Picking out the fabric for your quilt, blouse, or curtains may seem like the biggest challenge before you can start sewing a new project. But before you can make a single stitch, you need to select a thread that works well with your fabric, too! Selecting the best thread for your sewing machine will help you create perfect sewing projects.
The best thread for a sewing machine is often an all-purpose polyester or cotton thread. Unique sewing projects may need special thread, such as rayon thread for embroidery stitches. Every type of fabric also works best with a unique type of sewing machine thread, such as cotton thread with lightweight natural fabrics.
In this article, you will learn how to select sewing machine thread. You will discover the 20 most popular types of sewing machine thread. Finally, you will find tips on the best sewing machine thread brands.
Best Thread for Sewing Machine: 20 Types of Thread
The best thread for your sewing machine depends on the kind of sewing you plan to do and the type of fabric you will use. This guide will help you find the perfect kind of thread to match your sewing project.
1. All-Purpose/PolyesterBy far, the most commonly used type of thread for sewing machines is all-purpose polyester thread. As a man-made, synthetic product, polyester has great durability and good stretch. It will hold up well over time without fading, stretching out, or snapping easily.
Because polyester thread has a tiny bit of give in it, it makes the best choice of thread to use with any knit fabric, like a jersey knit. You should also use polyester thread when you plan to sew on synthetic fabric, like any fabric made of polyester, nylon, or acrylic.
Another big advantage of using polyester thread is that it does not shed lint as you sew.
The downside of choosing polyester thread is that not all all-purpose threads are created equal. It comes in various levels of quality and strength, so buying from a reputable brand will help you always find the best thread for your sewing project.
Another important thing to note about an all-purpose thread is that some all-purpose thread contains a polyester core wrapped in cotton. This type of all-purpose thread sews smoothly but will shed some lint.
2. Monofilament PolyesterMonofilament thread can contain polyester, nylon, or acrylic. It consists of one long, continuous filament of thread. Most thread contains many fibers twisted together into a single strand instead.
This makes monofilament thread both super slender and quite stretchy. Monofilament thread is a popular choice for forming nearly-invisible stitches on certain sewing projects. For example, quilters use this thread to create textured designs on a quilt, where the indentation created by the stitches forms the pattern, and the thread itself pretty much disappears.
3. Corespun PolyesterCorespun polyester offers the strongest, most durable type of polyester thread. This type of thread, sometimes called polycore or pcore, consists of a continuous polyester filament wrapped with many spun polyester fibers. The filament core gives the thread extra strength.
You often use core-spun thread for tough fabrics like denim and canvas, as the thread needs enough tensile strength to hold thick, strong material in place. Core-spun thread has many industrial uses, too, such as stitching together large bags used to hold heavy rice.
4. 100% CottonThe best type of thread to use with light and mid-weight natural fabrics is 100% cotton thread. Cotton thread feels soft but can withstand high heat. It also typically remains colorfast, so you don’t have to worry about it bleeding dye in the wash.
On the other hand, 100% cotton thread does not stretch, making it a poor choice for any knit fabric. It also does not work well with synthetic materials like nylon or polyester.
Another thing to keep in mind with cotton thread is that it sheds lint much more heavily than polyester thread, especially if you use a high-speed sewing machine like a quilting machine. Lint can clog your machine and force you to frequently stop sewing to clean out the bobbin casing and other areas of the machine.
5. PolyCotton/Cotton-Wrapped Polyester
Polycotton or cotton-wrapped polyester is another popular choice for many everyday sewing projects because it features the best qualities of both cotton and polyester thread. This thread consists of a core of polyester fibers wrapped in fine, smooth cotton fibers.
Some (though not all) types of all-purpose thread feature cotton-wrapped polyester. Polycotton thread does not stretch quite as much as polyester thread and can break more easily. But it can work better in more delicate fabrics, as well as in natural fabrics, than pure polyester thread.
6. NylonLike polyester thread, nylon thread contains pure synthetic fibers with great durability and strength. But while nylon thread has specific uses that make it useful, you should avoid it for everyday sewing projects because it can melt when ironed on too high a heat.
The best use for nylon thread is with heavyweight fabrics because the extra-strong nylon thread can prevent seams from splitting.
