Ever wonder what's the difference between cotton and poly thread? Both can be great sewing options, but they are pretty different in terms of strengths and weaknesses. Lucky for you I'm a part-time P.I. with an insatiable drive to answer quilting's toughest questions and solve our sewing mysteries.
Last week I got the chance to sit down with both Cotton and Poly Thread. At first they were hesitant to chat because of past misunderstandings, but once we broke through that barrier, Cotton and Poly opened up in an unexpected way.
The Big Question: What's the Difference Between Cotton and Poly Thread?
Suzy: So tell me a little bit about your past and upbringing.
Cotton: My story is probably one you’ve heard before. I grew up in a large family surrounded by nature. As a cotton plant, I knew I would eventually get picked, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. After I was picked, I was also combed and thoroughly cleaned. Once all of the dirt and excess plant materials were stripped away, my fibers went through roller after roller generating narrower and narrower bands of thread. Ouch. Let me tell you.
Poly: Cotton, you think a few rollers were painful? In my process, I’m stretched to the limit! Sorry to interrupt, but I think my background is what gets people the most confused, so let me clear a few things up. I’m considered a “synthetic” fiber because I didn’t have a cushy, natural upbringing like Cotton. In fact, I’m extra tough because I was born and raised in a factory. Through the process of modifying petroleum, I showed up to the thread manufacturer as hard chips, which were then spun and loosely drawn together into long polyester filaments. My filaments are then stretched to their limit – obviously my least favorite part of the process. But once I was stretched, I was cut at my weakest points so that only the absolute strongest fibers SURVIVE!
S: Poly, I’m going to have to ask you to step down off the table and stop flexing your biceps. I think we get the picture.
P: Apologies. Let me continue – the strong bands are combined to make a narrow, even, high-quality fiber. Did you hear that ladies??
P: [wink] My fiber is then twisted up and stretched by machines until it’s ready to be wound onto cones. Ta-da!
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C: Well, before I was interrupted I was about to get to the exciting part of my story – FIRE! Once my fibers are twisted and spun to create a single thread, I’m singed over an open flame and then dunked into a special elixir called caustic soda!
P: OK OK...that’s pretty cool.
C: Oh yes. That strengthens me and makes me extra shiny before getting wound tightly around a cone.
S: Wow. It sounds like both of you have had some pretty life-changing experiences. Cotton, a rumour that’s been swirling around sewing circles is that you tend to be a little inflexible. To be blunt, some would even call you “a stiff.”
C: I’m glad you brought that up because that’s a rumor I’ve been wanting to address for a while. Just because I don’t like to get mixed up with spandex, rayon and other party-loving fabrics, doesn’t mean I don’t have great things to offer. As a natural fiber, I like to work with other natural fibers. Yes, I am not as stretchy as Poly, but what I lack in flexibility, I make up for in softness. Just feel me!
S: [strokes Cotton Thread] You aren’t lying. Silky soft! Now Poly, I hear you have some pretty well-rounded interests. Tell me more about that.
P: Suz, can I call you Suz? Because of my past, I’ve gotten a bit of a “bad boy” persona, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! I’m a people pleaser and love collaborating with all types of fabrics. You name it, and I’m there! Even though some would say that you should pair natural Cotton Thread with natural fabrics and me with only synthetic fabrics, that’s just not always the case. I know a lot of quilters who prefer to use me. Especially in their bobbins. I’m greeeeat in bobbins.
S: Oh yeah? Why’s that?
P: Less lint, baby! Cotton may be a bit more durable under the heat of fast sewing, but I make waaaay less lint. I’m virtually lint free! And yes, I’m a bit stretchy, but you know what that’s good for? Clothes! Clothes LOVE me! Knit tops, Nylon skirts, Jeans, oh especially Jeans. They need me.
S: Thanks so much Cotton and Poly for sitting down with me and opening up. Are there any parting words you’d like to share?
C: I’d like people to know that even though I am a more expensive option, I promise to work hard, not break under pressure, and bring softness to their heirloom projects.
P: When it comes to quilting, I’m a great companion for piecing. I’m strong. I’m tough. And I don’t make a huge mess...like some other Threads.
S: And there you have it, folks. Two great Threads doing their best to help you with all of your sewing needs.
Next time someone asks you what the difference between cotton and poly thread is – you'll know the answer first hand.