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Dating Your Spools of Thread

Posted by quiltingfox (My Page) on
Thu, Jul 25, 13 at 15:43

I have been quilting for well over a decade. It occurred to me today that I need to be keeping track of how old my spools of sewing / quilting thread are so that I do not make future quilts with old, brittle thread that breaks easily. So today I started writing the year on my new spools of thread. Does any one else do this?

Best to you,
Sandra


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

Sounds wise. I know a lot of mine, especially the specialty threads from past vests and Christmas projects are over 10 years old. Some....way over. Wonder what too old is though?
LindaB/CA


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

Let's put it this way - I don't use the spools that are wood.


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

:) love it, toolgranny! I display spools that are wood!! (since I love antiques!). I wonder when 'they' stopped using wooden spools.... dating IS a good idea, tho...


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

I figure if I give it a good tug and it breaks, I should throw it away. A lot of my machine embroidery thread is getting up there - the machine is 10 years old and a lot of thread was bought not long after acquiring the machine.

Donna


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

The thread is going to age on the spool or in your quilt so why not use it as long as it works.


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

Oh my...............I bought literally hundreds and hundreds of spools of thread when a local store went out of business, and I know it was around the mid 1970s. Most all of my patchwork is constructed using that thread, many of whom still had price tags of 19 cents on them. Before I quilted, I sewed clothes with that thread. None of it has failed. I even have thread from well before that era. It is just as strong, or stronger than the modern thread. Most of it is pure cotton, as opposed to the blends you see now and the heft to it is superior to all but the most expensive cotton threads one can buy nowadays. You bet I use it.


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

I not only date, but the color-name if it isn't printed on the label! I print the info about Ariel-8 and use book tape to fasten it to the top of standard spools or inside cones.

Like Donna, I yank and discard any that break, although I keep a couple spools in red that do just fine for basteing. There's no way to know how long any spool sat on the store's shelf before coming to my drawer. I have 40 year-old spools that have unbreakable thread, and yet a last week a brand-new cone of 100% cotton broke repeatedly. I'm thinking about returning it to the store.

I suspect actual thread life depends on the material. 100% cotton [not exposed to sun or heat/cold extremes] should last from a century to several thousand years. Linen, maybe the same. Recent artificial wonders have a much shorter life, but I can't find any definitive studies -- probably because the "life-span" is so heavily dependent on which abuses each thread endures. I think it's fair to consider that threads will last similar to fabrics of the same material with the caveat that any properly stored thread will last much longer than that which is exposed to air, heat, cold, or sunshine. BTW, 'experts' advise to NOT store thread in plastic containers or bags; [the emanations are thought to shorten life and/or weaken the thread]. I would assume that blends are rated according to the weakest material, so poly-cotton would not last as long as !00% cotton.


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

I have wooden spools of thread that belonged to a past family member and I display them away from sunlight. They have sentimental value for me, and I consider them family heirloom items so I just display them as they cannot be replaced. I have no idea how old thread gets before it goes bad. I figure though if fabric can dry rot then so can thread. I do check my thread to see if it breaks easily before using it. My older threads are from repairing clothing over the years so some of those individual spools of thread may well be over 10 years. I just thought it would be good to start labeling thread spools with the year I bought them in. I figured that way if say I am blessed and still able to quilt in another 10 to 20 years if I find that a spool of thread has gone bad and breaks easily then likely similar thread that I bought that same year may need to be checked as well and possibly tossed. I have limited storage space so I only what to store thread that is still good. I am not sure how long thread lasts but I figure if I start labeling spools now then maybe one of these days I will have the answer to that question. Also I want my quilts to be used by family members as long as they last which hopefully would be 50 to 100 years, but if I am using thread that is already aged 20 years and takes me 1 to 5 years to make a quilt thus making the thread 25 years old before the quilt even begins to be used, I figure that will shorten the life of the quilt greatly. So I feel more confident using newer threads on future quilts. If I spend years of my life making a quilt I want to know that I used quality materials and that it will last to be passed on to future generations.

Best to you,
Sandra


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

I have a few wooden spools that I'll keep and display too, but anything else of questionable age is being tossed. It feels wasteful but some of this stuff is ancient and the colors are not as vibrant and rich as newer thread. This just feels like the right time in my life to toss out the old and embrace the new. (Watch out, Jim!!! LOL) I'm cleaning out lots of old sewing 'junk' right now and the thread has definitely been part of that process.


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

Just a caution about using red thread for basting. I was doing a university dressmaking course. The project was a suit. I basted the darts using red thread. Oh, Oh! It bled into my light blue skirt.
i was watching a video by Sharon Schaumber and she advised using only white or neutral thread for basting.
And I, too, have some wooden spools but never think about using them for anything but decoration.
Theresa


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

Meldy_nva you must have posted while I was typing my earlier post, glad to know I am not the only one dating my thread, thank you for all that info on thread life span. I knew to store it away from sunlight, but did not know about the other storage issues with air and plastic storage. Kate I can't wait to see pics of your new sewing room! I have been trying throughout this year to go through my quilting stash and donate older items. One of my friends several years back gave me a bunch of fabric that a friend gave her after helping clean out an elderly family member's fabric stash, some of that fabric I could tell was from the 1980's or older so I donated that fabric to my local library for their children's craft activities - a lot of the fabric ripped easily so I was not confident in using it in quilts. I have only a limited amount of storage as my sewing desk is in one corner of the laundry room - another reason for not wanting to keep extremely old thread when I could be storing newer thread in it's place. Hubby promises me a whole room for my quilting in our next home, but that will probably be close to a decade from now, but I am making plans for my "future" quilt room. :-)

