Choosing Thread for Your Sewing Machine

what kind of thread for sewing machine

Choosing Thread for Your Sewing Machine

Selecting the right thread for your sewing machine is not just a matter of color or cost. It’s about understanding the compatibility between the thread and your fabric, the type of project you are undertaking, and the performance of your sewing machine. The thread is the backbone of any sewing project, holding everything together. Hence, choosing the wrong type can lead to issues like thread breakage, poor stitch quality, and even damage to your fabric. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the various types of sewing machine threads available, how to match them with your fabric, and the importance of thread size and type in achieving professional-looking results.

Types of Sewing Machine Threads

Cotton Thread

  • Characteristics: Cotton thread is known for its softness and natural origin, making it an excellent choice for sewing natural fibers like cotton and linen. It’s heat-resistant, which allows you to iron over seams without fear of melting the thread. For those looking into sewing project essentials, cotton thread is often a go-to for its reliability and ease of use.
  • Best Uses: Ideal for light to medium weight fabrics, cotton thread excels in quilting and projects that require a flat, soft seam. It’s also preferred for its minimal lint production, which helps in maintaining the cleanliness of your sewing machine.
  • Limitations: The main drawback of cotton thread is its lack of stretch, which can lead to breakage when used with stretchy fabrics or on seams that undergo regular stress.

Polyester Thread

  • Advantages: Polyester thread is celebrated for its strength, durability, and elasticity, making it suitable for a wide range of fabrics, including stretchy and synthetic materials. Its resistance to shrinkage and fading is a significant advantage for items that undergo frequent washing.
  • Suitable Projects: From garments to home decor, polyester thread’s versatility makes it a staple in the sewing community. Its ability to produce little to no lint is a boon for keeping your sewing machine in top condition.
  • Considerations: While polyester thread offers many benefits, it’s crucial to be mindful of its heat sensitivity. High temperatures can cause the thread to melt, so careful ironing is advised.

Nylon Thread

  • Strengths: Nylon thread boasts incredible strength and flexibility, making it an excellent choice for heavy-duty sewing projects. Its durability is unmatched, especially in applications where seam strength is paramount.
  • Ideal Uses: Heavy fabrics and upholstery projects benefit greatly from nylon thread. It’s also the preferred choice for sewing leather and other thick materials.
  • Precautions: The main caution with nylon thread is its tendency to melt under high heat. Therefore, it’s essential to avoid high-temperature ironing when using nylon thread.

Poly-cotton Thread

  • Combining the best qualities of polyester and cotton, poly-cotton thread offers the strength and elasticity of polyester with the softness and heat resistance of cotton. This blend makes it a versatile choice for various sewing projects, from apparel to home textiles.
  • As a favorite among sewers, poly-cotton thread is suitable for both woven and knit fabrics, providing durability and flexibility in seams. Its compatibility with a wide range of materials and sewing machines makes it a valuable addition to any sewing kit.

Specialty Threads

  • Metallic, Silk, Rayon: These threads are primarily used for decorative purposes, adding a unique touch to any project. Metallic threads offer a shiny finish, silk threads provide a luxurious feel and appearance, and rayon threads deliver a bright, vibrant color.
  • Decorative Purposes: Ideal for embroidery, topstitching, and embellishments, these threads can elevate the look of any project. However, they may require special handling, such as using a specific needle or adjusting the tension on your sewing machine to prevent breakage.

Matching Thread to Fabric

The key to a successful sewing project lies in the harmonious relationship between your thread and fabric. This compatibility affects everything from the durability of the seam to the overall appearance of the finished product. Here are some guidelines to ensure a perfect match:

  • Understand Fabric Weight: Heavy fabrics require a stronger thread, such as polyester or nylon, to withstand the material’s weight without breaking. Lighter fabrics work best with cotton or silk threads that won’t overpower the fabric’s delicate nature.
  • Consider Fabric Stretch: For fabrics with stretch, such as knits, an elastic thread like polyester is essential to allow the seam to stretch without snapping. Using a non-stretch thread on stretchy materials can lead to popped seams and a distorted fit.
  • Fabric Type Compatibility: Natural threads like cotton are best suited for natural fabrics, ensuring the seam behaves similarly to the fabric under different conditions, such as washing and ironing. Synthetic threads are more versatile, suitable for both natural and synthetic fabrics, offering strength and durability.

By carefully selecting your sewing thread based on these considerations, you can enhance the quality and longevity of your sewing projects. Whether you’re working on a delicate silk blouse or a sturdy canvas tote, the right thread can make all the difference.

The choice of thread for your sewing machine is crucial in determining the success of your sewing projects. From the natural softness and heat resistance of cotton thread to the strength and flexibility of polyester and nylon threads, understanding the properties and best uses of each type is key. Additionally, the advent of poly-cotton and specialty threads like metallic, silk, and rayon has expanded the possibilities for creative sewing endeavors. By matching the thread to your fabric and considering factors like fabric weight, stretch, and type, you can ensure durable, professional-looking results. Remember, the thread you choose is the foundation of your sewing project, so invest the time to select the best match for your fabric and sewing needs.

Choosing the Right Thread Color and Size

The color of your sewing thread can significantly impact the aesthetic appeal of your project. While it might seem like a minor detail, the right thread color can either make your stitches invisible or a feature part of your design. Here are some tips for selecting the perfect shade:

Match or Contrast: The Fundamental Decision

  • Blending with Your Fabric: For most sewing projects, you’ll want your thread to blend seamlessly with your fabric. A general rule is to select a thread color that is one shade darker than your fabric. This ensures that the stitches do not stand out, especially important for internal seams or when you desire a clean, professional finish.
  • Contrasting Colors for Design: In some cases, you might want your stitching to stand out as a design element. Choosing a contrasting thread color can highlight topstitching, quilting, or decorative stitches, adding a unique touch to your project. This technique is often used in denim work, where a golden thread contrasts beautifully against the blue fabric.

