2.18.2010

thready issues


Something I haven't thought about often is my thread. I typically use 'all purpose' Gutermann thread because that is the most commonly available and I've been told that it is a quality brand. As I understand it, 'all-purpose' is polyester thread wrapped in cotton. Pure cotton thread has no stretch at all, and the polyester content allows for more give, all the better for sewing with a wide variety of fabrics, particularly knit.

Now I live in a semi-rural area and my source for notions has been a small department store rather than a large fabric outlet. Since they did not carry my usual brand, I picked up Coats' all purpose. Initially, I was a little weary of putting it in my machine; I have received dire warnings in the past about using cheap thread, everything from the fluff from the thread will clog the machine in places I will never get at to having continuously snapping thread that will create a headache so painful I'll be tempted to slit my jugular with my rotary blade. So, the new thread scared me a bit. Is Coats a quality thread company? I have no idea. It just looks like thread to me.

But sewing those first few seams with the new thread changed my life. Well, my sewing life anyway. Those seams, they were beautiful.

Before that moment, I was thinking that it was time to take my machine in for maintenance again, since my stitches were getting pretty wonky. In fact, I've never really been satisfied with my machine's stitching, particularly in comparsion with the industrial machines I briefly have had the chance to play with. My machine has sewn okay, but the evenness and and tension just isn't as pretty as it could be, even straight out of the repair shop.

My stitching, using Coats' thread, was perfect. It was pretty. There was no indication that my machine needed a service. It's a joy to use. I never thought that I would get passionate about thread in this way, being as I think of it as the most boring part of the process of sewing, but it appears to be much more than had assumed.

Have I been using the wrong kind of thread for years? Should I be matching thread to my machine in the same way as I consider the right thread for the fabric? Is Coats just a way better brand and I should be irritated that the major outlets only supply Gutermann?

I'm really interested to hear other people's experiences with the interplay between thread and machine. Perhaps there are some bonafide experts out there who could enlighten us all?


35 comments:

  1. Have you seen this one? She says the exact opposite of your experience, how funny is that?

    http://thismamamakesstuff.com/2009/11/what-sewing-thread-do-you-use/

    ReplyDelete
  2. Matching the thread to the machine makes sense, but things you should REALLY know about thread. They vary a lot. Coats is an okay brand, and so is gutterman. But thread goes bad! If it's old or left in the sun it won't run through your machine well. So, if you were using like your mom's ancient thread and switch to a new batch you'd see immediate improvement. If the thread you are using is more then a few years old, then it's past it's prime. Breaking and anything else can occur.

    I bought some offbrand thread in bulk one time because I just wanted to stock my sewing room, and honestly, though I don't have stitching problems, it sheds like I've never seen before. By the time I've used a spool to extinction, I've got at least a handful of lint in my machine.

    I'd stick to a brand that works best with your machine, but I'd also be aware of how old the thread is and carefully consider all the variables. :) It could be, for instance, that the Coats poly cotton blend has more poly, meaning it's much stretchier and better for your projects, instead of better for your machine. But play around and try to figure it out.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Here is thread magnified. :) I found it very informative.

    http://sewing.about.com/library/weekly/aa102100a.htm

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ha! I wish I could blame my wonky stitches on the thread I use- or even my 1960's sewing machine... but alas- they are the result of human error.

    PS- I love Coat's thread!

    and I love your blog.

    ReplyDelete
  5. My machine does not like Coats ... Gutermann works better.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I worked in a fabric shop when I learned to sew, and the more experienced sewists told me to use the Coats and Clark, so it’s what I’ve always used. Well, almost always. I tried our store brand thread one time, because it was super cheap, but it broke constantly and was not worth the headache. It was a good experience though, because I could warn the unsuspecting customers about the shoddy thread before they purchased it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I've used Coats thread since I started sewing when I was 6 or 7 (about 25 years). My reasons...it's what my grandma and mom used, it's available with a 20 minute drive, and I've always had good luck with it. The nearest fabric store is an hour and a half drive but there is a walmart 20 minutes away and a small wedding dress shop 10 minutes away that sells notions. I've read how bad coats is but when I also bought a new sewing machine, he recommended coats or guttermans and just said to stay away from the "cheap" stuff.
    I think it's a matter of personal preference. I keep my machine clean and oiled so maybe that's why it's good for me? How knows but it works!!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. i have always used coats - because my mom did and it is easily found... and the age of thread does make a difference - no matter the brand

    i has used an "off" brand before and it broke so often i just threw it out.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I definitely agree with the age thing... old thread breaks, cheap thread breaks... coats is a good brand and so is gutermann, find what works best for you and your machine and go with it... it truly is a preference thing... on a side note, I've also bought more expensive thread that was supposed to be the be-all-end-all of threads. Not so much, it sucked just as much as the cheapies :)

    Best of luck finding your perfect thread match!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have found that coats sheds more in my machine that gutermann. I buy gutermann because its my preferance and available locally. The thread that I love the best that I can't get locally is Mettler. I love it beyond love! But I have to order online and I just don't always find that I have the time to wait for a shipment. Now this has all been on my Elna 3210 the New brother is still in testing mode but seems to do fine with both gutermann and coats, my original brother wouldn't run with coats.

