Can I Use Sewing Thread for Embroidery?

Embroidery and sewing are two popular handicrafts that often require the use of thread, but is it appropriate to use sewing thread for embroidery projects? Those who are just beginning to venture into the world of embroidery might wonder if they can use the sewing thread they already have on hand or if they need to invest in specialized embroidery thread.

The simple answer to this question is that sewing thread can be used for embroidery in some situations. However, there are certain factors to consider, such as the thickness of the thread, the desired appearance, and the overall quality of the finished project. It’s essential to explore these factors to decide if using sewing thread for embroidery is the right choice for your specific project.

Sewing Thread Vs Embroidery Thread

Material Differences

There are a few key differences between sewing thread and embroidery thread. Sewing thread is typically made from cotton, polyester, or a blend of both. Embroidery thread, on the other hand, can be made from a variety of materials such as rayon, polyester, and sometimes silk.

Thickness and Weight

  • Embroidery Thread: This thread is thicker than sewing thread, allowing for more coverage and bolder designs. It is available in various weights, with the most common being 40-weight.
  • Sewing Thread: Sewing thread has a thinner profile and is often found in weights such as 50 or 60-weight, which are better suited for standard sewing projects.

Sheen and Texture

The sheen and texture of the threads differ significantly as well.

  • Embroidery Thread: Rayon and silk embroidery threads are known for their high sheen and smooth texture, adding a beautiful, glossy finish to embroidered designs.
  • Sewing Thread: Sewing threads typically have a matte, or low-sheen finish, and the texture of cotton threads can be slightly rougher in comparison.

Strength and Durability

Both types of thread have their strengths and weaknesses regarding durability.

  • Embroidery Thread: While embroidery threads are thicker and provide a bold finish to designs, they may not be as strong as sewing threads. Rayon thread, in particular, has a lower tensile strength compared to polyester or silk.
  • Sewing Thread: Due to the fiber compositions and thinner nature of sewing thread, it is often stronger and more durable than embroidery thread. Polyester sewing thread, for instance, is known for its strength and ability to withstand wear and tear.

Types of Threads for Embroidery

Embroidery is an intricate art that requires attention to detail, especially when it comes to choosing the right thread. In this section, we will discuss various types of threads suitable for embroidery, including cotton, rayon, polyester, silk, and wool sewing thread.

Cotton Embroidery Thread

Cotton embroidery thread is a popular choice due to its natural, soft, and easy-to-handle characteristics. It is available in various thicknesses, allowing for a range of embroidery styles. Cotton thread also ages well, giving your embroidery piece a vintage look over time. Key features to note:

  • Natural and soft texture
  • Available in various thicknesses
  • Ages well, providing a vintage look

Rayon Embroidery Thread

Rayon embroidery thread is known for its lustrous sheen and smoothness. This thread type offers a wide range of colors and is suitable for both machine and hand embroidery. Its strength and durability make it a popular choice among embroidery enthusiasts. Key features to note:

  • Lustrous sheen and smooth texture
  • Suitable for machine and hand embroidery
  • Strong and durable

Polyester Embroidery Thread

Polyester embroidery thread is known for its versatility and durability. It is an excellent option for projects that require frequent washing or will be exposed to sunlight, as polyester thread is resistant to fading and shrinkage. Key features to note:

  • Versatile and durable
  • Resistant to fading and shrinkage
  • Ideal for projects requiring frequent washing or sun exposure

Silk Embroidery Thread

Silk thread offers a luxurious feel and shine, making it a popular choice for high-end embroidery projects. While silk thread can be more expensive compared to other thread types, it provides an unmatched elegance and richness to your work. Key features to note:

  • Luxurious feel and shine
  • Ideal for high-end embroidery projects
  • More expensive than other thread types

Wool Sewing Thread

Wool sewing thread can also be used for embroidery and adds a unique texture to your work. This thread type is well-suited for crewel or wool embroidery, and provides a warm and natural look to your projects. Key features to note:

  • Unique texture, suitable for crewel or wool embroidery
  • Warm and natural look
  • Different from other thread types in appearance and feel

Considerations for Using Sewing Thread in Embroidery

Fabric Type and Project Purpose

When considering using sewing thread for embroidery, it’s essential to take into account the fabric type and project purpose. Some fabrics may require specialized embroidery threads, while others may be suitable for regular sewing thread.