Remember that if you use a thick, heavier weight of nylon thread, you will need a larger needle in your sewing machine.
7. Woolly NylonWoolly nylon thread works best with a serger or stretch stitch on a sewing machine that offers that feature. This specialty thread has a textured surface that makes it feel kind of like yarn. It has an incredible ability to expand and contract with a stretchy or knit fabric.
This thread works great with four-way stretch fabrics, such as some sports performance materials. It also works well with jersey knits, and you can use it for an overlocked edge or hem and in inner seams.
8. SilkPure, authentic silk thread has a fine diameter that allows it forms perfect stitches on any delicate material without leaving large holes where the thread passed through the cloth. This lustrous thread also has good strength.
Silk thread works great for appliqueing, invisible hemming, or stitching French seams because of the fineness of the thread. It also pairs well with natural fabrics.
The downside to this high-quality thread is that it costs a lot, making it a less popular choice for everyday sewing. It is a common choice for high-end tailors and seamstresses, though, especially for use with silk or wool fabrics.
9. MetallicMetallic thread contains a type of polyester and is used for decorative purposes. This thread does not have great tensile strength and can often snap while sewing, though using a special needle does help prevent this. A 90/14 topstitching needle often works with metallic thread.
When you use metallic thread to sew decorative elements or patterns, you often use regular all-purpose thread in the bobbin of your sewing machine.
Metallic thread has many uses in machine embroidery or adding decoration to quilts and clothing. That said, never use this thread to sew seams!
10. ElasticElastic thread is made out of elastic and often has a thicker diameter than average machine thread. It has special uses, but you would not want to use this type of thread for everyday sewing.
You can use elastic thread on both a regular sewing machine and a serger, depending on your project. If you use elastic thread on your sewing machine, you will need to adjust the tension to avoid stretching out the elastic as the machine forms stitches. For best results, you should also primarily use elastic thread with either a stretch or zigzag stitch on a sewing machine.
Elastic thread works best when paired with an all-purpose thread in the sewing machine’s bobbin. It adds stretch to shirring, helps ruffles form, or holds seams together in super-stretchy fabric.
11. Embroidery ThreadMachine embroidery thread can come in many different weights and types, but the most common consists of two strands of polyester thread twisted together. Because of this unique texture, embroidery thread has a special sheen that helps it create smooth, silky designs on the fabric’s surface.
You can also find machine embroidery thread made out of nylon or rayon. Embroidery thread comes in every color imaginable and is most often used in embroidery machines rather than domestic sewing machines.
Today, many embroidery machines use computerized design software that allows you to create any image out of colorful stitches. You can even translate a full-color photo into embroidery stitches with a high-end machine!
12. Serger ThreadSerger thread is another type of sewing machine thread with a particular use–in this case, sewing looped overlock stitches. Serger thread is finer than average sewing machine thread because an overlocked seam loops together three or more threads into each stitch. Using a thicker thread would create bulky seams because of all the intertwined threads.
Another key difference with serger thread is that it comes super long, typically at least 1,000 yards per cone. This is because sergers sew at high speeds and use lots of thread for each seam.
Serger thread usually contains 100% polyester. You can find it in many colors, but it is common to sew in white or black instead of trying to match fabric colors with serger thread.
13. Bobbin Thread
Bobbin thread usually contains a fine polyester filament. This lightweight thread secures the backside of machine embroidery projects, with the thread remaining unseen from the surface of the sewing project.
Because it does not show, you usually find bobbin thread in just white or black. You can use this fine thread for projects like hemming or basting on delicate fabric.
14. Basting Thread
Basting thread usually contains 100% cotton and has an extra-smooth surface. This type of thread creates fine holes in the fabric to not leave a mark when you remove the stitches later. Basting is a type of temporary stitching that allows you to mark important features like darts or tucks on fabric or to temporary seams or gathers that you will later resew with permanent stitches.
You can find both hand-basting thread and machine-basting thread. Tailors commonly use hand-basting thread for marking important design elements on a garment. Machine-basting thread works best for temporarily holding seams together as you sew.
