Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Stress Lines

I'm feeling adventurous, so let's tackle a popular thread myth. We've all been warned at one time or another "Never use polyester thread in a quilt because the strength of the poly fibers will eventually cut through the cotton. " I believed this popular myth unquestioningly for years. But recently, I've discovered the error of my ways.

Think about hanging up a completed quilt or shaking the wrinkles out of a quilt. What seams are bearing the most weight? In a house not all walls are load bearing walls. In a quilt not all stitches bear the same stress. Lots of people get their knickers in a twist about various types of quilting thread. But it is the pieced seams that are the stress bearing seams. And if we want to match the thread fibres to the fabric fibres, it is most important to do this in the piecing process.

A good quality cotton piecing thread will bear up well against the various stresses in the life of a quilt. As noted in the previous post, a good colour match is a big bonus too! A fine thread, one that is not too heavy or bulky will give nice flat seams and sharp points. So the ideal piecing thread would be 100% extra-long staple Egyptian grown cotton in a wide range of colours and a fine weight. That's why the people at Superior Threads came up with the MasterPiece range.
Once a top is well pieced and ready to be quilted the thread options open up to a whole new world of possibilities. Many specialty threads are ideal for quilting. It all depends on the look you're trying to achieve and the demands placed on the thread in the quilting process. In some projects I want a variegated thread that will catch and reflect the light, for this I use a tri-lobal polyester called Rainbows. It's a beautiful thread that shimmers like silk. I can use it without any fears - as it is strong enough to glide through the thread path of my JUKI on a table top frame. And it is definitely not going to cut through any fabric in my quilt.

Sometimes I want the sparkle of a metallic thread, or the subtle texture created by using a fine polyester bobbin thread on the top. I use Bottom Line for this detail quilting. Again , it's polyester but it is not going to tear the fabric in my quilt. Professional long armers going at a fast and furious pace may want the trouble free ease of the Lava thread range. It is a variegated thread that is stronger than Rainbows ideal for the pros, but again it is not going to tear the fabric in a quilt.

Quilters love cotton. And since most of our quilting fabric is cotton it makes good sense to use cotton in the piecing process. Cotton piecing thread will ensure that our quilts hold together well and bear up under the inevitable stresses in the life of a quilt. But quilting is different! Many threads made of wild and wonderful fibres are ideal for quilting. If you limit yourself to just cotton you're missing out!

1 comment:

Trudi said...

Martha, I have to concur, I haven't had any problems with using 'poly' to quilt any of my quilts. And I LOVE 'Rainbows', it has such a lovely luster to it, almost pearlescent. I just makes your quilts shimmer. Lava, on the other hand has all the character of varigated thread but a matt finish that really adds texture. For that really special quilt, Masterpiece adds a real heirloom finish when it is matched in as a nuetral.
We are so lucky to have such choice today, decisions, decisions. :o)