Home Community Simple Tip to Determine Thread Quality

Simple Tip to Determine Thread Quality

written by Sarah March 19, 2014


I don’t think I can emphasize enough the importance of thread quality. It’s not that you must always use top-of-the-line thread for every project; it’s that you want to use the right quality for the right project. For instance, I’m not going to use my expensive thread to sew basting stitches. It’ll just making ripping them out even harder. But I will use my top notch polyester thread for items that endure serious wear and tear (baby quilts, clothing, cloth diapers, etc).

That being said, I do believe quality thread makes for a better sewing experience overall, because it’s less likely to break, snag, tangle, or produce excessive lint. If you sew for long hours or frequently, these factors are concerning.

Also, just because a type of thread has a hefty price tag, doesn’t mean it’s THAT much better than a less expensive brand. It’s not like these things are regulated; a company can charge you whatever it wants. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better product until it’s inspected properly.

I’d like to show you a little trick to determine thread quality. I’m going to show you 4 types of polyester thread with different levels of quality so you can compare and contrast.

Here’s the trick: Hold a strand of thread up to a light and inspect how much lint/fraying comes deviates from the strand. Good quality thread should be tightly wound together so that few fibers deviate from the strand. It’s not like a string of steel; you’ll always see SOME loose fibers  (kind of like rope). However, with low quality thread, you’ll see a hot mess of frizzy mayhem.

Let me show you.

Thread Quality Sewing Kit Hem Kit Thread


See all those fuzzy fibers? I tried to take the picture so the light illuminates the way you’ll see the thread in person. Now, let’s compare with some Coats and Clark thread.


Thread Quality Coats and Clark


Huge difference, huh? There are still some long, loose threads (look at the arrows), but overall, the fibers are much tighter.

The next photo is straight from the bargain bin. Yikes!


Thread Quality Bargan Bin


Very loose and just…wow. This thread is going to make my machine hate me. Over time, that little cone of evil will cover every nook in lint and clog my tension disks.

Now,  compare the bargain bin thread to a standard spool of Gutermann Thread. Much better! Personally, I’m a Gutermann Girl all the way.  I love their polyester thread – hasn’t failed me yet. I’ve had the spool photographed below for at least 3 years!

Thread Quality Gutermann


I hope this little tip helps you sort through your thread. Remember, if your thread breaks often or knots frequently; hold it up to the light and investigate!


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Larry December 8, 2016 at 12:35 am

Good information for someone that knows “nothing” about thread. I was going to ask the lady at walmart today, but looked like they only had one kind anyway so skipped. it.
Came home and found you.

Anonymous December 29, 2014 at 5:53 pm

I am going to be learning how to use my moms old sewing machine, what thread would you recommend? All the thread that my local craft store has is “Loops & threads” Brand and “Coats & Clark”

Mara May 6, 2014 at 6:12 am

I want to make an awning to attach to my vintage trailer. Can my trusty Singer handle sewing Sunbrella marine awning fabric with tension adjustment and proper needle? I have fabric samples coming… I will need someone with a heavy duty machine to sew the waterproof vinyl bag… Any suggestions for me?

Sarah May 13, 2014 at 9:30 am

Hi Mara! It depends, what model Singer do you have?

Cinnamon Chaisson March 21, 2014 at 10:04 am

i use the ‘bargain store’ thread for anything that i am going to promptly rip out, at one time that was all i could afford, so have some to use up. i hate throwing anything away.

Sarah March 29, 2014 at 2:33 pm

I am the same way! I have a ton of sub-par thread – it’s my go-to basting thread.

Katherine March 20, 2014 at 9:01 pm

How long should we keep thread before it becomes weak? I remember my Mom having some bad luck with some hand-me-down thread that was dry rotted.

Sarah March 21, 2014 at 9:57 am

Hi Katherine! As thread ages, it’s breaks down. Generally, the better quality, the longer it will last. For instance, Hemmingworth Thread lasts a long time, because it has all those protective features. Whereas regular Coats and Clark won’t. The best bet is to inspect the spool and the thread. Also, test how easily it breaks by trying to snap the thread it half (like when you rip a tag off new clothing). Good thread that is it top shape won’t snap. It will give you plenty of resistance.

Sarah March 29, 2014 at 2:37 pm

I’m so sorry I’m just now responding to this – I thought I wrote a reply, but I guess I never clicked “post”. Any who – it really depends on the thread quality and how it is stored. If you aren’t sure, you can always test the strength by attempted to “snap” the thread” (kind of like when you rip a tag off a new clothing piece). If it snaps easily, then it’s probably time to retire it. Or at least only use for basting.


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