WTT!! (What The Thread!) Part 3

As promised here is the third and final installment of thread education!  Here I’ll talk about what thread terms mean.. some you may hear when reading or discussing thread, how thread is sized and and explaining the ‘finishes’ on a thread.

In case you missed it:

WTT!! Part 1
WTT!! Part 2

Sew let’s get started!

Thread Terms

I’ll start with what I ‘think’ you may have heard most often and move into less frequent terms.

Spun: This is when staple fibers are twisted into single strands.

Plying (or Ply): This is the process of taking 2 or more spun strands and twisting them together to form thread (or yarn as the case may be).

Textured Thread: This is just a process of crimping filaments to create different textures (bulky, softness, elasticity).

Core: This is as it suggests.  It’s the central fiber (polyester, nylon, cotton) in which a staple fiber is wound around.  The staple fiber or outer fiber could be the decorative metallic, could be polyester, etc.

Staple fibers: Natural fibers that are very short in size (think of the size of a cotton ball) – up to 2 inches.  Synthetic fibers that are double or more in size – up to 5 inches.

Monofilament, Multifilament, Triobal Filament: Monofilament are single extreme lengths of fiber (polyester, rayon, nylon, silk).  Multifilament is just as it suggests – several strands of extreme lengths of fiber together.  Triobal is a filament that has three sides for light reflection.

Thread Size

You may have noticed – especially if you’re into embroidery – there are different sizes of thread.  As you can imagine they are linked to the weight of the fabric you’re sewing into.  Light delicate fabric should have a light delicate thread (remember you want to match your thread to your fabric in most cases) and heavy weight fabrics such as jeans should have a thicker thread.

In my experience and research there doesn’t seem to be an industry standard.  But what I did find was some generalities. Thread2 Additionally, I had come upon a website selling thread that bespoke of Tex sizes.  What?

Here’s what I’ve found:

Weight: how many kilometers a thread has to be to weigh in at 1 Kilogram. The higher the number the lighter the thread.

Tex: the weight in grams of 1,000 meters. The higher the number the heavier and thicker the thread.

So here is a nifty generalized chart that should help you if size matters to you:

Fabric Type

Thread Weight

Tex Weight

Suggested Needle Size

Extra Light 120-180 16-24 60, 65
Light 75-120 24-30 70, 75
Medium 40-75 30-40 80-100
Medium Heavy 30-50 40-60 100, 110
Heavy 25-36 60-105 120, 140
Extra Heavy 11-20 105-135 140, 160

Please keep in mind this is a very generalized chart as there is no industry standard!  I have compiled this from reading many websites and books on thread.

Most important, just remember, in metric sizes, the higher the number the finer the thread.  In TEX standards, the higher the number the thicker the thread.

Now for our final section….

Finishes

Finishes refers to the final touches on the thread before it is wound onto the spool.  It’s kind of like a helping hand for the proper type of lubrication.  For instance, serger thread is treated to enhance high-speed sewing – otherwise it would break constantly.

Bonded: This is a coating to keep polyester and nylon abrasion free and shred resistant.

Mercerized: This process adds flexibility to cotton or cotton covered polyester thread.  It reduces lint (important for your sewing machine!!), gives it strength and shimmer as well as making it useful for the dye process.

Glazed: This is actually only useful for hand sewing.  Any glazed thread will not bode well in your machine!  This process uses any number of chemicals and waxes to give thread a glossy smooth surface that reduces the amount of tangles and knots.

Gassed:  Simply a flash fire on thread to remove lint and give it a smooth look.

Soft: Untreated cotton.  In other words, nothing has been done to this thread so use it with caution because as we learned in Part 1, cotton is the weakest in the thread family.

And there you have it….all that I know about thread.  I do hope this has helped you in your learning process and adds a bit more to your arsenal of knowledge.

Let me know what you’d like to know more about!  I’m happy to share everything I know.  Don’t forget to check out the most recent tutorial on a Continuous Thread Dart.

Tutorial: The Continuous Thread Dart

The continuous thread dart is a technique that is used when you do not want to backstitch or knot at the top of a dart.  This would be useful in a dart that is sewn onto sheer fabric or fabric that will show a knot such as silk.  So let’s show you how to get this done.

