9/30 | How to Pick the Right Thread for Your Sewing Project

If you’re going to sew, chances are, you’re going to need thread. It sounds really simple, but knowing how to pick the right thread for your sewing project isn’t always as straightforward as it seems.

You need to make sure it’s the right type of thread, so that your project will hold up over time and with repeated use. Not all threads are the same and not all are suitable for every type of fabric or every type of sewing project. It can be so frustrating to put in a lot of time and effort on a sewing project, only to have it coming apart a month later.

You also need to consider the color of thread you are using. There may be times that you want your stitches to stand out, but most of the time we want the stitching to be unnoticeable. We’ve got some great tips below to help you pick out the perfect color!

Choosing the Right Type of Thread

The first thing to consider is the type of thread you need. All-purpose thread is the most common kind and the one that sewists rely on for the majority of their projects. All-purpose threads are usually 100% polyester.  There are also 100% Cotton all-purpose threads—mostly used by quilters. They are usually the most economical thread option available – you can even find all-purpose thread at the dollar store. The cheaper thread like those are not as strong because it is spun of polyester fiber and doesn’t have the polyester core for strength.  Just remember though, if this is a garment or other sewing project that will get a lot of use, it’s much better to find the best quality thread you can afford. This thread may not have the strength to hold up to frequent movement.

When it comes to thicker fabric, you’re going to want thicker thread. Again, this is so that the thread can withstand the tension of holding together sturdier fabric properly. We have a full guide to different thread types here. It will help you figure out just what kind of thread you need for various types of fabrics and projects.

Choosing the Right Color of Thread

Selecting Thread for Solid Colored Fabrics

The next important thing to consider when choosing thread for your sewing project is color. Selecting thread for a solid color of fabric is a little bit easier than for a patterned fabric. Important tip: Take a swatch of your fabric to the sewing store. You may think you’ll remember it exactly, but you probably won’t.

Hold the fabric up to the color selections, looking for the best match. If you can’t find one that blends with the fabric perfectly, choose the closest one, going for one that is slightly darker, rather than slightly lighter than the fabric if you have the option. A darker color of thread tends to blend in better, while a lighter color tends to stand out.

Selecting Thread for Print Fabric

So, what do you do about that patterned fabric? Most print fabric has one color that is predominant over all the others. In that case, that should be the color you are matching with your thread. If you’re having trouble finding one color to focus on, go with the background color of your print.

It’s important to match your thread to the front (right side) of your fabric. Obviously, in most cases, your sewing is going to be on the inside of your sewing project but no one else is going to be seeing the inside of it but you. You want to choose your thread to match the right side, just in case any stitches do end up showing from the outside.  

Selecting Thread for Topstitching

When it comes to topstitching, you have a choice to make. You could select a thread that matches the main color of your garment as closely as possible so that it blends in. Or, you could choose a contrasting color that will stand out and add some interest to your design.

In this case, you might want to select one of the other secondary colors in your patterned fabric, instead of the predominant one. This helps it to stand out and give you that contrast you’re looking for while still coordinating with the rest of your fabric.

Tips for Picking out Quality Thread

When looking at thread in the store, you want to check for even distribution over the spool. If it seems to be wound around the spool unevenly, this can mean that the thread itself is damaged. You also want to be sure that you can’t see any fraying or flat spots where one section of thread looks different from the rest. Finally, be sure to check for uniform color. Uneven color is another indicator of damage or poor quality control by the manufacturer. 

One final thing to know: Thread can break down over time. We all do a happy dance if we find thread in our sewing stash that perfectly matches our newest project, but it’s a good idea to check it over before using it.

Pull out a length of the thread and check for fraying or other defects. Tug on it and make sure it’s still strong enough for the item you’ll be making. It’s worth the extra time and money to purchase new thread if needed, especially if you’re going to put a lot of work into something that will be worn or used over and over again.

Now that you know how to pick the right thread for your sewing project, what will you sew next?