There is a diverse selection of sewing thread types to suit every project and every sewer. This tutorial will go through the 22 most common types of sewing threads used by the home sewer for both machine sewing and hand sewing.
Sewing Thread Types and Uses Tutorial
Sewing threads can be divided into groups - some belonging to everyday sewing, some to specialty sewing, and some to the creative side of sewing.
How many different types of sewing thread are available? Lots! Most of the time, however, you will just use number 1 in the below sewing thread types list. This is a general-purpose polyester thread that is suitable for most sewing fabrics that are light to medium weight.
These are just some of the sewing thread types to choose from.
- Cotton thread and those with natural fibers
- Elastic thread, such as shirring elastic
- The polyester thread which is sometimes called "all purpose"
- Embroidery thread for decorative purposes
- Upholstery thread for heavy-duty uses
- Metallic thread for decorative sewing
- Denim thread for jeans and denim items
- Nylon and rayon thread, including invisible thread
- Silk thread for delicate work on silk
Brands of Sewing Thread
Quality thread brands will have added strength and a more consistent and smooth surface to prevent threads from breaking and skipped and uneven stitches.
Whatever type of sewing thread you choose, look for quality thread brand names like Gutterman, Rasant, Coates and Clark, and Mettler.
Why Choose Good Quality Sewing Threads
Quality sewing thread will always make the difference, especially when dealing with tricky fabrics such as silk, wool, and Lycra. Good quality thread is uniform and smooth.
Thread breakage is common when you use poor-quality threads. These cheap threads will have a lot of lint and uneven fibers. Thread is usually sold in meters or yards.
Purpose of Different Types of Sewing Threads
The type of sewing you are doing will determine the kind of thread you need.
Are you using sewing thread for:
- Repairs, mending
- Embroidery or tapestry
- Or maybe you are even trying the art of tatting.
Check the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the thread required. Here are some of the most common sewing thread types.
22 Different Sewing Thread Types
Sewing threads can be made from natural or synthetic fibers and come in many different weights. This list will give you the most common types of threads for sewing that you will find in your haberdashery or craft store. All these are great sewing thread types for home sewers. Some are for sewing machines, while others are for hand sewing.
1. General Purpose Threads
General purpose or all-purpose threads are generally the cheapest and most common type of threads and are made from polyester. They can be used in a wide variety of sewing projects and are available in a large array of colors.
General purpose threads can be used for machine or hand sewing. If you are using another specialty thread, general purpose thread may be used in the bobbin thread.
2. Cotton Thread Types
Cotton is an all-purpose thread made from cotton fibers which is useful for all kinds of projects. Cotton thread is best for pairing with cotton fabrics however, it is not nearly as durable as an all-purpose polyester thread. Do not use it for tight garments as the seams may break.
Beware of using cotton thread in items that will be subject to sweat or chlorine, as it is prone to breaking and weakening.
Types of Cotton Threads - There are several types of cotton thread, including gassed cotton thread and cotton wrapped polyester threads.
3. Embroidery Thread
Embroidery thread can be stranded and divided into strands for embroidery. There are usually six strands to choose from. (Read embroidery basics). This sewing thread type is designed for hand sewing and not machine sewing.
4. Tatting Cotton Thread
Tatting Cotton is highly specialized and suited to fine linen.
5. Quilting Thread Types
Quilting thread is coated with a waxy finish allowing ease of movement through quilting layers and batting. It is a hand sewing type of thread and is usually 100% cotton. Do not use it in your sewing machine, as the wax finish can cause problems.
Quilting threads are strong and durable and can also be used to sew buttons or sewing beads.
6. Polyester/Cotton Sewing Thread
Polyester/Cotton is a multipurpose weight (50) and suitable for all types of fabric, including stretch. This is the most commonly used thread for most of your sewing. Choose a good quality with a reinforced center.
7. Heavy Duty Thread Types (Upholstery Thread)
Heavy-duty thread for soft furnishing (40) is a mixture of cotton and polyester. It is a heavier type of general purpose thread used for stronger seams. You will need a heavier needle gauge and may need to ensure it has a larger eye to stop the thread from splitting.
