The Skinny on Thread~

In the worlds of sewing and quilting, opinions on thread run high.  Everyone seems to have their favorite and frankly, the reasons run from common sense to the ridiculous.  I’ve heard people say they prefer one brand because, “Everyone knows that foreign thread is better”.  Uh… ok.  I’ve heard others say they didn’t like the same brand because, “Everyone knows that foreign thread is cheap quality…”

So, since we’re all friends and have opinions, I’m going to give mine.  I quilt, I smock, I craft, and I sew garments.  I do it all and there is only one thread I bother with using.  It isn’t that I don’t like other threads… I do.  Actually, I like several threads and for different reasons but I only use one and there is a very definite reason I do.  Some people think I’m a bit daffy in my reasoning but it’s been working pretty well for me for the past twenty years or so, so I’m stickin’ to it.

First, in my opinion, there are three main types/brands of thread.  Gutermann, Dual Duty, and Generic.    I’ll give the pros and cons of these threads before I share my favorite and why.

Gutermann is one of the “premiere” threads used by both casual and advanced quilters, crafters, and sewists (I refuse to call myself something that could be misread as a refuse receptacle.  Sue me.)  Gutermann is very strong, very colorfast, resilient, and comes in amazing colors.  For gathering, it can’t be beat.  You can pull threads on a 400″ piece of fabric without the thread growing thin and balling up in that annoying way that other threads tend to do.  Some consider it to be expensive but I consider it reasonable considering the quality of the product.  Gutermann isn’t the only name by the way.  Similar threads are Mettler, Clover, etc.

Dual Duty-  Let’s face it, we’ve all seen it if we’ve ever been to any kind of fabric store.  When I was a child, I loved running my fingers over the rows of color imagining what someone might make using that amazing color.  It’s inexpensive, versatile, and works for almost every project.  There are some who consider it to be equal to garbage but outside the 400 inches of gathering mentioned above, I’ve never had a breakdown in the thread worth mentioning.

Then there is the generic spool.  The advantage is the super cheap price.  Say, oh, .25-.50 cents a spool at most usually.  That’s pretty cool.  That’s also all the good I can say about it.  This thread is usually made of very short cotton staples, is thin, and breaks if you look crosswise at it.  Don’t waste your patience or your money on it.  Unless you do a lot of basting.  It’s probably worth the hassle for that.  Maybe.

So, which do I use and recommend exclusively?  Dual Duty.  Why don’t I recommend the thread that is definitely a much higher quality item?  It’s quite simple actually, I prefer the “lesser quality” to protect my time investment.  You see, when I make a garment, I know it’s going to be worn.   If it’s going to be worn by children,  we’re talking about a lot of wear and unfortunately, tears.  Gutermann thread doesn’t break.  I know that sounds like a good thing, but when you have the choice between breaking the threads that hold the garment pieces together OR the fabric threads, I want the sewing thread to snap.  Gutermann doesn’t.  If I sew a dress with  Gutermann thread and the skirt is stepped on, the fabric will tear before that thread will break.  Now the dress is ruined.  However, if I use Dual Duty, usually the threads are equal or slightly weaker than the actual fabric threads and the machine thread will break over the fabric threads.  This means mending, which I hate, but it also means that the garment isn’t ruined.  It can be mended.

I tried to join the Gutermann/Mettler thread snob bandwagon back when my children were all under ten years old.  I thought I was being penny wise and pound foolish using the Dual Duty thread.  After the third torn dress in a week (all made with quality “quilting cottons” from the local quilt shop- South Seas Imports for those who know or care), I went back to Dual Duty, threads broke instead of ripped fabric, and I’ve never looked back.

I thought perhaps on quilts I’d prefer to have the better cotton for piecing or quilting but again, if the seams are going to rip, I’d rather have the thread gone than the fabric.  I can always do a ladder stitch and fix a popped seam.  Once the fabric is torn, however, there is nothing else I can do.

So, while the Gutermann purists mock me for my ‘cheap thread’, I use it proudly and happily knowing that my well worn and loved creations can be repaired rather than tossed.  Keep mocking me… all the way back to the store to buy yourself more fabric when Sally rips her jumper skirt.  Again.


5 thoughts on “The Skinny on Thread~

  1. Hello. I found your blog through the WordPress Readomattic feature. Thank you for your ‘review’ about the different quality levels of thread. I hadn’t thought of it that way. But at least, now I feel NO guilt about preferring Dual Duty because of price.

  2. That’s a cool take on it!

    FWIW, the BIG spools of thread intended for your serger work perfectly well for your standard machines too (though they fit better if you’re on an industrial machine). The price per yard of Gutermann in the big spool is better than for the little spool of Dual Duty!

  3. Definitely. If you’re going to use Gutermann, you should at least buy the big spools in white, natural, black, navy… whatever colors you use often because it is much cheaper that way.

    IT’s just not cheaper for me if I’m replacing the sewn garment due to fabric tearing so in the long run, that’d be penny wise/pound foolish for me. Stickin’ to my Dual Duty even though it is technically more expensive.

  4. My favorite thread for most purposes is Coats and Clark Star Machine Quilt thread:

    “Star Machine Quilting and Craft thread is 100% cotton-mercerized for strength and luster. 3-Ply construction, 50 weight in a 1200 yard tube.”

    It’s for sale – $3.65 – at this link:

    I usually buy it at walmart or joanns.

    It is heavier than the Dual Duty, but it’s nice and soft and smooth. And it’s cotton, so it shouldn’t cut through your cotton fabrics. It doesn’t come in the large range of colors, of course.

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