    ReplyDelete
  11. My mom only ever used Coats in her Singer Sewing machine because she said it was the only one that never gave problems. So, I just always used it too with my Singer, but now I am wondering if I should play around with different brands.

    Maybe I'll have an epiphany like you did but with a different brand HAHA.

    ReplyDelete
  12. This has been very interesting reading! Coats is all I use in my machine because that's what it likes. I did use Guetterman once because I couldn't find the proper color in Coats, and it worked okay, but definitely not worth the extra dollar. (FYI, my machine is a 10 year old Singer.)

    However, my best friend only uses Guetterman because that is what works best in her machine... I had never really given it much thought before.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I use coats for machine sewing, but I use guettermann for machine quilting because I like the look better, although it is more likely to choke up my machine. But I use things other than all-purpose for quilting.

    And those photos there of old thread? That's what I use to edge old flannel sheets to make cloth diapers or washcloths. If I don't care what it looks like or how it needs to lay, I use old thread. I do test it first, though, to see if it has any strength left. I also only play foolish thread games on my cheap machine...

    ReplyDelete
  14. this has been so interesting! i also use mostly coats, because it is what my mom has used and its just that familiar brand. but i have used gutterman too, and i think it leaves less lint in my machine, but i dont notice any difference sewing with either one.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I can honestly say that I have never given a second thought to thread before. When I first learned to sew, I used white thread or black thread on all my projects because I hated changing the bobbin. I am also on a very tight budget, so I tend to buy the cheapest thread available, although I do buy matching stuff now. I figured out that mistakes don't show up so badly if your thread blends in. Duh!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I ♥ Coats. Gutterman thread and me, meh. We get along OK but when I have serious tension issues it is usually Gutterman to blame. My Momma (For whom I look up to in this area most definitely) says that sometimes the amount of poly in it varies sometimes too much to the lesser and that is to blame.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I've been told by experienced seamstresses to use Gutterman.

    I found, however, that it broke more and caused more problems with my machine than Coats & Clark ever did.

    I switched back to C&C and LOVE it.

    I wish I hadn't stocked up on Gutterman thread. I'll probably just relegate it to hand sewing projects because it really is not at all special IMHO.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I love Coats and enjoy sewing with it. I've been warned about it, too, and told to try Guterman, but never have. *sigh* Maybe I should, but if it's ain't broke, don't fix it. right?

    ReplyDelete
  19. I've used them both but mostly Guterman (usually buy them when there is a buy one get one sale). When I got a new machine this past summer the sales lady told me that Coats is more likely to break, fuzz up, etc. but that it is okay to use in the bobbin. Not sure of the science behind that though...

    ReplyDelete
  20. I thought the same thing you did , that my machine was upset with me, but it turns out the cotton thread that I bought at an upscale quilt shop was all wrong for sewing on my machine. I'm hooked on polyester now.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Interesting!!! I've only used Gutermann once...didn't like it, but that could be my fault. I had ALMOST finished my first free-motion quilting project...and ran out of tan cotton thread. Off to the shop - all I could find was Gutermann. I grabbed it...not realizing it was polyester. Turns out, cotton in the bobbin and polyester in the needle a VERY wonky stitch shall make! LOL

    ReplyDelete
  22. Fascinating conversation! I ALWAYS used Coats but when I spent a pretty penny on my Pfaff machine the ladies at the shop told me ALWAYS to use Guttermans because it would work better for me and would be less wear and tear on the machine. So I switched. I can buy it from one of my coop groups so the price isn't too bad. But I haven't always been pleased with my stitches and you've got me wondering if it is the thread. Hmmmm . . . I may have to try Coats again just to see if there is a difference!

    ReplyDelete
  23. The Gutterman is more expensive at my notions store but just last week, when I used it, I was sooo dissapointed. Im in your ring, thread makes a huge difference.

    ReplyDelete
  24. The Gutterman is more expensive at my notions store but just last week, when I used it, I was sooo dissapointed. Im in your ring, thread makes a huge difference.