  • For delicate fabrics like silk, it is better to use a lighter thread made specifically for embroidery.
  • For heavier fabrics like denim, a regular sewing thread can be used, but you might need to adjust your needle choice and thread size.

Embroidery Technique

The embroidery technique you choose to use can also affect your decision to use sewing thread in your embroidery project. Some techniques, such as satin stitch or French knots, can work well with regular sewing threads.

  • Techniques like long-and-short stitch or shading might require a more textured thread or an embroidery-specific thread.
  • For techniques like cross stitch or blackwork, using sewing thread can be a suitable and cost-effective option.

Thread Size and Needle Choice

When using sewing thread for embroidery, the thread size and needle choice can make a significant difference in the final result. Sewing threads can be thinner than embroidery threads, so you may need to adjust the thread size and needle choice accordingly.

  • For a similar thickness to embroidery threads, consider using a 40 or 50 weight sewing thread.
  • Pair the sewing thread with an appropriate embroidery needle, such as a sharps or even crewel needle, to avoid fabric damage and ensure smooth stitching.

Appearance and Cost

The appearance and cost of using sewing thread in embroidery projects are essential factors to consider. Regular sewing threads may not have the same sheen or texture as embroidery threads, which can affect the final appearance of the project.

  • Sewing threads are generally more affordable than embroidery threads, making them an economical choice for some projects.
  • When looking for a particular look or texture, it might be necessary to invest in embroidery-specific threads to achieve the desired effect.

It is crucial to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of using sewing thread for embroidery based on the factors mentioned above. Consider the fabric type, project purpose, technique, thread size, needle choice, appearance, and cost, before deciding whether using sewing thread is the right choice for your embroidery project.

Machine Vs Hand Embroidery

Requirements for Machine Embroidery

Machine embroidery is a popular and efficient method for creating intricate designs on various materials. Some of the requirements for machine embroidery include:

  • Embroidery machine: A specialized machine designed for embroidery. It can have multiple needles and automatically switches between colors.
  • Embroidery thread: This thread is specifically made for embroidery and is typically thicker and more resistant to fraying than sewing thread.
  • Stabilizer: A material that prevents fabric from puckering or shifting during the stitching process.

Machine embroidery techniques include cross-stitch, needlepoint, and counted thread embroidery. These methods require consistent tension, which is why using embroidery thread is essential for successful machine embroidery projects.

Adapting Sewing Thread for Hand Embroidery

Hand embroidery, on the other hand, offers more freedom in terms of stitch techniques and thread choices. Common hand embroidery stitches include backstitch and chain stitch. While it’s generally recommended to use embroidery thread, sewing thread can also be adapted for hand embroidery in certain cases. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Thickness: Sewing thread is thinner than embroidery thread. To achieve the desired thickness, use multiple strands of sewing thread.
  • Fiber content: Choose a sewing thread made from polyester or rayon for better durability and colorfastness.
  • Tension: Adjust your tension when working with sewing thread to avoid puckering or loose stitches. Hand embroidery allows for better control of tension compared to machine embroidery.

In conclusion, while embroidery thread is the ideal choice for both machine and hand embroidery, sewing thread can be adapted for hand embroidery projects with the right adjustments and considerations. Remember to make necessary adjustments to ensure the best possible outcome.

Choosing the Right Thread for Embroidery

Embroidery is a beautiful art form that involves stitching designs onto fabrics using various types of threads. In this section, we will explore the factors to consider when choosing the right thread for embroidery, such as thread weight, quality, and matching the thread to the fabric and design.

Rating Threads by Weight

Thread weight plays a crucial role in embroidery, as it affects the final appearance and durability of the design. Common thread weights used for embroidery include:

  • 12wt sewing thread: This thicker thread creates bold and pronounced stitches. It’s suitable for heavier fabrics and designs that require a more pronounced texture.
  • 28wt sewing thread: A thinner option, 28wt thread creates more delicate and subtle stitches. It works well for detailed, intricate designs on lighter fabrics.

When selecting a thread, consider the desired outcome of your embroidered design and choose a suitable weight accordingly.

