Most quilters will come across two different thread materials to choose from when they shop for quilting threads: cotton and polyester. But really, what’s the difference? Which one is better and when should you use one over the other? In today’s blog, we’ll break down the key differences between these two kinds of threads so you can make an informed decision when buying the right quilting thread for your project.
Want to see just how well these threads perform on quilting projects? Watch our YouTube video right here!
1. Cotton Quilting Threads
Cotton thread is the traditional choice for quilting. This thread is spun from a natural fibre that gives the distinct matte look of cotton. Because it’s made from a natural material, you’ll find that the associated cost may be slightly higher in comparison to a polyester thread of similar quality, however there are many perks associated with cotton.
The first is how it looks. Cotton has a distinct texture and non-reflective matte finish that allows it to blend into the fabric better. It also carries zero stretch to the thread, which is ideal for quilts, as the thread won’t cause the quilt to pucker after it’s been used or washed.
A thread that doesn’t stretch is also easier to sew with. Cotton thread is a versatile option that most people use for everything from piecing to quilting and has been relied on for thousands of years.
Interested in shopping for cotton quilting threads? You can check out some of our cotton thread lines at the following links:
Konfetti™ 50wt Egyptian Cotton Thread: https://wonderfil.co.uk/collections/konfetti-50wt-3ply-egyptian-cotton
Tutti™ 50wt Variegated 50wt Egyptian Cotton Thread: https://wonderfil.co.uk/collections/tutti
2. Polyester Quilting Threads
In comparison, polyester thread is a newer type of material that is synthetic, not grown. Because of this, the cost may be slightly less than a quality cotton thread, however that doesn’t mean you’re compromising on quality. Polyester is far stronger than cotton, and as a result, you can find this thread in significantly smaller sizes than cotton will be available in because the thread will still retain its strength, even at a super fine size like 100wt.
A cotton at a 100wt or 80wt size will not be nearly as strong as the same thread made from polyester. Therefore, you can take advantage of sewing with a thread that’s ideal for quilting when you don’t want the thread to show as it hides significantly better in the fabric. A strong fine thread like DecoBob 80wt is also ideal for piecing because it allows the seams to lay flatter, making your piecing not only look better, but it also makes it easier to line up your quilt block patterns.
You can shop the polyester threads mentioned above at the following links:
InvisaFil™ 100wt Cottonized Poly: https://wonderfil.co.uk/collections/invisafil
DecoBob™ 80wt Cottonized Poly: https://wonderfil.co.uk/collections/decobob-80wt-2ply-cottonized-polyester
There are two distinctly different kinds of polyester thread commonly used for quilting, so let’s take a look at the first one: cottonized polyester.
3. Cottonized Polyester Thread
While the name may be misleading, a cottonized polyester is still actually 100% polyester. This thread has been treated to take all of the stretch from the thread, making it incredibly easy to sew with. However, the process also removes a lot of the shine from the thread, giving it more of a matte finish that lets it hide in the fabric. Because of these qualities, this type of polyester is most similar to cotton, and is named because of its cotton-like characteristics.
Comparing how a cotton thread stitches out next to a cottonized polyester of a similar weight, you can still see that a cottonized polyester still has more shine than cotton. However, by quilting with a 100wt cottonized polyester, you can see how this change in thread size significantly reduces how much the thread shows up in the fabric.
The flexibility in size that a cottonized polyester thread affords can do a lot to change how much, or how little, the appearance of the thread plays in your quilt.
Shop Master Quilter™ Cottonized Poly here: https://wonderfil.co.uk/collections/master-quilter
4. Trilobal Polyester Thread
For a polyester thread that stands out a little more, you can reach for a trilobal polyester. Most threads are round in shape, but a trilobal polyester is actually triangular in shape. This helps it reflect more light from its surface, giving it a shine that you won’t find in a cottonized polyester.
Both trilobal polyester and cottonized polyester that comes from a quality manufacturer will have next to zero lint, which is another benefit of polyester thread. This will significantly reduce the lint build up in your machine. But we also want to touch on one of the most common questions we get asked: will polyester thread cut into the fabric?
The short answer is no, polyester thread is safe to quilt with and won’t damage your fabric. However, this question is raised because polyester from many decades ago used to do this, which is why some quilters prefer to use cotton. Since then, polyester thread manufacturing has greatly improved, and this is no longer an issue that comes up.
You can shop Fabulux™ 40wt Trilobal Poly here: https://wonderfil.co.uk/collections/fabulux
Between these three threads, a trilobal polyester will stand out the most and has the most shine in its finish. If you want your quilting to have that glossy look, then trilobal polyester is a great option. Cotton thread will have the most matte look, while a cottonized polyester falls in between the two
There are benefits to both kinds of materials, so we hope we helped you understand the differences so that you can choose the type of thread with the qualities you prefer.
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