First you’ll want to pull your bobbin thread up and remove your presser foot:

Continuous Thread Dart 1

Then you’ll want to pull out the top thread from your needle (only from the needle, leave threaded in the machine) and thread the bobbin backwards through the needle eye.  This is why I’m using a needle threader (aside from the fact that I’m blind ha ha!) is to show you it’s being pulled from back to front.  This is crucial:

Continuous Thread Dart 2

See?  Back to front with the bobbin thread:

Continuous Thread Dart 3

Now tie the top thread to the bobbin thread with a tight small knot, clip extras:

Continuous Thread Dart 4

Pull a good amount of thread up from the bobbin.  See the tension on the right hand of the photo below?  This is because I’m yankin’ on that to get a good foot or so:

Continuous Thread Dart 5

Now go up to the top of your machine and wind the spool to pull the bobbin thread backwards towards the spool. Directly to the left of the Sew Jam text you can see the knot as it has come backwards through the machine:

Continuous Thread Dart 6

Now put your foot back on slipping the bobbin thread into the slot of your foot:

Continuous Thread Dart 7

Now turn the upper thread spool again so the bobbin thread becomes taut:

Continuous Thread Dart 8

Slip your fabric in and lower your needle into the fabric and sew your dart:

Continuous Thread Dart 9

Done with extra bobbin thread (which is ok, best to have too much than not enough!):

Continuous Thread Dart 10

Sewn topside of dart:

Continuous Thread Dart 11

Sewn Bottomside:

Continuous Thread Dart 12

Opened dart:

Continuous Thread Dart 13

And there you have it!  I hope this tutorial has added to your arsenal of sewing techniques.  Until next time…

Sew Jam On!

WTT!! (What The Thread!) Part 2

Here is the second part and as promised, I’ll be writing about topstitch thread, rayon, fusible thread, metallic and other threads you may have heard of such as darning cotton. Before we get into that, I did want to mention one thing I had not mentioned in the previous article found here.

There are two very basic types of thread: Natural and Synthetic.  Natural thread comes from nature and include cotton, silk, wool, linen, rayon and hemp.  Synthetic threads are polyester and nylon.  It is worth noting here that natural fibers act differently in different climates, just like your clothes.  High UV can discolor dyed cotton, etc. Keep these in mind as I go through some of the more unusual thread below.

Types of Thread Part 2

Rayon: Think embroidery.  Because this fiber is not very strong and has no stretch, it is not useful for constructing much of anything really.  It is, however very soft, shiny and holds up to very high heat well.  Keep in mind this fiber doesn’t hold color very well. Uses: Embroidery floss and machine stitching.

Topstitch: Think visual wow.  This term is used for a heavier thread that can be made from any of the previously mentioned types of thread.  It’s also handy to use for hand stitching buttonholes on thick or heavy fabric. Uses: Bold statement topstitching on heavier fabric such as leather and vinyl, decorative topstitching and heavy duty utility stitching.

Fusible: Think basting.  This is a great thread that has come along recently that can eliminate basting is some projects.  It’s not stiff like some other fusible products and fuses with iron heat just like any other.  It is typically used in the bobbin and once heated will release the top thread, so make sure that top thread is a slippery thread (i.e. NOT cotton…use some sort of synthetic monofilament). Uses: Applique fusing, patchwork fusing, pocket fusing, or anything you need to hold temporarily in place to top stitch on or adjust for final stitching.

Water Soluble: Think ruffles. So this is another recent addition to the thread family and quite honestly it’s pretty ingenious.  Can you imagine no longer pulling basting stitches?  Baste. Sew. Wash. Done.  It can also be used for many of the same things that the fusible can be used for such as positioning applique’s, patchworks, and outer pockets.  Uses: basting and temporary placements prior to final stitching of anything.  Washes out.

metallic threadMetallic: Think decorative.  Who doesn’t like shiny?  It’s like the nail polish glitter of fabric!  The possibilities are endless for decorative stitching.  This can be used in a sewing or serger machine. A larger needle should be used and tension adjusted, so make sure you use a test piece of fabric to get it right before final stitching.  This thread can be used in all areas of a serger – upper looper, lower looper and any needle. Uses: Any decorative element you can think of from applique, shirring, flatlock, etc.

Darning Cotton: This is a very fine thread used for mending and darning.  This thread is used to recreate the weave of the hole that has been created.  This can also separate for even finer stitching. For darning socks and the like, you’ll want to use a darning egg or any household item that has the shape of a heel and will resist the poke of a needle.  For mending, flat surfaces work fine. Uses: hand stitching method of repairing holes or rips in any fabric.

