Why choose Cotton over Polyester?

(from Aurifil)

How many times has a customer come into your store asking this million dollar question? We can’t recall the number of conversations we’ve overheard debating the choice to bring in a different brand and, more specifically, a different fiber. Today, we would like to address this key question and provide you with all the information you’ll need to make decisions for both your business and customer needs.  

Here at Aurifil, we have been cotton makers and experts since 1983. We are not here to demonize polyester, but instead to share our extensive knowledge about the benefits of cotton and to dispel any misbeliefs about how it can be used. We’ve also prepared some information on our production process and how our spools are made. Careful, chances are you will turn into a cotton snob after it all if you are not already.

First, we’d like to stress that there is no wrong or right answer. Both cotton and polyester are good choices depending on your needs.

1 -- Always choose thread based on your fabrics. We know how much time, effort, and dedication goes into each and every work of art and that achieving a professional finish requires more than just sewing skills; it’s the right needle, the perfect fabric, and always the correct thread!

Additionally, it is not only important to match thread fiber to the fabric but also to choose a good quality thread in order to avoid knots, poor stitch formation, lint, and frequent breakage."For piecing quilts and garments, one of the guiding principles for choosing threads is that the thread should never be stronger than the fabric being joined. If there is stress on the seam, either from wear or pulling, we want the thread to break before the fabric tears. Repairing a popped seam is easier than repairing a seam where the fabric has torn along the seam." --- Carrie Nelson for Moda Fabrics Thread Matters.

2 -- Cotton is a natural fiber composed of pure cellulose. It is soft, breathable, and hypoallergenic, making it the perfect go-to choice whether for baby quilts, garments, masks, or any other project. Your customers will never have to worry about leaving the thread unattended if there is a child or a puppy around.

Aurifil threads are also OEKO-TEX certified which means they are tested for harmful substances and are harmless for human health.

3 -- Aurifil cotton is strong and virtually lint free. It’s wrongly believed that cotton threads are weak and easily breakable. Aurifil threads are 100% long staple Egyptian cotton. They undergo 15 steps in production before they are wound on the spools you know and love. One of the most important is Mercerization, where the thread is treated with a solution of caustic soda that is responsible for making the cotton fibers more uniform and enhancing its strength, luster, and tenacity. If customers complain that their cotton threads break and that ‘breakage doesn’t happen with polyester’, know that they may have chosen the incorrect thread weight for the project, the wrong needle, or that tension adjustments may be necessary... All these details matter!

4 -- Cotton is sustainable. Unlike its counterpart, cotton fibers are renewable and biodegradable, making it an environmentally-friendly choice. The majority of synthetic fibers are petroleum based, meaning they come from non-renewable resources. Of course there is always room for improvement and Aurifil is working hard to create a more sustainable future.

While still in the thick of research, Aurifil has already taken some important steps. We’d invite you to explore via the links in the list below. These partnerships and certifications are important, but they are just the beginning.

5 -- Cotton can take a lot of heat. Thanks to the natural fibers, cotton thread has excellent sewability with little kinking or skip stitching and it’s rarely affected by hot needles, a common element of high-speed sewing machines. Cotton will not melt and will even sew well on poorly adjusted machines.

Aurifil’s very first thread weight -- 40wt -- was developed with these needs in mind. It was heralded and widely used for construction and embellishment in high fashion, fine bed linens and interior design, luxury automobile interiors, and more. It was designed for use with industrial sewing machines, which makes it a perfect companion for techniques like free motion quilting, longarm quilting, apparel and bag construction, and machine embroidery.

For additional information and inspiration on our 40wt thread check out these links:



6 -- Cotton thread can absorb dye. It makes it the perfect sewing companion if you or your customer are planning to dye your finished project.

7 -- Return to the origin. In the last few years and especially after this dreadful pandemic, more and more people have become sensitive to the matter of how and where their textiles are made. A recent survey by the Craft & Hobby Trade Association has concluded that over 1 million people have started sewing in the last three years.

Apart from enhancing personal creativity, minimizing consumerism, and clothing customisation, people are more and more worried about the fast fashion industry. Therefore, more and more sewists are making their own clothes and are opting for natural fibers. However, in the garment industry there is skepticism in using cotton.

Why should you propose cotton to your customers? In Jenni Smith’s words: "I can’t imagine sewing a silk or lawn cotton blouse now with a polyester thread – it just doesn’t feel right. I had the same experience when I started quilting with Aurifil – just as it seems to lay so flat on patchwork seams, it creates crisp lines on garments and that is very satisfying! I then experimented with different weights, because I am naturally curious and found they also worked for top-stitching, visible mending and decorative embroidery."

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