Cosplay 101: It's All About the Threads

The last time we did a Cosplay 101 post here on Nerdconomics, we discussed the basics of buying a sewing machine.  And after picking out a shiny new (or old - we like vintage machines too) toy, you are probably thinking great!  I have a machine and now all I need is fabric, some thread, and a bit of practice.  You hoof it on over to your local craft store to pick up some supplies, and stand amazed at the racks overflowing with a rainbow of twine.  Aside from the color options, the vast array of thread types can be completely overwhelming as well.  Hopefully today’s post will add a bit of clarity to choosing thread for your cosplay.


Sew-All Polyester Thread


Sew-All thread is a polyester (or polyester-cotton blend) thread that works well for most machine sewing.  It is fairly strong, feeds well through a machine needle, and comes in every color imaginable.  This type of thread often comes in several spool sizes as well - so you can buy just the right amount to finish your project.  There are several popular brands, including Gütermann, Aurifil, Mettler Metrosene, and Coats & Clark Dual Duty.  Personally I have had great experience with Gütermann, though I will use any of these brands in order to get the best color match for my project.  This sort of thread is also great for hand sewing and quick fixes at a con.  You should definitely keep a few spools in your on-the-floor fix kit.


Heavy-Duty/Topstitch Thread


Heavy-duty thread is often intended for use on upholstery or home dec applications, as it is being used on much denser and stiffer fabrics than would normally be used in garment construction.  Of course, during cosplay you aren’t always dealing with “normal” materials, so it can often be useful to have some of this thicker thread in your arsenal.  Although it is often made of the same polyester fibers, it doesn’t come in as many color choices as sew-all thread, but it still provides a good option to use with thicker materials or for topstitching embellishments.


Cotton Thread


Cotton thread is, clearly, spun out of cotton.  It is a weaker thread than polyester, and is most often used by quilters or in heirloom sewing projects.  It is sometimes also used on very delicate fabrics (such as silk) when there are concerns that a sturdier thread may cause the fabric to rip or frey.  Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend cotton thread for most cosplay projects - it tends to break under stress, and you don’t want to worry about your costume falling apart at the seams!  It could be useful in nerdcraft projects though - especially if you are working on a fabulous Tardis Quilt!


Rayon/Embroidery Thread


Embroidery thread is often made of rayon - a fiber made of wood pulp.  Rayon is preferable for embroidery because it is finer, brighter, and shinier than other types of thread - perfect for thread-dense designs.  This type of thread isn’t really appropriate for general sewing applications, though it is great for decorative stitching.  There are also metallic embroidery threads that can be used to add the perfect amount of sparkle.  Although this thread is terrible for construction, it is great for adding a touch to embellishment to your cosplay.


Silk Thread


Silk thread is made of 100% silk.  It is most often used for basting - temporarily holding fabric pieces together before the permanent stitches are used - as the silk fibers pull easily out of most fabrics without leaving a mark.  Silk can be quite strong, but it is also quite expensive, and usually only comes in limited color choices.  It wouldn’t be the best choice for most general construction, though it could be useful in basting together tricky or expensive fabrics during the construction process.


Serger Thread and Wooly Nylon Thread


Serger thread comes in large cones rather than in smaller spools.  This type of thread is often less robust than other types of polyester thread, however, it is much more affordable.  I wouldn’t recommend it for the main seams of a garment, but it is great to use for the looper threads of a serger.  The looper threads simply cover the raw edges of a seam, and thus have less force on them than the needle threads.  For those with sensitive skin, the regular polyester serger threads could be a source of irritation (especially in a skin-tight spandex superhero catsuit), so another option would be wooly nylon thread.  Wooly nylon is a bit more difficult to thread in the machine, but it will often be softer on the skin and less irritating in close-fitting garments.  A few popular brands are Gütermann and Maxi Lock.


So there you have it - a quick guide to demystifying thread choices!  Hopefully this helps streamline the process the next time you head to the craft store.  Though you may still spend a long time staring at all of the color options.  Ooooh… pretty…. colors….


Until next time, this is Dr. T reminding you to get your hands nerdy.