Elastic: This thread is as it sounds.  Meant to be hand wound on the bobbin only.  It is used nearly exclusively for shirring or any place you want a good stretch. Uses: Professional look shirring.

That’s a wrap for today.  I’ll get part three in a few days.  I encourage you to stick with the basics if you’re just starting out.  Get comfortable with that and then move on to these.  Although, the water soluble thread I would encourage anyone to use.  I hope this has helped in your journey to thread usability.  The next and final section will clear up the rest.  Until next time….

Sew Jam On!

 

To Pin or Not to Pin

…. that is the question.

As I learned to sew years ago, pinning was a MUST.  I couldn’t stitch a thing w/o pinning.  As I advanced I’ve noticed I rarely use pins anymore.  The following is nothing scientific or researched.  This is my personal journey, thoughts and common sense.

Let’s talk about common sewing.  In general, you have two pieces of material that will go under the needle.  Assuming all sewing machines have a feed dog, presser foot and needle, your machine will be stitching through both layers (or multiple if that is the case).  It’s important that the fabric is where it needs to be when it hits the needle.  Which is why we pin, so they keep that rascally thing in place!

My journey may be different, the same or have similar qualities as yours.  For me, I just want to get to that point of actually sewing.  Which brought me to my first change: ditching the rotary (and that is another article all together found here).  The second change: ditching the pins.  And this brings us to why.  This is not something I put much thought into until I joined a few Facebook pages and the questions began about this and that causing me to stop and think about the answer.  One of them was about pins.  I admit I did not post a reply, but it still left me with the question: Why did I stop using pins for the most part?

So here it is.  When using a paper or PDF pattern there are all kind of elements put into place to ensure you don’t foil the whole thing.  The instruction page obviously, but I’m talking about the famous markings on the pattern itself, i.e. notches, fold lines, ease dashes, etc.  Patterns are designed with the home sewer in mind and they are perfect!  Once I’ve cut the pattern the fabric lines up… yup…perfectly!  To save time – because I’m all about speed – I had started ditching the pins at the shoulder seams, side seams (on shirts, skirts and pants), and other seams that matched up…perfectly!

My left hand holds the fabric as it guides it through the needle and my right hand holds the bottom fabric guiding the fabric to the needle.  If you have a knee foot drop that is handy I’m sure, but I don’t.  I get the fabric under the needle and drop the needle.  My machine will allow me to do that.  In other words, I do not have to drop the presser foot to drop the needle.  When the needle is in the initial little bit of fabric, I get the fabric at the presser foot situated and voila, I drop the presser foot.  Once that is done, then I use my foot peddle to run the machine, using my hands to keep the fabric lined up.

This is a Set-In Sleeve with knit fabric.  Here I have matched up seams under the arm and at the top of the shoulder.  I manipulate the fabric as I go and that's it!

This is a Set-In Sleeve with knit fabric. Here I have matched up seams under the arm and at the top of the shoulder. I manipulate the fabric as I go and that’s it!

I was once told years ago by a highly successful seamstress that the farther out (or towards YOU) the seam is lined up with the machine, it will be on track to sew the seam at the proper seam width when it hits the needle.  Which in essence means that my left is holding it directly to the left of the needle and right hands are working the fabric about a foot out from the needle, getting it lined up (notches matched up, etc) and ready to hit the needle.  This may or may not require stops and starts with the foot peddle.  Fabric type has a lot to do with whether or not I start/stop along the way.

Before I thought about writing this, I to really think about why I do and don’t pin and how I maneuver fabric since I don’t put much thought into why I’m doing what I’m doing, I just do it! I know that I haven’t used pins for a long time on those straight perfectly matching seams and it’s just been recently that I’ve found myself ditching the pins for the more ‘complicated’ areas such as arm curves, necklines, and patterns I’ve hand drawn out.   I manipulate the fabric much closer to the presser foot for these types of situations, but doing so w/o the pins.  I think beyond the straight/matching seams the next phase of ditching the pins is all about you willing to giving it a try.

It’s important to note on closing that I DO pin squirrelly fabrics.  You know the ones…silk, satin, chiffon, etc.  Another item that I use when getting several layers of fabric together for sewing is clips.  I started with those office-style black clips with the silver ‘wings’ and then discovered the Wonder Clip.  I encourage you to find what works for you and have confidence in your abilities.  Practice makes perfect when starting something new (like ditching the pins).

