Sewing Thread Part II: The Best Quality Sewing Thread


Welcome to Part Two of my “Ode to Thread: The BEST Quality Sewing Thread,” a series of blog posts dedicated to that little old thang that none of us could quilt without. If you missed Part One and want to hear about our thready superhero’s origin story: How Thread is Made, click here. If you don’t have a minute to read it, don’t worry. I’m sure Marvel will make it into a major motion picture soon.

This second installation is a good, important one. We’re talking about thread quality (any thread quality inspectors out there?) Like pizza, not all thread is created equal, but also like pizza, when it’s good, it’s so good. So what is it that makes good thread good? That’s what we’re about to find out.​


The Best Quality Sewing Thread is All Wound Up​

When you run into problems with your sewing machine, you can bet it’s one of two things: the needle, or the thread. If you’ve threaded a sewing machine before, you know all of the eye openings it passes through before it goes through the needle.

This means that your thread has to be fit and ready for the journey through your machine, but it also means it’s touching a lot of parts of your machine, and there’s a lot of room for error if your thread isn’t performing its job well. One thing that really messes with those tension disks is a thread with loose fibers.​

If you have a microscope laying around (hey, some people do!), haul it out and take a look at a few of the different threads you have in your sewing basket. See any little stray hairs hanging off of the side? Now imagine that thread traveling through your sewing machine, and through the fabric of your latest project.

Those loose fibers can be left behind in your machine, gumming up your gears like nobody’s business, and they’ll leave behind a thinner, weaker thread after they leave. Many of the spools of thread you’re tempted to pluck from the bargain bin are loose and hairy like this, even if you can’t tell by looking at it with the naked eye (but usually, you actually can.)​

You don’t want everything (or everyone) in your life to be tightly-wound, but when we’re talking about thread, that’s exactly what you want. If that means shelling out a little extra cash, it’s worth it in the long run. Whether you’re working with cotton, silk, or polyester thread, you will find different levels of quality from thread to thread. Go for the good stuff.​

Choosing the Best Quality Sewing Thread for the Job​

Now that I’ve (hopefully) convinced you that you and your sewing machine deserve the best, let’s talk about what kind of “the best” you need for your project.

Not everyone considers it polite to talk about weight, but when it comes to thread, you gotta get personal. Thread, like yarn, comes with a number, and in general, the lower the number, the thicker the thread. These numbers sometimes come to you in fraction form, but don’t freak out – there’s no serious math involved.

The top number represents the weight of the thread, and the bottom tells you the ply, or how many strands are spun together. So, for example, a thread that is 40/3 has a weight of 40, and is 3 strands spun together for strength. See, you already have it mastered.​


Find these pretty bundles above at PurlSoho.

Now, Let’s Talk Thread Specifics.​..

Handing Quilting Thread​

You’ll notice that there are some threads labeled specifically for “quilting.” What they mean is “hand quilting.” Don’t be confused (cause I’ve definitely been there.) This thread has a special coating that makes hand sewing easier without the assistance of thread conditioner (Never heard of thread conditioner? It’s wonderful stuff for hand sewing. Click here for my favorite brand!)

Trust me, though, you don’t want to use this waxed thread in your sewing machine – very quickly you will start to hear clunk clunk CLUNK as your machine grinds to a halt and residual wax has coated your gears.​

You can see from my FAQ page that I reach for DMC Pearl Cotton No. 8 thread when hand quilting. Other brands and thread sizes for hand sewing reach about 30wt. Anything thinner than that and your stitches will be too small and delicate. Also you will run into your thread knotting easily and breaking.​

All-Purpose Piecing and Quilting Thread​

40wt and up to 50wt are favorite threads for machine quilting and all purpose sewing. If you want to think less about thread and more about your beautiful fabric stash, buy yourself some 40wt. thread and use it for all of your quilting needs. You’ll be fine.​

Appliqué Thread​

Like I said earlier, you can stick with classic 40wt. thread and be happy. However, if you are machine stitching appliqué pieces and want the stitches to be as subtle as possible, try 60wt. - 80wt. You may risk some breakage here, but you can use 60wt thread for quilting, piecing, appliqué, and embroidery.​

Cotton vs. Polyester vs. Silk - When to Use What​

There are key differences between these three types of thread that may make you want to keep all three on hand based on what kind of sewing you enjoy. For more specific info on cotton vs. poly thread, check out this post!

