How to Choose the Correct Sewing Thread

choose correct sewing threadDo you pick up just any matching thread that you come across and sew your fabric? Or do you examine the thread closely before using it for a project? If you are like me and sometimes pick up any thread lying on the stash, then it's time to change the rule. The quality of the thread used has a direct bearing on the final outcome of your sewing project.

To get the best possible outcome, you need to get a clear understanding of the various types of threads available and when to use them.  To help you with this important process, we've put together a short list of guidelines on how to choose the correct sewing thread.

Types of thread

Cotton thread:

choose correct sewing thread

Cotton thread

These are threads that are used for natural fabric like cotton. Most of the cotton thread has a lustrous and smooth finish which makes it ideal for sewing. They can take a lot of heat especially while pressing seams. The only disadvantage of this thread is that it tends to snap more easily than polyester thread.

Polyester thread:

choose correct sewing thread

Polyester thread

This type of thread is ideal for use with synthetic fabric. It is more sturdy and does not tend to break easily like cotton thread. This type of thread has a wax or silicone finish which helps the thread to glide easily through the fabric. This thread also comes in transparent finish and can be used when you want to hide the stitches. But because of the nature of the thread, it cannot take in a lot of heat and can get damaged while pressing.

Silk thread:

choose correct sewing thread

Spools of colorful silk thread

This is a very fine thread and is ideal for sewing natural fabric like silk and wool. Since the thread is very strong, it can withstand heat. If used with the right needle, it will not leave holes in the fabric while sewing.

Woolen thread:

choose correct sewing thread

Closeup of multicolor wool thread

This is used mainly in thicker fabric like wool and canvas and also while undertaking embroidery projects. It is a very strong thread and should be used with large needles. Remember to adjust the tension of your sewing machine while using this thread.

Metallic thread:

choose correct sewing thread

Metallic gold thread

These threads are available in gold, silver and copper finish and are used mainly in handbags, purses and also for embroidery purpose.

Choose correct sewing thread

  • The thread selected should match the type of fabric used. Under no circumstance should you select a delicate cotton thread for sewing a woolen fabric for example.
  • The color of the thread selected is completely dependent on your choice of colors. You can either go for a matching thread or a contrast color thread for your project. If you want a perfectly matching color, snip off a piece of the garment and check it with the thread in daylight.
  • The eye of the needle should be considered while finalizing on a particular thread. You'll need to fit the thread through the eye after all.  Good thread should have fibers that are tightly bound together.  If it is frayed, it may break easily and will certainly be more difficult to thread your needle.
  • Always try to go for branded thread while undertaking a project. A branded thread will be uniformly dyed, does not bleed and will have low shrinkage rate.

The quality of the thread plays a very important role in the final finishing of your project. Hence select the thread carefully, paying special attention to each and every aspect mentioned above.

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22 Responses to How to Choose the Correct Sewing Thread

  1. Kathy says:

    I love all of these helpful hints! My Mom was a Home Economics teacher back in the 50’s all the way to the end of her teaching career in the 90’s and she taught me how to sew when I was quite young (the last time I sewed with her, I was probably 12 years old). She and my Dad moved into an Assisted Living facility because she has Parkinson’s and came to a point where she needs 24 hour care, and it came time to clean out their house to sell. My Mom saved EVERYTHING! I probably moved 400 boxes of fabric out of her basement– she had polyester fabric from the 60’s and 70’s, Pendleton wools, velour, cottons, T-shirt material, silk (you name it, she probably had it!) thousands of patterns, yarn and notions….anything you can think of, she had! Boxes and boxes of Buttons, zippers, rick rack, bias tap, belting, blanket binding, interfacing, sissies, needles, thimbles and …..thread! Spools and spools of thread in every color. One thing that someone told me along the way, is that thread expires–especially if it is on wooden spools. Can you collaborate this idea? (I did try to use a spool of thread that I could tell by the label was pretty old, and it frayed and sort of was falling apart when I started to thread the machine, so there must be some truth to what that lady told me).

    I now also have 4 sewing machines and I never thought I was going to sew again, but I have used 2 of her machines this past winter and have made a lot of cool things! I haven’t had to buy anything from our local Hobby Lobby of Joann’s for most projects thanks to Mom! And, she enjoys answering questions I may have about projects and seeing all of the things I have made! I love all of the information you post as it is all coming back to me, but I still have a lot to learn or re-learn! Thanks!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      You are very lucky to have someone to answer your questions and have inherited a pleathers of things to play with. The thread in spool do spire, but do not trough it I am going to share and easy tutorial about what to do with old thread and scraps of threads you catch while sewing. it all a an be reused in a special kind of way.

  2. Kristine Born says:

    If I can not find the exact color of thread is it better to pick thread lighter or darker?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      It is always better to pick a darker shade of what you are sewing if you can not find the perfect match.

  3. Linda Larsen says:

    You can’t go wrong with Gutermann thread.

  4. Jojo Sewist says:

    When I had access to a great brick and motar fabic store, selecting thread wasnt a problem. Now unless I want cotton quilting fabric and thread alas I must shop online and there begins my problems. Selecting correct fabric and the correct color and type thread. Many times I just say to heck with it and do not purchase either.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      I think if you can buy Gutermann in the primary colors and the ones you use the most you will be fine. 100 polyester or Cotton covered polyester you will be able to used it in any machine with most fabrics.

  5. Lynn Maynard says:

    There is so much more to thread, There is Rayon thread, Poly all purpose thread and Stretch thread. My rule of thumb is to follow instructions on patterns and test stitch on scrap of the fabric to see which thread will work.

  6. barkerroadlindaLinda says:

    And where do you find the info for the types of thread you mentioned? When I shop for thread I am at a loss really. Yes I am an old newbie. Thanks in advance!

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Your local shop will be able to help you. When choosing your fabric they will be able to suggest the best type of thread. For most project a good quality polyester thread will do the trick.

    • Robin says:

      On manufacturer’s websites they each have an explanation of the different threads they make and have charts what each thread is beast for.

  7. Pamela says:

    Thanks for this info. I don’t know much about sewing but want to learn. Your tips are always so helpful.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi pamela, you are in the right place check out our Youtube channel we have a plethora of info and easy projects there. But, if you get stuck send me an email or join our chat group we have very skilled ladies there ready to help in anyway they can.

  8. Kristine Born says:

    When making items that will go into the microwave, is it really necessary to use cotton thread? I have heard that polyester thread may start on fire.

    • Bev Bidinoff says:

      Yes, you definitely need to use cotton thread. Also use batting designed for microwaves with no scrim.

  9. Maria Kleczewska says:

    What’s the best thread for a serger?

  10. Marsha W says:

    I never knew what all those different threads were for, except for the Polyester thread for embroidery, I cheat and use a machine for that! LOL Thank you for clarifying these for me 🙂

  11. Susan I Blair says:

    I never realized there were so many kinds of thread. Thanks for sharing this. I agree with Sian. I never use my dressmaking scissors for anything other than fabric. When my children were young, they even knew never to touch the mom’s special scissors. 🙂

  12. Sian R says:

    I use polyester thread almost exclusively. It’s a good all-rounder, IMO.
    As for threading machine needles – I’ve found that if you cut the end of the thread with dressmaking scissors* immediately before inserting through the machine needle it slides in easily.
    *I never, ever use my dressmaking scissors for anything but cloth, or thread .Not even for cutting out/cutting onto paper patterns. That way hey stay sharp and cut clean.

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