So basting a quilt - is that just something you do when you want to quilt it on a frame? I have never basted a quilt. I used to use straight pins and on my first quilt I lost too many pins on our bed LOL which hubby seemed to always find and complain about. So now I use quilting safety pins. On baby / toddler quilts I just safety pin the whole quilt and hand quilt it. With larger quilts I safety pin more spread out and use a 14" lap hoop. When prepping quilt for pinning though I place it on a clean wooden floor and then place heavy 8 lb and 10 lb dumbbells on it and then stretch out the fabrics and batting that way as I don't always have a 2nd person helping me pin the layers together. So when you baste a quilt do you just do the outer edges or do you baste throughout the quilt before you quilt the layers together??

Best to you,
Sandra


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

What a great idea! I wonder though when you buy from places like ebay, how do you know how old the thread is when you buy it? Makes you think!


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

I have never thought about dating thread. I have some with wooden spools... It may be older than me!


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

What a great topic! After my grandmother passed, I was given all her quilting/sewing things including many spools of thread. A friend told me not to quilt or sew with them as they were probably too old.

So I found some containers for them, and use them as decorations. The one on the left is full of old buttons, and the one on the right some of the spools of thread.

I have one other container in another part of this same room with more spools. The colors were just too great to just throw them away ... everyone that sees them think this was a good idea!


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

Very pretty. I agree, it's a great idea!
LindaB/CA


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

It is a pretty presentation. I have button jars, but I actually use out of them. ;-)


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

nannykins~ Ouch! my sympathy on red thread bleeding. However, remember that for it to bleed, it has to get wet or at least very damp... I never leave any basting thread in *any* project longer than it takes to do the actual basting and immediate sewing, thus red is no less safe than any other color. Did you know that navy thread can be just as run-prone? OTOH, when I learned to baste garments, it was with with pins... yep, no thread at all, just head-touching-head pins with the fabric evenly spaced... machine-basting sure is faster :)

Sandra~ lots of us oldies were taught to big-baste quilts to hold the layers in proper place. Very long stitches of 1/2 to 1 inch in length, fed carefully up and down (so the layers didn't shift), and done in rows about 3" apart. One doesn't knot the start or end of thread but leaves a couple inches showing on top, removing the basting thread as the actual quilt-stitching is done in each area. Not long ago, I saw big-basting shown in a book on quilting, but it was a lot more casual, using long running stitches instead of the more time-consuming vertical stitch-by-stitch; author also used pins to hold layers until the basting was done. Seems like a lot of work, but it's true that you won't get pin pricks when handling a basted quilt. Me, I'd rather spray-baste.


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

Sorry have been offline some this week. Pam I like your wooden spool and bobbin storage jars, very pretty.

Meldy thanks for sharing with me how to thread baste, that is something that I have never been taught and have never done before. When you thread baste do you do vertical and horizontal rows of thread basting, or do you just do one or the other? Thanks for sharing Meldy.

I usually just lay out my queensize quilts on wooden floor and then just loosely safety pin the 3 layers in place and then as I quilt one row with a lap hoop, I then readjust my quilting safety pins to keep the layers smooth so they won't bubble, kind of straightening the fabric out as I go, but pinning it loosely enough that I am not constantly shifting safety pins as I reset my hoop each time. Then as I finish an area in the hoop I remove all the bent quilting safety pins in the completed area and that kind of helps me keep a visual as to where to start the next time.

We are finally getting some fall weather the low this morning was 50*F and the high at 2pm was 69*F with a cold wind blowing. Went outside in shorts and came back in and put on sweatpants, it's quilt nippy here in central Louisiana today.

Best to you and thanks bunches,
Sandra

This post was edited by quiltingfox on Fri, Oct 18, 13 at 15:13


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

Pam that does make a very pretty display!!!

I don't date my thread (I think it's a good idea) but I do the yank test on all threads, new or not. I have purchased quality thread (or it was supposed to be) and it kept breaking.

This subject has come up in sewing groups I have been in and it gets as many responses as, 'prewash or not' lol.


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RE: Dating Your Spools of Thread

Sandra ~ *I* did rows vertical and horizontal, usually about 5 to 6" apart. Granny T would have rolled over and howled at me. I spray-baste now and her ghost is much happier. Seriously, I baste stitches in closer rows if I'm hand-quilting fine/close pattern, and use wider rows for the simpler stitch-in-the-ditch on the machine.

The point of basting is simply to keep the top and bottom fabrics relatively in line with each other while preventing the filling from bunching up or sliding around as you stitch. Granny T used rows about 3 inches apart and I've seen some folks space as far as 10 inches, but I also noted those folks had a bit of trouble with puckered seams while machine-quilting. Books seem to recommend 2 to 3", but I think a lot of those recommendations are empirical rather than based on deliberate comparisons.

I think you need to balance the size & weight of the quilt, the type of batting and whether you are going to machine-quilt, free-hand quilt, or use a hoop. The larger and heavier the quilt, the closer the basting stitches should be (that weight will pull at the sections). IMO, free-hand and hooping tends to allow the material to slide, probably because machinists usually snugly roll the unsewn sections, both to keep the material on the left side out of the way, and on the right side rolled small enough to fit past the machine's throat.


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