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Thread and fabric
2211 views   7 replies   Latest reply: December 22, 2009 at 1:48:07 PM

 
Member since:
Dec 13, 2009
Posts: 27
auroranova message #1
Thread and fabric
December 21, 2009 at 8:28:05 PM
 
In the previous topic thread we talked about needles and pins, and a little bit about thread. Let's cover that a little more.

Different types of fabrics will require different types of thread. For the most part, the bulk of your sewing may only require one or two types of good, all-purpose, cotton-covered polyester thread. There may be occasions, however, where you'd need specialty types, and that will depend on the fabric you're using.

"Cotton" fabrics is really a misnomer. Most cotton-types are blends, having varying amounts of synthetic fibers added to the cotton. The greater the percentage of synthetic fibers, the less the cotton will shrink when it's washed. You can still get 100% cotton cloth, but be prepared to lose up to 20% (or more) of the length when you wash it. Most fabrics, when you buy them, will have some kind of sizing (kind of like starch) impregnated into the cloth, and you'll need to wash your fabrics to get rid of that sizing. Yeah, you could leave it in and not wash before you make your outfit or pillow or whatever, but that's not a good idea. Eventually you'll have to wash the item, and if you didn't do it before construction to allow the fabric to shrink and soften up, you'll run the risk of having the fabric skew, twist and pucker in your finished product, and that just doesn't look good.

Synthetic fabrics very often are more durable than natural fibers, but some people have found they are allergic to certain types of man-made fibers, and prefer to use cottons, linens and woolens where they can. If you quilt, it's even more important to wash the fabric before cutting your quilting pieces to avoid problems later. And some purists insist that only natural fibers be used in recreating vintage patterns.

Just as you would have to use a thinner needle for sheer, fine fabrics, you should also consider using thinner thread. Silk thread is expensive, but very strong, and works well with chiffon, tulle, silk, satin, lace or voile. If you make a lot of bridal and/or special occasion gowns, consider investing in a supply of silk thread.

Mercerized cotton thread is your all-purpose, cotton-covered polyester thread. You can use this for just about any weight fabric.

Nylon thread is a man-made fiber thread, and works very well on specialty "fabrics" like vinyl, oilcloth, and upholstery fabrics. It's very strong and take a lot of stress before it breaks. It does tangle easily, so if you're using it to hand-sew pillows, work with shorter lengths of thread in your needle at a time (not two feet of thread at a time like I normally do!).

Button-and-carpet thread is very thick, very strong, and used for just what it's named for: attaching buttons or making upholstery items like drapes and slip-covers. You can't easily use it in a sewing machine unless you have an industrial-style machine, or a special adapter for heavy-duty work on your existing machine. The thread tends to bind up in the bobbin housing, causing lots of frustration.

Let's move on to fabrics. Fabric is generally put into three weight classifications: light, medium and heavy. When I speak of fabrics, I refer to anything that is woven, so we'll leave the specialty materials like vinyl, plastic and oilcloth out of it for the moment.

Lightweight fabrics include (but are not limited to) laces, tulle and/or netting, silk and silk voile, satin, chambray, madras.

Medium weight fabrics include some satins, cotton and cotton-blends, flannel, brocades, twill and poplin.

Heavy weight fabrics include corduroys and denim, velvet, upholstery, felt and canvas.

All fabrics come on rolls or bolts as they come off the mills which weave them. They may vary in width, ranging anywhere from 18 inches to 60" across, depending on their type. Some drapery and upholstery fabrics may exceed 72" in width.

Fabrics will nearly always have what is called a "straight grain", referring to the longest threads used in making the fabric as it is milled. In other words, the straight grain runs parallel to the finished edges (the selvage) of the fabric. The "cross-grain", on the other hand, runs across the width of the fabric, perpendicular to the selvages. Fabrics tend to have more "give", or stretch more, with the cross-grain than they do with the straight grain, and this is why most pattern pieces require that they be placed along the straight grain of the fabric, so that your knee-length hem doesn't end up around your ankles.

The type of fabric you choose to use in your project is really a matter of personal taste, but all commercial pattern will have fabric suggestions on their backs. And we'll talk about how to read a pattern next time. Take care!


