Home > Community > Simple Tip to Determine Thread Quality

Simple Tip to Determine Thread Quality

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!


You may also like


CHOOSING THE BEST FABRIC DECOR FOR BEDROOMS | Bestems Guide June 29, 2021 - 2:23 am

[…] quality for threads. These threads have more tightly knit fibres and thus better integrity. High-spun threads get their name from their making process, as the fabrics are knit together using high speed looms. […]

Jeanett April 12, 2019 - 4:23 pm

I have a cone of cotton thread I bought from Walmart & I am trying to use it on my long arm quilting machine. The top thread keeps breaking on the Viking Husquavarna machine. The instruction book says to tighten the tension. I tried that & it got worse. I wanted to get this quilt done this weekend so I could donate it to my sons club who support veterans & Honor Flights. I am getting so frustrated!!!

Virginia SDurham March 1, 2019 - 10:11 am

I would like to know what is the function of the bottom part of the Gutermann spool of thread, comes apart and it has a small cone inside. thank you.

Terry May 20, 2020 - 5:54 pm

For holding needles perhaps?

Irma Clements January 31, 2019 - 3:15 pm

I have enjoyed your information .

Sarah R September 17, 2018 - 3:02 pm

Thank you for this.
I inherited a sewing machine and a box of sewing stuff that hasn’t been used in well over ten years. Possibly more than 15 years. It was my husband’s grandmother’s kit. I was struggling. Everything was breaking and clogging up. I honestly felt like the machine wanted to eat everything.
I got so frustrated that my husband ended up ordering me a new machine.
One of my friends told me the problem was likely my thread. Told me to get away from Coats and Clark (which is the brand I’ve always used for hand stitching.) She also told me I might have the tension set wrong. I didn’t have a manual for the inherited machine, and it’s from the 70s, so I was kind of lost.
Another told me to clean the machine, make sure I got all the dust and gunk out.

I didn’t know what to look for in thread to see if it was good or not. And I hadn’t really thought about how old the thread was. So I’ll likely be getting myself some new thread for the machine, but keep all the other lovely vintage stuff that came with the kit. So many lovely thimbles, travel sewing kits from various restaurants and hotels, spools of linen thread, glittery embroidery threads, all the different types of buttons.

Patricia June 16, 2017 - 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 - 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 - 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 - 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 - 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 - 9:30 am

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

Cinnamon Chaisson March 21, 2014 - 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 - 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 - 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 - 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 - 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.


Leave a Comment