Friday, August 05, 2011

Thread Education by Superior Uncle Bob

Superior Threads puts out a marvelous monthly newsletter (aka, "Wise Words from Mother Superior", aka, Bob Purcell, the Thread Professor and self-certified Threadologist, aka "Uncle Bob").  No, he's not really my uncle, but he gives out such wise, wild and woolly advice that he just feels like somebody's comfy/funny uncle.  I'm reproducing below this month's Education portion of the newsletter.  Used with permission from Bob Purcell,  Copyright © 2011 Superior Threads, All Rights Reserved. 

EDUCATION: Common and not-so-common Questions Here are some questions (and our answers) asked recently in quilting blogs:

Q. Are all invisible monofilament threads the same?    
A.  No.  Most invisible monofilament thread is nylon and nylon is not a good fiber choice for thread.  It has very low heat tolerance (400 F compared to polyester’s 480 F).  Nylon goes brittle over time and yellows.  That is why very few threads are made of nylon.  If you like invisible monofilament thread, choose a polyester type such as MonoPoly.
Caution: Watch out for a brand of invisible monofilament thread that is labeled as “polyamide.”  That is the chemical name for nylon.  It is not polyester.

Q. Does Superior have any threads made of nylon?    
A. Yes. Charlotte’s Fusible Web.  It is a fusible thread, meaning it melts at low temperature.  This thread is wonderful for fusible applique.  No more stiff webbing between the layers.  Seven easy-to-follow video demonstrations are available on our website.

Q.  How do I know what needle to use for quilting, sewing, embroidering, and piecing?
A.  We listen to the professionals -- those who do and those who teach.  The majority tell us they use the Topstitch style needle for nearly all applications including piecing (#80/12 needle), embroidery (#90/14), quilting (needle size depends on the thread size), general sewing construction/crafting (usually #80/12).  The only exception is when sewing on knit fabrics and they use a ball point needle.
Top secret revealed: The bestselling brand of home machine needles puts the exact same needle in the Topstitch and Metallic needle package.  It's the same needle.  One needle, two packages = double the sales.  Save your money.  You do not need to buy both.  This explains why we no longer sell metallic needles.  The Topstitch style is the needle preferred by the professionals.

Q.  What determines if a thread is for hand quilting?
A.  Strength.  Hand quilting puts a lot of repeat stress on thread so it requires a strong thread.  Traditional hand quilting thread is coated or glazed with wax or starch which makes the thread rather stiff, slick, and strong.  Our hand quilting thread is Treasure, a coated cotton.  Some high quality non-coated threads such as King Tut are also perfectly fine for hand quilting.
Caution: Do not use a coated or glazed thread in a machine.  The coating will rub off and gum up the machine.

Q.  What’s the difference between a piecing thread and quilting thread?
A.  Size.  When piecing, we want the thread to be fine enough to make a flat, smooth seam. A medium or heavy thread will not do this.  Choose a fine (#50) thread for piecing.  MasterPiece was created as the ideal piecing thread.

Q.  Is it OK to piece with polyester?
A.  Yes, if you are careful when ironing the seam.  A high-heat iron can melt polyester, so turn the iron temperature down to low or medium.  We prefer to play it safe and piece with cotton (MasterPiece) so we can iron the seam on high heat with no risk of melting the thread.

Q.  What thread should I use for quilting?
A.  There are many choices.  Polyester, cotton, metallic, variegated.  Please refer to our Thread Selection Guide.  And, it is perfectly fine to use polyester thread in your quilt.  It will not tear the fabric.  That is the biggest myth in the quilting world.  Here is a good article on this topic.

Q.  What is filament polyester?
A.  Most polyester threads are made of multiple filaments (continuous strands) of polyester twisted together.  If there is only one single strand, it is a monofilament thread.  Most polyester threads have many polyester filaments twisted together.  A 3-ply polyester thread has three strands twisted together, but each of those three strands are made up of many micro-strands twisted together.  A top quality 3-ply multi-filament polyester thread may have as many as 144 strands (48+48+48) twisted together.  A low quality polyester thread may have only 18 strands (6+6+6).  The labels do not state the number of micro-strands.  If you have wondered why you absolutely love a particular polyester thread, it is probably due to the high number of micro-strands.

Q.  My dealer told me that using prewound bobbins will void the warranty.  Really?
A.  Your dealer is wrong. No sewing machine company makes such a claim.  In fact, most sewing machine companies sell prewound bobbins.

        (Comment inserted by me:  The following is MY favorite Question AND Answer!)

Q.  Is it true that Superior is the only brand I should use because other brands cause global warming, the swine flu, and other problems?
A.  Thank you.  This is my favorite question.

I would highly recommend signing up for this newsletter right away ... it is so useful and entertaining ... I've posted only a small portion of this valuable resource.  Don't miss Bob's Superior Joke of the Month, either!  There's a big sign-up button right on the front page of the Superior website.


  1. Thank you Linda for posting our newsletter. We always appreciate it when our customers share. Thank you for using our threads.

    Superior Threads

  2. Glad you found my post, Ricci. I meant to write and tell y'all I had posted, but then forgot, of course. And oh, yeah, I should have mentioned that I use and LOVE Superior threads!

  3. thank you for the information!


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