FD Guide to Thread

Thread, you can’t sew without it! Today is National Thread the Needle Day, so we figured what better way to celebrate than by sharing all of our thread knowledge with you! With so many choices available, it can be overwhelming to select your thread. Don’t worry though­-- For the most part it will all work, just some threads will work a little better than others.  Take a deep breath and let us teach you how to take the stress out of thread shopping. 

Thread Weight: The Bigger the Number the Skinnier the Thread!

The first thing you will have to figure out is thread weight. What number do I chose? What does it all mean? There are multiple ways thread is measured and categorized. Tex, Denier, and most commonly Weight. Aurifil, Gutermann, and Coats and Clark mark their thread by weight. The key to understanding thread weight is to remember that the larger the number the thinner the thread. Weight is calculated by how many kilometers of thread it takes to weigh 1 kilogram. That means 80 wt. thread (80km of thread=1kg) is very fine while 40 wt. (40km of thread=1kg) is much thicker. 

A 50 wt. thread is your all around go to thread for anything from piecing to apparel, to a quick project.   A 40-30 wt. thread is great if you want to see your stitch work on your quilt top. Top stitching and upholstery threads are 15 wt. thread. 

Finer thread is great for paper piecing, EPP, hand applique work or anywhere you want to reduce bulk or hide your stitches.  So quilters use a bobbin weigh thread, often a 80-70wt., to reduce bulk in their quilting.  In addition, more thread fits on a bobbin and you don’t have to stop to refill as often.

**Pro Tip: This weight classification also works for embroidery thread, 12 wt. perle cotton is thinner that a 3 or 5.** 

Cotton vs Polyester…oh and there is nylon too. 

Traditional quilters will tell you that you must use 100% cotton thread to quilt with; it’s not true.  Today’s polyester threads and cotton covered Poly threads are far superior to the poly threads of our grandmother used. Whether you use poly or cotton is really up to personal preference, the most important factor is quality. Inferior threads create lint, fuzz, and aren’t always durable.  Why spend all your time and money on quality fabric and creating a one of a kind masterpiece just to hold it all together with inferior thread? Good quality thread produces less lint and is visibly smoother than the lower grades of thread. Every quilter you talk to has a favorite, play around until you find yours.

Beware of Hand Quilting Thread vs Machine Quilting Thread.  Hand Quilting thread has a finish preventing knots, tangles, and to help it slip through the fabric easier.  This finish, however, will not go through your machine. 

Some quilters use a nylon monofilament thread to quilt (like fishing line) also referred to as invisible thread. It is very fine and comes in clear for light colors and smoke for darker fabric.  Its perfect if you want the texture of quilting but don’t want to see the stitch in color. 

Nylon thread is used when you need something extra strong, like in upholstery, outdoor use, leather work, and bag making.  This type of nylon thread is in the 30-10 wt. classification. 

….and rayon, and silk, and metallic.

Thread isn’t just for holding things together.  Plenty of sewists use it for decoration. Rayon machine embroidery thread has sheen.  Silk thread is perfect for sewing silk garments; it doesn’t leave holes in the material.  Often a bobbin weight thread can be used to reduce the amount of specialty thread needed and help stabilize the top thread; making sewing easier.  Using the correct machine needles is especially important with these specially threads. 

Don’t sew with Serger thread!

Serger thread comes in larger spool and is 100% polyester.  Don’t be fooled by their price or size and use it the sew with…. you won’t be happy with the results.  Serger thread is meant to be used 3 or 4 strands at a time, so each cone is weaker and thinner than regular (50 wt) thread.  This reduces bulk in the serged seams. The larger cones are more economical and need replacing less often.  Remember the better the quality the less lint you will have to clean out of your machine. 

Don’t forget to use the correct needle for your thread and project and test the tension on your machine before you start. 

To help you get started, here are a few of our all time favorites:

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