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Ultimate Sewing Thread Guide

Ultimate sewing thread guide

There are so many different types of thread out there, threads for embroidery, threads for hand sewing, some for quilting, machine sewing, metallic threads, jeans threads and so much more. It can get confusing to know which type of thread you need for what project. So below you will find a beginner’s thread guide which teaches you about which threads to use when. 

Polyester Threads

Many stitchers tend to use polyester threads in their stitching, such as the Gutermann Sew All thread that I use. Polyester is durable therefore less likely to break under tension than cotton thread plus has a bit of stretch to it making it suitable for sewing a wide variety of fabric types. It’s a versatile thread which can be used for machine or hand stitching. Gutermann Sew All thread is known for being strong, durable and tangle free.

They also come in multiple spools sizes from 100m to 1000m so you can easily stock up on your most used colours. Plus, there are eco-friendly recycled polyester threads available too! They are made from 100% recycled polyester.

When to use polyester thread
Hand quilting thread

Hand Quilting Thread

Most quilters tend to make quilts from 100% cotton fabrics and often like to match their thread to the cotton. Therefore, hand quilting threads tend to be 100% cotton, this gives them a matte finish allowing the thread to blend in with the fabric. Also cotton thread doesn’t stretch, reducing the risk of puckering when the quilt is washed.

Some brands such as the Gutermann Quilting threads also lightly wax their quilting threads which makes the thread less likely to tangle when you are hand quilting.

Read our guide to hand quilting

When to use variegated threads

Variegated Threads

Variegated threads are my absolute favourite! They are multicoloured threads which blend from one colour to another, creating beautiful effects in your stitching, especially when doing machine embroidery or quilting. I confess to having quite a large range of them!

Best thread for machine embroidery UK

Machine Embroidery Threads

Machine embroidery threads tend to have a decorative sheen to them which really helps to make the thread, and the design you stitch, a feature of your project. They are also very strong so they can cope with high speed stitching without breaking.

If you are new to machine embroidery read our 3 part machine embroidery guide. 

How to sew with metallic thread

Metallic Thread

Metallic threads are great for decorative stitching, adding some sparkle to your projects. They can be prone to breakage because they are a little thicker than regular thread. So, it’s best to use a specialist metallic needle, which has a larger eye to allow the thread to pass through more easily without breaking.

Why use bobbin thread

Bobbin Thread

Bobbinfil thread is a polyester thread which is a little finer than other thread so you can fit more onto a bobbin. This means more sewing time per bobbin, and less bobbin refilling. It’s also good for machine embroidery because the fact it’s lightweight means less build up of thread on dense embroidery designs. You can use it for basting too because it then only gives you a thin lightweight thread to remove.

Jeans Threads

Because denim is a heavyweight fabric it requires extra strong thread. Jeans threads are stronger than regular threads, and come in colours which either blend in with the denim, or contrasting colours for visible top stitching.

I love that the jeans threads have a slight shimmer to them, I love using them in bag making, quilting and other projects where I want a pretty thread with a bit of shimmer.  I used them in this triangle travel tote project. 

Embroidery threads by DMC UK stockist
Best sewing thread for jeans

Hand Embroidery Threads

Hand embroidery threads tend to be thicker than machine threads because they don’t have to fit through the eye of a sewing machine needle. They often come stranded; 6 smaller threads joined together as one. This allows you to split it down into a thinner thread should you want to, depending on how thick you want your stitching to appear.

You can get them in a single colour, or multicoloured variegated threads. You can also get perle threads, which are non-divisible embroidery threads. 

Learn the essential hand embroidery stitches here. 

What thread is best for overlockers?

Overlocker Thread

Overlocker threads come in large spools (1000-5000m of thread) because so much thread is used during the overlocking process. They tend to be polyester (although nylon and cotton overlocker threads are also available) so they have a little stretch, ideal for using with stretch fabrics. Plus, they are durable and have a high tensile strength.

Learn how to thread an overlocker here. 

Invisible Thread

As the name would suggest invisible thread blends into your fabric so as to make your stitches invisible. To me it kind of feels like sewing with fishing line, it’s a semi-transparent nylon thread available in clear and smoky, to blend with lighter or darker fabrics respectively. Invisible threads tend to be used in quilting for sewing applique and attaching multi coloured binding.

Elastic thread for shirring
How to sew with invisible thread

Elastic Thread

As you would imagine elastic thread has a lot of stretch to it and is used for shirring or smocking, the thread gathers the fabric as the elastic contracts.

Extra strong Gutermann sewing thread

Upholstery Thread

Upholstery thread is a heavy duty extra strong thread used for stressed seams and heavy weight fabrics such as furnishing fabrics, leather and canvas. It has a slight stretch to it so there is a small amount of give in thread. It is thicker than regular thread and is therefore more resistant to wear and tear.

If you found this ultimate thread guide useful why not visit our techniques section for more useful sewing guides. 


Visit these retailers for a wide range of different sewing and embroidery threads or search our Directory category for threads:

Just Sew Penrith

Simply Haberdashery


Sew Essential