Confused about Sewing Thread?
Here’s my sewing thread rule: use cotton wrapped polyester for just about any garment sewing project. When I first started sewing (“I remember when…..”) it truly was easier – sewing thread came on a wooden spool – either a big spool or a small spool. You chose a color and that’s it.
Now, I walk into the fabric store and it seems like the choices fill up a whole wall. Manufacturers are always trying to invent new threads for both industry and the home sewer. Okay, they’re also trying to sell more, and have come up with some pretty interesting specialty threads - like thread that shrinks to pucker your fabric. But do you need a specialty thread? Not for everyday sewing. A general purpose, good quality thread by Guttermann or Coats and Clark is easy to find and can be used on woven or knit fabric.
You could consider using a specialty thread if you are trying out a different fabric or technique. Use a heavy thread if you are making a pair of jeans; your sewing will be easier and the jeans will be stronger. If you use a lightweight thread for a christening gown, the stitches will highlight the heirloom quality of the fabric.
Not all sewing thread should match
You can play with your color choices. If you want your stitches to become nearly invisible, buy thread a little darker than the main color in the fabric. But try using contrasting thread when topstitching a garment, or as a design element. Use variegated sewing thread on prints to outline a design in the fabric - the stitches will add another dimension to the print.
If buying thread seems mundane, then ask Santa or the birthday bunny to put some (name brand, of course) in your gift basket.
Buy quality thread
There’s a great amount of information and opinion in the sewing world about quality of thread. Microscopic pictures of thread brands and types show lots of lint and bumps on the “poor” quality thread. But the better brands (Gutermann, Coats and Clark, Sulky) have microscopic lint too, just less.
Picture this: when the thread is traveling through your machine, it is touching and getting pulled through every tension disk, lever and needle channel and eye – up to 60 times before it becomes a completed stitch in your fabric. When you are hand sewing, think of how many times one section of the thread gets pulled through the fabric before it makes a stitch.
So here’s a suggestion: don’t buy the big 5 for a $5 spools – they aren’t worth the trouble. Don’t buy spools of serger thread for your sewing machine to save money (it’s thinner than normal). Skimping on quality is like putting watered down gas in your car engine. It will cause you trouble – like breaking
fraying, and machine damage. And the cost of a good brand is worth the effort you put into making your project.
Weight doesn't always get marked
Here’s another confusing choice – thread weight. For general thread, the spools don't always say what the weight is. If it says general purpose, that's what you need for general sewing. If the thread weight is listed, than thin thread is a larger number (60, 70, 80 weight)and heavier threads are a smaller number (40, 30 weight).
If there’s a second number next to the weight (such as 50/3) it is referring to the number of strands to make the thread strong. Same goes for knitting and weaving yarn too (first number is the weight, second number is the # of strands or plies).
Thread compatability with needles is super important. If your
sewing thread breaks, consider whether you put in the right size needle.
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