There are various types of sewing threads available to use for both machine and hand stitching. When sewing, it’s important to choose the right type of sewing thread just like you choose the right type of fabric for your projects to ensure durability and a professional finish.
There’s nothing worse than spending hours sewing something only for the stitching to pop or break after a few wears…am I right?
In this guide on types of sewing threads, we will explore the various types of threads and their uses. From the fibres, like cotton or polyester, to the different thicknesses and strengths.
Just like understanding different types of fabrics, this will help you make better decisions when selecting the appropriate thread for your project. Choosing the right thread will make your sewing project durable and fit for purpose.
Let’s explore the different types of sewing threads together, so you can choose the best one for your project and create something amazing that will last.
Sewing Thread Types
Sewing threads can be split into a few categories, natural and synthetic fibres or everyday use and specialty threads. The most used sewing thread is a general-purpose polyester because it’s suitable to use with many fabrics, cheap and easy to sew with.
- All-purpose polyester thread
- Cotton thread made from natural fibres
- Linen thread made from natural fibres
- Nylon thread for heavy-duty projects like upholstery
- Silk thread for delicate fabrics like silk
- Metallic thread for decorative purposes
- Elastic thread for sewing shirring
- Topstitching for visible stitching like on a jacket
- Embroidery or Quilting thread for decorative stitches
Sewing Thread Buying Guide
When I was younger my sewing machine started to skip stitches and the thread would break a lot. This was a result of using cheap thread that wasn’t made well. The thread filaments weren’t smooth and would get stuck in the sewing machine needle causing breaking and skipping of stitches.
This is why I always recommend purchasing a quality thread from a reputable brand like Gütterman or Coats & Clarks.
These brands are sold all around the world and can be found in any good haberdashery store or online. Most brands sell spools of 100m(110yds), 500m(547yds) and 1000m(1094yds).
Thread can be purchased a few ways, reels, cones or vicones.
If you are sewing at home on your sewing machine, I would suggest purchasing reels because they are small and can sit on your sewing machine reel holders.
Cones and vicones are great for sergers or other machines like cover stitchers because they hold larger amounts of thread.
Sewing Thread Weight
Threads come in various weights and lengths, the higher numbers for weight are finer, lighter threads. A universal polyester thread would be a 100wt and a topstitching thread would be a 30wt.
To choose the right weight for your project check the fabric weight. If it’s a lightweight silk, go with a silk thread that is 100wt. If you are sewing a woven cotton dress, you could go with a 100wt polyester or cotton thread.
How to Choose the Right Thread Colour
When choosing the right colour thread for your fabric always go with a perfect match or a slightly darker shade. Unless it’s part of your design to use a different colour of course!
For topstitching it’s common to choose a contrasting colour or something that stands out from the fabric. Think of denim jeans! However, again this is subject to design choice.
Types of Sewing Threads
You can find lots of different types of thread in craft stores or online that are suitable for various sewing projects. From natural to synthetic fibres, and different weights, for hand stitching or machine sewing. Below is a list of the main thread types, along with their possible uses.
1. Polyester Thread (All-Purpose Thread)
The most widely used thread for sewing is all-purpose or polyester thread because it can work with many different types of fabrics, it’s very strong and it’s cheap. Polyester threads from reputable brands like Gütterman are made from high-quality polyester.
You can find all-purpose thread in hundreds of different colours making it easy to match your fabric. Polyester has exceptional colour retention making it long-lasting for wear and tear over time. It is suitable for both sewing machine use and hand stitching.
Look for a polyester thread that is 40-50wt for multiple uses. This is the standard universal weight for everyday sewing and projects.
2. Cotton Thread
Cotton thread is made from natural cotton fibres and comes in a few different weights, 12wt, 50wt and 80wt. Cotton thread comes in many colours just like all-purpose and can be found in most good craft stores or online.
80wt is a very thin thread that is used for hand appliques, machine appliques or embroidery and paper piecing.
12wt is the thickest cotton thread weight that can be used on a sewing machine as it can still safely fit through the eye of the needle. 12wt cotton thread can be used for sewing hand applique, buttonholes, blanket stitches, hand quilting and embroidery. If you want to machine stitch your quilts, then 12wt will help give a ‘hand stitched’ look.
50wtis the most popular cotton thread with hundreds of colours to choose from. This cotton thread is strong and thin, but it is only best suited for cotton fabrics. 50wt cotton thread is best used for clothing, paper piecing, lace making, machine applique and embroidery or quilting.
Mercerised cotton thread is a versatile option that has long, strong lustrous threads that sew beautifully creating smooth and even seams. This cotton takes on dyes better than standard cotton thread making it more colour-lasting and durable. Many brands like Gütterman ensure their cotton threads are mercerised for high-quality – read the label to find out if your thread choice is mercerised or not.
