Machine Thread Basics

Machine Thread Basics - Kreations by Julz

ah the great big world of sewing machine thread, have you ever stood there in the fabric or craft store just staring at the oodles and oodles of brightly colored threads, so many brands, so many different types, which one should you buy? aren’t all threads the same just different colors?

i thought i’d tackle the subject of machine thread basics, and hopefully the next time you go shopping for thread you’ll have a bit better understanding of which type of thread you’ll need for your next project.

1. first, what type of sewing will you be undertaking?

will you be constructing garments, quilting, machine embroidery, crafts, mending..? each have different requirements.

2. main types of machine thread.

  • cotton
  • polyester
  • nylon
  • silk
  • wool
  • metallics
  • specialty

3. quality and weight of thread matters too.


Most cotton threads are mercerized, a coating that lets the dye take more easily and results in a lustrous appearance.

  • all purpose cotton thread – is suitable for sewing a wide range of projects using lightweight to medium cotton, linen and rayon fabrics and UN-suitable for stretch knit fabric, because it has no ‘give’ and can easily break.
  • 100% cotton quilting thread – an obvious choice for your quilting projects. a 50 weight [50wt] is the standard for piecing, quilting, blinding, etc.. my quilting thread of choice is Aurifil 50wt, there are many great products out there, for me, i’ve tried it, loved it and it’s readily available in my area, which is extremely important to me. i prefer to give my local businesses my business, if possible.


these are strong threads that have excellent give for most of your sewing projects. polyester thread is suitable for fabrics with stretch in them and is especially good for woven synthetics, knits, stretch fabrics and lightweight to medium craft and accessory projects. my polyester thread of choice is Gutermann Sew-all thread, suitable for machine and hand stitching. another tried and true quality thread for me, and once again readily available in every color under the rainbow in my area.

unlike nylon thread, polyester thread has superior resistance to sunlight (UV), mildew, and abrasion, this makes polyester thread the great choice for sewing, binding or wrapping anything that is used outdoors or in moist areas.

heavy duty.

heavy duty thread is suited for repairing and sewing denim and many heavy duty fabrics. it’s a great choice for home decor, upholstery, coats, crafts and hand sewing buttons. i use Gutermann for my heavy duty needs.


nylon is a fine, strong thread that is suitable for using on lightweight to medium weight synthetic fabrics.


silk is a fine, strong thread is ideal for sewing on silk and wool, silk threads do not leave holes and is very flexible, an excellent choice for stylish, elegant, decorative finished seams.


wool thread is best suitable for heavy fabrics such as wool and canvas.


metallic thread is suitable for machine or hand embroidery, decorative and ornamental sewing.


  • overlock – is a polyester thread ideal for sergers since it resists breakage and provides a consistent tension.
  • invisible – a nylon thread often used for ‘stitch in the ditch’ work, quilting and appliqué. has a smooth finish with little to no thread breakage.
  • elastic – for shirring/smocking, gathering and crimping on the machine only.

there are several more weights, and specialty types of thread i could go on and on. the threads i’ve talked about are the most common, ‘the basics’ of sewing machine thread.

4. thread color.

once you’ve decided which type and strength of thread you’ll need for your project, it’s time to pick a color. try to match your fabric or project as close as possible, if you can’t find an exact match, go with a shade or two darker, it will blend easier, a lighter color will stand out more.

it’s important when purchasing machine embroidery thread to purchase all you need at once, this will ensure that batch color quality is consistent throughout your project.


just like anything, high quality products will give you high quality results, ease of use and durability. cheap thread is cheap thread it will only cause frustration during the sewing process with breakage, lint, uneven stitches, not to mention it will not withstand use in the long run.

i rarely purchase my thread at full price, i use coupons, watch for sales, and when my favorite threads go on sale, i buy several spools.

helpful hint.

Thread Color Numbers

Gutermann’s thread color number is to the left of the asterisk ” Col. 10 *”, and Aurifil’s thread color number is in bold print “2692″.

i created a note within my evernote app [you can use any notes app on your smart phone] to keep track of my thread type and color number’s, this way i always know which thread i have in stock and which thread i need to purchase.

i hope i’ve helped to make your next trip to buy machine thread a little easier.

what type of thread do you love?

3 thoughts on “Machine Thread Basics

  1. Pingback: [seven] Tips to Sew Like a Pro | Kreations by Julz | A Blog.. A Shop.. A Handmade Journey..

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