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August 2014
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Variations Of Thread

Thread, in all its variations of color, weight, fiber and twist, has but two ideal destinies — it should end up as the unobtrusive way to hold something else together, or it should become the conspicuous, decorative, highly visible feature of something else.  Those two extremes, with no middle-ground role, are what all the variations are all about.

When thread fails in its first role, if it fails to hold something together or if it shows when it shouldn’t, it all boils down to a lack of attention to detail on the part of the seamstress.  Hundreds of shades of colors are offered in order that a shade can be selected which will best blend with, and disappear into, the fabric – specifically, a thread one shade darker than the fabric or than the fabric’s main color.  For plaids and other designs, the trick of using a second color for the bobbin may further the goal of blending.  Transparent thread can come in handy for the impossible-to-match fabrics.

In addition to color compatibility, the thread’s weight and fiber should relate to fabric.  Polyester threads, good for all natural and man-made fabrics, are essential for knit, stretch and permanent press materials and come in 100% polyester or in polyester core, wrapped with cotton.  Mercerized cotton threads (treated with caustic soda to add strength, smoothness, luster and affinity for dyeing) are suitable for light-to-medium weight, natural-fiber fabrics.  Special purposes require special threads:  heavy duty for coating, slip-covers, draperies; top cord for canvas, awning cloth, duck; quilting for heavy thicknesses; button and carpet for buttons, carpets, upholstery; silk for silk and wool fabrics; silk buttonhole twist for hand-worked buttonholes, sewing on buttons, thread loops, machine gathering (in the bobbin only).

Silk buttonhole thread is a recommended thread for the opposite purpose — the conspicuous one — and can be used for the upper thread.  Or two threads of polyester can be used in the upper needle.  This use of thread showing, is undoubtedly as inexpensive a way as possible to glorify many a sewing project.  From the traditional double-row orange stitches on jeans, to red-and-blue stitches on a mini-skirted tennis dress, to self-color stitches on a tailored suite, displaying thread is a thrifty designer’s master stroke.

For either extreme intention, hidden stitches or flaunted ones, never settle for less than finding the right needle (the finest size the fabric and thread will take), proper tension adjustment and correct stitch length (the longest which will still look good).

See additional information from a previous SewingBusiness.com post entitled “Are You Using The Right Thread?”  Be sure to pay attention to detail when it comes to the thread in any sewing project — you’ll be happy you did, and the results will show your efforts.

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Pattern Maker, Instructor & Author

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