Thread Success: Tips from Sulky, Giveaway

Quiltmaker is happy to partner with Sulky for the third in a five-part thread giveaway.

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Sulky’s Tips for Thread Success

By Patti Lee, Vice President of Consumer Relations, Sulky of America

logo Thread Success: Tips from Sulky, Giveaway

The threads you use today are not your Grandma’s threads. In all probability, neither is your machine. The caveat we used to hear from every machine repairman was, “Don’t ever touch that dial.” They were talking about sewing machine tension.

 Thread Success: Tips from Sulky, Giveaway

It was with great trepidation that some of us (lucky enough to know several generations of machines) finally took the leap and twisted that dial! Eureka! Nothing exploded, the machine kept running, and if we did it right, it worked even better! Oh my!

elna Thread Success: Tips from Sulky, Giveaway

The first time you try a specialty thread, you might think, “My machine is never going to work with this thinner (or heavier, or metallic, or specialty) thread.” Here are some things that can make all the difference when you start to venture into decorative stitching, quilting, computerized embroidery, embellishment and more.

1.  Threads vary in weight. The “weight” of a thread is actually a length measurement that indicates a set weight of thread. For instance, if 1 gram of thread measures 40 meters, it is called a 40-weight thread. The lower the number, the heavier the thread.

And why should this matter?

820 Quilters Edition 0 Thread Success: Tips from Sulky, Giveaway2.  All machines are factory-set for a particular weight of thread, and they are not all set the same. One brand may be set for 40 weight, another for 50 weight, and some may even be set for a very light 60 weight thread. And that’s brand new machines. Older machines are affected by wear and tear and whatever adjustments service people have made over the years.

NX450Q 2 L Thread Success: Tips from Sulky, Giveaway

3.  All 40 weight threads are not created equal.  Fiber content can change the diameter of the thread even if the weight remains the same. So that “factory setting” is for optimum conditions as the factory determined them. In the real world, we are going to use different threads, made of different fibers, even before we start getting into specialty threads.

4.  Most of us sew with many kinds of threads, made from different fibers with different weights. If we’re sewing with a thread that is either heavier or lighter than the factory (or serviced) setting, then we will not be getting the optimum stitch quality.

To get the best quality stitch you may have to adjust your top tension. It’s okay, really. Just make a note of what your “normal” tension setting is, and when you’re done using the different thread, you can set it back. (Many newer machines reset themselves.)

sulky1 Thread Success: Tips from Sulky, Giveaway5.  Metallics—so pretty! Even a little can add so much elegance, sparkle or pizzazz to any project. With metallics you are likely to need to lower your top tension one or two numbers, because drag is created by the metallic fibers. This is not a bad thing—it’s just a different thread. Lowering the top tension and using the appropriate needle will make all the difference.

sulky2 Thread Success: Tips from Sulky, Giveaway6.  Flat Metallics – Like Sulky® Sliver™ or Sulky Holoshimmer™ can add even more drag because of their flatness and width. You will need to lower your top tension even more with flat metallics. (Set it back to normal when you’re done.)

7.  With flat metallics, you also need to set the spool so that the thread comes off and stays as flat as possible to the tension system. On most machines this means putting the spool on a vertical spool pin with a felt pad underneath the spool.

tp Thread Success: Tips from Sulky, Giveaway

8.  Look at the flat thread on the spool, and visualize a roll of bathroom tissue.  Imagine pulling it off the roll so that it stays flat and does not twist. That’s the goal, to avoid twisting flat threads.

Questions? Contact Patti Lee:

This post marks Part 3 of a five-part giveaway. Leave a comment below for your chance to win some luscious Sulky threads by midnight Friday, May 4. We’ll announce winners here next week.

Congratulations to the following winners whose comments were chosen at random: #185 Barbara Ostrander, #61 Erin Anheier, #169 Jenny Davidson and #51 Lynne Marini. Thanks to everyone who left a comment.