    ReplyDelete
  25. The kind of needle you are using plays into this also. Different weight threads do better or worse with different size needles. The Gutermann I have is thicker than the Coats that I have... maybe that is what made the difference if the same is true for you?

    ReplyDelete
  26. I use coats all purpose because it's the cheapest stuff that's not crap (ykwim). The Gutterman that I've used is 100% poly instead of cotton over poly so that might be the difference. I do use 100% poly for my diaper covers as I don't want any cotton content to cause wicking but for everything else I just use my coats.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I use thread from www.connectingthreads.com. It isn't very expensive and it is 100% egyptian cotton.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I had a similar experience... a few years ago I bought a bulk lot of all-purpose thread online. It was cheap, and I thought I had found a great deal (A LOT of thread for not much money). This year I started having a lot of problems with my machine... did some research online and found information about the damage that cheap thread can cause. I also read a lot of bad stuff about Coats. When I went to buy better thread, the best they had at my closest store was Coats. I wasn't sure about it, but figured it had to be better than what I had used before. To my very happy surprise, it sews absolutely beautiful seams! I ended up buying a large lot of Coats thread, and have been very happy!

    My poor old machine died earlier this week though... but I have a brand new Janome on the way... yes! :)

    ReplyDelete
  29. I love, love, love Maxi Lock thread and have been very happy with all of my stitching. I am a definite fabric snob and really only like 100% natural fibers (cotton, wool, silk, bamboo etc), but the polyester thread works so well that I've given it a pass. I get my thread from Atlanta Thread & Supply (http://store.atlantathread.com/) and can usually get 3000 yds for about $2 with shipping and tax (I am in GA). Maxi Lock is great for sergers since it comes on the large cone. Love your blog and love the tutes! Keep them coming...

    ReplyDelete
  30. I've been using Coats since I started sewing in 9th grade in 1972 -- because that's what there *was*. It is not a "cheap" junky thread --- cheap junky thread is the 10/$1 poly junk in bargain bins. Coats is a quality name brand & produces a good quality product (no, not affiliated with the company, just have used countless spools of their product in 38 years!). I do sometimes get Gutterman --- sometimes I need to match a specific color & only Gutterman has it -- but actually don't like it very much -- not all Gutterman thread is created equal -- they are made in different factories & there have been problems with some of the production out of Mexico. I know there have been plenty of spools that were fine, but enough bad ones to sour me on the product in general. I really do like Mettler Metrosene -- but its not easy to find so I have the least of that. Btw, also want to point out that Coats has changed recently --- previously they produced "Dual Duty Plus" which was a cotton wrapped around a poly core --- strenth of the poly combined with lovely sheen of the cotton. I loved that. But that's been discontinued & replaced with Dual Duty XP -- this is a poly wrapping a poly core -- takes the dye nicely -- produces nice intense colors -- but with a matte finish --personally I miss the sheen of the cotton. But it does sew beautifully too.
    Margaret

    ReplyDelete
  31. I use mostly Coats threads. Honestly I haven't thought a lot about the type of thread I use. But I would steer very clear of those ubber cheap 10 for a $1 type ones. I live within a few miles of a Coats manufactoring plant and have had several family members work there. So I guess I've also felt a little sense of NC pride in their product.

    I also love some of Coats hand-sewing threads. They have some nice strong threads for buttons and zippers too.

    I'd like to thank your other commenters for their advice on the age of threads. I think I'll go take a look at my stash and see if I need to throw out some. Wonder if there's some way of recycling old threads? Hum?

    ReplyDelete
  32. So interesting reading all the comments.... My machines hate Coats but doed very well with Gutermann.... go figure! I never tried anything beyond those two (other than Wooly Nylon for my serger loopers) since I figure if it ain't broke don't fix it! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  33. Thank you all! This is a great discussion, and has left me with lots to think about and an urge to dig further.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Thank you so much for this post! I just recently got into sewing and hadn't put any actual thought into the type of thread I was using until just the past few weeks as I've been getting into larger projects. I was getting so frustrated with my cheap thread breaking. Maybe I'll give Coats a try!

    ReplyDelete
  35. Just ran across your post (and the first comment). I'm carrie from this mama makes stuff - the one who had the complete opposite experience as you. I used Coats n Clark my whole life and have now been turned to Mettler brand. The sewing machine shop had me pull their thread and my thread through my machine and see how different it felt. One was smooth and even, the other with tighter and rough.

    They said gutterman used to be a great brand, but they've started producing in new places and quality has started to wain.

    ReplyDelete