I'd love to see this comparison done for serger threads, too!
    thanks for the comparisons - very helpful!

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  23. Thanks for the comparisons in such a way! I love Aurifil and keep going back to it after trying something less expensive. I've tried Superior for hand work - the ones that come in a donut, Bottom Line and So Fine - and don't like them for hand work at all because all of them tangle so much more than anything else I've used for the past 20 years. They are great in my machine, however. Nice post - I'll forward this on to my quilty friends!

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  24. This is such a great post Nancy! I haven't actually tried too many different threads. At the moment, I'm pretty much just using Auriful cotton.

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  25. This is a wonderful post! I stick to Gutermann for the most part (coupons + sales @ JoAnn = cheap). But, I did pick up a spool of Aurifil a while back and was amazed at how much less linty it was when I pieced two tops with it. I am definitely trying to keep an eye out for how to get ahold of it for cheaper (interestingly, though, at some of the cheaper online shops, full price Gutterman vs. Aurifil is about the same cost per meter of thread, so if you’re the type to always pay full price for Gutterman, I’d say to consider Aurifil).

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  26. Hi, I will link to this post on my blogg. I discovered the superior thread homepage, and I agree with you! I also realised that thread is important. We buy exoensive fabric and put a lot of time in our quilts, so it deserves good thread also. I will not throw away my low quality threads, but I will not buy more.

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  27. Here ends my use of bargain basement thread and here begins my regular machine cleaning routine!!

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  28. NOTHING by Coats and Clark touches my machine...EVER. I'm s fan of Isacord, PolyX and Aurfil. I love Superior threads, but it is not available locally. I clean my machine monthy by removing covers and cleaning well. It's well worth the thirty minutes!

    I love your blog style!

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  29. I am just about to buy a new 'proper' sewing machine and want to treat it well, so thank you for taking the time to explore this so thoroughly! Will be sending a link to my friends who quilt, too x

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  30. You did a great job by describing this important topic with such detailed review ! Although its is important to use a quality thread while sewing and your idea could be great for companies but what would you suggest for general people? How could they check the quality of threads?

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  31. Oh my goodness. This is amazing. The phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" really comes to mind. The geek in me totally wants to know what kind of microscope your husband used and at what magnification... I spent a little time in school doing research and anything magnified enough is mindblowing!! Thanks for the post!

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  32. As a scientist and a quilter I just love all this great information and especially the pics! I'm linking this up on my blog. Thank you and your husband for sharing with us!
    Diane

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    1. Thank you! You may enjoy the blog The Scientific Seamstress.

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  33. I loved this post!!! I would have never thought to use a microscope to do this, but I LOVE the science part of it! It was really interesting to see there IS a big difference. I'm just starting to quilt and I want to learn how to sew my own clothes. (if i can just learn how to stay off the blogs researching and bookmarking everything!) I don't have a lot of practice yet, but I've been learning SO much, and this is one of the best thread posts I have seen (in the last year and a half. Alex from Aurifil pointed out this post on FB this week (again, it looks like!) I have been getting my thread at joann's, and have been stocking up on Gutermann because it's not that much more than the cheap kind, and you usually "get what you pay for". I won some Aurifil that I jUST opened to use when I fixed a bag that had ripped. I was surprised to feel how thin it was. But I just noticed it says Mako on the spool, and that's what I want to find out next, what exactly that means. Thanks for posting this!

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  34. Thank you very much for this post. All my sewing has been by hand until now. I ordered a Juki machine and in researching sewing machines I've read a lot of comments from people who've had thread problems. Looking at these pictures it's easy to see why. I've always used C&C for hand sewing but I think I will try using Gutermann with my machine. Hopefully I will not have any major problems. Thanks again.

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    1. I've been using Gutermann lately, and my Bernina loves it. I think it's a trial and error to finding the right thread for a particular machine. Good luck! My friend sews on a Juki and uses Aurifil.

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  35. This is a wonderful post - makes me want to do another blog post about quilting thread since I am such an avid machine quilter!

