Sewing is a relaxing and rewarding hobby, but a beginner can be easily overwhelmed when looking at the wide variety of types of thread for sewing that's available in stores. Choosing the right thread for your project is important, and this guide will show you exactly what you need.
First, I’ll discuss some things you may not know about the different types of thread for sewing before explaining all of the different types you can buy.
The weight of the thread is important to think about before you begin your project. Essentially, finer weights are thinner and have higher numbers, while heavier weights are thicker and will have lower numbers.
The thickest thread you can buy, thread in this range will really stand out on your material. The lower weights are for hand-stitching, as a 3wt won’t fit in your sewing machine. Use this thread for eye-catching embroidery like sashiko, hemming thick material like jean, or even crochet or knitting!
This specific thread is perfect for hand quilting and hand stitching, although it’s more difficult to find. You’ll most likely see it for sale at quilt shows, so when you do find it, be sure to stock up.
The most common range you’ll see in stores, medium weights are good for most projects, including sewing machine work. Lower weights will cover more surface area more quickly, but you’ll have to switch your spool less often with a higher weight.
The best weight for embroidery, hands down.
Strong and made from polyester, this fine thread is best for intricate work like microquilting or applique. Fine thread makes for neater seams and more precise lines on projects.
Knowing the construction of your thread is essential. Here’s some common terms you might run across.
This kind of thread is made using both natural and synthetic fibers, most likely cotton or polyester. The fiber goes through a machine, which spins and twists them to make single yarns.
Planning to sew a blanket or a jacket? Use this construction of thread. It’s designed to withstand heavy duty sewing. The fibers are strengthened using resin. The material is applied to coat the outside of the fiber.
Semi-transparent thread is best for blind, “invisible” stitching and making visible stitches as subtle as possible. If you plan to get this construction, be sure to get the one made using polyester. Nylon is more common, but polyester is easier to work with and produces a better product.
If you want something similar to wool, this is the construction to go for. Nylon or polyester is made coarse using machines. The fiber will stretch and feel fuzzy when you touch it.
Similar to spun thread but much stronger, this thread is a good choice for durability when you are creating seams or hemming.
All thread goes through some common processing like twisting or lubricating. Knowing how and why thread is processed differently can be very helpful when choosing what to buy. I won't talk about the more common process, but here are some you may not have heard of before.
The thread is dipped in a caustic chemical solution, causing the fiber of the thread to swell.
The process allows the colorful dye to better penetrate the layers of the fiber. This makes the color last longer and appear more vibrant. It also makes the thread stronger and stretchier.
Planning to make something you want to look silky and smooth? Find thread that has been gassed. Thread is passed through a flame, burning away fuzz and lint. Thread that has been gassed will look smoother, and the colors will be brighter.
If you are working on a hand stitching or hand quilting project, then you want to look for this type of thread in your store. Glazing is simply what it sounds like. Thread is coated with wax, resin, or starch and polished, giving it a wonderful shine and added strength.
Now that you know about thread weight and all of the ways it can be constructed and processed, let’s talk a little bit about the different types of thread on the market.
Want something high-end that feels lovely on your skin? Silk thread is often known as premium thread. Many use it for embroidery, but you should feel free to experiment with it in other projects, as well!
If you’re working on something made from silk fabric, make sure you match it with silk thread. Wool also receives silk thread very well, and the results are stunning.
There are a few different types of silk thread available at the store.
Trim your nails if you’re planning to work with this thread! Although this thread is strong at holding together your project, it is very delicate, and the fiber is easy to damage.
Great for embroidery work, the thread is made by twisting several strands into one. You can use the thread as is, or you may choose to untwist the thread to form several smaller strands.
Strand silk will add a little sparkle to your project. Like other silk thread types, this is great for embroidery.
Silk ribbon is art all by itself! Just imagine how much more beautiful your project will look if you incorporate silk ribbon. Anything that you are planning to use for decoration can be made using these ribbons - even yourself! A silk ribbon is a classic hair accessory for a reason.
This thread is best if you’re going to do some stitching on a blanket or if you’re planning to do some embroidery work. This is a heavy-duty thread, so don’t expect a smooth finish once you’re done with your work. Instead, your project will be strong and durable.
There are three kinds of wool thread.
This wool is quite thick and made by joining three separate strands together. If your project requires a thin strand, you can take apart the thick strand as you did with your twisted silk.
Tapestry wool is medium thickness. Unlike Persian wool, you can’t take apart the strand to make it thinner, so keep this in mind.
Planning on working on a Crewel embroidery? You will need to use Crewel thread to make the project. This is the finest wool thread that you can find on the market. It can be twisted together to add thickness.
Heavy Duty Thread
As its name suggests, you want to use this for stitches on heavy fabrics to give the stitches added strength.
The thread is available in 40wt, and the materials used to make the thread can range from polyester to cotton-wrapped.
If you want your stitches to stay flush to your project, this is the best kind of thread to use. Using other thread might make the stitch stand out on the surface of the fabric.
If you’re using light to medium weight fabrics, choose nylon thread. It’s stretchy, durable, and designed to hold up when working quickly on a machine.
This thread, as the name implies, is specifically designed for you to use in your sewing machine. You’ll run across two subtypes when you’re buying thread, and you need both.
This is a very good, general thread, affordable and widely used. It only comes in white, but don’t worry! You can take on many projects using this thread, as you do not need to change it out of your machine until it runs out, even if you’re changing the color of your other thread.
Variegated thread provides the color. When you embroider with your machine, you use both a bobbin thread and a colorful thread.
This thread is available in three colors: gold, silver, and copper. Goldwork embroidery is done best using this thread. Metallic thread is available in two variations, Purl and Japanese.
Cotton thread is probably the most used thread in both industry and for home crafting. It can be found almost everywhere! There are several kinds of cotton thread you should become familiar with.
If your project uses light or medium fabric, this is the right thread to choose. It’s also the thread of choice for most non-embroidery projects.
This is a mix of six strands of cotton thread, woven together. You probably know it better by the name embroidery floss!
CotonPerlè and Cotton á broader
These two thread types are both made in France, and they will produce beautiful, glossy embroidery. Unlike stranded cotton, you do not want to separate these strands to create thinner thread.
This is a 100% cotton thread, preferred by many. The thread is very easy to use and maneuver.
Want to make something with a vintage look? This is the thread for you. If you are using a fabric with a small count, then you will be able to easily use this thread. The matte sheen and the soft surface makes it ideal.
This is a very firm and smooth thread, great for stitching. Tatting requires a very specific kind of thread which can hold up to handling while still being kind to your fingers.
This is the strongest and the most reliable thread that you can find in any store. The thread is used for both hand and machine sewing, and it frequently comes in a 50wt, which is an all-purpose weight.
The thread is glossy thanks to its silicone or wax treatment, so it will make your projects look amazing! There are two kinds of polyester thread available to the general public.
Cheap and easy to obtain, this thread will be a workhorse for most projects. The only thing it is not ideal for is embroidery.
Hopefully, you remember this one! Also known as monofilament thread, invisible thread is great for blind stitching.
Types of Thread for Sewing Guide - Go Forth and Sew!
I hope you’ve found this crash course in thread helpful. Sewing is one of the more difficult styles of crafting to get into, but once you pick up the basic skills, the possibilities are nearly endless!
There are so many more wonderful articles on my blog to help you create the projects of your dreams. Crafting can be lots of fun if you have the right instructions and materials. Please leave a comment if you found this guide helpful!