Because you need to remove the basting stitches, you need to use a thread that will easily snap, which is why fine pure cotton thread works best for basting.
Though you do not see it used as much, you can also find water-soluble or wash-away thread used for basting. This type of thread dissolves in the wash, easily removing your temporary basting stitches.
15. Top-Stitching Thread
Top stitching thread typically contains 100% polyester but in a heavier, thicker style. Topstitching means creating stitches on the outside of a garment or quilt. This visible stitching has to hold up well through washing because the thread does not get to hide inside the garment like seam stitching.
Top stitching thread comes in many colors, as it often serves a decorative purpose on a garment or quilt. Because of its heavier weight, you also need to use a special topstitching needle for this kind of sewing.
Looking at most jeans, you will notice two lines of top stitching down the outside of both legs. This is a good example of both decorative and practical topstitching, which gives the seam extra strength and looks nice.
16. Quilting Thread
The most popular thread to use when quilting is quilting thread. This type of fine, strong thread often comes on large spools to allow for extended sewing time without re-threading the machine. You can use quilting thread on both quilting and regular sewing machines.
You will find mixed opinions on the benefits of using cotton quilting thread vs polyester quilting thread. Cotton thread has a matte appearance that helps it match the cotton fabric typically used in quilts. It also does not stretch, which is good with plain-woven cotton quilting cloth.
On the other hand, cotton quilting thread can shed lint and can also snap more easily than polyester thread. Another advantage to polyester quilting thread is that it can come in a smaller size without losing tensile strength because synthetic polyester is so much stronger than cotton. This allows you to form almost invisible stitches with fine thread.
17. Buttonhole Thread
Buttonhole thread is a type of thick, silky thread used for edging buttonholes on some garments like coats and sweaters. You use this thread most commonly when hand-sewing.
You can also find a popular type of thread called button thread, which has a thicker diameter and lots of strength and often features a waxy coating. This type of thread can firmly hold buttons t a garment. You can use this thread by hand, but you can also use it on a machine when sewing a button onto a garment or for thicker, heavy fabrics that require a strong thread to hold seams together.
18. Invisible Thread
Invisible thread usually contains either monofilament polyester fiber or nylon. You commonly use this thread for certain types of invisible hems or stitching that you don’t want to look obvious, such as some types of topstitching on a quilt.
You may also want to use invisible thread for visible stitching on multi-color fabric because you may find it hard to pick just one thread color that would look good.
19. Upholstery Thread
Upholstery thread comes in a heavier weight than all-purpose thread and is used to form sturdy seams in heavy upholstery fabric and with denim, canvas, or other thick material.
Not every sewing machine can use upholstery thread easily, though it is very commonly used on industrial-strength machines.
Some types of upholstery thread go through a special manufacturing process and have a resin coating finish. This type of thread is called bonded thread and has even more strength than the average upholstery thread.
20. Variegated Thread
Variegated thread features multiple different colors, or shades of the same color, down the length of the thread. You see this primarily in certain types of embroidery or cross-stitch thread. The unique changing colors come from special dyeing processes.
This thread serves and decorative purpose, and you commonly use it either by hand or in an embroidery machine.
How to Choose the High-Quality Sewing Thread
The best way to choose high-quality sewing thread is to match the thread to the specifications of your project and also to buy from a reputable brand.
Before you buy thread, you need to consider how it matches up with your sewing project.
- Most of the time, you want to choose a thread in the same color as the fabric you will sew on. This makes seams and hems in a garment almost invisible. The exception here is that some special-use types of thread, like serger thread or bobbin thread, do not typically need to match.
- You often want to match the fiber content of your thread to the content of the cloth. Cotton thread usually works best on cotton fabric than polyester thread. On the other hand, an all-purpose polyester thread can work well on many types of material, including cotton jersey knit, because it offers more stretch than cotton thread.
- Another key factor to consider is the fabric weight you want to sew. For heavy-weight fabrics, you need a thicker, stronger thread. Otherwise, the stitches may snap and break under the strain of holding the heavy fabric in place.
- Of course, you may also need specialty thread because of the type of sewing you plan to do. You want embroidery thread if you plan to sew a decorative embroidered design and serger thread if you plan to use a serger!
