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Choosing the right thread can greatly improve your sewing experience. We thank our friends from Coats & Clark®, who provided us with the expertise for this How To and loads of thread for making our creations! You’ll see: That little thin thread is more than just a string to keep pieces of fabric together.
In the following How To, we show you some specific types of fabrics and the best thread to use with them. At the same time, as its name implies, all-purpose thread can be used for most projects. However, using a specialty thread for certain projects can give better results, smoother seams and a higher quality outcome.
There are a few guidelines you should know about thread: Polyester thread is stronger and has more give than cotton thread. Thus, it can be used on woven and knit fabrics. Cotton thread can be used on woven fabrics, but not on knits, because it will not give with the fabric.

Technique Materials

various projects, various threads

24 Comments Sign in to add a post

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    Apr 16, 2010, 08.56 PMby Daniel Parker

    Yay! thanks for this!!! haha Like every american boy I saved up and bought my own sewing machine when I was little lol I saved up, went the day after thanksgiving and waited in line. Then I had to teach myself how to sew. Thread and needles are something that I know NOTHING about. MUCH thanks for this

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    Apr 12, 2010, 08.30 PMby susanne2011

    Thanks Burdastyle! I taught myself to sew using the internet and books, but there is still so much I do not know, this is REALLY helpful! If you guys ever have some spare time, I would also very much appreciate a short summary of when to use which needle of which size, because this still puzzles me a little bit. Thanks again!

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    Apr 10, 2010, 08.11 AMby plookiss

    Brilliant, and thanks for making it a PDF version, so now I can read it anywhere.

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    Dec 5, 2008, 04.53 PMby staciart

    Excellent information, incredibly helpful to me. Now I know what the problem is with my current project, lol.

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    Oct 28, 2008, 06.09 AMby bola

    Great How to!! there is so much i didn’t know about different kinds of threads!! Thanks Burda Style!! bX

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    Oct 22, 2008, 06.59 AMby katexxxxxx

    So far I’ve had no problems with the new Coates threads. I’ve tested quite a few and been impressed. If I got a problem like yours, Lorrwill, that thread would be straight back to the shop for exchange or refund, or if that wasn’t possible, I’d be sending photos to Coates! And yes, I’ve done that in the past… The Coates Cotton and Dual Duty threads, and the Seta Reale, are all their new line of thread, and quality control ought to be a LOT better than that! Do complain. And if you have any more thread problems, make sure you keep the information off the reels, photos of the problems, and samples of thread along with any correspondence with the company about the problem. MOST companies are very conscious of their reputations and will help in every way they can.

    On the other hand, I’ve also bought ancient thread out of dusty boxes someone dug out of the back of a warehouse at the old Coates Clarks factory here in the UK, and it has been as strong as steel hawsers and a joy to use for both sewing machine and serger! I bought it dirt cheap (25p-50p a cop for 1000m), expecting to have to discard some of it, as it all looked like 1960’s era cardboard cops and paper labels, but it is all as sweet as anything.

    Brocagegoddess, I’m with you on the weaker thread than fabric line as well… Easy enough to put a stitch in something, damned hard to re-weave a rip in a fine silk brocade!

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    Oct 21, 2008, 07.55 PMby lorrwill

    Hi nora,

    I had read very good things about C&C hence why I tried it. Plus the selection of colors is really excellent.

    As to the age of the thread, I had just purchased it for the project (about 2 – 3 months ago) so it wasn’t old, brittle thread (I have had experience with that too). Not unless it had been sitting in a Joann warehouse for a several years. :-)

    My current machine is very new and I always match the needle, tension and thread to the fabric I am working with anyway.

    Like I said this is not the first time I have struck out with C&C. But this last time was epic! The spools looked okay on the outside but after the thread kept breaking I inspected the spool closely and there were visible slubs (that caused major problems for the needle and bobbin, needless to say). Since I had more than one spool of the same color I tried both and both had the same problem.

    Also, it was not just that particular color. I bought a few different ones at the same time and two of them had this problem. Additionally, one color even had parts where the actual thread looked like the spinning machine was plying incorrectly (it was visibly thinner in spots). I discovered this hand sewing with it.

