Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Monofilament Thread: Nylon or Polyester?

When choosing monofilament thread, which type should be used: nylon or polyester? For stitching-in-the-ditch on bed quilts and outlining applique shapes, I use nylon--either Sew Art or YLI Wonder, available in clear or smoke. Use clear for light colored fabrics; smoke blends in well with medium and dark fabrics. I load my bobbin with a cotton thread, usually Presencia 50/3 or 60/3. Auriful 50/2 is also fine. The combination of nylon and cotton gives a good result.

Use a size 60 or 70 microtex sharp needle. Loosen the top tension and quilt a bit slower for successful feed along the thread path. To avoid thread wrapping around the vertical thread stand at the top of your machine, try standing it on the table at the back of the machine. Use a 2" piece of surgi-tubing and wrap that over the spool with the thread feeding out the top. This creates drag and keeps the thread under control. Superior Thread sells a plastic net product for the same purpose.

Polyester monofilament is slightly more shiny, stretchy, and wiry than nylon but is still a good product, just different (see Superior's MonoPoly below). I used the clear in an art quilt where the shine was desired to highlight snowflakes. There is the point that polyester is more heat resistant than nylon (that statement infers nylon isn't heat resistant and should be avoided) but you need to consider how you are applying heat to your quilt. If working on an art quilt where you may be applying heat to the surface, even polyester thread will melt from direct contact with an iron. Quilts we sleep under encounter heat from a clothes dryer. Avoid the highest heat setting and your quilts containing nylon thread will emerge from the wash/dry cycle intact. No melting or popped stitches. Become your own expert by taking quilted swatches of each thread and see how applied heat affects each.
Quality does count. Some brands of nylon and polyester threads are too heavy and strong; steer clear of threads that feel like fishing wire which can damage your fabric. Try breaking the thread. With a slight tug the thread should break easily--Sew Art, YLI and Superior brands all do. Lower quality threads, the "tough" stuff, can be used in art quilts that will not be going through a wash cycle. For bed quilts, however, a true .004 lightweight nylon thread is my thread of choice. See Heirloom Machine Quilting by Harriet Hargrave to view exquisite quilts made with nylon quilting thread.

Copyright ©2008, Sharon Baggs


  1. Sharon,

    I don't know how to get in touch with you other than this 'private' note. Please send my your email address! I was very serious about your writing for QH! xoxom