Watch for a future post in which Patti will cover needles and sewing with heavier thread.

About Diane Harris

I'm an editor for Quiltmaker magazine in Golden, Colorado, USA. For six years, I wrote pattern instructions, product reviews and how-to articles. Then I spent four years as QM's Interactive Editor, working to generate much of our online content. Now I'm back to patterns and how-tos, which is a great fit for me. I still love writing about quilt-related topics for Quilty Pleasures, and I always have my finger on the pulse of the quilting world. I teach a variety of quilt classes and give guild programs, too. Reach me by email:
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250 Responses to Thread Success: Tips from Sulky, Giveaway

  1. Nancy Truhn says:

    The visual of the toilet tissue roll was a great idea. Hope I win!

  2. RITA BERGMAN says:

    very useful info, I will print it out and save it. If I may add, your customer service is also great for answering issues about thread. Thank you

  3. Regina Clubb says:

    I haven’t tried metallic thread. Now that I have this information I might try them when the right project comes along.

  4. Linda Greene says:

    Thanks for the info. I love to learn all I can about threads. I will have to remember to use the vertical spool holder for metallic thread.

  5. Alice says:

    Thanks for the tips to make our sewing so much more fun.

  6. Alice says:

    Tips to help make sewing with the multitude of beautiful threads makes sewing so much more fun. Thanks for the information.

  7. Maxine Reece says:

    I’ve used your threads including the round metalics for years with almost no problems, but now I wonder if the problems I did have were because of tension. I have never messed with it. But a friend gave me some flat metalics in all colors and I have been afraid to try them. Thanks to your information, I’ll try them very soon. Thanks again.

  8. Kitty Barco says:

    Playing with all my sulky threads, makes me feel like Silas Marner and his gold. Love it.

  9. Dorothy Kohl says:

    I love Sulky threads! They have dynamic colors and sew so well.

  10. Kay Skramstad says:

    I love the selection of colors available with sulky threads.

  11. Marika Andersson says:

    When it comes to sewing ,.. You cant have enough thread :)

  12. Dorothy Lawson says:

    I love the look and feel of Sulky thread. When I shop I stand and look at the display wondering which one I should buy next. So many choices!
    I would love winning thread for my collection.


    I love metalics but haven’t had much luck using them in the past. Thank you for your tutorial

  14. Jeanne Hoey says:

    I haven’t used too much in the way of metallic threads, I’m just starting into machine embroidery and would love the chance to win some! The information is very valuable and I will be checking the weight of my threads and the tensions in the future!

  15. Linda Alesandrini says:

    Just the curiosity of the toilet paper roll drew me to read this article. I’m glad I did, learned alot. Thanks – Linda

  16. beth daniels says:

    i like the information you gave me. I want to start using the blendables on most everything I embroider and quilt. This information made me think that I need to definitely watch the top tension of my machine. I will always check it with the different weights of the thread being used. Thank you for the informative usage of different weights of thread.

  17. Marjorie Brannan says:

    Excellent information. My thread spool is horizontal (Babylock) and I have had my share of issues with specialty threads.

  18. Cynthia Taylor says:

    Thanks for the advice. I never use metallic thread because I always have issues. I will try again.

  19. sheri says:

    I love the look of specialty threads for quilting. I haven’t had much luck using them but thanks to your article, I am going to try again, I think my problem might be the needle.

  20. Very useful information! Loved the analogy of toilet paper :)

  21. Marilyn Snow says:

    So many threads, so little time. Thanks for the great tutorial!!

  22. Maria Wylie says:

    Thank you so much for the run down on thread, it can get very confusing when there are so many different kinds. I look forward making use of your tips! I really like the multicolored and variegated threads, as they blend so much better with my fabrics.

  23. Sandy Chavez says:

    Thanks for the very clear explanation. I LOVE metallics and yes, they behave much better when you give them some breathing room.

