What Sewing Thread Do You Use?

by This is Carrie on November 6, 2009

photo via flickr

“You’re either going to pay up front for good sewing thread or pay after the fact in sewing machine repairs”.
Now, I am a believer.


Scene 1: Phone conversation last week with a Charlene at Mel’s Sewing:

Me: I have a Halloween Emergency. My sewing machine isn’t working and I have a Halloween costume I have to finish!
Charlene: What seems to be the problem.
Me: The tension is all wacky and it’s making a clunking sound.
Charlene: Have you tried rethreading it?
Me: Yes! Like 10 times.
Charlene: Have you put in a new needle?
Me: Yes! Like 4 different ones.

(and now I am starting to get annoyed because she’s treating me like someone who started sewing yesterday instead of someone who has been sewing for over twenty years and actually has a degree which required me to sit at a sewing machine for countless hours during my college years)

Charlene: What kind of thread do you use?
Me: Coats & Clark
Her: (very disappointed) Oh.
Me: What? It’s not good? I thought I was doing great by not using the Dollar Bin thread.
Her: No, it’s really bad for your machine. Bring it in, we’ll see what we can do.
Me: Thanks (feeling appreciative but feeling defensive about my thread choice. It can’t be that bad, right?)

Scene 2: At Mel’s Sewing with Brian the sewing machine repair guy. He looks at the machine, cleans it up, blows it out and threads it with their “nice” thread. It sews perfectly. I talked to him about the whole thread thing with a hint of skepticism. But, once he makes me pull on my thread run through the bobbin case and then “good” thread run through the bobbin case, I was forever sold on the “good” stuff. The difference in tension and smoothness was undeniable and I could only imagine how this difference would translate into sewn stitches and wear and tear on my machine.

Cheap thread is fuzzy, causing lint to build up in your machine (you can see it in the picture above) & is made from lots of piece of thread joined together creating small but numerous bumps in the thread. These little bumps really do make a difference with the machine’s tension.

I picked up a few basic colors of their “good” thread which happened to be Mettler, but I’m sure any of the other “expensive” thread brands found at specialty sewing shops would be just as good, and will replace fashion colors as needed. I’m hoping my machine will thank me for it.

UPDATE: Just to give some credit to my college professors–I’m sure they passed on this golden nugget of information at some point in my education. It is likely I was chatting with my neighbor and didn’t hear it. :)

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January 24, 2011 at 2:19 pm

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

mommymae November 6, 2009 at 6:45 pm

the same thing happened to me! exactly! the guy at the sewing machine store made me feel like an idiot, too. i will still use coats & clark b/c i had a ton of it handed down to me, but will only buy mettler or gutterman. it's what my joann's carries.

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This is Carrie November 6, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Seriously. Felt like an idiot. But it reminded me that I can always learn something new.

I will still use the Coats & Clark thread I have (don't like to waste). But just like you, I will only buy the good stuff going forward.

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Eva November 6, 2009 at 7:08 pm

I was lucky enough to learn the thread lesson without harm to my machine. I've been converted for about five years now. I still have a few random spools of cheap thread that I use if they match my project.

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Grandma November 6, 2009 at 7:54 pm

I think you just converted me. The only trouble I ever have with my machine is with the tension no and then. But no one has ever told me that it might be the thread I was using. And I have been sewing for over 60 years. I guess we're never too old to learn new things.

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Renanda November 6, 2009 at 7:55 pm

I started sewing lessons a couple months ago and was told that very same thing. I went to JoAnn's when they had buy one get one free and supplied myself with a stash of Gutterman. I will only use things she suggest because she hasn't been wrong yet–and she's been at it for 40 yrs.

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Brittany November 6, 2009 at 7:59 pm

I feel like you just turned the light on over my sewing machine! This has GOT to be the source of my sewing problems. I've always just grabbed the cheap stuff from walmart… So is gutterman a good quality thread?

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Deborah November 6, 2009 at 8:28 pm

I went through this whole issue when investing in thread for my shop. I wanted to know which thread was the "best"–and WHY. I learned a TON about the differences in manufacturers and fibers and everything else, and have wondered repeatedly why in 20+ years of sewing no one saw fit to point any of this out to me. We're a Gutermann shop now, and proud to be!

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Laura November 6, 2009 at 8:41 pm

I am a fairly new sewer, but have always used Gutterman. I didn't think about what it would do to the machine, but coats and clark (or any other cheap thread) never seemed to sew right, and would break often. Gutterman gives me way less problems. Worth the extra money, and Joanns has enough sales that you can stock up for not much more than the cost of coats and clark. :) I might have to try Mettler and see if there is a difference. Thanks!

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Sara November 6, 2009 at 8:49 pm

What WHAT WHAT WHAT????? OK, I feel like an idiot too because I have only ever used C&C too – that's what my mom used and she only used "the good stuff" which was what I assumed C&C was. And of course as I am reading your post I am nodding my head in agreement as I am having the exact same problems with my machine right now this moment too.

