Polyester update…

I wrote a post about polyester thread on August 17 in which I said that the research I could find indicated that polyester thread probably doesn’t degrade any faster than cotton thread. There’s more to the story…

#1

I still can’t find any research specific to thread longevity. My husband tells me that if absolutely no references to research show up in a google search, there probably are none to be found. Thread makers do post information about their own collections of thread but that’s not the same as academic research.

The one study I did find (click here to read it) compared the biodegradability of cotton vs. polyester fabric in a compost pile. Cotton fabric degraded quicker and more thoroughly than polyester fabric which indicates that polyester thread should last longer, right?

My husband, Steve, is a field biologist who teaches invertebrate biology. When I brought this study up at dinner recently he said that decomposers (the bugs and microbes that live in compost) would recognize cotton as food and happily eat it. They don’t necessarily recognize polyester, a petroleum product, as food. Of course cotton degrades faster in compost (he didn’t add ‘duh’, but I’m pretty sure he wanted to).

#2

On August 28 the New York Times published an article entitled These Cultural Treasures Are Made of Plastic. Now They’re Falling Apart.” Click here to find the story. It’s definitely worth reading.

I read a similar story years ago in the Dallas Morning News but I didn’t save it and have not been able to find it. I was beginning to doubt my memory. It turns out that what I remember from that article is still true… Tupperware, spacesuits, and plastic artifacts of all kinds are degrading.

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Now what?

There are all sorts of plastics and they degrade differently. Again, I can find no specific information on polyester or synthetic threads.

I don’t believe that polyester or synthetic threads are inherently bad, or that we shouldn’t use them. There are many times when a polyester thread is the best choice. That said, every time we choose thread for a project, we weigh a variety of factors… this is just one more thing to keep in mind.

 

 

I learned a new thing about polyester thread!

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Sew Fine! thread from Superior.

What do you do when you find out that something you thought was true, really isn’t? If you are me, you write a blog post for all the world to see :-).

NOTE: I did, in fact, find out a little more and the updated information is in this post (https://wordpress.com/post/pieceocakeblog.com/12789).

If you have ever been in my class, you know that I use cotton thread with cotton fabric. That’s not going to change because cotton thread has many characteristics that I like. However, one of the main reasons I have not recommended using polyester thread is that I believed that it might degrade faster than cotton over time. This was based on old information that may have true back in the day but is no longer relevant.

I have been doing quite a bit of research on thread and I ran across this academic study  that looked at the biodegradability of polyester vs. cotton. You can read the whole paper, or skim it, but here’s the very short story:

The researchers took cotton and polyester jersey fabrics and subjected them to the same treatment. All fabrics were laundered 30 times with various washing products to simulate garments at the end of their useful lives prior to testing. They were then buried and composted for 3 months.

“The polyester fabric showed a slight initial degradation, but the fabric was still intact after testing under both laboratory conditions and the compost environment. In soil and compost testing, which included multiple organisms and enzymes, the cotton fabric with softener had an accelerated degradation rate, while the cotton fabric with resin showed a relatively slow degradation rate.

All cotton samples were more significantly degraded in the compost environment than under the laboratory conditions and confirmed to be ‘compostable’.”

I’ve been wrong about this aspect of polyester thread. I still don’t love it for the kind of sewing that I do. Polyester thread doesn’t tolerate high heat from an iron, it is slippery, and it is shinier than cotton. But there is nothing suspect about the fiber itself. If you have a place where it makes sense to use polyester, go for it. Who knows… it’s possible I might find myself using it in some future project.

Lastly, it is true that polyester is basically a plastic. Many of us, me included, are trying to cut back on the amount of plastic we use. However, until we manage to cut out much bigger sources of plastic in our lives, I think it’s safe not to obsess about the plastic in polyester thread.

Yes, I’m mellowing…

There’s a block in the secret project that has 16 points that meet in the center. I drew this block and knew it would be bulky. I also know that it is possible to make the points (mostly) match (there is that one that is way off)…

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The problem is that even when the points match, the seam allowances on the back are still there…

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It’s like a little mountain in the middle of the block. I could hammer the seams flat, but that’s not a great fix. You know what is a good fix? A circle appliqued over the center which allows me to cut away the bulk AND which is really cute on the block! Done!

In my younger, more hard-core days, I would have worked and worked to on these points. I feel much calmer now that I am willing to let go of some of my perfectionist tendencies :-).

Fabric Washing – 2018 Update

I keep learning new things! The last time I wrote about fabric washing was in August 2017. (Click here, and on the link in that post, to read about why I always wash my fabric.) Since then I’ve made changes to my washing routine.  FYI: I never use laundry detergent or fabric softeners on my quilts or quilt fabric.

Retayne-RetroWash

  • I now use Retro Wash instead of Orvus Paste as the “soap” in the washer. Both work, but Retro Wash is easier to use.

Retro Wash is a powder. The instructions on the package are clear. Use 1 tablespoon per load in a top-loading HE machine. I don’t mix it with water first, but you probably could. I use the same amount of Retro Wash, no matter the size of the load, which might be wrong, but it works for me.

