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Sewing Thread

Thread can be classified by three characteristics: the type of fiber, how the thread is constructed, and size.

Fiber Types

The most common types of fiber used in thread are cotton (weakest), poly-cotton, rayon (medium strength), linen, nylon (high strength, elastic), polyester (high strength), metallic, and silk.

Because thread properties can be augmented by manufacturing, read the manufacturer's description before buying. For example, cotton that is "mercerized" has had the stray fibers removed from the surface of the thread and then treated to swell the fiber and thus increase its luster and receptiveness to dyeing.

There are also special purpose threads such as fusible & dissolvable: fusible thread turns to a glue when ironed to allow bonding fabrics without permanent stitches; dissolvable thread can be used to baste and then it dissolves in water.


Thread can be made from a single or multiple plies. In muli-ply threads, different fibers can be used. For example, a nylon fiber core wrapped in cotton fiber yields a thread with the strength of nylon and the softness of cotton.


For the same quality thread of the same fiber and construction, the thicker the thread the stronger it is. In the US, the two common measurements of size are Tex size and yarn size:

  • the Tex size is the weight for a given length,
    and so T-18 through T-27 are lighter threads used for lightweight sewing while T-30 through T-50 are medium weights for medium weight sewing.
  • the yarn size is an inverted ratio compared to Tex size; thus the higher the number, the lighter the thread. Yarn size has a second component to indicate the number of plies used to make the thread.

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