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Thread Types 

Wool and Cotton

There is a diverse selection of thread to suit every project and every sewer.  Whatever type of sewing thread you choose, always look for brand names known for high quality such as those featured below.  Quality sewing thread will always make the difference, especially when considering all the fabric and needle types available.  Here are the three most common types:

All Purpose Sewing Thread 

- All-purpose sewing threads is made of synthetic, cotton or cotton covered polyester. This type of thread is used for sewing garments and projects.

Embroidery Thread

- Embroidery thread is made of various fibers; rayon, polyester, acrylic or metallic. These threads create a smooth glossy appearance for embroidery and other decorative stitching. When embroidering, always use embroidery thread in the bobbin area as well.  The thread is finer in weight and less likely to build up under the embroidery.  

Note: When using a metallic or a flat film thread for embroidering, you may need to use a needle with a larger eye and lower the embroidery speed. Thread the sewing machine with the spool in the vertical position. 

Transparent Thread

- Transparent thread, also called monofilament thread, is single clear synthetic thread. It is used for quilting and other decorative sewing. Thread the sewing machine with the spool in the vertical position. 

When winding a bobbin, wind at slow speed and wind the bobbin half full.

Thread Weight

Thread weight should always be considered before beginning a sewing project as it will undoubtedly have an affect on the final outcome.  Not all manufacturers use the same standards so we've provided some basic information below to help demystify the process.   

Weight (i.e. 50wt): 

- The weight of thread actually refers to the length of a given weight of thread.  What the manufacturer does is divides the length of thread by a set weight to derive the exact measurement for thread weight.  As an example, a thread may be labeled as 50 wt. because one gram is 50 meters long.   A thread may be labeled 30 wt. because one gram is 30 meters long.  
- This means that when thread manufacturers use weight measurements, higher numbers generally reflect finer or lighter threads and lower numbers reflect thicker or heavier threads.  

Denier (i.e. 120/3 d): 

- This measurement is the weight in grams of 9,000 meters of thread (9km). If 9,000 meters weighs 100 grams, it’s a 100-denier thread. If 9,000 meters weighs 120 grams, it is a 120 d thread.  
- Denier is a popular unit of measure for embroidery threads.  You may see 120/2 which equals 2 strands of 120-denier thread for a 240 denier total.

- This means that when thread manufacturers use denier measurements, higher numbers generally reflect thicker or heavier threads while lower numbers reflect finer or lighter threads. This is opposite from the weight system. 

Tex (i.e. Tex 50 or T50):

- Tex refers to the weight in grams of 1,000 meters of thread. If 1,000 meters weighs 50 grams, it is Tex 50.
- This means that when thread manufacturers use Tex measurements, higher numbers generally reflect thicker or heavier threads while lower numbers reflect finer or lighter threads.. This is similar to denier.  

Number System (i.e. No: 100 or #50)

- The Number standard is used on many thinner threads and is written as No. 50 (or #50) or No. 100 (or #100). Many people confuse this with a weight measurement and incorrectly suppose a No. 100 thread is a 100 weight thread.
- The number reflects the number of individual strands of thread that are twisted together to make the final product.  This is called the Gunze count.
- This means that when thread manufacturers use the Number System, the smaller the number the heavier the thread and the larger the number the lighter the thread. This is similar to the weight system.

Composition Standard (i.e. #50/2 or 20/1x3)

The composition standard was developed for cotton thread but has also been adopted for polyester threads.
- This standard uses numbers like 20/3 (or 20/1x3) and 50/2 (or 50/1x2). The first number represents the same number used in the Number Standard and the second number represents the number of plies of thread twisted together. For example, a 30/3 means the thread is a 3-ply No. 30 thread.
- Most thin threads (50 wt. and thinner) are a 2-ply thread. Most heavy threads are a 3-ply thread.

Thread Impact 

Thread weight influences many aspects of a sewing project.  Heavier threads make your stitching more visible.  We've outlined just a few things below for consideration:  

Needle Size

- A general rule of thumb is to use a needle whose eye is 40% larger than the diameter of the thread.  
- If you find your thread to be shredding or skipping stitches, try a new needle and go up one size.


- Whenever changing thread weight, you'll likely need to adjust tension as well.  
- Generally, thread weight is directly related to thread diameter.  Sewing machines use this diameter to control tension by compressing the thread.
- If the tension is too high, it may damage or even break the thread. If it is too low, the thread may loop on the back of the fabric.

Stitch Density

- Most embroidery designs are created for 40 wt thread.  This ensures adequate coverage for the design.
- If a 30 wt or smaller thread is used, the increased diameter of the thread may cause the design to present poorly/clumpy or make your fabric pucker.  The thread may also shred on itself which will can cause breakage or machine jams.  
- Remember to reduce stitch density, increase design size and/or increase stitch length if using thicker thread.

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