Not all thread is created equal. That may surprise some people, but like most things in life there are good ones and not so good ones! This guide is to help you differentiate between the various types used for machine sewing, quilting and patchwork.
My top tip is to always buy the best you can afford. Buying cheaply is false economy. Chances are you will not be happy with the result; the thread may break in use or fluff so much it affects the smooth running of your sewing machine, especially if you are working on a large project.
Generally speaking, you should try to match your thread type to the project you are working on. So, for example, if you are making a pair of curtains an all purpose polyester will be fine, if you are working on an heirloom quilt you may want to use a quilting weight 100% cotton. As with everything though, personal preference will be the determining factor. It really is up to you. Years ago, it was considered important to match the fibre of your project with the fibre of the thread, however, with all the improvements in production techniques it isn’t so important. Good quality polyester thread is always handy to have in your cupboard.
With all the advances in technology, the choice of colour is almost limitless. Trying to choose can sometimes make you feel like a kid in a candy store…there can seem to be too much choice.
When you are building your range of thread, start with the basics. Neutral tans, grey, black, white and creams, together with a few key colours will be suitable for most projects. After that, you can buy according to the projects you are working on.
As well as types of thread, there are lots of manufacturers. Everyone has their personal favourites. If you are just starting out on your sewing journey, a good place to start is your local fabric or haberdashery shop. They will be able to offer some initial guidance and you’ll soon discover your favourites and be able to build up your supply.
Some things to consider:
- Darker shades blend in more, lighter shades stand out.
- Don’t use old thread without testing it first. It may break or even disintegrate.
- The higher the number on quilting thread the finer it is so; #60 is finer than #40. A good place to start is #50.
- If there is a letter on the thread, A is fine and D is heavy.
- Remember to check you have the correct needle when you use speciality threads.
- For stretchy fabrics use a polyester thread because it has a little give in it.
- Hand-sewing thread should not be used in your machine.
- In most cases, it is perfectly fine to use the same thread in the bobbin. However, for machine embroidery, special bobbin thread is available, it is slightly finer and available in black or white.
Types of thread
Cotton – has very little “give”. Suitable for basic machine or hand sewing projects.
Polyester – is considered to be an all-purpose thread. Suitable for both machine and hand-sewn projects. It has a little “give” and is therefore useful for stretchy fabrics.
Heavy duty – this is also a polyester thread and is suitable for upholstery, canvas and other heayweight fabrics.
Hand quilting – 100% mercerized cotton. Strong and silky.
Machine quilting – 100% cotton. Suitable for machine sewing especially good for long arm machine quilting. Not suitable for constructing garments.
Silk – very fine. Often used for embroidery. This is a good choice for basting / tacking fabrics together.
Metallic – Often used in machine embroidery but should not be used in the bobbin. A good choice for top stitching.
Invisible / Monofilament – can be either nylon or polyester. Nylon can become brittle and discolour over time and is not heat resistant. Use when you do not want the stitches to be visible.
I hope you find this guide useful wherever you are on your sewing journey.
Until next time…