Blog, Sewing Machine Hardware

What is the best thread for sewing?

By Jessica Strohlson

If you’re somebody that’s interested in the art of sewing, it’s essential to know that thread is not universally applicable for every sewing project. Instead, different types of thread are necessary for varying purposes. 

Types of Thread

1. Cotton Thread

The cotton thread you’ll generally find on reels in stores is the type that is most commonly used for basic sewing. Most of these threads are coated so they can be dyed more quickly and efficiently or mercerized. They can also be used in projects with more sheer or delicate fabrics, like lingerie.

The downside of this thread is that it can quickly snap if it’s used on more fluid or stretchy fabrics. Therefore, it’s best to avoid these materials.

All-purpose Cotton Thread

This thread consists of medium thickness, about size 50, which is optimal for a broad range of projects and fabrics. There are very few projects that this thread won’t work for.

Stranded Cotton Thread

Stranded cotton thread is best for embroidery projects. It is made up of six strands that are loosely connected. Generally, they’re meant to be separated to avoid the result being too thick; however, if the fabric you’re using is wider, it can ultimately be beneficial to use all of the available threads.

Cotton Perlé and Cotton a Broder Thread

These are additional types of thread used for embroidery that produce a nice sheen. However, unlike stranded cotton thread, cotton perle, and cotton a broder cannot be separated into multiple strands.

Flower Thread

Flower thread is a soft, matte thread used in embroidery projects. This is optimal if the result of the project is meant to be old-fashioned or uses fine linen.

The downside to this thread is that it can’t be used as it’s best for low-count material if the fabric has a high count.

Quilting Thread

This thread, as the name insinuates, is best for projects involving quilting. It’s an all-cotton thread that is the best for gliding through thicker fabrics, like quilt.

2. Polyester Thread

Polyester threads are durable, making them great for more demanding sewing projects, both hand, and machine-sewn. They also have a finish that’s silicone or wax, reducing the amount of friction produced when gliding through different fabrics. The resin is also visible, so the thread looks shinier rather than matte.

This kind of thread works for stretchy fabrics, as well as woven synthetics and knits.

All-Purpose Thread 

All-purpose is a kind of thread wrapped in cotton that’s usable for most fabrics. Moreover, it’s widely accessible at an affordable price.

The downside is that you should not use this type of thread for embroidery projects as it’s not suitable.

Invisible Thread

Invisible thread is extremely durable while being transparent, resembling a fishing line. This is optimal for projects requiring tough thread to keep fabrics in place without being visible.

3. Heavy-Duty Thread

As the name suggests, heavy-duty thread is an excellent thread to use for projects involving heavy-duty fabrics. Some good examples of the type of materials the thread would be suitable for are vinyl, fabrics used for coats, and upholstery.

These types of threads can be made from polyester, cotton, or both.

4. Rayon Thread

Rayon threads are great for embroidering, as they are able to create stitches that lay flat. The results will be much flatter than if you opt for a different kind of thread, like cotton.

5. Nylon Thread

Nylon threads are fine. However, they are durable and suitable for light to medium-sized synthetic fabrics.

6. Silk Thread

Silk is suitable for a broad range of fabrics, most notably for embroidery and silk ribbon projects.

Silk Floss

Silk Floss is another name for Japanese silk. This kind of thread is able to become untwisted and separated into multiple strands for a more fine stitch or used in its original form. 

This is great for silk fabric and embroidery projects. However, it takes a delicate hand to work with this thread. While it’s durable in projects, it’s very easy to tear if it catches on something.

Twisted Silk Thread

This thread is various silk strands combined and twisted together. Although similar to silk floss, it’s best suited for embroidery, there’s the option to separate the thread into multiple strands or used as is.

Stranded Silk Thread

Stranded silk is similar to twisted silk. They can also be separated into multiple threads if you don’t want to keep them as is.

However, this type of silk has a more sparkly finish.

Silk Ribbon Thread

Silk ribbon is used for a specific type of embroidery: silk ribbon embroidery. They’re also used for other projects involving decorations and embellishments, like clothing, purses, and accessories for hair.

7. Wool Thread

Wool threads are most known for being used for embroidery projects as well as wool blankets, in which they use a blanking stitch. This thread is great for heavier fabrics, like canvas, and of course wool.

Persian Wool

Persian wool is made up of three strands fitted together, which you are able to separate to use on their own or kept together, depending on the thickness needed for the specific result you need for your project.

Crewel Wool Thread

Crewel wool is the thinnest and loosely twisted type of wool thread. Due to its fineness, it’s able to be thickened through the combination of multiple strands to create a thicker line.

Tapestry Wool Thread

Tapestry wool’s size is between the thinness of crewel wool and Persian wool thread. It’s unable to be divided.

8. Machine Thread

Machine threads are threads created explicitly for insertion and use in a sewing machine rather than hand sewing.

Bobbin Thread

Bobbin threads are meant to be placed on the bobbin. This is the spindle on which the thread is wound on a sewing machine. These are extremely common for sewing machines and used for a plethora of sewing projects.

Variegated Thread

Variegated threads are threads dyed in various colors, as variegated means “exhibiting different colors.” The colors evenly repeat along the thread.

This kind of thread is suited for various embroidery projects and sewing projects consisting of a lot of color.

9. Metallic Thread

Metallic threads are commonly used for embroidery involving goldwork as well as a decorative embellishment on the exterior or items, like handbags. The options for colors are silver, copper, and gold.

Things to Consider

There are many factors to consider when choosing the type of thread you want to use to avoid picking a style that’s utterly incompatible with the material you’re looking to incorporate in your sewing project.


You’ll want first to have a grasp on what type of fabric you’ll be using for your project, as this is a major decider in the kind of thread that will be necessary.

The type of thread you use should be compatible with the fabric’s thickness, weight, and material that you’re planning on sewing. In addition, you may want to consider the content of the thread to that of the fabric.

An all-purpose thread in whatever color you need for your project is often the safest way to go if you’re not sure about more specifically tailored threads.


You’ll also want to consider what colors you want for your final project. Do you want the thread to blend in with the fabric? If so, you’ll likely want to go with a thread that’s the same color or invisible. On the other hand, if you’d like the thread to stand out in a contrasting color, you’ll want to pick another one.


While saving money is always a great thing, it’s crucial to remember that if a thread is exceedingly cheap, the thread likely isn’t very high-quality. If a project is stitched together with a low-quality thread, it will be easy to tell in the final result. 

Therefore, sometimes it’s better to research before buying a very affordable product or spending extra money.

The Evolution of Thread

The ancient version of thread was cut up animal hide, until the innovation of the Egyptians brought thread made of wool, hair, and plant fibers that was hand-spun with the use of spindles. In the Middle Ages, people who could afford it hired people for various sewing jobs in England.

For thousands of years, sewing was done by hand until machinery was incorporated for the first time in 1790 in England, quickly spreading globally. Overtime, machinery-optimized thread greatly overshadowed sewing by hand as machines became more affordable to the working class in the 20th century.

Now, sewing thread isn’t purchased as commonly as readily made clothing is readily accessible worldwide, and the sewing of entire garments is often left up to company manufacturers.


Each sewing project is unique, and so is each type of thread. Not all kinds of thread are applicable for every material, fabric, or result. Therefore, it’s important to ensure that you pick the correct one when shopping.

High-quality thread as opposed to cheaper thread of lower quality has the potential to transform a sewing project from subpar to excellent.

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