    I am sorry to say that I chucked them out in frustration so I don’t have any product numbers to help trace the batch.

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    Oct 21, 2008, 03.48 PMby brocadegoddess

    Dear KateXXXXXX, Thank you so much for your post. Frankly, I think it’s a better how-to than the actual one. As someone who is becoming a serious natural-fibre snob and has mostly weeded synthetics from her stash (unless they’re really really special), I have in turn been using more and more natural fibre threads. I wholeheartedly agree with the advice to use a thread fibre that matches your fabric’s fibre when possible. I have to admit that I’ve mostly been using Gutermann cotton threads of late, I had not heard of the brands you mentioned – but will check them out asap! I have just recently started using silk threads (Gutermann and an asian brand called “Tire”), although that has only been for a large handsewing project I’m working on. Once I’m allowed to machine sew again, I will certainly be using more silk threads on my silk projects!

    One piece of advice I was once given is to choose a thread that is weaker than your fabric. This may seem a little counter-intuitive, however in a worst-case scenario what would you prefer: to have your thread break at a seam that’s easy to fix; or your fabric tear irreperably?

    I think the Burda how-to is a good start at looking at thread types, but I’ve read much better in Threads magazine. Sorry.

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    Oct 21, 2008, 03.35 PMby lalinya

    Thanks a lot for the How-To’s. The only brand I buy all the time is coats & clark, mainly because it is reasonably priced than many other brands and secondly it has not given me any problems till now, and I sew almost everyday.

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    Oct 21, 2008, 02.13 PMby katexxxxxx

    I take issue with quite a few things stated in this How To…

    I do like the Coates Cotton: it’s certainly better than the old Sylco, and miles better than the current Gutterman cotton on offer. It’s not quite as good as the Aurifil and YLI cottons, which I much prefer when I can get them. The Polyester Dual Duty is much better than the old Drima, and a lot better than the Gutterman general purpose polyester. Generally, however, I prefer the Empress Mills 120’s poly and 120’s plycore (cotton wrapped threads) for general construction. I might use more of the Gutterman serger thread if it came on better sized cones and a better range of colours. It is by far and away their best thread.

    I ALWAYS match thread fiber to fabric fiber as far as possible.

    For 100% cotton fabrics, I use cotton thread for standard sewing machine construction, and cotton or polycore in the serger.

    For polycotton fabrics, I tend to use Polycore in both the standard machine and the serger.

    For wool fabrics I prefer cotton, and for wool blended with polyester I use polycore. For wool blended with silk, I use silk thread.

    For silk fabrics of all weights I use silk thread whenever possible, in both the standard machine and the serger. If I cannot get a silk for the serger, I prefer to use a long staple cotton like Aurifil or YLI to polyester, though I will use polyester of I cannot get a good match. I usually use Empress Mills thread in this instance.

    I use cotton thread to sew linen, and polycore or cotton in the serger.

    I use cotton thread to sew cotton knits. I much prefer the results to those I get with polyester thread. I use cotton thread in the serger, or polycore rather than straight polyester in the serger. Popping seams with cotton thread on cotton knits is due to poor sewing technique rather than the wrong thread. If you use the correct stretch sewing techniques and needles, cotton thread, especially good quality long staple cotton thread like Aurifil, YLI, and Coates Cotton work perfectly well. I have had cotton knit garments sewn with cotton thread last for over 10 years when used with the correct sewing technique.

    For wool knits and crepe fabrics I like cotton thread. For silk knits I use silk thread in both the serger and the standard machine.

    I like to use silk thread for hand finishing on most fabrics. I frequently use it or rayon embroidery thread for things like buttonholes, sewn eyelets, and hand finishing hems on fine fabrics. The polished sheen of the silk and rayon threads makes them slide through the fabrics with fewer snarls and tangles than you get with polyester thread. I have used cotton for finishing cotton garments when I could not get a proper match or blend in silk or rayon. The finer 100 weight cottons such as YLI and Aurifil, closely followed by Coates Cotton are the best for this.

