Does Sewing Thread Get Old? (Explained for Beginners)

If you enjoy buying your thread in bulk, or if you’ve thought about buying vintage thread because it’s cheaper, you might be wondering if that box of thread has an expiry date. What would happen if it sits on your shelf for a long time before you decide to use it?

Like everything else in life, sewing thread gets old. The old thread may look fine but it will not work properly. It is prone to breakage and will not be colored evenly. However, every spool of thread will expire after a different period, and several factors affect the lifespan of your thread.

In this guide, we’ll answer all the questions about how sewing threads expire. How does it go bad? What makes it do so? How can you tell if your thread is too old? We have all the answers.

How to Tell If Sewing Thread is Old?

Sewing thread goes bad because of exposure to the elements, including light, dust, humidity, and temperature. Exposure to these elements weakens the fibers of the thread, causing it to break and the thread to become weaker.

There is a simple test that you can use to check whether your thread has gone bad or not:

  • Cut a piece of the thread as long as your forearm
  • Tie a knot in the middle
  • Gently pull the thread from both ends
  • If it does not break, the thread is OK to use
  • If it breaks, it is too old and weak to use

Does Old Thread Go Bad?

As mentioned earlier, yes, old thread goes bad. Thread does not last forever. When it gets too old, it becomes unusable. Therefore, before grabbing your next spool, test its usability as shown above first.

When you use old thread on your machine, you may notice bits of fluff on the throat plate. A lot of people mistakenly think that this is due to the fabric as it wnet under the needle. But it isn’t. The fuzz comes from the thread when they get shaved off as it passes through the eye of the needle.

This is usually a sign that the thread you are using is either low quality or too old. When you look at the thread, you will notice that it has bits of fuzz hanging off the sides or it has variations in thickness along its length. Using such thread leads to the creation of weaker seams that will not be able to handle stress as well as newer or better threads.

Can You Sew with Old Thread?

When thinking about whether or not you can sew with old thread, the most important question is to ask yourself which project you plan to use it in.

A good rule of thumb is to never use it on new fabric or trim. Instead, you can use the old thread for:

  • Hand basting
  • Decorative stitches
  • Use it for display, eg by filling a mason jar with old spools and placing it on a table
  • In crafting projects

Do not use old threads in new or important projects. While you can sew with old thread if you wish, the result will be weaker creations that have bad seams that look worn down. Probably not what you are going for.

Additionally, most threads that were manufactured many years ago should not be used for sewing projects as they are too old. However, modern threads have started being made to meet higher quality standards, allowing them to last for many years. When stored correctly, they should be able to remain usable for many generations.

What to Do with Old Sewing Thread?

So you’ve just discovered that you have a lot of old threads? Since you cannot use them in your new sewing projects, is there any other way you can put them to good use without throwing them away? Well, yes!

As long as you do not use your old thread in big, important, or new projects, you should be fine. There are several different ways that you can use your old sewing thread. You can also use it for thread tracing and temporary basting. It will also work well for smaller jobs like tailor’s tacks.

Old sewing thread is also great for fun DIY projects. You can use it as stuffing in a pillowcase or a dog bed, for instance. This way, it gets a new function and you do not have to throw it out.

How Long Does Sewing Thread Last?

The shelf life of sewing thread will depend on, among other things, the quality of the thread. High-quality threads are made to meet higher production standards, which makes them last longer.

The material of the thread also affects its lifespan. For example, thread that is made from polyester or nylon will last longer than thread that’s made from natural fibers like cotton. This is because polyester is a more durable material than cotton.

Because of this, it is impossible for anyone to tell you exactly how long your spool of thread will last without a lot of extra information about it. In fact, one of the most important factors that affect the lifespan of thread is environmental factors. They can either extend the life of your thread or shorten it by several years.

Here are a few common factors that will affect the lifespan of your thread:

  • Light: Exposure to light causes thread to weaken and fade. It will fade visibly, signaling that light has affected its strength.
  • Humidity: If you live in an area with a very dry climate, your thread may become brittle as a result. If you live in an area with high humidity, your thread may become sticky or moldy. Get rid of thread that is showing any of these signs
  • Dust: Dust on your spools may get pulled into the tension discs of your machine, causing it to grind to a halt. For the good of your sewing machine, always get rid of spools that have accumulated too much dust.
  • Poor storage: Proper storage for your threads is extremely important. Keep it in a well-organized place. Avoid using loose containers, bags, drawers, or pouches. Instead, keep all your threads separate from other spools to avoid tangling and loose threads.

Looking for great storage options for your thread? Here are a few options:

  • Thread racks: Easy, user-friendly, and they come with multiple rows of spool holders. They are designed to help keep all your thread organized and safe. They’ll also keep all your threads visible and always within reach. The only downside is that they are prone to collecting dust and exposure to direct sunlight. Therefore, if you get a thread rack, ensure you store it properly and dust it regularly.
  • Thread boxes: These differ from thread racks because they offer some coverage. They are basically thread racks that have a lid. They also have small compartments for storing buttons and such. They are a great option for storing thread.
  • A box or drawers: If you are going to store your thread in a box or drawer, ensure the spools are separate from each other. Also, ensure that no dust gets in the space. This will ensure that your threads remain usable for longer.

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