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thread weights and types

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Okay, I don't know how I can call myself a quilter when I really don't know much about thread, fabric or tension. All things that will cause you to pull your hair out. I was at a store that was closing soon today and everything was 70% off. They had wonderfil thread and the man there sang the praises of using a lighter weight thread in the bobbin when free motion quilting. He said you would get less whiskering.

First, I thought whiskering came from going too fast?

Second, how can you tell the weight of this thread? He said the one that has 2,000m is 80wt. If that is true, what is the wt of the cone that has 400m and is the same diameter? Also, would you use different wt threads in the bobbin and why?



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Good Morning Stacey:

You're right...a big sale like that is only a good bargain if you know what you're buying. There is lots and lots to learn about thread (different weights & fibers, which ones work well together, which ones will run smoothly in your machine and especially when to use what in order to achieve the look you want). I've spent the past couple years learning more about thread but here are the basics. Take a deep breath and feel free to email me if you have any specific questions. I'll do my best to help you.

Thread weight: The majority of machine threads come in weights from 12 (very thick) to 100 (very thin). It's not literally true but if you can remember that thread weight is a measure of how many strands of that thread could fit through the eye of a needle, it may help. There are also some even thicker threads available for machine stitching (like a size 8) but they are so fat, they won't run through the eye of our needles so they are intended for bobbin work (winding them on the bobbin and then sewing with the quilt or top upside down).

Generally: thinner are threads are great for quilting designs when there is very dense quilting (like micro stippling) or when there is lots of backtracking (so that in your feathers, for example, you don't notice so much the difference between where there is one line of thread and where there are two). With thin threads (like monofilament, 100 weight silk or the 80 weight Decobob which is the Wonderfil product you were looking at) the thread has less of a presence so what the viewer notices is more the texture created by the quilting designs. That's why these threads are also used for applique...its hard to see the thread itself. With thick threads, each line of quilting is more visible...the thread path is easier to follow so bobbles & mistakes are a bit more evident but you get lots of bang for your buck.

Fibers: Another factor which affects how the thread looks & performs is the fiber type. Some fibers give a sheen (most polyesters, rayons, silks) while most cottons have a flat or matte look. There are exceptions but this is generally the case. While beautiful, natural fibers like many rayons and some cotton threads are just too delicate to be used for machine quilting...especially for a bed quilt or functional piece. Given the speeds at which most longarm quilters work, most prefer a polyester thread (low lint & usually trouble free) or a cotton designed for machine quilting and known to be stronger than piecing thread.

You mentioned tension. OMG...that's what drove me to learn about threads in the first place and I still struggle with it sometimes and with certain threads. You can read older threads about tension on this forum and learn a lot of helpful specifics. Most of us have our best success using the same thread on top and in the bobbin but many use a lighter weight thread (60 weight Bottom Line by Superior or the 80 weight Decobob by Wonderfil) successfully with heavier threads on top. Maybe one of them can weigh in on why they like that look. Certainly the bobbins last longer when wound with thin threads...more yards will fit on each bobbin.

You have to experiment with your own machine to decide which threads run smoothly for you and which 'looks' you like. All the information on each thread is there...the manufacturer (Wonderfil) the name (Decobob), the weight (80) the fiber type (polyester). That one is a fine bobbin thread and I have used it in the top as well for dense quilting. The other factor you haven't mentioned is which size & type of needle is recommended for different threads. You can ask the salesman which needle he would recommend for Decobob (generally the thinner threads perform better with smaller needles). On the Superior Thread website, there are pages of free information regarding this topic. Then you just apply the info to comparable threads by other manufacturers.

Is that too much all at once? Go back to the sale and buy a few spools...give yourself permission to experiment and you'll be able to add lots of different effects to your quilt tops and your quilting. Nancy in Tucson

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Thank you for all the information. I bought the thread before learning about it because I like to do things the hard way. Plus I understood what the man said about it in the store, I just didn't remember it enough at home. lol.

You said all the information about the thread should be on the cone but all these say are WonderFil Deco Bob the number of meters and the color number. The other type I bought says Wonderfil Accent the number of meters and the color number. The reason I mentioned the number of meters of thread on the cone was because the salesman said you can tell it is lighter weight thread because the cone size is essentially the same but the length is different. Lighter thread takes less space. If everyone understands thread weight, why don't they just say the wt on the spools. Very few of the threads I have looked at tell you the wt. Also, how do you know if it is polyester, cotton or a blend? This has also not been on any cone threads I have purchased.

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