  24. Linda Himmel says:

    Great info, it’s always nice to learn something new.

  25. Vicky Morrow says:

    Wonderful information! I wish I would have known about some of these tips when I was working on projects that just weren’t cooperating! I love working with Blendables threads! They work better at matching back to my fabrics than anything else I’ve tried. Thank You!

  26. Pingback: Sulky’s Tips for Thread Success, Giveaway Part 4 | Quilty Pleasures Blog

  27. Laurie E. Olson says:

    I love the blendable threads! I use them with my quilts every chance I get. The info here is very useful. Thanks!

  28. Victoria says:

    Thread is like fabric… you can never have too much!

  29. Linda Middlemist says:

    thanks for the chance to win. the info was really helpful.

  30. Diana Sansom says:

    The information on Metalics was very interesting and I think I wil geve it a try and embroider a pillow for my neice who is getting Married. Thanks for the chance to win.

  31. Verley says:

    I really appreciate the information that we receive on this site – so much to learn and so great to have this wonderful resource. I love Sulky Thread – good luck to all!

  32. Barbara Hosford says:

    Used Sulky threads when I was working and it was my first choice at home . Always have goo luck. Haven’t used metallics too much so the info was very helpful. Thanks.

  33. Sharon Meyer says:

    Thank you so much for this information. I had to grab my pad and pen and write it done. Now i understand why i wasn’t having much luck with my metallic threads. YOU HAVE JUST DECREASED MY STRESS LEVEL.and i am grateful. Thank you for the chance to win. Have a quilty day.

  34. Mary Woolley says:

    Brilliant I have at least a dozen reels of metallic
    never used I shall now have a go … Thank you sooooo much
    Welsh Mary in Yorkshire uk xx

  35. Elizabeth says:

    I keep a stack of small “Post-it” notes stuck right on my machine and before I make any adjustments I make a note of the starting position. I also make a note of what thread I am using, what needle, and any tension adjustments. Once I have everything working perfect; I stitch out a sample and transfer all the information from the “Post-it” to the sample. I also keep notes for what absolutely did NOT work. All these samples are kept in a notebook for the next time I use that type of thread. Save’s a lot of time and frustraction over the long run.

  36. Nancy B from Many LA says:

    Thanks for the great post!

  37. Rhonda Maun says:

    I’ve been afraid to try metallic threads because of stories of thread breakage & knots. Now that I know to experiment with the tension, I’m looking forward to new projects. Thank you for the information. :)

  38. Grace Mauer says:

    Their were several things that i did not know, and was glad to get the information, It helps a lot. Thank You

  39. Debi T says:

    I love your threads and books. Keep up the good work!!

  40. Doris W. says:

    I am currently using a varigated thread to do the quilting for one of my quilt tops. I love the way it feels and sews. I learned a great deal of information from this newsletter and would love to win this selection of threads so that I am able to use it for future quilting. Thank you.

  41. Sonna Lea hunsley says:

    The varigated threads look interesting.

  42. Julie Thomsen says:

    Such good information. Thank you. I hope I remember when I try a new thread.

  43. Hueisei says:

    Great info!

  44. LadyDi says:

    It is always nice to be updated on the ever changing world of sewing and quilting. Thank you.

  45. Gwen Lassitter Windham says:

    Thanks for all the helpful tips!! I am anxious to give the sparkle thread a try– and love that variegated thread too!! :-)

  46. Christine Black says:

    Thank you for the very helpful information! I often think I’m just not threading the machine correctly.

  47. Mitch K from N. TX says:

    Would like to try the Blendables.

  48. Donna Keating says:

    I love Sulky blendables!!! Been using them for several years now and would love more!

  49. Terry says:

    Thanks so much for the information. I am a relatively new quilter who is just starting to use different threads and embellishments, now I will get started on the right track!

  50. amorette says:

    excellent tips, thanks!

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