You unconsciously reach for your emergency sewing kit whenever your shirt loses one of its buttons to quickly fix the problem. Such a simple and mundane task you never give it much thought.
However, the making of sewing thread is actually a very complex process that provides people around the globe with a very useful item. This sewing thread is what allows you to place your buttons back on your shirt, but in the big picture, they are what hold different types of fabric together to create your clothing, bed sets, and countless other great creations.
Each strand of thread, like human DNA, contains the story of how it was made and what its future might hold.
Types of Thread
There are three primary categories that all threads are labeled under. Each category is named after the materials used to make the thread. So then, an animal thread would be crafted from animal fibers such as wool and silk, Synthetic threads would be crafted from synthetic fibers like nylon or polyester, and plant threads would come from plant fibers like cotton. Each type of thread can be produced using its own method before being dyed a specific color a wound into spools.
Synthetic threads are very strong and never shrink. One of the most common synthetic fibers, polyester, is made from byproducts of the petroleum manufacturing process for crude oil. To turn the polyester chips from the manufacturing process into a thread, the chips are spun out into long filaments. Then, these filaments are bound together, stretched, and tested. If any weak spots are found, they are removed. The strong filaments are all bound together to create long pieces of thread.
The silk worm creates its cocoon by using a gland under its mouth to secrete a silk string. This silk can then be harvested while the worm is in the cocoon without bothering it, but it can also be harvested after the moth has left. From the resulting fiber, nett silk is obtained. If the fiber is taken after the moth has left, the fiber is called Schappe silk. Schappe silk is rougher than nett silk and requires additional smoothing steps to manufacture.
Cotton is collected from cotton fields and placed into large bales. These bales collect dirty and gunk with all of the cotton it collects and must be separated and cleaned by a special machine. Once the clean fibers are collected, they can be spun into thread. These threads are then combined to form a larger, stronger thread known as sewing thread. To strengthen the thread further, it is pulled through immense heat and immersed in caustic soda.
Specialized threads are designed to be used for a specific purpose and can be made of any combination of plant, animal, and synthetic thread. Specialized threads can also require special manufacturing processes. For example, a waterproof thread is designed to be used underwater and must be treated with special chemicals. Another specialized thread is upholstery thread because it has to be durable enough to last through years of rough use.
So you see, this simple thread you hold in your hand is the result of a long, complicated process perfected over hundreds of years!