Embroidery Thread vs Sewing Thread- Simple Guide

Image of of embroidery thread. So let's look at Embroidery Thread vs Sewing ThreadOne of the longest-running discussions and comparisons in the sewing space has been around sewing thread and embroidery thread. While the distinction between these two threads may appear easy and precise at first glance, this is not the case. These two threads intersect in some of their features and diverge sharply in some others. The focus of this article is embroidery thread vs sewing thread.

Because these threads can be used interchangeably for sewing and embroidery in some circumstances, it may be tempting to believe that there are no major differences between them, an assumption that would be wrong indeed. Some of the main differences between these threads are in purpose and characteristic features such as thickness, strength, and appearance.

Understanding the differences and similarities between embroidery and sewing thread and when and how to use them is the key to taking your work to the next level. This article focuses on just that.

Can You Use Sewing Thread for Embroidery?

Yes, you can. Although you will undoubtedly get better results when you use embroidery thread, you can embroider just as well with sewing thread. To make this transition, you need to make all the necessary adjustments to account for the different characteristics of the sewing thread. It is also vital that you use the best-quality thread you can find to prevent any problems.

Is Embroidery Thread Stronger than Regular Sewing Thread?

The strength of your thread depends on where you apply it and the treatment the thread receives. But generally, embroidery thread is not stronger than normal thread. A major reason for this is the type of fiber that the threads are made of.

Most embroidery threads are made from rayon, a fiber whose strength reduces when wet. The thread would, therefore, likely weaken if exposed to water for long periods. Also, polyester threads, commonly used for embroidery, could melt if exposed to too high heat.

Apart from the difference in strength, there are also several more differences between normal and embroidery thread which include:

  • The purpose is the main difference between these two threads. Regular sewing thread is mainly used for regular sewing work such as garment construction and garment repairs. On the other hand, embroidery thread is especially for, as the name suggests, doing embroidery and can be used for needlepoint, and cross-stitch among other purposes.
  • Regular sewing threads are generally more costly than more affordable embroidery threads.
  • When compared to embroidery thread, regular sewing thread has duller colors apart from some exceptions. Embroidery thread has a higher sheen due to its looser bend, making it a great choice for decorative work.

Can You Hand Embroider With Normal Thread?

Yes, you can. With all the necessary considerations and adjustments in place, you can hand embroider using normal thread. It may help you get a unique look and style for your work. Besides normal thread, some of the thread types you could use for hand embroidery include:

  • Stranded cotton is a popular six-stranded thread mainly used for cross-stitch.
  • Soft cotton is great for bold embroidery designs when used to stitch on medium to heavy-weight fabrics.
  • Thicker tapestry wool can cover your canvas evenly in canvas work.
  • You can use crewel wool as a surface thread for crewelwork.
  • Perle cotton that you can use for Hardanger, free-style embroidering, and cross-stitch.

Which Brand of Embroidery Thread Is Best?

Different brands have products that vary in quality. Some brands have been around for far longer and have a wealth of experience in creating high-quality threads. These brands have many loyal customers for a reason. Some of the best embroidery thread brands are:

  1. DMC

Dollfus-Mieg et Compagnie, abbreviated as DMC, made in France, is one of the largest textile groups. Among the best features of this thread is the sheer variety in color and styles. DMC offers up to 489 varieties. Their embroidery cotton floss has a nice sheen, and the threads are colorfast, and the cotton threads are made from 100% Egyptian cotton.

The double mercerization on the DMC threads (a chemical treatment process) increases the thread strength and the dye brilliance. You can be sure that the color of the thread is durable and of the threads’ safety as the DMC dyes are Oeko-Tex® certified, an international standard that ensures the threads are safe and environmentally friendly.

  1. Anchor 

Although not as widely known in the United States, Anchor is a world-popular thread brand. It is also available online for those who cannot access it at physical stores. Like DMC, it has a wide variety of colors to choose from (444), and the threads are made from 100% Egyptian cotton that has been double mercerized.