  • Cotton Thread is both soft and strong. The lack of stretch in cotton thread makes it ideal for quilting projects because it won't lose its shape. Cotton also holds up under heat better than polyester thread, so if you’re a speed quilter who puts the petal to the metal, cotton will hold up under the heat of fast friction.​
  • Polyester Thread has a little bit of stretch to it, so if you are planning to wear what you’re sewing, use polyester or nylon thread. Also, one major perk about poly thread is that it sheds less lint than cotton.
  • Pure Silk Thread is really pretty, and really durable. Although it comes in a variety of weights, it’s very fine and elastic, so it’s great for things that are just as pretty as it is: like lingerie.

And Now… the Best Quality Sewing Thread According to Moi

  • Aurifil: With exciting designer collaborations giving us beautiful color collections, Aurifil is definitely one of my favs. This Italian-made thread seems to be a bit more delicate than the others I mention, so you may want to sew a bit with it before choosing between 50wt. and 40wt. for your piecing.
  • Mettler: This thread is famous for its long staple spools (that means they’re spun from super-long strands of cotton – making this thread very strong and and less prone to breakage.) Get back to the basics with some popular colors, and a smooth, silk finish with their 100% cotton thread. Or try out the more high-end pure silk thread for a special project.
  • Gütermann: This is another brand I know I can count on to go the distance without breaking down… err… breaking in general. Go for low lint levels with this polyester spool or stick with their sturdy inexpensive cotton.
  • Coats & Clark: Many crafters looking to dabbling with sewing will not visit a "bonafide quilt shop," but rather, their local Joann Fabrics – and that's totally fine because even if you only have access to Joann's you still have access to great thread. Enter Coats & Clark. If you’ve heard of thread, you’ve probably heard of Coats & Clark. I like C & C because it's cheap and I can always find the color I want.

I hope this two-part series helps to detangle the vast and sometimes confusing world of thread. Now that you know my go-to brands, what are your favorites? Comment below!

59 thoughts on “Sewing Thread Part II: The Best Quality Sewing Thread

  1. Sally jr says:

    for general sewing, Gitterman
    for quilt piecing , Aurifil, Superior Masterpiece sometimes Gutterman
    for machine quilting,depends–heavy wt Superior King Tut, light wt Connecting Threads poly cone
    but there are so many others!

  2. Shannon says:

    Great round-up and explanation, Suzy! I got a little scared when you started to talk about the 40/3, but I got through 😉 Thanks for sharing!

  3. Pingback: Bayside Quilt Pattern + Video Tutorial! - Suzy Quilts

  4. Pingback: Bluefig Sewing Bags – Stylish and Practical! - Suzy Quilts

  5. Pingback: Reverse Sawtooth Star Quilt Pattern - Suzy Quilts

  6. Pingback: Simple and Elegant Quilted Table Runner Tutorial - Suzy Quilts

  7. Pingback: Free Waffle Cone Quilt Pattern: An Example of the American Dream - Suzy Quilts

  8. Pingback: Free Little Houses Baby Quilt Pattern - Suzy Quilts

  9. Pingback: The Best Sewing Table: Take Your Sewing Studio to the Next Level - Suzy Quilts

  10. Pingback: The 2 Absolute Best Pins for Quilting - Suzy Quilts

  11. Laura says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention Superior Threads. I loved King Tut 40 wt variegated for my quilting top stitching. They are fantastic threads!!

