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Learn About Thread Essentials

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Machine-embroidery thread Designed to fill in evenly without bunching, this fine thread comes in cotton, rayon, long-staple polyester, or with a wrapped polyester core, and is available in hundreds of colors. Use for decorative stitching and embroidery where strength is not a concern.

Here’s the information you need to learn about thread essentials so you can choose the right kind of thread for any project.

Aside from fabric, thread is perhaps the most essential component of sewing—yet we often sew without giving much consideration to our thread selection. We’ve all seen the jargon related to thread and wondered what it means. Since home sewers have a greater variety of threads to choose among than ever before, a basic knowledge of thread will reassure you as to what you need to know when you set out to make a selection, and what’s just interesting.

Of course, selecting the right thread requires more than picking the best color for your fabric. For some projects, any of several thread choices may be equally fine. For others, the finished results are affected for better or worse by the type of thread used. In all cases, the thread must perform well on your machine with your fabric and needle and give the look and wear you want.

Start with background information

To understand how to choose the right thread for every one of your sewing projects, follow along as I explain some basic guidelines and explore the diverse components that go into a spool of thread: fiber characteristics, structure, final finish (which establishes how well it behaves with the machine and the sewing process), size, and type. I’ve focused this discussion on threads for machine-sewing, with an occasional diversion to quilting, machine-embroidery, and hand-sewing threads, too. You’ll find photos of many thread types with an explanation of their uses here. 

To better understand this topic myself, I spoke to many thread and sewing machine company representatives. I offer thanks to all of them—especially Steve Butler at American & Efird, Bob Purcell at…

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