Selecting the Right Thread Material

SKU: X-HT-300134



Thread is a small piece of a sewing project but its importance is undeniable. Selecting the right thread for your application ensures that you will get the best performing seams. One key factor to keep in mind is the end location of the projects. Outdoor projects require threads that can stand up to the weather, while interior pieces have different performance needs. In this post, we’re going to look at common thread types, their uses and the properties that make them suitable for those uses.

Outdoor applications require specific traits such as UV resistance, high strength and resistance to abrasion, mildew and often saltwater to ensure it will last in a variety of weather conditions. For indoor applications, the UV resistance becomes less important and abrasion resistance and stretch become more important. Upholstery applications, for example, require a thread that has good elasticity so it will give and recover when you sit on it.

These threads will outlast your fabric! We carry two brands of lifetime threads: Tenara® and Sailrite® (formerly Profilen®). Tenara is made from a unique fluoropolymer and Sailrite is made from polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE). Both of these brands carry a lifetime guarantee. These threads are unaffected by exposure to UV rays, harsh cleaning agents, pollution, saltwater, rain, snow, cold and rot. Lifetime threads carry a lot of performance benefits, but they are a little pricey. They are much more expensive upfront but will require less re-stitching over the lifetime of your project. They can be a little trickier to sew with than more traditional thread materials, so keep that in mind when deciding between a lifetime thread and a UV treated polyester. Lifetime threads are often used for outdoor, marine and awning applications. Learn more about these two brands of thread and which will work best for you in our post, "Selecting the Right Lifetime Thread" (#300000XHT).

Polyester is known for its strength, durability, and low shrinkage and stretch. It's the most common thread for outdoor applications. Compared to nylon thread, polyester thread has superior resistance to UV rays and moisture, but much of its strength is lost after prolonged exposure to sunlight. Polyester thread comes in a variety of colors to match your fabric, but the colors will fade to white over time in the sun. We recommend using a UV treated polyester thread for outdoor cushions and upholstery, sails, outdoor canvas covers, boat covers, awnings, tents and tarps. Polyester is also the material of general-purpose home threads like Coats Dual Duty XP®. These threads are lighter in weight and are not treated for extra UV resistance. They're ideal for crafts, drapery and a variety of lighter, home sewing projects.

Nylon is one of the strongest synthetic threads in use today. It has a high strength-to-size ratio in comparison to polyester thread and is also known for its flexibility and stretch. The high tensile strength of nylon makes it ideal for heavy fabrics used in home décor. The added elasticity is also ideal for upholstery applications. While nylon is a great general-purpose thread, we do not recommend it for outdoor applications. Nylon does not have the UV resistance of polyester thread and will not last as long outside.

A strong, clear thread, monofilament resembles fishing line and comes in different weights suitable for various applications. Monofilaments can be made from polyester or nylon. Made from a single continuous fiber with a specified thickness, monofilament is strong and uniform with a high resistance to abrasion. However, it lacks flexibility and can feel stiff or scratchy. Lighter monofilaments can be used for quilting or tacking, and heavier versions can be used in upholstery or canvas projects. Monofilament is considered an indoor use thread.

As you can see, choosing the right thread can make a big difference over the lifetime of your projects.

For more thread guidance, check out our Thread & Needle Recommendation Chart. This quick reference chart pairs up needle types and thread sizes for all of our fabric brands. Get the perfect thread for your next sewing project right here at Sailrite.

Have you ever had a mishap with using the wrong thread? Share your stories in the comments.

Want to learn more about thread? Check out this short video and become a thread expert in minutes!