machine sewing with invisible thread, a guide by The Sewing Korner

Invisible thread is often used to show texture, hide your stitches, and even provide certain embellishments on your project. There is also good news and bad news when it comes to sewing with invisible thread. It can be tricky the first time you use it but is easy to learn, and when you use invisible thread for quilting and other projects, it gives those projects a very unique look.

Invisible thread is usually made out of either nylon or polyester and is made from just one strand of synthetic fiber. But if you think that it’s difficult to work with, just know that it’s a lot easier once you do it a few times and follow a few simple tips.

machine sewing with invisible thread, a guide by The Sewing Korner
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    Machine Sewing with Invisible Thread: The Basics

    Invisible thread doesn’t behave like ordinary thread does, which is why so many sewists have trouble with it the first time they work with it. The two types of invisible thread — nylon and polyester — each have pros and cons. If you choose the polyester thread, it can handle heat much better. Nylon, on the other hand, is softer and even less visible than polyester thread, but it sometimes discolors a bit over time.

    Just be careful when shopping for your invisible thread because nylon thread is called polyamide, a name that can make many sewists believe that it is polyester thread instead. Polyamide is, in fact, nylon thread.

    In the end, the type of thread you use when sewing with invisible thread is really just a matter of preference. This is especially true when you consider that even among different brands, both nylon and polyester invisible thread can vary a bit.

    The best news, of course, is that you can do a lot with invisible thread because it is a very versatile type of thread. For instance, you can use invisible thread on all types of fabric, including heavier fabric and lightweight fabric. With any project that is considered heavy duty, however, it might be best to avoid invisible thread.

    Using invisible thread for quilting and for applique is quite common, especially when you’re trying to add a little color to the project or finish your bindings. If you have a multicolored quilting project, invisible thread works great because the color of the thread will blend in perfectly with some of those colors while contrasting and looking bad with others.

    When you sew by hand, you’ll find that using invisible thread is less common, but you can certainly use it when you’re adding embellishments such as beading to sheer fabric. This includes embellishments commonly found when working on bridal wear and accessories. In fact, invisible thread is used a lot when it comes to this type of project.

    Sulky 232S-2001 Clear Premium Invisible Thread for Sewing, 2200-Yard.


    Tips When Using Invisible Thread with your Sewing Machine

    Working with invisible thread, also called monofilament (because it uses only one strand of fiber), is much easier once you learn a few tricks. Below are some of the tricks used to make sewing with this type of thread a lot easier:

    Use a Small Needle

    Invisible thread tends to be smaller than other types of thread, which means that you’ll need to use a much smaller needle than you would otherwise. Buy the smallest needle you can find, but be careful to use this needle only with invisible thread and no other types.

    If your sewing machine has no automatic needle threader, just take a dark permanent marker and make a mark on the tip of the thread so you can see it while you’re threading the needle. You can cut off the tip later.

    Remember That There Are Special Rules for Your Bobbin

    Most of the time, you’ll only be using invisible thread as the top thread of your sewing machine and conventional thread in your bobbin. If you do decide to use invisible thread in your bobbin, remember to wind it slowly and only about half full. Invisible thread is stretchy, and winding the bobbin too fast stretches it out even more. This can make you overfill the bobbin, which you don’t want.

    Also keep in mind that you might have to adjust the tension on your bobbin, and maybe even the bobbin case, depending on your sewing machine.

    Don’t Be Afraid of Your Invisible Thread

    At one time, sewing with invisible thread meant making adjustments because the thread was super heavy and inflexible. It was also hard on both your sewing machine and on the fabric itself. But do not worry, because today’s invisible thread does not cut cotton fibers or damage your sewing machine as long as you use it correctly and don’t stray from the instructions.

    Always Remember to Lock Your Stitches

    When using invisible thread for quilting and similar projects, it is a must to backstitch both at the beginning and the end of every seam. When you’re sewing, the stitches can sometimes pull free because the thread is so stretchy. If you lock all of your stitches in place, this is a lot less likely to happen.

    Consider Practicing on Scrap Fabric Before Starting Your Project

    One of the things you’ll learn when working with invisible thread is that the tensions on your sewing machine may have to be adjusted in order for the stitches to come out just right. The top thread tension needs to be set as low as it will go. Then you can increase it slowly until the stitches look just right. This is why practicing on a scrap piece of fabric is such a good idea.

    Try Using Invisible Thread for Beads and Other Embellishments

    If you’ve never used invisible thread before, try using it for beading and other embellishment projects. Keep in mind that while invisible thread is incredibly thin, it is also very strong, so even the tiniest beads can be accommodated when you use this type of thread. Remember to weave the end of the thread into your line of stitches instead of cutting it short for the best results.

