Like a good meal, not all sewing thread is made equal, but also like a good meal, when it’s good, it’s so good. So what makes a good thread?
When your sewing machine is having issues, it's usually going to be because of one of two things: the needle, or the thread. Those of us who have threaded a sewing machine before know all of the sections and openings it passes through before it finally passes through the needle.
This means that your thread has to be sturdy enough to make it through your machine, but it also means it’s touching a lot of parts of your machine, and there’s room for error if your thread isn’t doing its job. One thing that could disturb the tension disks on your machine is a thread with loose fibers.
If you were to take a strong magnifying glass or microscope and look at a few of the threads you have in your sewing basket, you may notice some stray hairs hanging off of the side. When that thread moves through your sewing machine, or through the fabric of your latest project, there can be consequences.
These stray fibers can stay behind in your machine, clogging up your gears and they could leave behind an uravvled, thinner thread after they exit. Many of the spools of thread you might find in the cheap bin can be loose and bristly like this, even if you can’t see the loose fibers with your naked eye.
When we’re dealing with thread, a tightly wound thread is exactly what we want. It may hurt your wallet a bit more, but in the long run it is 100% worth it. You'll save in stress and in wear and tear on your machine. Aim high with thread quality.
Now that we’ve laid out our case for using high quality thread, let’s chat about what we mean by "best."
When it comes to thread, it's all about weight. Thread comes with a number, and in general, the lower the number, the thicker the thread. These numbers sometimes come to you in fraction form.
The top number represents the weight of the thread, and the bottom tells you the ply, or how many strands are spun together. So, for example, a thread that is 40/3 has a weight of 40, and is 3 strands spun together for strength.
Some threads labeled specifically for “quilting.” What they mean is “hand quilting.” This thread uses a special type of coating that makes hand sewing easier without the assistance of thread conditioner.
DO NOT use this thread in your sewing machine. If you do, you will start to hear loud noises as your machine fails to pull thread because the gears are covered with wax.
You can stick with classic 40wt. thread and be happy. However, if you are machine stitching appliqué pieces and want the stitches to be as subtle as possible, try 60wt. - 80wt. You may risk some breakage here, but you can use 60wt thread for quilting, piecing, appliqué, and embroidery.
Polyester, Silk, and Cotton Thread:
There are key differences between these three types of thread that may make you want to keep all three on hand based on what kind of sewing you enjoy.
Cotton Thread is both soft and strong. Cotton won't stretch which makes it great for quilting projects because it won't lose its form. Cotton will hold up under heat better than polyester thread, so with something like speed quilting cotton will be able to endure the friction created.
Polyester Thread is more stretchy, so when it comes to wearing what you're creating, we recommend using polyester or nylon thread. Polyester thread also has less lint then cotton thread.
Pure Silk Thread is gorgeous and extremely durable. It comes in many different weights and is thin and elastic, so it’s great for the finer things such as lingerie.