3. Basting Thread
Basting thread is a form of cotton thread that is excellent to use for hand sewing to tack fabric in place. You may use this when sewing a dart to hand baste it in place before machine sewing it.
4. Linen Thread
Linen thread is made from natural linen fibres. It is exceptionally strong and is best used with heavy-weight fabrics. Linen thread can be used to sew very heavy-duty items like bags, straps, or upholstery. It is best sewn by hand because it is quite stiff.
5. Invisible Thread (Monofilament thread)
Invisible thread is a form of nylon thread that is clear like a fishing line. It is very thin and best used for hems or seams that require an invisible stitch. The clear thread is less obvious as it easily blends into the fabric’s colour. It can be machine or hand stitched.
6. Embroidery Thread
Embroidery threads are used for hand-stitching projects like cross-stitching or fabric embroidery. They come in strands of colours that can be broken apart into the thickness required for sewing. There is a huge array of colours to choose from!
7. Quilting Thread
Quilting thread is a form of mercerised cotton thread made for hand-stitching quilts. The thread has a light wax coating that makes it easier to hand stitch through layers of fabric without causing wrinkles.
8. Elastic Thread
Elastic thread is just that, an elasticised thread that is used in the bottom of a sewing machine. It is usually hand-wound onto a bobbin and used with an all-purpose thread on the top to sew shirring, smocking or ruffles.
You can find this shirring technique used on my Camille top sewing pattern.
9. Silk Thread
Silk thread is a natural thread made from 100% silk that has a wonderful, lush sheen. Silk thread can be used for closing seams or decorative stitches. It is very strong and comes in hundreds of colour options.
10. Topstitching Thread
Topstitching thread is a much thicker thread option that is visible on the outside of garments as a decorative seam. It is commonly seen on pockets or bags. Topstitching threads usually have a weight of 30 and consist of 3 strands of thread tightly wound together. It does require a topstitching needle to sew as the thread is a lot thicker than universal threads. Use an all-purpose thread in the bobbin of the machine.
11. Nylon Thread
Nylon thread is an extremely strong thread that is used to sew heavy-duty items like upholstery, canvas, or leather. It has incredible strength and durability which is important for anything heavy-duty. It comes in many different weights from thin like invisible thread to thick.
12. Denim Thread
Used for medium to heavy-weight denim, denim thread is used to sew jeans, denim jackets or other items and gives a professional finish. It is a thick, strong, and robust thread that is used to topstitch denim pockets, felted seams, zippers, belt loops or detailing. Most brands have a good selection of denim colours to choose from.
13. Jeans Thread
Jeans thread is a two-tone polyester/cotton blend thread that adapts to all denim fabrics. This is used for repairing or darning denim by hand or on a sewing machine. The multi-colour thread helps it blend into the denim fabric nicely.
14. Metallic Thread
Metallic thread is used for decorative stitches as its shiny and glittery look gives a glistening effect. It can be used for both machine and hand-stitching. When using it with a sewing machine place it into the top of the machine and use a universal thread in the bottom. Check the manufacturer’s instructions as a special needle may be required to stop breaking.
15. Wool Thread
Wool and polyester are wound into a strong thread to create a wool thread. It is very strong and lustrous. The wool thread is used for blanket stitching around wool or canvas items like blankets. It is also used for hand embroidery projects. It can be split apart into three thinner threads or kept as one thicker thread.
16. Variegated Threads
Multicoloured variegated threads feature blends of three or more different colours on one reel or spool of thread, resulting in a beautiful and unique range of colours. They are ideal for sewing embroidery or motifs and can be found in numerous colourways with various dyes throughout.
17. Serger Machine Thread
Overlocker or serger machines require 3-4 spools of thread. Many people just use small reels of universal thread, but you can buy serger threads that come on larger cones that hold thousands of metres of thread. Using a universal polyester thread on your overlocker will work fine for most fabric types.
18. Upholstery Thread (Extra strong thread)
When working with heavy upholstery fabrics such as canvas or leather, it is essential to use a super-strong thread to ensure durability. A heavy-duty thread weight will be around 3wt. These items often experience significant pressure and wear and tear, so a strong, tear-resistant thread is necessary to maintain their quality. This thread can also be used for denim projects.
Types of Sewing Threads Conclusion
Choosing the right sewing thread is important for strong and durable stitches and the longevity of your projects. Understanding the different thread types and their uses allows you to make informed decisions for better sewing outcomes. From all-purpose polyester and cotton to specialty threads like a metallic or invisible thread, there is a wide variety to choose from.
Remember to consider the thread weight and match it to the fabric weight for balanced stitches. By selecting the appropriate thread, you can achieve professional-looking results.