Threads of Embroidery

I have used thinner threads for certain types of embroidery.  For instance, some monograms can be more elegant with a lighter thread.

When we buy embroidery thread, we usually get the 40 weight.  Thread is sold by the weight.   Here is a simplified explanation of that criteria:

The size is based on the length of the thread required to have a weight of 1 kilogram.  Therefore, if it takes 40 kilometers to weigh 1 kilogram, a lighter-weight thread will take 50 kilometers to weigh 1 kilo. 

I really find that interesting, because the European numbers are somewhat different from the American numbers.  As I understand it, European numbers take into consideration the ply information.  Just the same, if you keep in mind that you are looking at length, it makes sense. 

For further understanding and some good visual information, you will want to look at my blog from nearly 2 years ago.  See it here.  The blog is about needles, but thread is discussed as well. 

You may recognize that your bobbin thread is normally around 60 weight (light).  And, after doing some research and practical experience, I agree with purchasing prewound bobbins rather than doing them yourself.  There are a few reasons:

  1. You are not saving any money doing it yourself.  You still need to buy thread, and use batteries or electricity.  Don't forget how valuable your time is as well!
  2. Prewound bobbins are very tightly wound.  You cannot wind them as efficiently and evenly at home.
  3. Prewound bobbins are usually a lot longer in length, therefore, you will not have to change the bobbin as often - - a frustration saver there!

The exception is when you are doing free standing lace (fsl).   FSL does usually require creating your own bobbins.  However, just a little tip, if your color is very light or very dark, you may find that using white or black prewound bobbins will be nearly invisible. 

I have several of the bobbin spool holders and you can get them right here at AnnTheGran.  This bobbin system is a welcome, easy and visible method to store your growing stash of bobbins neatly.

Next, I want to discuss ‘fill.'  We use 40 weight thread because it is recognized by digitizers as being the most available to most people worldwide.  If you are having someone digitize a design for you, thread weight should be one of the questions they will ask you.  We use 60 weight in bobbin because we don't want a lot of thread on the backside of our designs.  (Again, check my needle blog for the visual.  At the end of the blog, there is a link to ‘test' your tension - which should be done regularly.)

So, if you really want to have a more 3D effect, find some lower numbered thread.  It will make your embroidery stand out from the fabric more. 

I went in the opposite direction on this project.  I decided to try a design for a dog in which the digitizer uses stitching they call "photo stitch" designs.  It is one method digitizers use to make a design a little more life like. 


It was a Sunday afternoon when I decided to try this test.  I fretted over the fact that I would need to get some lightweight thread and that would happen on Monday.   Well, duh, I can use my bobbin thread!  And, better than that, I had purchased (when I was a Newbie) a spool of bobbin thread.  That bobbin thread was 70 weight.  So, if you decide to try this one, you have everything you need, no shopping needed - - Yea!!  (Well, darn, I love to shop).

The photo does not show the true difference between the completed projects.  The one on the left was a 40 weight, and the right was 70.  I did it on as contrasting a scrap as I could find.  I hope you get the idea.

These photos may be of a little more help.


Think how interesting and delicate using a lighter weight thread would be on white/red/black work!  Dainty would be the word for something to place in a 'Hope Chest' for a sweet little girl.

I am also going to be doing an item from my Bridal site, and it calls for Quilters Cotton and specifically says not to use embroidery thread, for various reasons.  I learned a lot from this project.  I hope you did too.  My ramblings are about what I am doing, only.  I wish I were an expert, but alas, I am always learning from my projects.

Did you learn something on a previous project that you would like to share?  I know you have, let us all learn from you too!  You could create a 'guest blog' where you just write as if we were sitting down over coffee.  Add a couple of photos, and you have something worthy of sharing.  Please consider it!


Comments (7) -

I've always found it odd (not to mention confusing!) that the lower numbers were thicker thread.  Now, thanks to you, I finally know WHY!  Hope I can remember it!!  Interesting tip about using thinner thread to get more life-like, too.  And, I've seen the prewounds, but often wondered if they were worthwhile.  Thanks for the tips!!  ~~kc

I loved the prewounds but now they come with a cardboard core and you can't see how much bobbin thread is left until you run out at the wrong time.  Diane

Thank you so much for the comments!

KC, remember it by thinking about the thread, not on a spool, but in a lovely swirl pile and being weighed.  The light weight has a bigger pile, therefore, the bigger number.

Diane, This is an interesting issue.  My prewound bobbins are plastic, and my machine is too sensitive.  It reads that I am out of bobbin thread a long time before I am really out of thread.  I end up tossing 3 or 4 yards of thread.  I feel like that is too much to be discarding.  

I never would use the bobbin to the last yard because that thread has been pressed and compressed under the spool.  

There is never a good place to run out of bobbin, or top thread. . . Just cannot make me happy on bobbins.  LOL


So am I to understand that I am to use 40 wt thread for the top side of the embroidery?

The 40 wt thread is what you will find most everywhere embroidery thread is sold.

This was a demo of what a 70 wt thread will do to a design.

Most digitizers will recommend the 40 wt.

Thanks for asking, Pat

My embroidery machine rep always suggests prewound bobbins. There seems to be more usable tread on them than I can get wound on my bobbins at home. I love my machines and use them often. I love making gifts that are personalized, and get so many compliments on my projects.

For me, the bottom line on prewound bobbins is that they are evenly wound, no 'loose' or 'tight' spots.  That makes the process better all around.

Everything contributes to the project.  If it were simple, I would not have a blog to write. . . .


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