FREE SHIPPING  Enjoy free shipping on orders of $50 or more (to U.S. addresses)

Differences Between Thread Types

Posted: 30 August 2012 at 10:43 a.m.
King Tut Quilting Thread by Superior Threads

There are many 'types' of threads in the thread world.  Some are for quilting some are for upholstery and some are for piecing.  Why are there so many types of thread available? Isn't there a universal thread for all projects?  

Below, we will do our best to distinguish the differences between quilting thread, embroidery thread, serger thread, construction thread, bobbin thread, and more.

Quilting Thread
Usually cotton or polyester.
Wide range of quality.
Strength is important to withstand high speed machine quilting through multiple layers.
Common Fiber Types:

  • Cotton
  • The highest grade is extra-long staple Egyptian-grown cotton. Any cotton that does list the staple length is probably lower grade short staple cotton.  Most thread labeled “Egyptian cotton” is not from Egypt.
    Recommended and really is an Egyptian-grown cotton: King Tut.
  • Polyester
  • 1. Spun poly (lower quality and fuzzy)
    2. Multi-filament polyester (smooth, lint free, and stronger than spun poly). Recommended: So Fine! #50 and So Fine! #40 (variegated).
    3.Trilobal multi-filament polyester. High sheen.  Most trilobal poly is not as strong as regular multi-filament polyester but a new high strength, high sheen polyester (Magnifico) will be available later this month.
    4. Poly-wrapped poly core thread. Less expensive than multi-filament poly threads. Strong for high speed machine quilting.  Recommended: Omni Thread

Embroidery Thread
Most embroiders prefer a high sheen thread.
Embroidery thread usually has a looser twist than a quilting thread because the looser twist allows a higher sheen.
Most are 2-ply threads which allows a higher sheen.
Strength is not as important compared to quilting thread.
Common Fiber Types:

Piecing Thread
Cotton is preferred because it can be ironed with a high heat iron.
A fine, smooth, evenly twisted, low-lint 50 wt. thread will make the best seam.
Highest grade is extra-long staple Egyptian-grown cotton.
Recommended: MasterPiece.

Serger Thread
Because sergers (overlock machines) simultaneously use multiple cones of thread, there are many cheap serger threads on the market. The cones of serger thread available at discount chain stores are an inexpensive spun poly. These are OK when used for serging but not recommended for other applications. Multi-filament polyester thread such as So Fine! #50 makes a clean, lint-free serger thread but is more expensive than spun poly. Omni Thread is a poly-wrapped poly core thread ideal for serging.

Appliqué Thread
Most applique techniques intend to hide the thread and therefore use a fine, blending thread.
  • #100 silk Very fine, smooth, and lint-free.  Recommended: Kimono Silk.
  • 50 wt. cotton A little heavier than a fine silk or poly, but blends very well. Recommended: MasterPiece.
  • 60 wt. multi-filament polyester. Fine, strong, and blends well. Recommended: Bottom Line.

Bobbin Thread
It is perfectly fine to use a different thread in the bobbin than what is used on top.  It is also perfectly fine to use a different wt. bobbin thread than top thread.  Most prefer to use a finer bobbin thread because it blends well and more can be wound on a bobbin. The most common bobbin threads are 50 wt. or 60 wt. threads.
Recommended: MasterPiece, So Fine! #50, or Bottom Line for quilting and Bottom Line for embroidery.

Invisible Monofilament Thread
There are two types of invisible monofilament thread available.
  • 1. Nylon (sometimes labeled as polyamide).  Not recommended due to it’s low heat tolerance, tendency to go brittle over time, and tendency to ‘yellow’ or discolor.
  • 2. Polyester Higher heat tolerance than nylon, does not go brittle, and does not ‘yellow.’
    Recommended: MonoPoly.


Share |


  • 8. michel (18 July 2017 at 10:51 a.m.)

    I am looking amazon white and there is 346 and 207. is it color i am looking for UV resistance and strenght durability for outside awnings.
  • 7. Lori Kepple (06 April 2017 at 8:46 p.m.)

    I am using marine vinyl for some seats and need to know the best thread to use.I'm using a Janome HD 3000 machine. I want this to be a good stitch and hold up. Thanks very much
  • 6. holly (12 March 2016 at 11:13 a.m.)

    I need help with information about different types of thread to use on a machine. What does WT mean etc and what to use with what machine etc
  • 5. Celeste @ Superior Threads (01 December 2014 at 3:10 p.m.)

    Lisa, Thank you for your question! Overlock thread is typically used in a serger. It can be used for embroidery, however, it lacks shine. Most embroiderers prefer to use a trilobal polyester which offers strength and shine, like our Magnifico, Fantastico, or Twist threads.
  • 4. Lisa (28 November 2014 at 5:32 p.m.)

    Does anyone know if overlock thread is the same as embroidery thread? I think I bought the wrong kind. It was advertised as embroidery, but now, I'm not sure.
  • 3. Leona (07 October 2012 at 3:41 p.m.)

    I wanted tell you how much I appreciate your wonderful blog and all of your informative posts. I am a long time user of King Tut threads for quilting and love the stitch quality for quilting. I also use your titanium needles and love that the number of times of thread breakage is reduced when I use them.
  • 2. Todd (30 August 2012 at 12:06 p.m.)

    @Sewer- Our MasterPiece 3-ply thread is plenty strong for general sewing. Regarding different weights - it is absolutely fine to use different weighted threads top and bottom. The caution to this scenario is when the thread weights are quite different. For example, you wouldn't want to use Kimono Silk on top for applique (#100) and use So Fine! #30 on bottom. That difference could affect stitch quality and tension. When staying within the next size or two (#40 on top, #50-#60 on bottom) of the thread size, you should be just fine.
  • 1. Sewer (30 August 2012 at 11:41 a.m.)

    Two questions: 1. Is Masterpiece strong enough for general sewing (cotton and linen garments, e.g.)? 2. I thought I read elsewhere (maybe even on your own site!) that the relationship between the weight of the bobbin thread and the weight of the top thread will affect tension. Is that not the case?

Post a comment

Article Archive

  2017 (6)
  2016 (42)
  2015 (93)
  2014 (88)
  2013 (31)
  2012 (53)
  December (2)
  November (1)
  October (4)
  September (4)
  August (8)
  July (12)
  June (5)
  May (1)
  March (1)
  February (6)
  January (9)
  2011 (21)
  2010 (2)