    Hand-beaded fabrics are still delicate, so you’ll have to use caution with both the fabric and the beads. But when it comes to the thread, invisible thread doesn’t have to be handled with kid gloves!

    What to Do If the Invisible Thread Isn’t Working Right

    If you’ve adjusted the tension on your machine but still find that the thread isn’t working right, you might have to double check the thread path. Missing loops are never any fun, and neither are tangles and tension issues. Fortunately, you have a few options available to you, including adding extra guides along the thread path.

    You can tape one or two safety pins to the sewing machine along the thread path, but make sure the pins are away from any moving parts. You can use the end of the safety pin — the part where the wire forms a solid loop — because this makes a great thread guide. If nothing else works, you may have to start over again and rethread your machine. This should take care of any problems you’re having with the thread.

    Use the Right Color Invisible Thread on Dark Fabrics

    When working with dark fabric, a clear invisible thread often has too much shine to hide itself well. This seems odd to some people but that’s just how invisible thread works. To take care of the problem, try using smoky-colored thread every time that you work with dark fabrics.

    Threads that are a bit “smoky” in color are usually either a slight gray or slight green color, which work great with dark fabrics. That being said, you’ll likely have to test out a few different colors to make it work, considering that all dark fabric is a bit different when it comes to shades and colors.

    And if you think that smoky colors will be hard to find, think again. In fact, invisible thread normally comes in both clear and numerous smoky colors or tints. If you use the clear thread with your light fabrics and the smoky-colored ones with your dark fabrics, the threads should look great every time.

    Sulky Of America 0.004mm Smoke Invisible Polyester Thread, 2200 yd.

    Practice Makes Perfect

    While all of these things make sense, all you really have to remember when it comes to working with invisible thread is that you need to practice getting it right. All sewists have tons of scrap pieces of fabric, so if you put them to good use by practicing with your invisible thread, you’ll be a pro at this skill in no time.

    Another tip is that, when you choose to use invisible thread in your bobbin, you’ll likely need a tighter bobbin tension. If you plan to sew frequently with invisible thread in your bobbin, you might want to consider buying a separate bobbin that you use only for invisible thread. And because invisible thread always stretches, it is imperative that you wind the bobbin slowly. This was mentioned earlier but is important enough to repeat.

    Caring for Items Made with Invisible Thread

    When you’re working on a project and you’ve used invisible thread, keep in mind what was said earlier about how the different types of invisible thread handle heat. As a general rule, nylon thread melts at lower temperatures than invisible thread made out of polyester. This means that if you iron your project, try to iron it on the reverse side since both types of invisible thread will melt at temps that are high enough.

    You can also place a cloth on the fabric first then iron it, or lower the temperature of the iron before you press the fabric. The good news is that both types of invisible thread — nylon and polyester — can withstand a good washing, so you can put them in the washing machine without any worries. That being said, you should avoid very hot dryer settings because again, this could melt your invisible thread.

    Two Ways to Ensure That Your Quilts Come Out Right

    When you’re using invisible thread for quilting, many experts recommend two additional tips that seem to help. These tips are:

    • Lower your tension
    • Use an external thread stand

    First, when you can actually feel the invisible thread on the underside of the fabric, it means your tension was too high. Incorrect tension can also cause an ugly tangly mess to occur, and if you hold the top and bobbin thread while you take your first few stitches, it can help even out the stitches so they don’t bundle up and become messy.

    It also helps if you put your invisible thread on your sewing machine, then play with the tension so that you can see firsthand what happens when the thread is moved through the various tension settings. Since no two sewing machines are alike and no two sewists sew the same way, you’ll have to execute a trial and error to know what works best for you.

    Next, an external thread stand is a tool that is separate from your sewing machine. It holds spools of thread in numerous shapes and sizes, so if you need spools that are larger, shaped differently, or are wound differently than what your machine supports, you can still use those spools of thread. This includes, of course, sewing with invisible thread.

    In Summary: How to Machine Sew with Invisible Thread

    It’s a lot easier sewing with invisible thread once you learn a few simple rules and most importantly, practice what you’ve learned. Whether you’ll be using invisible thread for quilting, bridal wear, or any other projects, it’s really not that difficult once you realize that it is just a bit different than using other types of thread.

    You can also try using invisible thread on a few simple projects just to get the hang of it. In fact, you’ll likely be very surprised how quickly you become an expert at using invisible thread once you start working with it.

    Video: How to Hem a Skirt with Invisible Thread

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