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The Fine Points of Thread Selection

(April 2007) posted on Sun Apr 01, 2007

Read on to find out about the kinds of threads available and discover the ways in which each can be effectively used.


By Hajo Voeller

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The decision to add embroidery to your screen-printing shop is a big one. Selecting the right equipmentis critical, but it's also very important to make thread inventory a priority as well. Many machine manufacturers supply starter kits of threads that they believe run well on their systems. However, when you consider the size of the investment you've made, you'll find it pays to investigate the variety of threads on the market and test them on your embroidery machine to help you decide the best way to stock your supply shelves. This article will discuss the most common types of thread materials, reveal some of the options available in specialty threads, and define some of the basic terminology that will help you become more supply savvy.

Thread materials

The embroidery field basically breaks into two camps when it comes to thread: rayon and polyester. Each has its own characteristics, its own following, and its own strengths when it comes to end use. Each is offered in various thicknesses, or weights.

The standard weight for general use is #40, or 40 weight, and the thread is available on 1100-yard spools and 5500-yard cones. Other weights, which serve more specific purposes, are #12, #30 and #60. For example, 60-weight thread (Figure 1), which is available in rayon and polyester, can provide detail to a design that otherwise would be impossible to achieve. Also consider #60 for small lettering. If you were to compare a stitch-out of an emblem where lettering circles the design in 40 weight vs. 60, the clarity and definition obvious in the 60-weight stitch-out would impress your client.

Roughly 80% of embroiderers throughout the world use rayon. The material is made of 100% cellulose, which started life as a tree, and can be considered a natural fiber. Many artistic embroiderers choose rayon because it is a soft, pliable fiber that—like fine fabrics—has a nice hand and will take easily to intricate designs. It comes in a multitude of colors, and some manufacturers offer rayon threads that are matched to colors in the Pantone ink system.


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