  •  Retayne is the chemical that sets the dye into the fabric. There is new, much improved, information on the label now.

The label says is to use 1 teaspoon of Retayne per yard of fabric in a HE machine, with warm water. It turns out that I wasn’t using near enough Retayne before! I mix the Retayne in a half-cup of water and pour it into the detergent receptacle.

Click here to find Retro Wash and Retayne.

  • Add 1 Color Catcher to pick up excess dye, just because.

Color Catchers catch the excess dye from the water. (I very much suspect that they have Synthrapol in them, but I don’t know that for sure.)

Since I changed my washing routine, the Color Catchers are coming out white, even in dark loads. I am happy!

When I wash quilts, I will use Retro Wash, at least 1 Color Catcher, and Synthrapol. Synthrapol keeps dye that has migrated into the wash water from re-depositing into the fabric. I haven’t done that yet — I’ll let you know when I do.

I do have one more bit of (mildly disturbing) news that I learned from a student who works for US Customs. There’s not a nice way to say it, so here goes: ships, and the containers on them, are often infested with vermin. Who leave droppings. ICK!!!!

I don’t know how fabric is wrapped for travel inside the container. It starts on rolls and later is folded, wound onto cardboard bolts, and then shrink-wrapped in plastic. That might happen here in the US, or overseas. Either way, the contamination is probably small. But still, that got my attention. (FYI: Most of our clothes are also imported so I’m now washing new clothes before I wear them.)

 

On folding quilts…

I have, for years, folded my quilts on the diagonal and have been pleased with the results. But there are many experienced quilters who feel strongly about folding on the straight of grain and today Bonnie Browning, Executive Show Director for AQS, has convinced me that folding on the straight has merit.

As we looked at quilts in the show (AQS Lancaster 2018), it was easy to see which quilts had been folded on the diagonal because those folds were very obvious. Bonnie said that pressing and/or steaming will usually make straight creases disappear, but it doesn’t help diagonal creases. She added that the weight of quilts folded ‘straight’ helps the creases fade after they are hung.

Quilts hanging in shows are relatively new and crisp, which may have something to do with it. They may not have been folded often, in either direction. I fold my quilts a lot (into and out of suitcases) and never in quite the same way.  That softens them up which may be why I don’t see hard diagonal creases in my quilts.

Bonnie also said that diagonal folding can cause the outer edges of the quilt to stretch a bit. That got my attention because I think that is probably true. I have only seen a tiny bit of give in my outer edges, but even a little is too much.

My quilts at home are rolled onto 2″ PVC pipes covered with sleeves cut from cotton fabric — that flattens creases between foldings. Any quilt that stays folded all the time is likely to show creases, no matter which way it is folded. If quilts are stacked on top of each other, that will add to the problem.

I visited with Sue Patton who always washes her quilts (washer and dryer) and reports that creases are not an issue for her. That’s a thought, right? For we hand appliquérs, it’s a scary thought, but still. I’m going to carefully choose some quilts to test this out on. In fact, I have two to share in a blog post, soon.

Sue also recommended the Tuscany Cotton Wool batting from Hobbs for its softness and possible non-crease-worthiness. I’m going to try it, soon I hope.

So, chime in with your thoughts and experiences. It’s how we all learn new things!

I’ll leave you with this photo that has nothing at all to do with the topic at hand, but I like it: Lancaster, in the snow.

Lancaster-Snow-2018

A gift from Caryl…

I’ll bet every one of you knows and loves Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry’s quilts. They are stunning works of art that make you smile all the way through to your heart. Recently Caryl sent me this email:

Since I have retired from teaching and retail, I am, as time permits, offering my patterns and digital workshops free of charge on my website.

I have just uploaded my most complete workshop ever, showing in minute detail how I made my quilt, Soaring Compliments, from start to finish. You will find it and all of my other free patterns and instructions at: http://www.bryerpatch.com/faq/faq.htm

Caryl’s sharing of her knowledge and techniques is so very generous. I know that I am grateful, as are you.

Thank you, Caryl!

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Hexie Squeeze Punch

A student told me about these Fiskars hole punches. Now that I have tried them I can tell you how they work. 


All sizes squeeze easily on card stock if you cut 1 sheet of paper at a time. You are can recycle paper (like heavier magazine inserts) or use pristine sheets. 

  • Medium = 1/2″ on each side
  • Large = 3/4″ on each side
  • X-Large = 1″ on each side

The X-Large grip is too big for my hands so I’ll ask Steve to do those for me if/when I need them. 


The same student also told me that if you punch a hole in the center of each paper it’s easier to remove them with a toothpick or awl which makes sense. I couldn’t find my normal hole punch so I used the one that cuts 1/8″ holes, 1/4″ would probably be better. 

Honestly, I have very little spare time for cutting hexies so I won’t use these often. But I’m happy to have them in my drawer, just in case :-).

FYI: I couldn’t find them from a quilt supplier so I looked on Amazon.