You may remember that one of my earliest blogs discussed “Things I Wish I Knew When I Began Machine Embroidery.” It had about 8 or 10 items that would have helped me save some of the money I spent and just some simple things that any newbie needs to know.
- Joe’s Embroidery Thread and Used Tire Dealership has a great deal on thread. (I actually purchased a pack of colors from the Net. I have so many unused colors from that group that I use them for basting and some test sew outs just to use them up.)
The reality is that:
- A quality thread in ‘best seller’ colors is a better bargain.
I have not changed my mind, after 8 years of machine embroidery about quality thread. I have, however, determined a few things that might be helpful to you. As usual, I hope your ideas will be placed in the comments section, but this blog is about my experience and how I handled getting as much thread as possible for the dollars I have available (which tends to be very little. . . . )
First of all, I decided on a thread brand that I wanted to be my ‘main source.’ There are so many to choose from and some of them are (Prices are for 1100 mm spools unless otherwise noted, and in no particular order):
- Hemingworth – About 300 polyester colors with its own cover, it sells for $5.95, metallics for $8.50, very good quality.
- Isacord – About 350 polyester colors with a ‘snap down’ base to hold thread, it sells for about $4.00 to $5.50, considered to be a ‘heavy duty’ type of thread.
- Robison-Anton – Approximately 350 colors of rayon, and sells for about $5.50. It is available in Rayon, Polyester, metallics and is available in colors (500 yard spools) that ‘glow in the dark’ for about $15 each. Base holds thread ends securely.
- Sulky – About 300 colors in rayon and caps that hold the thread securely, the rayon sells for about $3.50 for a 250 yard spool. Sulky also has a 30 wt all-purpose mercerized cotton which is truly a variable. Rather than the linear variegation, this thread has a random splash of natural families of color (grass green has multiple colors including some brown patches to match my lawn).
- Madeira – About 450 colors in rayon and used as a color suggestion guide by some designers, Madeira is possibly the most readily available embroidery thread. Costing about $5.95 per spool, it is available in multiple sizes and usually has a cap that grasps the end of your thread. It also leads the way in types of thread including a ‘Fire Safe’ thread used in firemen’s uniforms and a three color ‘twist’ variety that has an excellent heather/variegated appearance.
This is not meant to be a comprehensive listing of threads and information is subject to change. It is just to give you some idea of what is available.
I did choose Madeira. My next decision was what colors to actually purchase. I had saved $200 for this ‘major’ purchase and deciding on colors was a bigger challenge than I had anticipated. I finally came to the conclusion that my interest was in ‘life like’ designs as opposed to the cartoon/caricature variety of designs. For cartoon or caricature designs, I could make a cat purple and a person green, but for true life designs, I would want multiple browns to beige for an animal coat and shades of green for a meadow’s beauty.
I selected 10 designs that I was drawn to and liked for attention to detail. These are some of them.
For the Spaniel, at first glance, one might think that there are about 6 colors, there are actually 8. The really interesting thing is that there are 21 color changes. What that means is that the design is ‘layered’ in coloring and shading to give a realistic, natural look to the dog. I have sewn out this one several times and am always in awe of the beauty the digitizer has captured. The Tabby has 8 colors with 27 color changes. The Bleeding Hearts have 10 colors with 21 color changes. The Gardenia bouquet has 9 colors, and has 34 color changes. (Photos are courtesy of EmbLibrary.com)
Among the other designs I selected for my review, I found that the numbers were much the same as the designs shown above. Achievement of natural designs has a lot in common, detail and shading are just a couple of them. I often see the question in the Forums of combining color stops in order to avoid that tedious task of thread changing. This exercise showed me what the professional digitizers wanted to achieve.
I paid close attention to the brown/beiges, green/floral, reds and blues. I then I created a spreadsheet and started listing the color number and color name of each design that I selected. Guess what? I found that there were many repeating colors in all areas of the designs that I was attracted to.
So, I selected my colors from that group, and included primary colors as well. In the final analysis, after 3 years, I have used all but 3 of the colors from the group.
I have been able to accurately utilize many of the true colors as exchanged from Madeira to another manufacturer. My natural items are more realistic, and I feel like I did not waste money on colors that were unusable. During that same time, I have purchased other colors which were on sale and were interesting to me, but my base of colors have been used over and over again.
I feel like thread is the second greatest expense of my favorite craft and I have a comfortable handle on what I am using. I hope this might help you find colors that will be useful to you as well.