We recently wrote lots of tips for choosing the correct sewing machine needle. In this post we're looking at thread. How do you decide which type of thread to choose? Did you realise there are different types of thread? We'll take you through everything you need to know.
Achieving a professional finish is not just about your sewing skills. You need to not only use the right fabric, the right needle but also the correct thread. Just like a delicious recipe, the better the ingredients, the better the taste.
What to consider when choosing thread...
Different Types of Sewing Thread
Silk thread is very fine and is great to use when sewing natural fibres such as silk or wool. It's ideal for tailoring as it is very strong and can withstand high temperatures. You can also use silk thread for basting and (when teamed with the correct needle) it won't leave unsightly holes in the fabric.
Cotton thread is best used when sewing with natural fibre fabrics. The cotton will take lots of heat which is really important when you are pressing seams. Many cotton threads are mercerised which means they have a smooth covering to make them easier to dye and give them a lustrous, smooth, finish. Cotton thread is more prone to snap as it doesn't have much give in it.
Polyester thread unlike cotton cannot take high temperatures and can be damaged when pressing on a high heat. It's fine when using synthetic fabrics as you will be using a low heat setting to press your work. The benefit of this thread is that it has more give than cotton. the finish of polyester thread means it will slip through fabric more easily than some cotton threads.
All Purpose Thread
All purpose thread is cotton wrapped in polyester, it's the cheaper option and suitable for most projects - but we would recommend using the best thread you can afford for an important project.
Elastic thread is used in the bobbin with normal thread on top. It allows you to create an instant shirred or smocked finish. There's a great tutorial over on Make It Sew It here - Smocking with elastic thread.
Choosing the Thickness of Thread
Thread comes in different weights or thicknesses. The heavier or thicker your thread the more visible your stitches will be. Use thicker threads for sewing thicker fabrics, they will be stronger. Consider what your project will be used for and the stresses and strains on the seams before choosing a thread.
You will need to adjust the tension of your sewing machine when you change the thickness of the thread. You should always check tension whenever you make a change in fabric, needle or thread!
Make sure the needle you choose has an eye big enough for the thread not just to fit through but also to allow a little wiggle room.
Choosing a Matching Colour of Thread
Choosing the colour of a thread to perfectly match a project can be difficult. Not all fabrics will conveniently have an exact colour match, perfect thread for you to use. Also if you have patterned fabric you need to think about which thread will be the most inconspicuous.
Never guess with thread, snip off a bit of your fabric and take it to the shop. Look at the thread and the fabric colour in daylight to ensure they are a true match, the shopkeeper will be used to people taking things just outside to check, but do ask first! Light can do funny things to colour, what you thought was a perfect match under artificial light, might look a completely different shade in daylight.
If you have a choice of two different threads whch are very close to the fabric colour, always go for the darker thread. A lighter thread will be more visible whereas darker threads will tend to blend in to the seam.
With patterned materials the best advice is to go with the background colour. Unless the stitching is a feature you don't want your stitching to be conspicuous. Test a few different colours if you aren't sure or there isn't a particular background colour.
When choosing a thread for top stitching don't feel you have to use the same shade as the fabric, you can alow the topstitching to stand out in a comlementary or contrasting colour - do test it out first! Just think how great orange thread looks on denim, it's a classic combination.