Sew, What's New?

Curating sewing and quilting talent, techniques, and tutorials, since 1997.

Are You Choosing the Right Sewing Thread?

By Barbie Thomas Sewing threads come in various sizes represented in numbers or alphabets. The higher the number, the finer is the thread. Where letters indicate the size, A is finer while D is heavier. Mercerized threads are more smooth due to special finishes given to them. General purpose threads are used on light and medium fabrics while the heavy duty threads are used where the stitches require extra strength like in upholstery projects. Cotton, silk, nylon, polyester and cotton wrapped polyester with approximate size 50 are the general purpose threads. The threads above size 50 are finer, suitable for sheer fabrics. The coarse cotton, polyester, and cotton-wrapped polyester threads having approximate size 40 are considered heavy duty threads appropriate for sewing heavy vinyl, coating or upholstery fabrics.
Right Sized Thread for Different Fabrics * For light weight fabrics such as batiste, chiffon, crepe, etc. a mercerized size 60 thread is good. It can be 100% polyester or cotton wrapped polyester. * For medium weight fabrics like corduroy, flannel, gabardine, gingham, linen, muslin, wool crepe, etc. a mercerized size 50 thread is good. It can be 100% polyester or cotton wrapped polyester. * For medium heavy weight fabrics like bonded wovens, canvas, coating, denim, duck, sailcloth, etc. a mercerized size 40 will do. It can be 100% polyester or cotton wrapped polyester "heavy duty" labeled thread. * For knits such as bonded knits, double knit, jersey, tricot, etc. somewhat fine polyester, nylon or cotton wrapped polyester threads are good.

Tips for Choosing the Right Sewing Thread * Consider the strength of the thread and the purpose it's going to serve. * All-purpose polyester thread works best for most projects done with a sewing machine. * Look for compatibility with the fabric's structure and try to select the one similar in fiber content of the fabric for sewing project. * Match the color of thread with the most dominant color in the fabric. If can't find it, select the one that is one or two shades darker. Never go for lighter shades, they tend to be more visible. * Use cotton thread for fabrics having little or no stretch as the stitches may break if used on a stretchy knit fabric. * Use polyester thread for synthetic or stretchy fabrics. * Use fine cotton or silk thread for very sheer or delicately woven fabrics like lingerie or sheer garments. * When using metallic thread for machine sewing, ensure that the thread is labeled suitable for machine sewing. * For quilting projects or similarly layered projects, use quilting thread which is all-cotton and has a finish that lets the thread to slip more easily through the fabric and batting layers. Now thread your sewing machine and create amazing projects!

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Comment by POPCULTUREPRINCESS on May 22, 2009 at 10:09am
Makes me think I'm not using the right needle and thread! My needle is hitting the foot (actually chipping away at the metal!) So I got a different foot, thought that would help. Well it's making a funny noise when I run it, sounds like it's hitting something, but when I hand run it I can't see anything... but here is the WEIRD part. The thread keeps coming un-threaded while sewing. but what makes this weird is that the thread is still attached to the fabric. It's like it just magicly undoes itself without breaking. It just boggles my mind! I think I am using WAY to huge of a needle and possibly wrong thread!
Comment by Therese on May 15, 2009 at 8:16pm
The last time I got my machine serviced, the service man explained to me how I was really damaging my machine by using the cheap, dollar threads that I was using.. He also said that Gudermann (which i also was using) was not right for my machine, which is a vintage Brother that my grandma gave me. He advised that I use either Mettler or Rasant, (which is a bit more expensive) so I did. I noticed an amazing difference in the way my machine ran, even the sound.. It was just so much smoother. Katriina, Have you tried shopping online for your type of thread? this website has a great colour chart for matching fabric, and postage seems to be pretty reasonable. Hope this helps girls!
Comment by Katriina Alanko on May 15, 2009 at 1:48pm
I'd like to see a comparison in brands. I live in a small community and quality thread is difficult to find. My sewing maching - Janome 4900QC - is not fond of dark threads produced by Gudermann and won't work at all with Coat's threads. My thread of choice is Mettler but here in Northern Ontario it's almost impossible to find. Any suggestions?
Comment by Sandina Curtin on May 15, 2009 at 1:47pm
As a "newbie" to learn how to match thread with most dominant color or go darker was.......priceless!
Comment by Laurie Hauch on May 15, 2009 at 1:26pm
I have a question. where on the thread spools is the weight of the thread? I never know what to look for on the spool. Please help. Thank you.
Laurie Hauch (
Comment by Londa Rohlfing on May 15, 2009 at 1:16pm
I"m always interested in threads, needles, etc. Taught a class called "Care & Feeding of Your Sewing Machine" that was FREE to new machine owners back when I had my retail store. I'll never forget my amazement when I was told - then verified for myself and showed first thing in class - how if you placed a black magic marker mark on white thread up before the take up lever - and then watch that spot - that it goes up and down and up and down - even INTO the FABRIC AND BACK out several times before ever being finally stitched into the fabric! Gave me a new appreciation for proper compatibility of needle eye size and thread diameter!
One question re the above info though - I didn't know poly can be mercerized? I thought only cotton could be mercerized. See first Star under 'Right sized thread for fabric' above. And, for what it's worth, cotton in varying weights as by Mettler is my thread of choice, unless I need stretch factor - then I use a 100% poly thread.
Londa Rohlfing

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