Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Why Does Rebecca Need SO MUCH THREAD? And Will It Go Bad Before She Uses It Up?

So here's how the "Firemen Heroes" charity quilt turned out the other day:

"Firemen Heroes" Pediatric Hospital Outreach Quilt

I quilted this donated top using Jessica Schick's Fantasy Flames digital pantograph, scaled to a pattern density of .92, with Glide thread top and bottom in color Lemon Ice.

Top Prior to Quilting

I always like to compare photos of what a quilt top looks like before and after quilting, don't you? With this quilt in particular, simply pieced from large rectangles, I wanted to choose a quilting pattern with curved lines to soften the "brick" effect of the piecing lines and add some movement and interest, but it needed to complement and not overpower the "Firemen Heroes" themed fabric.  

Fantasy Flames E2E Design from Urban Elementz

Had I been using the printed paper pantograph version of this design, the row height would have been 10".  I enlarged that by about 10% for this quilt, both to complement the scale of the piecing and because the batting my guild provides for these charity quilts is kind of on the stiff side, and the intended use of the quilt is to be snuggly and cuddly and comforting for a hospitalized child.  Generally speaking, the more densely you quilt something, the stiffer it gets, whereas more open quilting patterns with more space between the stitching lines will result in a softer, more malleable finished quilt.

Thread Color is Glide Lemon Ice, a Pale Yellow Pastel 

I know some would have chosen a neutral gray thread for this quilt, which would have looked great on the majority of the fabrics, but when I auditioned gray thread on this quilt top it looked dirty to me against the yellow fabric patches.  


Any time I am quilting across a fabric with text, I don't want the quilting stitches to look like scribbles obscuring the words.  In this case, that pale barely-yellow thread just sinks in and disappears.  I can't really visualize what a particular thread color will look like on a quilt just by looking at it on the cone.  I have to unspool a length of each thread I'm considering and lay it across all of the different colors in the quilt top to see which color works best overall, and I can only do that if I have a variety of thread colors on hand to choose from.  Those color swatch cards from the thread manufacturers are helpful for matching similar colors from different thread lines, but I can't use them to pick the best color for a particular quilt.

Speaking of thread...

A Portion of My Long Arm Thread Stash: Glide, So Fine, YLI, Bottom Line, King Tut...

What's the Shelf Life of Today's Quilting Threads?

Several of you commented on my last post with concerns about thread "going bad" faster than we can use it up in our projects.  I found an informative article about that topic here that you might want to check out.  If you don't have time to go read the whole thing, here are the main takeaways:

  • No, you probably don't want to sew or quilt with the vintage thread you found at a yard sale or that you inherited from Grandma's sewing basket, because it's likely to have deteriorated significantly and lost most of its strength
  • The material the spool or cone is made from affects the thread's longevity, too -- those beautiful vintage wooden or styrofoam spools actually sped up the deterioration of the thread due to chemical reactions between the spool material and the thread fibers
  • You can prolong the useful life of any thread by storing it away from sunlight, protected from dust, and at a moderate humidity level (neither too dry nor too humid).
  • Not sure whether that older spool of thread is still good to use?  Give it Deborah's snap test

BUT --

  • Cotton agriculture and thread manufacturing have seen major advances over the past few decades, such that thread manufactured today is expected to have a much longer useful lifespan than the thread manufactured just 20 years ago
  • Synthetic fiber threads such as polyester have a much longer lifespan than natural fibers such as cotton, and they are much less susceptible to deterioration from storage conditions than natural fiber threads.  (This is why heavy duty synthetic threads are used for outdoor sewing applications such as cushions for the deck chairs, awnings, etc.)
  • The estimated usable lifespan of high quality cotton threads manufactured today that are properly stored (away from light, dust, and extreme temperature/humidity) is about 50 YEARS!  Wow!  That is WAY longer than I would have guessed, but I found that same statistic from every source I consulted, including from Superior Threads here.  The polyester threads that I run in my long arm machine such as Glide, So Fine, and Bottom Line, are predicted to last even longer than cotton threads.  

So I think it's safe to say that my thread stash is going to outlive me!  This little 40" x 45" charity quilt, with a fairly open quilting design, still ate up over 140 yards of thread (my IntelliQuilter computer calculates that for me when I set up the pantograph pattern).  A densely quilted Queen or King size quilt can eat up 2,000 yards of thread or more, and an heirloom/show quilt with dense microfills can take vastly more thread than that.  Since my favorite long arm quilting threads are not available to me locally and are often backordered, I prefer to have a wide variety of thread types and colors on hand so I can always select the perfect thread weight, fiber, color and sheen for every quilt that comes my way.

Also, thread is yummy like candy but without the calories.  ;-)

I'm linking up today's post with the following linky parties:

WEDNESDAY

Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication

Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter

THURSDAY

Needle and Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation  

Free Motion Mavericks with Muv and Andree

7 comments:

Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

I have a lot of old thread and also do the pull on test and see if it breaks. I'm not sure how old it all is but I bet I have some that are about 20 years by now - and thanks so much for the hand quilting thread you sent me - I wonder if I can use them up in my life time!!

The Joyful Quilter said...

I've got quite a thread stash, too, for the very same reason. Like you, I unspool a length of thread and puddle it around various sections of the quilt to choose the right color. One question... How many stitches per inch did you use for the quilting? 12? 13? 15? I can't really tell from the photo. Whatever it is, it turned out great!

Jocelyn is Canadian Needle Nana said...

Lots to do! No pressure but I am looking forward to seeing the Christmas tumbler quilt. Lol

SJSM said...

Superior threads has a lot of consumer education. Cindy Needham is one of their thread ambassadors from whom I took a class, twice. There was that much information I could not soak it all in. That changed my outlook on quality thread and I became a high end thread hoarder. I did learn a few things in the info you presented and the article. I now know why my Molanik thread lasted so long. It was so sad when that brand disappeared. I used the last bit a few years ago. It kept passing the thread break test so it was put to use.

All that to say, if that is all the thread you have, you do not have enough. I’m sure there are huge stashes of embroidery and other sewing thread hiding in your storage areas. Also, you have only started with the long arm thread recently. Give yourself time. You will build up an ever greater supply.

Jennifer Fulton Inquiring Quilter said...

What a perfect quilting design for this quilt! Whoever receives it will enjoy it for sure because your thoughtful choices have made it soft and lovely. Great choice of that light yellow. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on thread and your lovely thread collection on Wednesday Wait Loss.

Susan said...

I like Fantasy Flames - I'll have to get that one! It's perfect for your quilt!

Emily said...

Love the firefighter quilt! Cute fabric--my son is firetruck crazy so we're always on the lookout for fun firetruck or firefighter fabric.

Thanks for all the thread info. I will check out some of those resources. Good to know most of our modern thread will last a long time!

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