      • Karen says:

        You can order it directly from And bonus – they have thread swatch cards (with real thread) available on all the many varieties they sell. From strong quilting, to fine bobbin weights, Kevlar to Stainless steel (yes… to sew those LED lights into a circuit on your Halloween costume – really!) They source the best fibers in the world and are a USA based company! They also have a “School of Threadology” if you want to learn more about thread, they are the place to go! I love their “Bottom Line” 60 weight thread for fine work like machine applique or embroidery bobbin thread.

    • C.M. says:

      Thanks, I was quilting along and Suddenly my tension was Off! Read your article and I’m up and running again.
      Appreciate your help. You made my day.💕
      Love Gutermann thread!

  12. jsprite says:

    What about Madeira threads? Or is it only used for sergers? Speaking of sergers, can you use serger thread for regular sewing?

      • Rachael says:

        I wouldn’t use serger thread in your sewing machine, only I’m your serger. Serger thread is much lintier and less strong than machine thread, because it’s used combination of 3,4, or 5 threads at once, and therefore doesn’t need to hold as much tension. And serger thread is for finishing edges on wovens or seeing with knits, which is also why it isn’t strong enough for seam piecing.

  13. Pingback: Fusible Batting Tape: Why You Need It & How to Use It - Suzy Quilts

  14. Pingback: Appliqué All Day! Needle-Turn Appliqué Tutorial - Suzy Quilts

  15. Melissa Ryther says:

    Absolutely, you should research Superior threads! One of the best on the market. Many, many long armers depend on it. Their website has wonderful videos.

    • Teri Sullivan says:

      If you talk to a quilt shop owner who sells and repairs sewing machines you will learn to never use Coats and Clark thread in your sewing machine. It causes massive lint build up and will lead to actually breaking your machine. He can always tell when someone uses that kind of thread. If you want to speak with him yourself call Quilter’s Haven in Overland Park, KS. We are a suburb of Kansas City. Don’t ever recommend that thread!

  16. Pingback: Must-Have Quilting Tools: Secrets to the Best Sewing Toolbox - Suzy Quilts

  17. Pingback: 5 Secrets to Machine Quilting with 12 wt. Thread - Suzy Quilts

  18. Donna C says:

    Thanks for the great info SuzY! I have to admit I was a little bit surprised to see Gutermann and coats and Clark’s in your recommendations. Most of the Gutermann I find at Joannes is sloppy and poor quality. I tend to use Aurifil, 50 wt. for piecing and just starting to use Superior King Tut for quilting as it’s a 3 play and they have a large range of solids and variegated colors. I use Superior So Fine 50 wt as well as Isacord poly for bagmaking. Isacord is a beautiful thread and is very affordable with a large color selection. I typically stock up on my superior thread at QuiltCon and Road to California as typically have a booth. Even if I have to shop at the website it’s only $50 for free shipping so that’s a pretty good deal.

    • robin nelson says:

      I agree. I got the pack of gutterman with the case. Although convenient for color choice I hate the thread for sewing as it shreds terribly even when I slow down. I won’t be buying again. Coats and Clark while a less expensive brand and many do not like it seems a far superior thread to me. I see that sewing with 40 wt for piecing is recomented so I am guessing I could use my 40 wt machine embroidery thread. I did not know that.

  19. Pingback: The Difference Between Cotton and Poly Thread: A Hard-Hitting Interview - Suzy Quilts

  20. Linda says:

    Check what country the Gutermann is actually made. Not all gutermann is made in Germany. If it’s not made in Germany it’s not the same quality. If you bought it online, it may not be the one made in Germany

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Congrats! And no, it’s not bad at all. You may find that choosing a thinner thread, such as 40 wt. is easier for you in your next quilt. Experimenting is one of the fun things about quilting, so experiment away!

