I want to spin some sewing thread for a project I'm working on, but I don't know enough about sewing thread to know what makes a good one?
The project idea is to spin and weave some cloth and hand sew it into clothing. I thought since I'm dyeing the yarn, I should really spin up some sewing thread and dye it at the same time that way it's the same colour.
So what are the qualities one wants in sewing thread?
One of the things I'm thinking is that it's easier to repair a ripped seam than it is to repair ripped fabric at the seam. So when I'm sewing with commercial cloth, I choose the thread to have the same fibre content or lesser than the fabric.
With that idea, I hope I'm on the right track to spin some sewing thread at the same time as the cloth thread.
I'm also curious about how many yards should I make? Which, I guess would depend on the kind of stitch. I only know running stitch and backstitch.
It would need to be very fine, unless you're going for a more rustic look, and very strong, in order to not waste your work, by having it fall apart. The other quality is that it must be as smooth as you can make it, or the friction of moving repeatedly through the fabric will wear on it so much, that it will disintegrate as you sew. Those are the primary 3, that I can think of, at the moment.
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It should be a multiple ply and spun worsted, yet flexible and not thicker than the weaving thread. I have some Linen thread used for bobbin lace, but although it has all the desired qualities and feels soft while handling, it's too stiff for stitches smaller than 1/4 inch (it's great for decorative stitches and big stitch quilting in rather straight lines, though). The finer threads though (like cotton sewing thread) seem to have a "rougher" surface, at least in comparison to cotton, and don't glide easily.
My best bet for handspun sewing thread would be cotton, using the longest fibres possible, then spinning very fine singles with lots of twist and plying at least 4 of them together. You could have a look at good quality quilting thread to see how it's constructed. Another thread I really like for handsewing and quilting is very fine crochet yarn like DMC cordonnet or DMC 80. For wool you can do the same with long fibres that aren't too crimpy, but you need to sew loosely, as if embroidering, so that's probably not what you want from a seam.
Another thought: Instead of starting from scratch with fibres, you could unravel some old fabric and respin the threads into singles.
Here is my first attempt at spinning sewing thread. I didn't want too thin a thread, just the same size as the yarn used to weave the cloth.
I used a flick carder to prepare the Cotswold locks. This is a great little tool because I can easily and quickly create a worsted or woollen fibre prep. In this case, I flicked the locks, then brushed them slightly with the flick carder to get rid of any shorter lengths. I was careful to keep the fibre parallel and tried different methods of spinning on the drop spindle. I spun with a high twist, then plyed with an even higher twist. Then twisted them on a spare tube to let the twist relax for a day before sewing.
The results are very good. A bit fuzzy, but I noticed most of the fuzz goes wone way, so I could use that to my advantage when doing larger batches.
Since I'll probably be sizing my warp, I could also size the sewing thread at the same time. Sizing is putting something on the yarn to reduce the fuzz and make it smoother (thus less likely to abraid due to friction). Sounds like a good idea for sewing.
On the whole, it's going well. I'm clumsy with hand sewing, but the result is good.
My great-grandmother, who would likely have been old enough to have used hand spun thread, hand quilted extensively. According to my mother, she insisted on running her thread through beeswax for hand sewing. She would take a new block of beeswax, and then with her needle, punch a hole through the centre of the block, then each time she sewed, run the thread through the beeswax before sewing.
I like my handsewing thread to be very strong, flexible, and fine with a wee bit of stretch to it. I often use stronger thread than the fabric, as the individual threads of the seam are under more pressure than the threads of the cloth (think of the force /area that's going on) - I have rarely had cloth pull out/break, but often had stitches break. I have tried sewing with cotton, but it was cheap commercial stuff and kept breaking, and I got mad and went back to polyester.
I also use beeswax on my thread - especially in embroidery, where it goes in and out so much. The beeswax helps it glide, the needle goes in easier, and the main reason for it is the thread is much less prone to tangling, because it's a tiny tad stiffer.
The only thing...more expensive than education is ignorance.~Ben Franklin
One thing I learned on a historical sewing vlog on Youtube (Bernadette Banner--she specializes in hand sewing and recreating historical costumes) is sewing thread before machines became common, was 2 ply. The individual plies were spun with a z twist and plied s, which is the opposite of how most modern yarns are spun (s twist) and plied (z).
It's just something she mentioned in passing, and I don't recall which of her videos that comment is in any more....Hope it helps.
I can't comment on how to spin sewing thread, but another couple tips on use. As mentioned before, thread has a direction. On commercial thread you thread the original end through the eye as the bits that stick out point towards the spool. I also use bees wax by just running it over the edge of the block - in the same direction as sewing. Goes a long way, and as Carla mentioned, it reduces tangle. What I do to prevent wear on the thread where it passes through the eye (which can either break it as you sew, or worse, create a weak spot on the seam) is start with threading about 1/3 of the end through the eye and as I sew gradually slide the needle along the end to distribute the wear along the thread. And when pulling up the thread I try not to tug on the needle but pull on the sewing end of the thread.
It sounds as if you have spun wool thread for sewing, which is not, historically, often used for strong seams but will match your fabric.
Beeswax really helps smooth fuzzy fibres.
Using a short length when sewing, 12" rather than yards also helps the sewing to be strong as each length doesn't have to go through the fabric multiple times.
If you iron the creation after sewing the beeswax melts into the surrounding fabric (usually invisibly) and this also strengthens the seam.
I spin linen thread (wet spun, long fibre) for sewing as well as in the garden, I'm not good enough yet for very fine work but the long fibres make even a single very strong and good enough for linen bags etc.
In the 18th century wool cloaks etc were often sewn with silk thread where the seams need strength.
Seems like you probably already know this, the amount of fiber arts experience you already have Raven,but the thing that comes to mind after all that's been mentioned, is to spin very long fibers into the sewing thread.
Best luck: satisfaction
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