What Are The Different Types Of Thread And When Do You Use Them?

I will hold my hands up now and say I am a terrible sewer for not really paying attention to the thread I am using. I have had very little mistakes and hiccups in my sewing but doesn’t’ mean I won’t have any. I am taking the time to learn more while we are away. There is no sewing machine and fabric to tempt me away from my Mac and from learning. So today I am sitting down to learn more about what different types of thread there are and their many uses.

Many times I don’t buy thread purposefully for a project as I never actually plan a project. If I need a colour I rummage through my box and find the nearest colour I can. I don’t often make things that have very visible seams and work in quite neutral colours. But guilty as charged I don’t pay attention to what thread I am using or the quality. Times need to change. There are two genres of threads, synthetic and natural. Then there are sub-genres in which different types of thread then fall into, think of it like a family tree.


Synthetic Threads

Polyester – This is a great old purpose thread, great and diverse to use on most sewing projects. It is good for using on woven synthetics, knits and fabrics with a stretch as it has more give in it so help the fabrics move. Polyester thread will have a pretreatment or coating to help the fabric pass through easily and smoothly.

Cotton Covered Polyester – this is a polyester thread with a cotton cover, this mixes the strength and elasticity of the polyester with the cotton covering providing heat residence and durability. This thread is suitable for many projects and for most fabrics including natural and synthetic, woven and knits.


Natural Threads

Cotton – is a natural thread, it is best used on lightweight to medium weight fabrics such as natural woven fabrics like cotton, linen and rayon. Most cotton threads are mercerised, this is a coating that leaves the thread smooth. Cotton thread is said to be softer than polyester but has very little give (elasticity) in it. This makes it perfect for quilting to help the pieces stay in place but not great to use on stretchy fabrics.

Silk – this thread is made from natural fibres and is known for its durability and beauty. This thread is fine and elasticity and so makes a great partner for items such as lingerie. The thread comes in a wide variety of colours and weights. This is great to use for embroidery and applique projects and works well with wool and silk fabrics. Don’t get confused with silk finish cotton as this is a different thread altogether.


Speciality Threads

Heavy-duty – these threads are usually quite a bit thicker than all-purpose threads. They can be cotton, polyester and cotton/poly blends. This particular thread isn’t good to use on any project, you want to use this thread for more heavy duty projects such as working with upholstery weight fabrics. This is a good thread to use on curtains, furniture and lampshades. This can also be used on backpacks and heavy denim projects for more strength and durability.

Button and Craft – This thread is primarily used for hand sewing buttons. It is exceptionally stronger and thicker than other threads. Don’t be tempted to use this on sewing projects even if you think a stronger thread is needed, it can be more obtrusive and bulky. It can also be used for top stitching and I have used it for covered eyelets in corsets.

Invisible – It is what it says invisible! This thread used to be compared to a fishing line but has come along way and is now soft and tight to use. The thread is available in polyester and nylon and comes in different sheen levels. It is a popular thread to use with quilters as they can piece together many different coloured fabrics without having to change colour thread. It is also commonly used for sewing labels, bindings and patches.

Nylon – This thread is a synthetic fibre well known for its strength and flexibility. The thread is lightweight and smooth. Mostly used for light to medium weight synthetic fabrics such as suede cloth, faux fur, fleece and nylon tricot.

Metallic – This thread is mostly used to create exciting and colourful needlework and decorative stitches.

Wool – This thread is more commonly used for embroidery, fabrics it works better with are wool and canvas. More heavy duty fabrics.


Everyone loves a bargain, I included and I am terrible for doing this but it is time to stop. The quality of thread does matter, it really does. Cheaper brands of thread aren’t bound together as well and ca have a lot of loose fibres when sewing these fibres will come loose and build up on your sewing machine. This affecting your stitching and quality of work.

The more expensive brands are bound together tighter and have less loose threads, meaning fewer fibres stuck in your machine and a longer lasting happy machine. This can also keep your tension in check and no more lost stitches.

Helpful Tips And Tricks

  • Check the quality of your thread before sewing.
  • Pick your thread according to your fabric, such as using a stretch using a thread with giving in it and so on.
  • Be sure to use the right needle for your project or material, if you’re unsure check out my post on what needle to use. 
  • Pay attention to the numbers on the thread, the higher the number the finer the thread it. There are also letters, A being a fine thread and D being the thicker.
  • Your pattern may require you to use a certain thread with your project so always check your pattern guidelines before starting your project.
  • If you struggle to pick an exact matching colour, always pick one that is slightly darker as the lighter thread will always show up more.

If you found this helpful leave a comment below with your favourite brand of threads and which you swear by. Check out some of my other helpful links below for more background tips and beginner guides.

How To Choose Which Sewing Machine Needle To Use

What Is The Difference Between Metric And Imperial?

How To Read Sewing Patterns


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