Special Sewing Thread, Need it or Not?

by Kelsi Watts: For most home sewing projects a general purpose "sew-all" polyester thread works well and special sewing machine thread is not needed. There are, however, several types of special sewing threads to consider in specific situations.

When to use special quilting thread

Quilting thread is most often made of cotton and coated with a finish to give it strength and sheen. Quilting thread is best used when hand sewing a quilt or attaching beads to a garment.

Silk thread is popular because of its smooth texture and glossy appearance. While silk thread can be used for machine sewing delicate fabrics like gauze or chiffon it is also be

  • Rayon thread
  • Rayon thread is similar to silk thread but slightly stronger. Rayon thread is suitable for home sewing machine use, however, it's not the best choice for constructing threads. I like to use it for decorative stitching over pockets and along shirt cuffs.

    As the name suggests linen thread is made of 100% linen, a strong, coarse and tough material. Linen thread works best with heavy materials that are likely to be subjected to a good amount of wear and tear.

    Extra strong thread is a heavier, stronger version of general purpose thread. I use it for peace of mind when I expect a garment to be worn and washed often.

    When sewing or repairing clothes made of denim, such as jeans, denim thread is the natural best choice.

    I've only used tacking thread a few times in 30 years of sewing garments, each time to test fit my project. Tacking thread is best used in temporary applications, it is not meant to be permanent and is easily removable.

    Invisible thread is the best choice when you do not want the thread to be visible. It comes in mono and multi-filament and my favorite use for it is in quilting different colored pieces together. Invisible thread is a solution when you can't find the perfect color of thread for your project.

    While it's good to know about all the different thread options you will find that general purpose thread is perfectly fine in over 90% of your projects. Special sewing thread is rarely needed.

    Special sewing thread is rarely needed

    The best thread type for your sewing machine

    Polyester thread is best to use for sewing synthetic fabric on your sewing machine. This is because Polyester can stretch a small amount making it more forgiving than cotton. Also, Polyester thread is less likely to shrink when compared with cotton thread.

    For natural fabric, cotton thread with a Polyester core works extremely well.

    Strong thread is called heavy duty thread

    Outside of industrial applications the strongest thread available for use in home sewing projects is called heavy duty thread. Modern heavy duty thread most often has a core made of a strong material wrapped in a more traditional thread material. Heavy duty thread is ideal for use with embroidery sewing projects.

    The best all-purpose sewing thread

    Before the invention of polyester thread it was common for natural sewing thread to break frequently and inconveniently. Today, most sewing machine thread has a polyester core that prevents thread breakage by making it slightly stretchy.

    As a result the best all purpose thread has a polyester core or is entirely made of polyester.

    How to identify Polyester thread

    Identifying polyester thread is simple – Reading the label will typically tell you of your thread contains nylon, cotton or polyester. However, if there is no label, carefully burning the thread end in a well ventilated area works for identification purposes because Polyester thread melts, it doesn’t burn.

    Sewing thread size, fabric and needle chart

    This sewing thread size chart quickly suggests the best thread size to use with different fabric weights. It also suggests the best needle size to use with the thread.

    Thread Weight(Size) Fabric Type Needle Size
    80-50 wt. Light Fabric 60/8, 65/9, 70/10, 75/11
    50-40 wt. Medium Fabric 75/11, 80/12, 90/14
    40-20 wt. Heavy Fabric 100/16, 110/18, 120/19

    Thread matching, learn how it’s done

    Thread matching is the process of choosing the right thread to use with your sewing fabric. For color matching choose a thread that is one shade darker than the fabric to be sewn. For best results match thread fiber type with fabric fiber type.

    Thread weight selection has been made simple, match the rating on it’s label with that of the fabric’s rating.

    The difference between threading and sewing

    Thread is a long, thin and flexible material used in sewing. The act of sewing attaches two or more materials together tightly with multiple individual passes of a threaded needle.

    Threading is the process of passing thread through material(s) in preparation for later securing the materials together tightly, each individual threading pass is not tightened until later.

    Cotton vs Polyester sewing thread

    Cotton thread is stronger and softer than Polyester thread making it the better sewing option for most applications. That being said, cotton thread doesn’t stretch as much as Polyester thread so it is more prone to breaking. This is something you need to consider when choosing your sewing thread.

    Amount of thread needed to make a quilt (chart)

    The quilting fabric chart below represents the average amount of thread needed to make a good quality quilt.

    Quilt Size Light Quilting Heavy Quilting
    Twin Size 400 yds. 1,200 yds.
    Queen Size 600 yds. 1,600 yds.
    King Size 750 yds. 2,000 yds.

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