8. Rayon Sewing Thread
Rayon thread gives a nice finish to machine embroidery and flat stitches. It has a smooth finish and slight sheen and is best used for decorative sewing rather than seams.
9. Nylon Thread
Nylon is a strong synthetic thread useful for light to medium weight fabric. Thicker nylon threads can be used to sew leather since it doesn't rot from chemicals like cotton thread. Nylon is one of the strongest threads for hand sewing.
10. Silk Sewing Thread
Silk types of sewing thread are often reserved for embroidery. However it is a strong thread for use with silk and wool. There is also silk floss, twisted silk, and stranded silk. (Read sewing silk)
Silk thread has a beautiful sheen and as it is a natural fiber, can be dyed with bright colors. This is a hand sewing and embroidery thread.
11. Wool Thread
Wool threads are used for embroidery and blankets for heavy fabrics as well as canvas. There is also Persian wool, tapestry wool, and crewel. (Read sewing wool)
12. Invisible Sewing Thread
Invisible thread is a type of sewing thread a bit like a fishing line and is used for - you guessed it - an invisible finish.
13. Metallic Thread
Metallic thread in gold, silver, and copper is used for decorative stitching and sewing. It can split easily and will need a metallic thread needle to use in your sewing machine.
14. Variegated Thread
A variegated thread with shades of color will add interest to any sewing project. Verigated threads are usually general sewing threads made out of polyester but can sometimes be made in other fiber types.
15. Elastic Thread
Shirring thread or elastic thread is elasticized for sewing rows in the waist or chest area. (Read how to sew elastic thread). It is placed in the top spool of a sewing machine while the bobbin is a regular type of sewing thread.
16. Cotton Perle Thread
Cotton Perle cannot be divided but is still an embroidery thread along with "coton a broder" which is used for cut-work. There are different cotton weights to look for if your task is more specialized. These sewing thread types cannot go in the sewing machine.
17. Linen Sewing Thread
Of course, linen thread is made from linen fibers. It is strong and usually heavyweight, so is suitable for heavier projects like straps, bags, and sewing canvas. It can be stiff to use, so is more suited to hand sewing.
18. Topstitch Sewing Thread
Topstitch thread is a thicker thread for topstitching seams, pockets, bags, and heavier items. It required a topstitch needle to use in your sewing machine. You can use a general purpose thread in the bobbin.
19. Jeans Thread
Jeans thread is sometimes called denim thread and is designed for thicker denim fabrics. It mostly comes in shades of blue to match your denim jeans and jackets and is strengthened for this purpose.
Sew jeans thread with a jeans needle or heavy universal needle.
20. Serger Thread (Overlocker Thread)
Overlocker or serger thread comes on a larger cone and is made to fit in your serger machine. It is usually polyester, and you will need 3 or 4 cones for your machine. It is similar to the general-purpose threads for sewing machines.
21. Wooly Nylon Thread
This sewing thread type is made for sewing stretch fabric. It is commonly used in sewing swimwear and leotards. Make sure you use a needle threader to get it through the eye of your sewing machine needle.
22. Basting Thread
Basting thread or tacking thread is a lightweight type of thread for basting stitches. These stitches are removed at the end of your final sewing and just hold pieces of fabric together temporarily.
Sewing Thread Types FAQs
What Sewing Thread Type is Best?
This, of course, depends on your project, but if you are looking for a thread to do general sewing, look for a cotton/polyester thread. These are often labeled all-purpose threads. Choose a good brand for a smooth knot-free finish.
How To Choose Thread Weight?
Choose a similar weight sewing thread to that of your fabric. For example, a heavy wool fabric would need a heavier thread. When looking at sewing thread weights, a smaller number means a thicker thread.
Sewing Thread Types - In Conclusion
Yes, the world of sewing thread types is diverse, and every sewer can be thankful that the diversity of thread is what makes the sewing world go round. Choosing the right type of thread is important to get great results in your sewing projects.