 
Member since:
Nov 24, 2009
Posts: 270
wizdmzchyld message #2
Re: Thread and fabric
December 21, 2009 at 9:17:22 PM
 
Thank you.  You're clear and informative.  I'm appreciating your posts.

Charlene


 
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Member since:
Jul 1, 2009
Posts: 4499
Stitchboard Admin message #3
Re: Thread and fabric
December 21, 2009 at 10:08:43 PM
 
Charlene,

Quote:

Thank you.  You're clear and informative.  I'm appreciating your posts.


You said exactly what I'm thinking!  Smiley  This is such helpful info.


Melanie  (cat slave and Official Feline Can Opener) =^.^=
~~~~~
I'm a beading, knitting and crochet addict.  If that means I'm admitting I have a problem, then I admit to nothing. Please refrain from helping me.


 
Member since:
Nov 24, 2009
Posts: 270
wizdmzchyld message #4
Re: Thread and fabric
December 21, 2009 at 11:25:38 PM
 
When she's far enough along, I've had a project in mind for about 25 years and I'm hoping to learn enough to pull it off.

When I was very young (6 or 7) we lived overseas.  Papa was a Captain in the RCAF.  He had a London trip and bought my mother a beautiful house coat with about 16 yards of fabric in the skirt part.  I want to make one the giant economy size but have no idea how to make a pattern from the old one (it's about 40 some years old) and I don't want to take a chance on ruining it.

It's what I would use in place of that beautiful gown we discussed a couple of days ago.  I could feel elegant and actually wear it.  While I would LOVE to wear a beautiful gown just once, that I could wear and capture the same sort of feeling.  kwim?

So, this is an excellent learning process for me.

Charlene

Quote:

Charlene,

Quote:

Thank you.  You're clear and informative.  I'm appreciating your posts.


You said exactly what I'm thinking!  Smiley  This is such helpful info.



 
Look at that smile! (Photo guaranteed unretouched)
 
Member since:
Jul 1, 2009
Posts: 4499
Stitchboard Admin message #5
Re: Thread and fabric
December 21, 2009 at 11:51:10 PM
 
Charlene,

Oh, wow...what a wonderful idea!  It sounds so lovely, and I think it would be such a fun thing to make!

I would want to do the same.  Smiley


Melanie  (cat slave and Official Feline Can Opener) =^.^=
~~~~~
I'm a beading, knitting and crochet addict.  If that means I'm admitting I have a problem, then I admit to nothing. Please refrain from helping me.


 
Miss Freckles
 
Member since:
Nov 9, 2009
Posts: 62
knitnknanny message #6
Re: Thread and fabric
December 22, 2009 at 2:49:52 AM
 
I hope it's okay to add a little something here, on the topic of fabric width.
Sometimes you can find muslin that's 90 inches wide. I think I've even seen it 108", too.

I've enjoyed reading what you're writing. I hope it gets people fired up about sewing.  Smiley
Marilyn

Quote:


All fabrics come on rolls or bolts as they come off the mills which weave them. They may vary in width, ranging anywhere from 18 inches to 60" across, depending on their type. Some drapery and upholstery fabrics may exceed 72" in width.





 
Member since:
Dec 13, 2009
Posts: 27
auroranova message #7
Re: Thread and fabric
December 22, 2009 at 9:27:09 AM
 
Thanks for the input, Knitnknanny. It's been many years since I worked at Jo-Ann Fabrics, and I'd forgotten about the muslins. They were made that wide to be used as backing material for quilts. A width of 108" is 9 feet, about the width you'd need to cover and drape over a king-size bed.


 
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Member since:
Jul 1, 2009
Posts: 4499
Stitchboard Admin message #8
Re: Thread and fabric
December 22, 2009 at 1:48:07 PM
 
Thanks!  Smiley  I had no idea fabrics that size existed (aside from the large upholstery fabrics)...I thought one had to sew together different pieces for the purpose of making something for a king-size bed!  (LOL, now I realize it makes total sense...and there's my DUH moment for the day!)


Melanie  (cat slave and Official Feline Can Opener) =^.^=
~~~~~
I'm a beading, knitting and crochet addict.  If that means I'm admitting I have a problem, then I admit to nothing. Please refrain from helping me.

 
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