EMB 101: Thread


Part of the beauty of embroidery is the gorgeous assortment of threads available. With so many different types and weights, which do you use and when do you use it?



Embroidery threads are now available in many different weights. The most common is 40 wt. and most designs are digitized to stitch using this weight. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use heavier or lighter weight threads.

The higher the number, the more fine the thread. You might think 60 wt. thread would be heavier than 40 wt. but it isn’t. Most bobbin threads are actually 60 wt. and finer, heirloom-quality threads are either 50 or 60 weight. Standard sewing thread, in comparison, is 50 wt.

Heavier threads, like 30 wt., work well for quilting or stitching out redwork designs.



Rayon thread has been the go-to standard for many years due to its brilliance and availability. Modern embroidery threads now range from silk to nylon, to polyester.

Available in 30,50, and 100 weights, silk thread is a good choice for heirloom and clothing embroidery. It extremely strong and also works well for quilting. Because it is so fine, 100 wt. silk thread can make machine applique nearly invisible.

Polyester thread is becoming a new normal, even in quilting. It is bleach resistant and wears well which makes it a good choice for garments and bedding that will be laundered often. Triangular fibers in trilobal polyester reflect light, rivaling many silks and rayons in shine and performance.

For a more subtle effect, cotton thread embroiders well and is a particularly good choice for heirloom techniques and quilting. Just like with bed linens, Egyptian cotton is the premier blend and will exhibit less lint than other cottons.

Nylon threads have been used for invisible applique and quilting but monofilament threads are also available in polyester. For obvious reasons, items embroidered with nylon thread should not be ironed.


Holiday and special occasion embroidery, even quilted projects, benefit from stitching with metallic thread, but metallics come with their own challenges as discussed in this post. Using a larger needle, slowing down stitch speed, and decreasing top tension often eases typical problems associated with using metallic threads.


Don’t be afraid to experiment with different types of threads. Often, a slight adjustment is all that is needed and the results are spectacular!


Debbie SewBlest

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