Last Updated on August 11, 2021

There are many sewing machine threads on the market, but not all sewing machine threads are created equal.

Sewing machines come with a range of different thread types made for specific sewing tasks and fabric qualities to make sewing more effective, efficient and enjoyable.

However, it can be difficult to know which sewing machine thread is best for you or what type of sewing machine is right for your needs or for your project.

In this blog post, we will help you answer these questions by providing an overview of the most popular sewing machine thread types available and discussing how they differ from one another in terms of their suitability as well as what benefits each type offers sewers.



Sewing Machine Thread Types


You may find yourself asking in your head “Why are there many types of thread? Don’t they all serve the same purpose?”.

Well, if you’re just beginning to learn how to sew, or you’ve just started working with a sewing machine, these are actually good sets of questions.

The simplest answer to this question is that each type of thread is suited for a specific sewing machine and sewing project.

You can think of it like one type of thread is best when used in commercial or industrial projects, but not ideal for home use. Another type is best for glitz, glamour, and fashion. While another one is best for certain types of fabrics. You get the idea.  

There are many sewing thread types, but the two most popular sewing threads used in sewing machines today are either polyester or cotton fabric sewing threads. 

But before we discuss them one by one, let’s group them in a list so you can see all the thread types in one place.


Featured image of sewing machine thread types


Types of Sewing Machine Threads


  • Polyester
  • Cotton
  • Embroidery
  • Quilting thread
  • Rayon thread
  • Top stitching thread
  • Nylon
  • Silk
  • Denim/Jean thread
  • Recycled thread
  • Metallic thread
  • Elastic thread
  • Invisible thread
  • Overlock thread
  • Glitter thread


Polyester threads


Polyester is a popular type of thread among sewers because  it’s affordable and, according to sewing professionals, is the most durable sewing thread.

It can be used for pretty much all sewing projects as well. The downside of polyester sewing threads is that they have a tendency to snag on things such as pins or fingers when sewing through thick fabrics like denim.

Polyester sewing machine thread has been around since 1937 and it  is now commonly available in several different colors including black, white, silver/gray, red-white striped (for quilting), blue-white stripe (#12)(machine embroidery), orange-blue stripes (#43)(top stitching).

The thicknesses are also referring to with number which range from #40 – 240 so you’re sure to find the sewing thread you need.

Polyester sewing machine threads are durable and should last for a long time with proper care. There is also no color fading which makes this sewing thread ideal to use when sewing clothes, quilts or any other fabric project that could fade colors too quickly. 

Polyester is often chosen as it’s stronger than cotton, will not deteriorate with use over time like cotton can, has low shrinkage (less likely to stretch during washing), and doesn’t rot easily when exposed to moisture.


Sewing machine thread wound up on a bobbin


Cotton threads


Cotton threads, when compared to polyester, have lower tensile strength so they may break more readily if tugged on too hard. However this also means that there won’t be any puckering of seams after stitching — a benefit since puckered seams are undesirable in clothing construction.

Other upsides to using cotton are  that it can be dyed with other natural dyes and is more absorbent than polyester, which means that you won’t have to worry about sewing through multiple layers of cotton threads.

Cotton thread also has a softer hand so the sewing will feel less scratchy against the skin when using them for garments such as lingerie or children’s clothing.

Cotton sewing machine thread is one of the most common types available worldwide due to its inexpensive cost and also because it has many uses including basic household tasks like hemming pants or curtains and pillowcases.

Some downsides to using cotton threads are: sewing machines may need to be oiled more often as cotton fibers tend to stick together, and it can be difficult to tell low-quality cotton thread from ones with great quality.


Embroidery thread


Embroidery threads are mostly used for decorative sewing or sewing designs onto fabric.

Embroidery threads are generally composed of cotton, rayon and synthetic materials such as polyester. They come on spools and can be found in many different colors to use for sewing projects.

Embroidery thread is more versatile than other types of sewing machine thread because it can create anything from fine embroidered details to thick outlines for stitching motifs and patterns.


Embroidery threads


Quilting thread


Quilting thread is a sewing machine thread that is specifically designed for sewing with thick layers of fabric such as quilts and heavy curtains.

Quilting threads come in a variety of colors — often including brightly colored rainbow shades — to help make the stitches easier to see when sewing down quilt seams.

They are also made from heavier materials, often cotton or polyester blends, so they won’t pull through thick fabrics like other types of sewing machine threads might do.

Quilting thread has been specially treated with waxes which gives it a slightly stiffer feel than regular sewing machine thread but still provides the same durability for projects such as hand-quilted items, home décor linens and more.


Rayon thread

Rayon threads are made from either the cellulose of tree pulp or bamboo, which is spun into a natural fiber.

Rayon threads are typically softer than sewing machine thread and they can also be stronger depending on how they’re treated with chemicals as part of their manufacturing process

Rayon sewing machine thread has an excellent drape that makes it perfect for sewing lightweight fabrics such as silk because it won’t create any unwanted puckering.

A downside to rayon sewing thread is that it may pill if not handled properly when used in projects like baby clothes where frequent washing will occur over time. The color may dye into the fabric when strong detergents are used.


Top stitching thread


A top stitching thread is a sewing machine thread that is wound on a bobbin and used for sewing decorative top stitching, such as the kind of topstitching seen on jeans.

Top sewing thread comes in an assortment of colors to match any fabric or project.

This type of sewing thread is the most widely used in sewing today because it is versatile, inexpensive, and has all colors of threads imaginable that can match any fabric or project needed for sewing.

The downside with sewing this type of sewing machine thread is that it doesn’t have much tensile strength because the tension has been reduced so it can be passed through easier than regular sewing threads like cotton high-tension sewing machine threads.

This means that if you use too heavy a gauge when using top stitch sewing machine thread, your stitches will show up unevenly and won’t lie flat against the finished garment.

Reviewers say they find these kinds of threads difficult to work with because aside from the reasons mentioned above, sewing machine needles must be thinner and sewing machines need to have a medium-high tension setting.


Nylon thread


Nylon threads are sewing machine threads that are often used for sewing silk and wool.

The nylon makes sewing these fabrics easier because it is less likely to fray when sewing with a sharp needle.

Nylon sewing machine thread needs more tension, so the stitches do not relax as soon after being stitched like cotton sewing machine threads.

But this means you have an increased risk of breaking your needles or pulling out some of the stitching on delicate fabric due to too much pressure from the presser foot.

Nylon sewing machine thread also requires a stronger needle than standard cotton sewing threads because they can be difficult to pierce through many types of fabrics without splitting them in half if not threaded properly into dense materials such as leather or vinyl.

Many sewers don’t recommend nylon threads for sewing machine use because of these difficulties.


Some Final Words


We’ve only discussed the types of threads on the first half of our list.

We’ll be writing another guide like this discussing the types of thread from the remaining items we’ve listed above.

We hope that this guide helped shed light so you know what the differences are between different sewing machine threads. We know it can be confusing, but it takes time and experience to learn.

Watch out for part two of our guide!


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