Sewing Thread Fibers and Special Types
Although matching thread fiber to fabric fiber seems logical, choosing the appropriate thread by characteristics such as strength, colorfastness, or chemical resistance is more practical. In general, natural fiber threads such as cotton, linen, silk, and rayon (a manufactured fiber made from natural cellulose) sew beautifully. But synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon, or acrylic are stronger. Learn more about how to choose thread types in Thread Essentials.
Made from spun staple cotton fibers (Egyptian long staples are about 11⁄4 inches long and American pima staples are about 11⁄2 inches long). Cotton thread has little stretch, limited strength, and (in comparison to other fibers) can produce a lot of lint. It also has a low sheen. Use cotton thread for heirloom sewing, decorative stitching or embroidery, sewing lightweight natural fibers, patchwork, and quilting.
Cotton-wrapped polyester thread
Made by wrapping a continuous polyester filament with staple cotton, this thread has the benefits of polyester and the look of cotton. Use for all-purpose sewing.
Made from extruded filaments, nylon threads come in a variety of forms that are very strong and rot-resistant:
• Monofilament is a single filament and comes in a wide range of weights. Use a lightweight version for invisible sewing and blind hems, or encase a heavier version inside a rolled stitch to support fluted or ruffled edges.
• Texturized threads (such as woolly nylon) are continuous multifilaments that stretch into a fine, strong thread and then expand to a full, fluffy appearance when relaxed. Use them for serged seams, decorative stitching, and rolled hems.
• Upholstery threads are often nylon. They come in limited colors, are extremely strong, and will withstand the rigors of outdoor use. Upholstery thread is easy to sew with but the ends ravel and are difficult to knot.
The garment industry often uses polyester thread because it is strong, colorfast, and resistant to UV rays, rot, mildew, and chemicals. It has some stretch, good recovery, and is heat-resistant. It can also be manufactured to mimic the appearance of natural fibers.
• Spun polyester is made by cutting filaments into 4- to 5-inch staples, spinning them into yarns, and then plying the yarns into a thread that’s smoother and stronger than a spun natural fiber. Use it for all-purpose sewing.
• Trilobal filament polyester is plied, multiple continuous filaments. The triangular filaments shine like rayon but have better colorfastness. Sold as a machine-embroidery thread (may not be identified as trilobal).
• Texturized polyester has the same characteristics as woolly nylon but tolerates higher temperatures.
Made from a continuous fiber, rayon thread has no stretch, very little strength, and is
not always colorfast, but it tolerates high temperatures, and is soft and beautiful. It is less durable than silk or polyester, and is used almost exclusively for decorative stitching and machine embroidery—not recommended for construction.
Made from a natural continuous fiber that is strong, smooth, and has a lustrous sheen. It is wonderful for hand-sewing, tailoring, and basting. Use lightweight silk threads for sewing fragile fabrics. Use medium-weight silk thread for elegant construction on fine silk and wool fabrics. Opt for heavier-weight silk thread for buttonholes and hand- or machine-topstitching.
Special Use Thread Types
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