You can learn more about how to pick a good brand of thread later in this article.
What Does Thread Weight Number Mean?
As you pick the best thread for your sewing machine, it also helps to understand what thread weight numbers mean. The easiest way to understand thread weight is that smaller numbers mean a thicker thread, while larger numbers mean a finer thread.
Technically, the thread weight describes how long a piece of thread can reach before it hits a specific weight measurement, often one gram. So a 30-weight thread can measure 30 meters before it weighs one gram.
All-purpose thread is usually 50-wt, while heavy-duty thread is typically 30-wt.
Strongest Thread for Sewing Machine
The heaviest, strongest type of thread you can use in a sewing machine is 12 wt thread, which has a super thick diameter and often forms decorative top stitching to strengthen seams in heavy-weight fabric like denim.
Several types of thread can offer extra strength, including upholstery or nylon thread.
Is Cotton or Polyester Thread Better?
Whether cotton or polyester thread is better depends on what type of sewing you plan to use the thread for. Cotton pairs well with natural fabrics, but polyester offers better stretch for knit fabrics and extra durability for heavy-duty cloth.
Quilters often prefer cotton because it matches the cotton fabric in quilts better and does create puckers where quilt blocks sew together.
But when sewing garments, all-purpose polyester thread often proves more reliable.
Best Sewing Machine Thread for:Now that you know how to pick the best type of thread for your sewing project, take a look at what kind of thread will work with your brand of sewing machine!
In all honesty, most types of thread are interchangeable with any sewing machine brand. For example, you could use Coats & Clark thread in a Singer, Brother, or Janome machine just fine. But you may also want to consider a few special features of each machine as you select thread.
You can use a variety of thread with a Singer sewing machine, including special Singer-brand thread. Singer thread like this all-purpose variety works fine in Singer models and other kinds of machines.
The only downside to this brand-name thread is that it has a limited color selection and emphasizes all-purpose rather than specialty thread types.
Brother machines also work well with most types of thread, though you can seek out brand-name Brother thread to use in your machine if you prefer. Brothread embroidery thread comes in all the colors you could need and works great with Brother embroidery machines, too.
That said, Brother sewing machines have great all-purpose capabilities. If you have a machine with a stretch-stitch feature, you may want to use elastic thread. If you buy a Brother quilting machine, you will likely want to use a quilting thread.
High-end Pfaff sewing machines often work better with good-quality thread that does not snap easily or shed lint all over the place. Of course, you still need to tailor your thread type to the kind of sewing you plan to do! But invest a little more in a high-quality thread to avoid spending more late ron in cleaning and repairs for your expensive Pfaff model.
Janome machines often have many cool features, meaning you may need to select a type of thread best suited for the features you plan to use. For example, if you want to sew at high speeds or free-hand stitch on a quilt, you will need to select thread best suited to those projects.
The best type of thread to use on a quilting machine is usually quilting thread, though you can use specialty thread such as invisible thread for certain quilting projects as well. Quilting thread comes in bigger spools, so you can sew across the vast expanse of a quilt without constantly running out of thread.
Top Sewing Thread Brands
Some top sewing thread brands include Coats & Clark, Gutermann, Mettler, and Brothread.
Once you have narrowed down the type, weight, and color of thread you want, the best way to get high-quality thread is to buy it from a good brand. These days you can order thread super cheaply online from thousands of different sellers. The trouble is that you often don’t know how the thread was made.
Buying from a respected brand costs more, but it assures you that your thread has exactly the qualities you expect. You can often research how the brand makes certain types of thread to find its weight and fiber content.
The best thread for a sewing machine depends on the type of sewing you plan to do and the kind of fabric you will sew on. You often want to match your thread color to the color of the cloth and the thread fiber content to the fiber content of the fabric. That said, you also sometimes need a certain type of thread for certain types of fabric construction, such as a stretchier thread for a knit fabric.
You should also pick the best thread for certain types of sewing. Embroidery thread works best for embroidery, top stitching thread works best for topstitching, and invisible thread works well for hidden stitching like hems.
How do you typically select thread for a sewing project? What brand of thread do you use most often? Leave a comment below to let us know!