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Selecting and Using Machine Embroidery Thread

Ever walk over to the machine embroidery thread display just to pick up some more (whatever color) and end up spending a half hour?

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There are so many choices! Fiber, size, color... how can I choose just one?

Well, I can't guarantee that this information will curb your appetite for shopping for new threads, but it might help you decide which one to use and where to use it.

Thread Fiber

The fiber you choose for machine embroidery thread depends on how often the item will be washed.

Cotton
Durable, cotton is a traditional favorite among quilters because it's natural and available in many colors. It has a matte sheen.
Polyester
It's very durable and more colorfast than rayon. Polyester is a synthetic fiber, so it can feel a little more stretchy than others. The finish can be matte like cotton or shiny like silk. It's available in a variety of colors as a standard sewing machine thread.
Rayon
A decorative thread, rayon is made from wood pulp cellulose and very lustrous.
Metallic
Decorative metallic thread is available as twisted metallic or flat metallic. Twisted is spun around a nylon or polyester core. Flat metallic looks more like a ribbon. It's the shiniest thread and a bit harder to work with. It will be less frustrating if you use a metallic needle in your machine when stitching with metallic thread.
Nylon
Monofilament used as a bobbin thread. It's very durable, but nylon cannot be ironed, so sometimes it's wiser to buy polyester monofilament.

Thread Size

Size can have a big influence on how your finished project looks. If you are using programmed designs, follow the specifications for machine embroidery thread given in the pattern.

40 Weight for Pictures
Most designed patterns are meant to be done in 40 weight rayon thread.
60 Weight for Bobbins
Although 40 weight is used as a bobbin thread for regular sewing, 60 weight works best with embroidery because it's smaller.
Whatever Weight You Want for Free Motion
With free motion embroidery, you can choose whatever size you want to create the look you want. Have fun! Make many samples and do experiments on fabric scraps before you stitch on your final piece.

Thread Color

My favorite part! I love to play with colors. Machine embroidery threads are available in solid colors and now variegated spools, too. Unwind some and lay it on top of your fabric to see if it will look nice.

Designed patterns suggest which colors to use, but you can change things around. Free motion embroidery always puts you in charge.

Solid Colors
Use the suggested color or choose a different one. Be conscious of the shade value when adjusting patterns.
Variegated Colors
Spools of varigated thread are available with multiple colors or different shades of one color. Multiple colors look good as outlines on black. Machine embroidery thread with variations of one color is useful for outlining leaves or where you want a more subtle effect.
Holographic
The flat metallic thread is available in a holographic variety. It's quite dazzling! Be careful where you use it or it can steal the show.

Put your machine thread in the correct position for your sewing machine as you work to help it feed better. Parallel wound thread works best on a vertical spool pin. Cross wound thread works best on a horizontal pin or rack.

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