Navigating Multi-colored and Patterned Fabrics

  • When working with fabrics that have multiple colors or patterns, finding the right thread color can be challenging. Aim for a thread that matches the dominant color in the fabric, or consider the color that appears most at the seam lines. For highly patterned fabrics, a neutral thread color that blends with most colors in the fabric, such as grey or beige, can be a versatile choice.

Understanding Thread Sizes

  • Thread Weight Numbers: Thread size is often indicated by a number, with lower numbers denoting thicker threads and higher numbers indicating finer threads. The most common sizes for home sewing are between 40 and 100, with 50 being a versatile choice for a wide range of fabrics.
  • Choosing Based on Fabric and Project Type: Heavier threads (lower numbers) are ideal for sewing thick or heavy fabrics like denim or canvas, providing the necessary strength for durable seams. Finer threads (higher numbers) are better suited for delicate fabrics, such as silk or lightweight cotton, as they create less bulk and are less likely to pucker the fabric.

The Impact of Thread Size on Sewing

  • Thread Tension and Needle Size: The size of your thread influences the tension settings on your sewing machine and the size of the needle you should use. Thicker threads require a larger needle (lower number) and often looser tension settings to accommodate the increased thread volume. Conversely, finer threads work best with smaller needles (higher number) and tighter tension settings to ensure even stitches.
  • Aesthetic Considerations: The size of your thread also affects the appearance of your stitches. Thicker threads will produce more pronounced stitches, which can be desirable for topstitching or decorative stitching. Finer threads create more subtle stitches, ideal for when you want your seams to be less visible.

Maintenance and Storage of Threads

Proper maintenance and storage of your sewing threads can extend their lifespan and ensure they remain in good condition for your next project. Here are some tips to keep your threads ready for use:

Avoiding Damage and Deterioration

  • Protecting Threads from Light and Dust: Store your threads away from direct sunlight to prevent fading and degradation. Keeping them in a closed container or drawer can also protect them from dust and dirt, which can affect their quality and performance.
  • Preventing Moisture Damage: Ensure your storage area is dry to avoid moisture buildup, which can lead to mold or mildew on your threads. If you live in a particularly humid environment, consider using silica gel packets in your storage containers to absorb excess moisture.

Organizing Threads for Easy Access

  • By Color and Type: Organizing your threads by color and type (e.g., cotton, polyester, specialty) can make it easier to find the right thread for your project. This can also help you quickly assess your inventory and identify when you need to restock certain colors or types.
  • Using Thread Racks or Bobbin Boxes: Thread racks mounted on the wall or placed on a table can keep your spools organized and easily accessible. Bobbin boxes are also useful for storing pre-wound bobbins, keeping them from unwinding and tangling.

In conclusion, the second part of choosing the right thread for your sewing machine focuses on the nuances of thread color selection, the critical role of thread size, and the importance of proper thread maintenance and storage. Whether you’re aiming for stitches that blend in or stand out, understanding how to match thread color to your fabric is essential. Similarly, selecting the appropriate thread size for your fabric and project type can significantly impact the quality of your stitches and the overall appearance of your finished project.

Finally, taking steps to properly store and maintain your threads will ensure they remain in good condition, ready for your next sewing adventure. By paying attention to these details, you can enhance your sewing projects, ensuring they are both beautiful and durable.

FAQs Section

What thread should I use for stretchy fabrics?

For stretchy fabrics, it’s best to use a thread that can stretch with the fabric to avoid breaking. Polyester thread is ideal due to its high elasticity and strength, making it suitable for sewing both knits and stretch woven fabrics.

Can I use regular thread for embroidery on my sewing machine?

Yes, you can use regular thread for machine embroidery, but the results may not be as vibrant or durable as using specialized embroidery thread. Polyester or rayon embroidery threads are recommended for their sheen and strength, providing a more professional finish.

How do I prevent thread from breaking or tangling while sewing?

To prevent thread breakage or tangling:

  • Ensure you’re using the correct thread type and size for your fabric.
  • Check that your sewing machine is properly threaded.
  • Use a suitable needle size for your thread.
  • Adjust the tension settings on your sewing machine as needed.
  • Regularly clean your machine to remove lint and debris.

Is it necessary to use the same thread in the bobbin as the top thread?

While it’s not always necessary, using the same thread in the bobbin and top thread can help prevent tension issues and ensure consistent stitch quality. However, for some techniques like machine embroidery, a lighter bobbin thread is often used.

How do I choose the right thread for quilting?

For quilting, choose a thread that complements both the quilt’s fabric and design. 100% cotton thread is popular for its natural look and compatibility with cotton fabrics. Polyester thread is also a good choice for its strength and colorfastness, especially for quilts that will be used and washed frequently.


Choosing the right thread for your sewing machine is a nuanced decision that significantly impacts the success of your sewing projects. From understanding the different types of threads and their applications to selecting the perfect color and size for your fabric, each choice plays a crucial role in the outcome of your work. Proper maintenance and storage of your threads will ensure their longevity and readiness for your next project. The FAQs provided offer guidance on common concerns, helping you navigate the complexities of thread selection and use. As you become more familiar with the characteristics and benefits of various threads, you’ll gain the confidence to experiment and make informed decisions, leading to beautiful, durable, and satisfying sewing creations. Remember, the thread you choose weaves the foundation of your project, influencing not just its appearance but its overall integrity and longevity.