Uggggghhhh. So this means I now have to slowly upgrade my threads. But I am sure it is worth it.

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carey November 6, 2009 at 9:41 pm

whoa! i'm so glad you posted this. i inherited a sewing machine and tons of thread from my grandma, and it had been to the shop numerous times with tension problems. i'll bet thread is my problem, too!

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annie November 6, 2009 at 10:09 pm

thank you for this post! my machine started clunking right in the middle of my halloween project too. i'm off to the repair shop and to buy new thread.

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mgrafx November 6, 2009 at 10:56 pm

The good stuff is definately worth it! Imagine all the time and materials you save when things run smoothly. I've been lucky enough to find some awesome deals on threads in the Los Angeles Fashion District.

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Sunny Tuesday November 7, 2009 at 1:45 am

That makes total sense! I saw an article on that a while ago, and I remember the Gutterman was one of the best, which is what I always have used anyway. Gutterman just had the biggest color selection and it's easier for me to store the taller, skinnier spools plus when you toss in JoAnn's B1G1, it made sense economically, too.

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Katie B. November 7, 2009 at 1:52 am

Fascinating! Coats & Clark has been giving me trouble lately, so I'll definitely try something higher quality the next time I buy thread. Thanks for the info!

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Kathi D November 7, 2009 at 3:17 am

It's interesting that no matter how high-end and expensive your sewing machine is, the needles and the thread can make all the difference. It took me years to figure out that the needle was so important. I once changed my needle, er, when it broke! And no other time! Now I buy needles in bulk and switch them out every few hours of sewing.

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Simon and Rachel Henry November 7, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Thanks so much for writing this— very helpful!… but like someone else said, I don't want to waste what I have… so I guess I'll try to use it up.

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This is Carrie November 7, 2009 at 3:21 pm

A note on Gutermann thread: The sewing machine guy said it has been losing it's quality lately since they moved some of their production to Mexico. So keep an eye out for that. He seemed to convey that thread made in European countries is far superior.

I'll let you decide.

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mama turtle November 7, 2009 at 5:03 pm

My mom is the one who told me to buy the good stuff. She bought a very expensive, very nice Pfaff when I was little, and she never put a C&C spool in it. My grandmother is the same way. so, when I bought my very nice Janome, I made sure to watch the sales at Joanns, and I have a nice stash of Guttermans now. They have also started making serger cones, which makes me very excited! The only problems I have had with my machine were from a toddlers help with tension ( unknowingly by me) and I break needles occasionally trying to sew too many leather layers…

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Kathi D November 7, 2009 at 6:03 pm

A couple of more things about thread: It will last "forever" unless it's constantly exposed to dust and/or light, so if you have old thread, test it for strength. Old thread can still be useful for hand basting.

Also, I seem to be pimping this thread, but I am sold on it, because they take the quality seriously, and there is a lot of great information on their website:
http://www.superiorthreads.com/education/

If you do any quilting, the Masterpiece thread is WONDERFUL. No lint in the machine, no breaks, and it's so thin that the bobbin holds a whole lot more thread.

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Mommymita November 7, 2009 at 7:37 pm

This is a great reminder! I've always been tempted to buy thread at garage sales but wasn't sure how it'd do.

The problem is it is hard to find "nice" thread at your local fabric shop.

What is your preference for fiber content? Are you doing poly/cotton or 100% cotton. One lady at a fabric store tried to convince me of 100% cotton but i thought she just wanted me to spend more money.

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sinnlighet November 7, 2009 at 9:09 pm

So glad I stumbled on your lovely lovely blog today, it's always nice to find other blogger out and about on the net!

Agneta & Sweden

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Jenny November 9, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Okay, thank you! I had no idea the thread could make such a difference! I usually use C&C. I have a new machine coming and I will never use cheap thread in it. Thanks for the tip!

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Holly November 9, 2009 at 9:39 pm

Ugh. Why couldn't I have read this two days ago, when I bought a 12-pack of C&C thread (it was on sale for only $8!)

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Ali November 10, 2009 at 2:01 am

well aren't you just a wealth of knowledge!
thanks for letting us know

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Maura November 10, 2009 at 2:07 am

Wow! I had no idea. Switching thread now!

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Michelle November 11, 2009 at 2:44 am

I am all about switching thread brands, if that is all it takes to rid my projects of unwanted frustration–I'M SOLD!

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Jessie November 18, 2009 at 7:39 pm

Anyone know if Hancock's carries any good thread?

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Romona March 9, 2010 at 8:16 am

I have had the same problems on my machine. From now on, it is only the good stuff. Thanks for information. This is the first time I have seen your website and I love it. Thanks for inspiring me to. I want to sew so much now.

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