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  36. WOW!! Admire and appreciate your research! I've been sewing for 45 years (since the 4th grade) and NEVER thought to investigate thread quality, using C&C from JoAnn's for years. I've been having an issue with thread breakage on my old Viking and it just hit me this morning that maybe my threads are old....? Oh dear! Don't tell my husband! I bought my beloved Viking in 1974 (6430 model) and it's been a GREAT machine. But a few years ago I couldn't get it to sew right: crooked stitches and temperamental. JoAnn's said some shaft was cracked and they don't make the part anymore. First I bought a new Viking from JoAnn's - MISTAKE, piece of junk. Then I bought an old Viking off of ebay and a gentleman contacted me that he is a retired Viking repairman and might be able to help me. Long story short, he claims he had a brand new shaft in his storage of goods, and I paid him to fix it. It's sewn straight since then, but jams easier than it used to and now the threads keep breaking - it's never been the same!! Anyway.....new machine's coming tomorrow and I want to treat it right with thread, so Thank You Thank You for your hard work - VERY helpful!!!! Now I'm wondering if it's cheaper to buy online or at JoAnn's......?

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  37. I would be curious to see how connecting threads matches up. The view of the other threads shows what my hands have told me. Thank you so much.

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  38. I have always used Gutermann because that is what the quilt shop carried. Recently I tried Connecting Threads and it works fine also. But because it is so much less money than any of the other threads I worry that it isn't the same quality. Superior Threads isn't available anywhere I have shopped and shipping to Canada is just not affordable. Thanks you for your very in depth comparison. Certainly something for us all to think about.

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    1. My Bernina loves Gutermann, so I use that frequently.

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  39. i really appreciate your doing this post. it was very informative. i have always used coats and clark 100% cotton threads. i have a spool of aurofil and connecting threads. i will be doing my own comparison. i recently bought a serger and i have been having a hard time finding decent info on which threads to use. it seems most quilt shops carry very little and the big box stores all carry maxi lock and i have heard it is super linty. i will be buying the superior threads for my serger. thanks!

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  40. Thank you so much for doing this post! It really shows the differences in different threads. I would love to see how Connecting Threads compared to Mettler, Aurifil, and Superior Threads. Please let me know if you do!

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  41. Thanks for this post I love it! I pretty much only use Guttermann because they have it at Joann's. I used to use coats & Clark, but had lots of breakage and fuzz AND bobbin issues (before I got a top load bobbin) and someone suggested Guttermann instead and so many frustrations instantly disappeared.

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  42. I have been using Guitterman and Aurifil. I LOVE the Aurifil. It is a bit expensive, but worth it. The company is awesome to work with. They get back with e-mails fast and answer any questions you have.I want to try the Superior and Connecting threads too.

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  43. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  44. As a Bernina tech I can tell you that Bernina had to pick one type as a standard and that is Mettler Metrosene. From beginning to end. Its what they suggest in our training as well and since that is pretty private I doubt its anything to do with promoting the company. I believe maybe its because it falls in the middle and one can go either way with other brands.

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  45. Thank you so much for this post. I have lots of different threads, having more trouble with some of them than I should be... so I have set out to do research. You have already done a lot of it here for me! Thanks for all the photos and info.

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  46. This article has been a real eye opener and an endorsement for quality thread. I have recently been thinking about thread and wondering if there really is a big difference. Aurifil are spending a considerable amount of time and money advertising their product everywhere, and reading quilters blogs that use Aurifil have made me very curious about what is so special about their thread. Thank you so much for doing this research. The magnified thread photos are very explicit and do more than anything else could to show the difference between threads. I have bought Gutermann for many years and sew with it regularly - however, I also use other threads that I have been given or inherited - and now I know the difference I might be giving some of that away myself!! I noticed the lint issue when I wound a new bobbin on my Bernina one day and there was so much lint deposited around the spool area I could hardly believe it! Now I see what is going on inside my machine I am going to be much more select about the thread I use and stop using other brands just because I have it. I have three sophisticated machines - 2 Bernina and 1 Elna - and I think they deserve the best thread I can give them. ha ha ha
    Thanks again
    Pauline

    perry94022 at hotmail dot com

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  47. Just have to say.... Thank you so much for sharing! Your article was excellent for me to understand (being a beginner!)
    Joanne

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