I hope as you proceed farther into your journey as a successful seamstress that you’ll find this information useful to help with your speed as well.  I’m certain there are those who live and die by the pin and that is great!  Every seamstress has their thing for sure, but perhaps this will help someone along their journey to try something new and different which provides the opportunity to eliminate a bit of time until the fabric hits the needle.

Until next time, get your Sew Jam On!

Iron SaWVY!

Catchy title, eh?  Let’s chat about cleaning your beloved iron.  If you use and abuse your buddy like I do then in no time at all will you have a nice build up of gunk.  Fusing, setting it too hot for the fabric (and having an OOPS! moment), ironing hem tape – it can all leave a nice residue on your sole plate.  Most of the time placing your iron setting on cotton and wiping it off with a warm water-only soaked cloth will clean it up.

diryiron

Just in case that doesn’t do it for you, I have a very cheap method for cleaning the sole plate.  I’ve done it – it works like a charm every time.  Grab your iron and hit the kitchen supplies and grab a few toothpicks, vinegar, a box of wax paper and your refill container of table salt.  Yup, that’s it.  Empty your iron of any water and turn off any automatic steam settings.

Plug in your iron near your kitchen table on the cotton setting.  Rip off two sheets of wax paper big enough to make small circular motions with your iron.  Mine was about 1.5 feet.  Put both sheets together and lay out on your kitchen table – curly side down.  Hold it with one hand and pour about a half a cup of salt onto the wax paper. Keep hold of that wax paper or you’ll have salt catapulting all over your dining area!

Now iron the salt in slow circular motions.  Go ahead and take a quick peek – I know you’re dying to see if it actually works.  Guess what you’ll see?  The salt is taking on all the gunk.  Sole plate 1 – Gunk 0.  Continue to iron until all gunk is removed.  Keep in mind if you have a rather dirty iron you’ll probably want to ditch the dirty salt halfway through for a new round of salt.  The wax paper will also make your sole plate shine like rock star!

What about the toothpicks you say?  Well finish up with your iron, then set it down, shut it off and take a look at the steam holes.  Oh yes there is salt in them thar holes.  Grab a toothpick and flick those rocks out.  You’re almost done!  Now about that vinegar….

You emptied your iron before salt ironing and now we are going to fill it halfway with a 1:1 ratio of water and vinegar – use nose plugs as necessary!  Fill your iron about halfway with the vinegar/water and head off to your ironing board.  Plug it in.  You should still have it on the cotton setting and if you have an iron that has the auto-steam you’ll want to engage that as well.  Grab an old piece of cotton fabric.  Steam away until all the vinegar is gone from your iron.  Now fill it halfway with distilled water and steam again until gone.

If you’ve survived the vinegar smell, congratulations, you’re done!  So let’s go over what you’ve done:

Salt and Wax = gunk gone; Vinegar = pipes cleaned; Y = YAY we’re done!

SaWVY awesome!

The Adjective

vintagedress

I know that you have heard them all: vintage, retro, modern, sophisticated, classic, contemporary, fresh, avant-garde, etc.  I especially love them when they come out of the judges mouths on Project Runway.  Them problem is perspective and I’m sure mine is somewhere others are not.

Let’s start with vintage.  This, to me, is something pre-1900’s and original.  In other words, it’s rare.  I envision hundreds of vintage dresses tucked away in forgotten trunks in attics across the world.  We don’t get to see them often, but they are lingering… to be found someday.  Vintage is not something that is merely old from this century.

Retro is a throw-back.  It can be a current fabric constructed from a pattern dated 1970 or 1960.  While the fabric can be dated from the same era giving it authenticity, it can also be new.  The design will lend itself to the name retro.  For some reason corduroy bell bottoms come to mind!

Modern is simply current.  Modern, by definition is something characteristic of today’s times.  It’s what is popular by demand and probably hanging on the racks at all major department stores.

Sophisticated is another word that is highly used in our sewing worlds.  This is a word that is reality based.  It simply means pleasing or satisfactory.  In more depth it means refined tastes due to exceptional education.  In other words, an artist, after art school, will have a more refined eye for sophistication than they did prior to education about art.  In my eyes it’s all reality based because what may look sophisticated to me may look boring or poorly designed to another.
While I can go on and on – you can hopefully see where I am going with this.  It’s all subjective to the individual person that is looking at a garment or accessory.  You can debate the adjectives but at the end of the day, it’s what you think and feel that matters.  You feel it and can attach any adjective you’d like to it, but remember that others may see it differently.  AND – it doesn’t make you right or others right.
NOTE:  The image above was found on Pinterest.