Thursday, November 15, 2012

Why Lint?

Superior thread does more to educate quilt makers and sewists than any other 
company in the marketplace.  The following is an excerpt from their monthly
newsletter.  Please take a minute to read this valuable info about the cause 
of "lint".  Then stop by Superior and check out their amazing products!

Lint is the accumulation of cotton fibers.  It can come from 
thread, fabric, and batting.  The easiest way to determine 
the source of the lint is to compare the color of the lint 
to the color of the thread, fabric, and batting.
If you get a lot of thread-related lint when sewing, there 
are three main causes.

1. Low or medium quality thread.  The majority of threads on the market are low 
or medium quality.  Most companies think it just costs too much to make a high 
quality thread so they target the low-price market, which, unfortunately, is 
much larger than the high quality market.  A label may state 'long staple cotton' 
but if steps are not implemented during processing to produce a quality thread, 
the result will be poor. A high quality cotton thread should not produce much lint. 
Solutions to the next two causes will only work if the thread is high quality. 
(We can't fix bad.) 

2. If the lint buildup is at the needle, the needle
 may be too small or not the best needle style.  
Topstitch needle has a double-size eye that 
provides a larger area for thread to pass 
through, resulting in much less stress on the 
thread. Professionals and educators most often recommend Topstitch 
needles for piecing, quilting, embroidering, crafting, clothing construction,
 and nearly every sewing application. The only exception is when sewing 
on a knit fabric, a ballpoint needle is preferred. Other than that, the Topstitch 
needle for everything. Choose the needle size based on the thread size. 

3. If the lint buildup is in the tension area or in the bobbin area, the tension
 is too tight and is stressing or rubbing the thread.  This is an easy fix 
by loosening the top and/or bobbin tensions. Learning to adjust tensionis 
the most liberating thing in the sewing world.  It takes control away from
 the machine and returns it to you.

Don't believe the labels  The best way to distinguish thread quality is not by
 the label, but by using the product. There is more to a product than the fiber
 type. Processing techniques add as much or more to the finished product 
quality as does the raw material. Following is a list of processing terms which 
affect the quality of cotton thread. 

Mercerized  Today, nearly all cotton thread is mercerized. If a label only 
says mercerized cotton, it is probably because there is nothing else to brag 
about (such as long staple or extra-long staple). Mercerizing is a process 
of treating cotton thread with a solution, causing the fibers to swell. This 
process allows the dye to better penetrate the fibers, thereby increasing the 
luster. Labels can include a limited amount of information and stating 
that the cotton is mercerized is not important because most cotton thread is 
automatically mercerized. 

Staple  The length of the raw material fiber. The longer the staple, the stronger
 the thread. If there is no mention of the staple length, assume it is a regular 
(or short) staple thread. If it is long staple or extra long staple, it will state that fact.

Gassed  Gassing refers to passing a cotton thread at high speed through a flame, 
burning off the excess fuzz in order to create a higher sheen. Most labels will not 
include this information. 

Glazed  Glazing involves heating the thread and then coating it with waxes, 
starches, and other chemicals. Glazing results in a glossy thread with a hard
 finish. Glazed thread is stiffer than unglazed thread and has a wire-like look 
and feel.  Glazed cotton thread is not recommend for machine work because 
the glaze rubs off and gums up the machine. Although often not labeled 
as such, glazed cottons are recommended only for hand quilting. 

Silk-finish This is not a silk-wrapped cotton. This is a nice sounding term for 
gassed cotton. See above. 

Polished Another term for gassed cotton and occasionally for mercerized cotton.

Egyptian Cotton  Egypt grows less than 1% of the world's cotton so it is obvious
 that all that "Egyptian" cotton in thread, sheets, clothing, and towels cannot be 
possible.  Labels mislead. Some outright lie. As far as I can determine, we 
are the only company that can honestly say our cotton threads (King Tut 
andMasterPieceare 100% Egyptian-grown extra-long staple, gassed, 
mercerized cotton. We buy our cotton from Egypt.


  1. Very informative post! The world of thread can be complicated.

  2. Dang. I knew none of this, and have been sewing for 20+ years. Thank you and thanks to Superior!

  3. I have learned a LOT about thread from Superior! I adore their products and they have great customer service.

  4. I am a hand spinner and have spun a lot of cotton and over the years, done a lot of research on cotton. Egyptian cotton was developed in the late 1800's from Pima cotton grown in Texas and Arizona . Pima is so named because the US Dept of Agriculture station that refined it was located near the Pima Indian reservation. The absolutely finest, longest staple cotton is Sea Island cotton grown in the (duh) Sea Islands off the Carolina coast. I have not seen it used commercially, only as available to hand spinners.

  5. So interesting, Suzanne. Thanks for posting!


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