Home Community Simple Tip to Determine Thread Quality

Simple Tip to Determine Thread Quality

written by Sarah


I don’t think I can emphasize enough the importance of thread quality. It’s not that you must always use the top-of-the-line thread for every project; it’s that you want to use the appropriate quality for your project and task. For instance, I’m not going to use my expensive thread to sew basting stitches. It’ll just make 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 frequently, these factors are important to consider.

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.

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.

The Trick…

Hold a strand of thread up to a light and inspect how many fibers fan out from the strand. A good quality thread will be tightly spun 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? Those tell me this thread is low quality. Now, let’s compare it to some Coats and Clark thread.


Thread Quality Coats and Clark


Huge difference. 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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Patricia June 16, 2017 at 2:30 pm

I have started to sew again after years of dusting my sewing machine and thinking of selling it. It is a WHITE that is of good quality I was told. I had it serviced in 2015 and wanted to sew again but gave up after getting so discouraged when the thread kept breaking and I blamed the way I threaded it and all manner of mistakes, all mine. No one ever told me about using new thread. I had some spools that I just now threw out that were $0.15 !!! If I needed a particular color I went to the 5 & 10 (we had them back then) and bought the color, not the brand. Coats and Clark were usually my choice but not always. Wrapped all my bobbins in that color, too, of course. You should see my inventory. I sewed a LOT back then, making most of my daughter’s clothes up to and including her prom dress. I just threw all the old thread out after buying black and white Coats and Clark from a fabric store (JoAnn) with the help of a wonderful woman who helped me so much. Now to the mending. Something else later.

Sarah June 16, 2017 at 4:11 pm

Hi, Patricia! Thank you for sharing your experience with us! I did the same thing when I first started sewing. I used my grandma’s thread from 30+ years prior and ended up with broken stitches. Thank goodness thread these days is made to last a long time.

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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