  1. J &P Coats 

J&P is also a brand of mercerized embroidery floss made of staple cotton. Their threads have a smooth, silky finish that improves the looks of your design. To help you easily navigate the multiple thread offerings, the brand has a website that has a helpful chart on the features of the different embroidery threads.

Is Gutermann Thread Good for Embroidery?

Gutermann thread is a well-recognized thread brand globally. It has a wide variety of high-quality embroidery thread that includes:

  • 100% polyester
  • Gutermann 100% natural, mercerized cotton.
  • Gutermann hand quilting thread.

When choosing an embroidery thread brand, some of the things you need to check for are:

  1. Texture

A high-quality embroidery thread will have a smooth texture and sheen that will improve your design look. A poor-quality thread will have a fuzzy texture that can make your embroidery design look dull.

  1. Durability

If you plan to use a design with a water-soluble stabilizer, it is important to ensure that the thread is washable. Another way to ensure that the thread is durable is to inspect the thread strands to ensure that they are not brittle or thin.

  1. Color choices

It is also important to carefully consider the color variety that different brands offer. Choose a brand that has a varied color palette if you are interested in working on pieces that need many different colors. The color variety may not be a pressing consideration for those who do not want or need multiple colors.

Can I Use Thread Instead of Embroidery Floss?

Yes, you can. Embroidery floss is a type of embroidery thread that is mercerized. Floss is usually made from cotton, and you can separate it into six individual strands. While embroidering using thread is an entirely viable option, you may lose some of the unique benefits of using floss. Some of these include the slightly glossy appearance that comes with embroidery floss.

Also, you can use the number of strands needed according to the pattern, fabric count, and type of stitch. You can also use embroidery floss to do surface embroidery, satin-stitch, and cross-stitch. It is important to note that there may be variations in weight, finish, and quality across various brands.

How Much Thread Do You Use for Embroidery?

The amount of thread you need to finish your embroidery design is not a cut and dried figure that you can always use. Some of the factors affecting the thread amount include:

  • The size of the project- A larger project that covers more surface area will require much more thread than smaller projects that cover less area.
  • The stitch type is also an important factor to consider. Some embroidery stitches use a lot more thread than other stitches. If you are aware of these stitches and are using them, it would be wise to have some extra skeins of thread with you when you sew the next time.
  • The amount of detailing- if your design is extremely detailed, you should expect to use much more thread.

Do You Split Embroidery Thread?

Yes, you can split embroidery thread if you need to. Many embroiderers split embroidery thread because it untwists the strands in the thread from each other, allowing you to get a more consistent and fuller stitch coverage on your fabric. An example of multi-stranded thread is embroidery floss which comes in six separate strands that you can separate into individual strands.

However, before you split your embroidery thread, here are some factors to consider that will guide you on splitting it and how far to do it.

  • The design pattern

The design pattern is an especially important factor when doing cross-stitch. The pattern key should guide you on the number of strands you need to use, depending on your chosen design. Disregarding these instructions may result in consequences that may ruin your work.

For example, if you use fewer strands than are needed, the fabric may show through the cross-stitch that you make. Conversely, if you use more strands than are needed, you will likely find it increasingly difficult to sew, the thick thread may damage the fabric due to pulling it too hard to get the thread through the holes, and you may get bulky unseemly stitches.

If you are not sure about the number of strands you need to use, using a reference book is a great idea. A reference book will offer you great new ideas and fresh inspiration for your future project.

  • The type of stitch

Different stitches may require a higher or lower number of strands. An example of this is the single thread chain stitch which needs one strand of embroidery thread. This number is primarily because this stitch is typically used for attaching buttons and hemming.

On the other hand, the multi-thread chain stitch will require about three or four strands. It is a great stitch for heavy-duty fabrics that need more strands when sewing for more strength.

  • Your fabric count 

Fabric count is the number of threads or squares per linear inch in the fabric. You can refer to the fabric count by naming the number of threads and then adding ‘count’ .i.e., a fabric with 11 squares per inch is referred to as 11-count fabric.

Most of the fabric counts are usually provided for Aida cloth. Below is the number of threads strands you will need for fabrics of different counts. If you are a novice embroiderer, starting with an 11 or 14 count fabric could make your work easier.

When working on fabric counts of:

  • 11-3 strands
  • 14- 2 or 3 strands
  • 16- 3 strands
  • 18- 1or two strands
  • 28- 1 or 2 strands
  • 32- 1 or 2 strands
  • 36- 1 strand

What Thread Should I Use for Topstitching?

Topstitching is a sewing technique where the stitches are sewn to be seen from the outside of the garment, mainly for decorative purposes. It is often used on hems and necklines. Due to its stand-out nature, topstitching can be intimidating to a lot of novice sewers.

The best thread to use for topstitching is a topstitching thread. Topstitching thread is usually thicker than regular thread, a feature that gives your work an eye-catching and professional look. While topstitching thread is the best option, you can still do it regularly if you want a subtler look that is still strong.

Another crucial thread feature to consider is the color of the thread. You could choose a matching thread color that will blend into your fabric, or you could go bolder and choose a thread of contrasting color for a more interesting look. Also, match the weight of your fabric to your thread weight. If you are working on heavy or medium-weight fabric, use a thread that will be best for that fabric weight.

Some of the other factors you may need to consider when topstitching include:

  • Sew a slightly longer stitch length of around three on medium-weight fabrics and 3.5-4 for heavier fabrics. These longer stitches will help your work look neat and uncluttered.
  • You do not need to backstitch when you are topstitching since it is not a construction stitch but rather a decorative stitch. Not only can backstitching be visually distracting, but it could also add unnecessary bulk.
  • When working with topstitching thread, you may need to adjust the tension setting on your machine as a low tension setting may cause loose stitching on the fabric’s wrong side, while high tension may cause you to see the bobbin thread from the fabric’s right side. A well-balanced stitch will be perfectly formed on both sides of the fabric.

What Is Gutermann Embroidery Thread?

Gutermann embroidery thread is the thread produced by the A&E Gutermann company with global production sites. Their embroidery thread line is really popular due to the great quality and characteristics of the threads. These include the threads:

  • Strength
  • Wide range of colors and shades
  • Efficient working for decorative purposes
  • They work well with computerized and free-motion machine embroidery.

What Does 40 wt Thread Mean?

Thread weight is one of the most crucial considerations before beginning any sewing project. One of the most commonly used methods for measuring thread size is thread weight. Thread weight is used to refer to the thickness of your thread. Although it may seem counterintuitive, a smaller weight number represents a heavier thread while a larger number shows a lighter thread.

An interesting fact about thread weight is that it is a measurement of length. If you divide the length of the thread by a specific weight, you will get the exact thread weight measurement.

The most used thread weight for embroidery thread is 40 wt. which will cover most projects from quilting, digitizing, and free-hand embroidery. When using an embroidery machine, most digitizing programs are made for 40 wt thread, although some programs you can modify for different thread weights.

Thread weight is important as it affects several aspects of embroidery design and craft. Below are some of the reasons why thread weight is an essential factor to consider.

  • The needle size

The thread weight will influence the needle size you need to use. Using a heavier thread, you will need to use a larger needle and a smaller needle for a lighter thread. A standard rule is to use a needle with an eye that is 40% larger than the thread’s diameter.

Most sewers recommend a needle size of #90/14 when sewing with 40 wt thread. If your thread is shredding or you are skipping stitches in your designs, try using a new needle of one size up.

  • Stitch density

As mentioned above, most digitized designs are made for 40 wt—thread, which provides sufficient embroidery coverage. If you use a thread of a lower weight, the higher thread diameter may cause the machine to jam and may cause the design to have a lumpy appearance. You can correct this by increasing the design size, increasing the stitch length, or reducing the stitch density.

  • Tension

In most sewing machines, tension is created by applying pressure to one side of the spring pressing on a tension disk. Increasing the pressure on the tension spring increases the thread tension. Suppose you replace a 40 wt thread with a heavier thread; the higher thread diameter will push the tension discs further apart and increase the pressure applied on the tension spring.

Too high tension can damage and break the thread. Too low tension will cause the thread to loop on the fabric’s back. It is, therefore, important to consider the thread weight whenever you need to change threads.

What Does 2 Threads Mean In Embroidery?

Two threads in embroidery may mean that you have chosen to split your embroidery thread into two strands. As mentioned above, the amount of strands you use varies depending on the thread thickness you want to achieve on the design and many other factors, such as the provided design pattern for cross stitch and the fabric count. Some of the fabric counts that need two embroidery thread strands include fabrics of counts 14,18, 28, and 32.

Why Do You Split Embroidery Thread?

There are several main reasons why you sometimes need to split embroidery thread. Almost all divisible threads benefit from separating the strands in the thread. One advantage is that splitting the embroidery thread untwists the stands in it from each other and provides a fuller and more consistent design coverage for your design.

Splitting your thread also allows you to choose the thread thickness you want for your design and to use the recommended strands for projects such as cross-stitch, depending on the fabric count and design pattern.

But exactly how do you separate the embroidery thread into the individual strands? Here’s how:

  • You first need to measure and cut off the length of thread you plan to use from the skein.
  • Then, hold the thread using your thumb and forefinger, leaving a little piece of thread above your gripping point.
  • Pat the part of your protruding thread using your finger until you see the thread strands start to separate.
  • Grab and pull one strand from the bunch. Even if you plan to stitch with more than one strand, you must pull out one strand at a time, or you may knot up your thread. Also, while pulling out the strand, keep gripping the threaded neck that you were holding. Pull the strand out at an average speed, not too fast and not too slow.
  • Do not panic if the remaining strands begin to bunch up below the gripping point as you pull. The whole bunch may fall out as soon as you remove the first strand.

What Is the Difference Between Embroidery Thread and Embroidery Floss?

Embroidery thread is a yarn that has been specifically designed to do embroidery and other types of needlework. This thread is usually made from a wide variety of materials, including rayon, which is the most popular polyester, more colorfast, nylon when durability is the main factor to consider, cotton, and silk great for more lightweight or middleweight fabrics. A polyester thread is also a good choice for heavier fabrics.

Embroidery floss, also commonly known as stranded cotton, is a mercerized cotton embroidery thread comprised of six separable strands. It is spun into multiple strands either by hand or machine. While often made of cotton, you can also get some made from silk, linen, and rayon.

Cotton embroidery floss is the standard thread used for cross stitch and is also used for needlepoint and hand embroidery. The thread is divided into the strands needed, depending on several factors such as the type of stitch uses, the design pattern, and the fabric count.

Do You Use Top Stitching Thread In the Bobbin?

Most sewing experts recommend using topstitching thread in your top needle and regular sewing thread in your bobbin. Apart from it being unnecessary, it may cause problems for your sewing machine. Trying to use thicker thread in the machine’s bobbin is one of the main causes of topstitching problems. If you are set on having your topstitch thread in the bobbin, the best course of action is to acquire an extra bobbin for that purpose.

Final Thoughts

Fully understanding and appreciating these two threads is the surest path to using them correctly. And using them correctly does not only mean using them for the marketed purpose but using them for the right purpose, in the best possible way. Still, one of the most discussed topics remains,

Embroidery Thread vs Sewing Thread

As mentioned above, these threads have some distinct differences and some areas in which they intersect in function and characteristics. Acceptable practice and skills will help you discern when and how to use them.

We truly appreciate you for taking the time to read through this article and hope that you found it educative. Please feel at ease to leave any questions, comments, and suggestions in the comment section below.

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