Friday, October 4, 2013

So Sew! Day 4: Purchasing Notions

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Welcome to day 4 of our 31 Days series! Today we're talking about notions.

“Notions” is the name for items used in sewing. While it can refer to any sewing tool {like those mentioned yesterday} it more commonly refers to those items that are actually used on the finished product. Things like buttons, zippers, interfacing, etc.

There are about a quarter-million different options to discuss in the broad topic of “notions,” but in an effort to make this simple and easy to understand and use, I’m only going to talk about two common ones today: zippers and thread.

These two notions are certainly the two I buy the most, and just within these two there are plenty of options to consider. So lets chat about them, shall we?

Quality thread is important to a quality product, whether it be clothing, quilts, or accessories. “Cheap” thread is not as sturdy and can break easily, plus your machine may rebel against it. =) Some machines aren’t picky, but others will give you problems if a cheap thread is used. At the very least, the cheaper stuff will leave more “fuzz” and lint in your machine, meaning more work for me, and harder work for my machine.

What is cheap thread? Any no-name brand {sorry walmart!} Consider these two options - hopefully you can tell from this picture!

Can you tell which is the good quality thread?

One of these is cheap thread, one is good quality. A visible difference is how “fuzzy” the cheap one is. There is a fuzz surrounding the strand of thread that shows that it is not wound tightly. The quality thread is a nice, smooth, even line of thread.

So what are the quality threads? Where I live, supplies are limited, so I only have two options.

The first is Coats and Clark.

This is probably the most commonly used thread, and has proven to be a good quality. I have found they don’t have enough colour choices, especially in their smaller spools, which are convenient for a single project. This may just be a result of the limited resources where I live, however.

The second option, and the one I prefer, is Gütermann.

They have several different sizes of spools, and loads and loads of colours - you can probably tell that from the picture! The spool is an untraditional shape, if there is such a thing, and for a long time I didn’t purchase this thread because of that. Isn’t it crazy how we get so stuck in a rut and don’t want to change? Shame on me. :)

With the spool being shaped different, it looks like there is not as much thread on it, but that is not the case. A small spool of Gütermanns and a small spool of Coats and Clark both have about 100 meters on them. For a single project, this is more than enough! Gütermanns just has more colours to choose from.

Because of their unique design, you can buy very large spools of Gütermann that fit on a standard sewing machine. I like to buy my basic colours in large spools like this, so I don’t run out as often!

These are the two best options I know other areas you may have more or different options. Let us know in the comments!

When purchasing thread, there are a few different options depending on your project. For the most part you will just need “normal” polyester thread. That is what I use 100% of the time. Your project might call for something different.

To make this simple, I just snapped a picture of the thread + price chart for Gütermann. I think they are pretty self explanatory!

Next up is zippers.

The brand available to me is Costumakers, imported by H. A, Kidd and company. I can just get these at Walmart, although there is a bit more of a selection at a local-ish craft store.

The length of the zipper will be clearly marked on the tag. This is the length of the actual zipper, between the metal tabs. The length doesn’t include the extra on each end for sewing purposes.

If you are using a pattern, it will state what length of zipper you need. If you are not using a pattern, just measure and get the closest length you can. If there isn’t the exact length you need, get the next size up.

There are a few different zipper options when purchasing a zipper -

  • Invisible. These can be sewn in so they are barely seen, if at all, on the finished item.
  • Lightweight. Pretty self explanatory. =)
  • Separable. This is the kind of zipper that would go on a coat, where the zipper is going to totally be separated when it is unzipped. The opposite of this is “closed end.” If the tag doesn’t say either way, it is a closed end zipper.
  • Metal. It is possible to buy metal zippers, with metal pulls. I think these look “manly” and I never use them. :) But there may be an occasion where a heavier, more durable zipper is needed, and you’d want this option.
  • Normal plastic zippers. Just your every-day zipper! This is what I use, and it is also the most cost-effective!

Later in the month I will show you how to install a zipper a couple of different ways. Stay tuned! =)

I would be remiss to not put a plug in for my favourite zipper company, Zipit! {they don’t know I’m writing this, I’m just a happy customer wanting to give them a shout-out.} They have a beautiful Etsy shop selling YKK zippers, and if you are able to buy zippers online, this is the place to go! Their prices are very reasonable, especially for bigger quantities, and I love their many colour options!

They sent this helpful chart along with my order, so when I am ready to re-order I can pick colours out without having to try to determine colour from my computer screen {since we know how reliable that is!}

Their customer service is great, they are happy to put together custom orders to exactly meet your needs. They have way more sizes than you will find in a store, and they even threw some fun extras in my package! I highly recommend them!

So that is the run-down on purchasing zippers and thread. It turned out to be a much longer post than I anticipated!! Did I leave anything out? Where do you typically purchase notions? What other notions do you purchase on a regular basis?

Challenge: Test some different threads in your sewing machine. Use a cheap thread for a while, then try a quality thread. Do you notice a difference? Look for differences in thread tension on the finished product, how well the item holds up, and for any “fuzz” build-up over time. Let us know the results of this thread test - just because the rest of us are curious! =)

Other posts in this series:
Day 1: Introducing my craft
Day 2: Explore your machine
Day 3: Sewing Tools


  1. I'm totally following this! So glad I found it! I love sewing but sometimes I'm just so overwhelmed with all of the advanced sewers on line who know enough of what they're doing to not explain some steps- but this is perfect. Thanks!

    1. I'm so glad this is a help! That is exactly what I wanted to do with this series, make it simple and easy to understand. Everyone has to start somewhere, right? Good luck to you! =)



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