  21. Pingback: 10 Creepy & Fun Halloween Sewing DIYs - Suzy Quilts

  22. Crystal McCombs says:

    I did not know,anything and decided I was,gonna make a quilt comforter for our bed. What was supposed to be 108 became 60 and my thread issues almost had me ready to throw everything away. I looked for the #s you mention and there were none. 🙁 I was ready to never do this again, but after reading your article …. I will buy some good thread and give it a whirl. 🙂

  23. Pingback: 8 Things You Never Knew About the Tailor’s Clapper - Suzy Quilts

  24. Pingback: Quilting Technique Questions – Answered: Part III - Suzy Quilts

  25. Maggie says:

    Suzy, when you mention that 40/3 is the weight of the thread and the number of strands, would the 40 be all three spun together? So a 40/3 would be the same weight as 40/2 but stronger because it has more strands? Thank you for the constant inspiration!

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Good question! I’m not sure how strength plays into that. I think what the difference between those two options would be the thickness of the yarns being spun together.

  26. Laurie Black says:

    Both Guterman and Coats&Clark break constantly when used on my sewing machine. Is there a thread that doesn’t break?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      I’ve found Sulky to be a really sturdy thread. I would also recommend a polyester or poly blend instead of cotton. Cotton threads tend to break more. Here’s an article on the difference between the two – If you have been using 50 wt., try bumping that up to 40 wt. It’s a slightly thicker thread and shouldn’t break as easily. Lastly, if you are still having thread issues, it may be as simple as getting a new needle. If using 70/10, you could change to 80/12. This may require some experimentation to find out what your machine likes.

    • Wizbang_FL says:

      I would check your machine tension. Thread breakage is often resulting from tension being set too high or the machine being improperly threaded.

  27. Pingback: Your Guide to Finding the Best Thimble - Suzy Quilts

  28. Pingback: How to Sew Curves in a Quilt - Suzy Quilts

  29. Pingback: Tail Feather Quilt Pattern: Grab Some Fat Quarters - Suzy Quilts

  30. Irene Denkeler says:

    I have trouble with some Coats and Clark Dual Duty XP thread. All purpose. If its 100% polyester thread I can use it but I bought a spool of the same thread somewhere, I assume JoAnns and it would not work on my Brother machine I finally found in small print that it was 100% polyester covered polyester thread. Why the difference?

    • Suzy Quilts says:

      Just to clarify, it sounds like you have two different kinds of thread – one is 100% poly and the other is a poly-coated thread. Is that right? It’s possible that the poly-coated thread is coated in a durable resin, which can be really great if you are sewing with upholstery fabric. However, if you are just using light-weight quilting cotton, it is overkill and could cause tensions problems. It also might be messing things up if you have a different thread in your bobbin.

      Maybe next time, pass on anything that says “Dual Duty” and look for 40 or 50 wt thread. If something says “machine quilting thread” that’s perfect.

  31. Pingback: The Truth About Black Batting: When & Why to Use It - Suzy Quilts

  32. Pingback: 10 Fun & Free Scrap Quilt Patterns - Suzy Quilts

  33. Pingback: Quilting Rotary Cutters: A Complete Guide - Suzy Quilts

  34. Pingback: How to Sew Binding on a Quilt (VIDEO!) - Suzy Quilts

  35. Pingback: Grow Sew Along Weeks 3 & 4: Sewing Blocks - Suzy Quilts

  36. Smantha William says:

    Having read this I thought it was extremely enlightening. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this article together. I once again find myself personally spending way too much time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  37. Nicole P.-Aviles says:

    I’ve just retired and finally can enjoy sewing without interruptions. I am very slow and make all possible mistakes on EVERY STEP of a project. I keep going because I love sewing so much.
    I learn so much.
    I found your article very interesting AND SO FUNNY! ( the part about weight !!) although you went fast on silk thread.
    But it’s OK . You enlightened and delighted me.
    I will continue my search for info. The world of sewing is filled with very very kind people willing to help beginners.
    Thank you all for your kindness.

  38. joseph reed sr says:

    what thread do i need too buy that replaces star mercerized number 8 thread in black=white=red=blue,

    i don’t need a lot of jibbersh about material weights etc

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *