Thoughts from the other side of the counter

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Don't Buy THAT Thread!

     We know you’ve heard it. “That” phrase. You walk into your local sewing dealer, discuss thread brands, and at some point an employee comments, “Don’t use that thread. It’s not good.” We’ve all heard this at least once, maybe twice, maybe much more than we care to admit. And customers ask the question, “Why?” Sometimes to us, to friends, to quilt class or retreat members, online forums and the like.

     Before I answer this, consider this interesting perspective. Ask 10 owners of the same machine about which thread is best and you might get 10 different answers! What’s up with that? How can a sewist, embroiderer, or quilter ever know what thread is a GOOD thread when there is no common answer?  Getting back to the dealer experience, a few thoughts may enter the customer’s head:
  • “Maybe the dealer doesn’t know what they’re talking about because that thread works just fine for me.” OR…
  • This store just wants to sell the thread they carry. They’re only in it for the bucks. After all, I can get 100 spools on Amazon for $40!
  • I’m so confused! There are too many thread companies. Am I ever going to get this right?
     I hear you. Really I do. I’ve been in your shoes, the customer’s shoes, long before wearing my employee hat. Now I’m on the other side of the counter. As employees, we see, hear, and experience things that affect our recommendations for customers. First off, let’s address those 100 spools for $40 at Amazon and why, personally (wearing my user and NOT my employee hat), my choice would be to avoid the $40/100 spools like the plague. Why? I don’t know which company made the thread. You may ask, “Does it really matter?"  Well, we think so at the store. Here are a few stories for you…


  • Last week Fred and I were working with a customer that was having spotty tension issues with her long-arm machine. There were occasional loops on top and the bottom of the fabric. Fred picked up the spool of thread from the machine, and I could see from 3 feet away the lumps of lint on a long strand of the thread. Lumps of lint…going through the tension disk… irregular tension from those blobby lumps. Yeah, it wasn’t good thread to use. Trust us, switching thread can make a world of difference.
  • Last year there were a few ladies in my Machine Education class for sergers. Both had two popular brands, one recommended (Brand X) and one not (Brand Y), threaded in their machines. It was an interesting experience looking at both samples of their rolled hems. Brand Y had a better-looking, “fluffier” rolled hem. We all liked the look of Brand Y better, but there are easy ways to get a fluffy, full-coverage rolled hem using different threads and techniques. Here is my issue with Brand Y: it’s LINTY (which produced the fluffier rolled hem)! Very linty to the point where I’d never put that thread on my machine because my machines have cost me a pretty penny. Where is all that lint going to go??? In the machine. In the tension disks. No gunky tension disks for me if it can be avoided. Please, be careful with the thread you purchase! Eventually it’s going to end up in the exact places you don’t want it to be!
  • Two years ago a lovely young lady came in because she was having problems with major thread jams on her new embroidery machine. In our efforts to help her troubleshoot, we ask the usual questions regarding changing needles, quality bobbin thread, stabilizers, etc., then she mentioned she had changed thread brands. Aha! In order to save $, she purchased a common thread brand and ended up having nothing but problems with her embroidery stitchouts.
     Here’s the point I’m trying to make: These were different types of machines—sit-down/ long arm, serger, and embroidery machine.In many cases, a simple change of thread can do wonders. There are some that say they can get ANY brand to work on their machine without problems. Can it really be done? Can any thread be used without problems? With experience, many can be used but please, please, PLEASE understand the dealer perspective.

     Many of our customers are still working and those who have retired often comment they are even busier than when they were working! When it’s time for enjoyment and relaxation, they want to get right to work, have positive experiences, and a steady stream of solid productivity at their machines. While there are some that have time to research needles, sizes, appropriate stabilizers and the like, many do not. They don’t want to sit and watch YouTube videos or do research when they simply want to get the job done quickly and efficiently. This is where we come in and why we recommend specific brands. Our customers give us feedback and help us determine which threads are relatively trouble free and provide for an enjoyable stitching experience. We recommend brands that give consistently good results with minimal issues, minimal work. It’s that simple.We carry those brands and use them ourselves.

     Does this mean you won’t have a problem with the threads we carry? Of course not. We can't trouble shoot every situation as there are many variables, but many of our customers have reported good things about the brands in our store. We want you to be happy and not frustrated. Ultimately, it’s about YOU having a positive experience. We want you to enjoy your hobby, not fight with it. We know that many of you want advice and quick answers so we try to give you the tried and true threads that our customers enjoy using. And while still on the topic, I'll give you one of my pearls of stitching wisdom:

Don’t cheap out on thread. Thread matters, people. It matters.

     Reporting from the Other Side of the Counter... Thanks for reading and Happy Stitching!
-Kathy

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