Saturday, February 9, 2013

Using Rayon Thread in Quilts

Ever go to the fabric store to look at thread, stand in front of the mouth watering displays packed to the hilt with every gorgeous color imaginable...only to discover that most of it is rayon?  Traditionally we are taught to use 100% cotton thread with 100% cotton fabric.  These days, with the popularity of free motion and long or mid arm quilting polyester has begun to push forward as the front runner in quilting threads.  But what about rayon?  Here's my take on the use of rayon in quilts and how it effects your project in the long run.

I have been trying to stock up on long arm quilting threads, and while scouring the internet for good deals on quality thread, I found this bargain lot of Sulky rayon thread.  Being new to my long arm I haven't tried rayon in it yet.  But I do use rayon quite frequently in my domestic machine, and in my quilts.

Here's what you want to know about rayon...

It's technically considered a synthetic fiber.  Because polyester is so strong, it's easy to equate strength with synthetic, but in the case of rayon, that's not so true.  Rayon is a very weak thread.  It's GORGEOUS!  Shiny, pretty, comes in lots and lots of mouth watering colors...variegated''s lovely thread.  But in my opinion, I would not use rayon thread as the sole component to hold your quilt sandwich together - for quilts that will get a lot of use and abuse.

If you are an embroiderer or former embroiderer who has a stock pile of rayon thread laying around and are itching to use it in your quilt - by all means - do!!  I would just recommend saving the rayon for decorative uses.

Another thing to note - rayon thread isn't colorfast.  In the sewing world, the definition of colorfast is a little more conservative - it means that the color doesn't hold up to bleach or the chemicals used in washing.  So if you toss a little bleach into your wash when washing your could very well lose color, have color bleeding, or lose strength.

To me, colorfastness in those terms is not super important because I don't regularly bleach my finished quilts.  But what is important to me is that the quilt can stand being washed many times - so for quilts that will be used, quilts that will be washed, beat up, banged around and abused, I  make sure the main thread holding my quilt sandwich together is something strong and durable.  But for wall hangings, table runners, and other "fun quilts" that aren't going to get washed or terribly worn, I use rayon thread all the time!

Above is a photo of Superior's So Fine #50 in an off white compared to Sulky Rayon in a teal shade...they are both thin, but you can see that rayon is a bit of a slippery thread.  Sometimes it can help to use cotton or a cottonized/cotton wrapped polyester in the bobbin to help "grab" the top rayon thread and give it something to grip and lock into.  Rayon in both the top and bobbin can be tricky and it takes some fiddling to prevent looping on the top, which happens sometimes when the thread is very slippery.

Free motion quilting with rayon is LOVELY!!!  If you are playing around and practicing your free motion quilting by all means, bust out that rayon.  It's a nice thin thread and in areas where thread tends to build up it really looks beautiful.  Below is a little table topper I made and sold on Etsy and the entire project was quilted with rayon thread.

So hey, I'm still obsessing about thread over here!  It's my new nail polish...  :)  Here's a little video you might enjoy talking a little more about rayon thread.  I will show you a bit of the new thread I just bought and do a thread break test so you can decide for yourself how you'd like to use rayon in your quilts...or not at all!

Oh - and don't forget to grab the pretty thread button below for your blog!!!  :)  Link it back here and we can talk about GREAT thread together!  ;)


Mama Pea said...

I have a bunch of rayon thread I got on ebay once. It always breaks in my embroidery machine, so I don't use it any more. It is beautiful though!

Tina said...

Excellent information!!! Thanks so much for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

I have just completed a double bed sized (78x88)quilt using Sulky Viskose in a beautiful pink shade! I have been using this brand of rayon thread (in various colors from deep red to vibrant yellow) in quilts and table runners for several years without any problems. When I purchased my HQ Sweet Sixteen I discovered that this machine actually loves this thread even more than my Juki!!!! I use a poly wrapped cotton thread in the bobbin with superb results. Color fastness has not been an issue at all. The table runners have been through repeated washings without any loss of brilliance. I would recommend this thread to anyone!

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Decorative said...

Rayon produces a lovely look

Unknown said...


Good blog.

What about using rayon for attaching binding on a quilt? I have the perfect colour that matches my binding, but it is rayon!