Do All Sewing Machines Use the Same Thread? (for Beginners)


If you’ve sewn a lot, you know that there’s a lot more to thread than meets the eye (of the needle).  Everyone knows thread comes in a myriad of colors, right?  But just walk into any fabric store and you may be surprised to find a wall full of different types of thread.  Choosing the right type for your sewing machine might seem overwhelming.

In general, any type of thread may be used in any sewing machine.  All sewing machines do not have to use the same thread.  There is not a particular kind of thread designed just for sewing machines.

Ready to start a new project using your sewing machine?  Read on to find out what you need to know about choosing the best thread.

Sewing Machine Thread Should Match the Project

Sewing can be divided into two types:  domestic and industrial.  Domestic sewing is for creating personal items such as clothing, crafts, and quilts at home.   Industrial machines are typically used in large scale operations for mass production.

Sewing machines in both these settings work basically the same way, although industrial machines are built to be better suited for sewing on sturdier and stiffer fabrics.  Even so, the same type of thread can be used in both these applications.

Since sewing machines can handle nearly any type of thread, you should choose the thread based on your project needs, not your sewing machine.

Can You Use Any Thread on a Sewing Machine?

For the vast majority of sewing projects, you can use any type of thread on any sewing machine.  One exception to this is when you need to use glazed thread.  Glazed thread is regular cotton thread that has been coated with wax, resin, or starch to give it extra strength.  It is primarily used in quilting.

Using glazed thread in a sewing machine may damage the parts of the machine that the thread comes in contact with.  The glazed coating can rub off or attract fuzz and lint that will then clog up the sewing path.  Glazed thread is recommended for hand quilting only.

Most Common Sewing Machine Thread Types

Sewing machine thread can be categorized into six main groups based on the material they’re spun from.  There are also special processing and coatings that further refine the thread’s suitability for a particular use.

  • Polyester thread is made of synthetic materials and is a good all-purpose thread.  Its silicone or waxy coating allows it to glide easily through the fabric’s fibers.
  • Cotton thread is a natural material that yields a strong stitch with an aesthetically pleasing sheen.
  • Nylon thread is also of synthetic materials and is best saved for upholstery work and sewing on extra-heavy fabrics.
  • Rayon thread is made from wood pulp.  It is soft to the touch, inexpensive, and offers great color options.
  • Silk thread offers a luxurious sheen and smooth feel.  While best suited for hand sewing, it can be threaded through a machine as well.
  • Wool thread is typically spun from sheep’s wool and used in embroidery and needle art.  It can also be used in a sewing machine.

Metallic thread is a specialized, less commonly used thread made of nylon with rice paper and foil on the exterior to give it a shiny finish. 

The most common types of thread used in sewing machines are polyester and cotton.  Cotton thread is usually mercerized to give it more strength and richer depth of color. Polyester threads work especially well on knits and other stretchy fabrics because they are a bit more elastic than cotton thread.

What Type of Thread is Best for Sewing Machines?

Overall, the best type of thread for sewing machines is polyester thread.  Providing excellent strength and durability, polyester thread also stands up well to washing and light exposure.  You can expect little to no shrinkage or fading over time.

During the sewing process, polyester thread produces hardly any lint, which helps your sewing machine and your project stay cleaner.

Tip:  One disadvantage to polyester thread is that it does not withstand heat as well as other materials.  Be careful when ironing so as to not weaken or damage any polyester-sewn seams or decorative stitching.

Final Thoughts

Experienced sewers will tell you that it’s best to choose your thread based on the type of fabric you’re sewing on.  Since pretty much any non-glazed thread can be successfully used in any sewing machine, don’t spend too much time fretting over your thread choice.

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