    I tend to use 50 weight cotton quilting thread for top stitching, but will also use the 30 weight silk threads for this. These work very well. I much prefer them to the polyester ‘topstitching’ or ‘upholstery’ threads often recommended. Old fashioned cotton ot linen buttonhole thread is also very good, if you have the right colour.

    Light is a much more frequent cause of damage to thread than temperature changes. Thread should be stored like fabric: away from light, dust free, and away from damp. This is how I store mine:

    The ‘cozy’ round the basket stack is made with a blackout thermal lining inside the curtain fabric. It wraps round all 4 sides and is held in place with Velcro.

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    Oct 21, 2008, 12.38 PMby jsolnushko

    Thank you for sharing a great how to!

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    Oct 21, 2008, 09.45 AMby tartina32

    Very helpful! Thank you!

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    Oct 17, 2008, 02.56 PMby lookingpast

    Along with my mom’s Featherweight, I inherited a huge plastic box of her thread. As I learned more about sewing I realized that using this old thread (and I do mean old!) could be responsible for a lot of the tension problems I was having. Now I only use recently-purchased thread, and SURPRISE! No more tension problems.

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    Oct 16, 2008, 01.47 PMby nora

    Thanks so much for commenting.

    BurdaStyle is a mix of editorial and user-generated content. That mix of knowledge and background is what makes our skill share so special. We think that the perfect mix is achieved when professionals, hobbyists and everybody in between shares their experiences.

    By choosing a company like Coats & Clark we wanted to bring you advice from the expert. We absolutely agree that there are other brands out there. Therefore we used general descriptions of threads so that you can apply the knowledge to any other brand you like. And we would love for you to share with us your knowledge on anything you feel is missing in this how to! Look out for our next how to on covering buttons with fabric!

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    Oct 15, 2008, 05.20 PMby s0mmer

    Coats&Clark is widely available in the US and perfectly serviceable, but what about other brands? I found this C&C commercial to be terribly unhelpful and made me less likely to try their new threads.

    It would be a disservice to readers if Burda Style began only discussing products sold by your “partners”.

  • Noraabousteit4-1000x1000_large

    Oct 15, 2008, 09.01 AMby nora

    Hey Laurie1962, we added a postal address for non-US residents, they can send a card. Next time we’ll make sure everyone can join via the web!

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    Oct 15, 2008, 08.16 AMby erine

    I’m about to start my first project with jersey—this was a perfectly timed how-to! Great info.

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    Oct 15, 2008, 12.39 AMby taran

    This “how to” is importent knowledge for everyone, who want the best result for projects they want to last. I’ve not used the threads from Coats & Clark, because they are not sold in Norway …

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    Oct 14, 2008, 08.17 PMby prudencerabbit

    Thanks for this great how-to! Here’s another tip for hand sewing: always thread your needle with the end of the thread you cut (closest to the spool). It puts the twist of the thread in the right direction and minimizes tangles.

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    Oct 14, 2008, 06.06 PMby nuiwida23

    one of the most helpful how-to’s yet! i’ve never paid much attention to the labels on the thread, just the right color match! but now i’ve learned my lesson and will be able to improve the quality of my creations. thanks burdastyle!

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    Oct 14, 2008, 04.30 PMby aliish

    Absolutely great How To! Thanks again BurdaStyle and Coats & Clark too :-)

  • Noraabousteit4-1000x1000_large

    Oct 14, 2008, 02.20 PMby nora

    Hi Lorrwill,

    That’s interesting to hear. We had a different experience, we’ve been testing the thread for quite a while and had no trouble, but were very happy and got good comments about it.

    Do you think it was an old thread maybe? Or could the tension be not adjusted right? Perhaps we can put you in touch with someone to find out more?

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    Oct 14, 2008, 01.43 PMby lorrwill

    I have had very bad luck with this thread. And the last time I used it, it had so many knots in it and kept breaking so much that I had to remove it buy something else (Mettler Metrosene). I won’t be using any more Coats and Clarks. :-(

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    Oct 14, 2008, 11.16 AMby dianacirne

    Great How-to!

    • This is a question
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