Identifying High-Quality Threads

The quality of your embroidery thread directly impacts the appearance and longevity of your stitched designs. High-quality threads tend to be smoother and more consistent, allowing for even stitching. Some premium thread materials include:

  • Cotton thread: A versatile and widely used option, stranded embroidery cotton thread is ideal for many embroidery projects.
  • Rayon embroidery thread: Known for its beautiful sheen, rayon thread is a popular choice for intricate designs.
  • Silk threads: These luxurious threads provide an exquisite finish, but they can be more delicate and challenging to work with.
  • Synthetic thread: Nylon, polyester, or other synthetic threads offer durability, especially when exposed to heat or use in garment construction.

Matching Thread to Fabric and Design

The type of fabric you use for your embroidery project can significantly impact the overall outcome. It’s essential to choose the right thread based on the fabric and the design you’re working on:

  • Linen: This breathable and natural fabric pairs well with cotton threads for a classic embroidered look.
  • Heavier fabric: When working with thicker materials, opt for a 12wt thread to ensure your stitching remains visible and stands out against the fabric.
  • Appliqué: For appliqué work, use finer threads like 28wt for detailed designs and opt for a matching or complementary bobbin thread.

In summary, selecting the right thread for your embroidery project is a crucial part of achieving the best results. Consider factors such as thread weight, quality, and the type of fabric you’re using to create beautiful, durable embroidered designs.

Tips for Using Sewing Thread in Embroidery

Embroidery and sewing threads may seem very similar, but they serve different purposes. However, if you want to use sewing thread for embroidery, it is possible with some adjustments. Here are some tips and recommendations to help you achieve a better result in your project.

Preventing Thread Breakage

Sewing threads are thinner and less resistant compared to embroidery threads. To prevent thread breaking:

  • Avoid using all-purpose or cotton threads – they are prone to producing more lint, which can result in breakage.
  • Opt for high-quality polyester sewing threads – they are less likely to stretch or break during embroidery.
  • Use a serger or quilting thread, as these tend to be stronger and have a smoother finish than regular sewing threads.

Using a Thread Stand for Tension Control

Proper tension control is essential for embroidery to avoid thread entanglement and unnecessary tension. To manage thread tension when using sewing thread for embroidery:

  • Use a thread stand to keep the thread straight and smooth as it feeds into your embroidery machine.
  • Place a suitable container (a cup or small box) near the thread stand to control the thread’s movement.

Selecting the Right Needle and Stabilizer

Using the right needle is crucial for embroidery projects with sewing threads:

  • Choose a needle with a larger eye than you would typically use for embroidery threads. This helps to reduce friction and, subsequently, thread breakage.
  • Match the needle size with the sewing thread’s thickness for more accurate embroidery results.

A good stabilizer is essential for any embroidery project, especially when using sewing thread:

  • Use a cut-away or tear-away stabilizer to provide adequate support for your fabric.
  • Experiment with different stabilizers to achieve the best outcome for your specific project and sewing thread.

By following these tips, you can experiment with sewing threads in embroidery projects while minimizing issues and achieving satisfactory results.

Popular Thread Brands and Recommendations

When it comes to embroidery, choosing the right thread is essential for achieving the best results. In this section, we’ll explore four popular thread brands and provide recommendations for their use in embroidery projects.


DMC is a well-known brand that offers a wide range of threads suitable for embroidery. Some popular options from DMC include:

  • Perle cotton: A lustrous, non-divisible thread with a tight twist, DMC Perle cotton is perfect for surface embroidery and needlepoint.
  • Stranded cotton: DMC’s most versatile embroidery thread, stranded cotton is great for cross stitch, needlepoint, and many other embroidery techniques.

When using DMC threads, it is recommended to use a size 26 embroidery needle for best results.


Sulky offers a variety of high-quality threads for embroidery, including:

  • Polyester thread: Sulky polyester threads are strong, durable, and available in a vast range of colors, making them a popular choice for machine embroidery.
  • Metallic thread: Sulky metallic threads add a touch of sparkle to your embroidery projects, perfect for decorative stitching and topstitching.

For best results with Sulky threads, use a size 12 embroidery needle and a slightly looser tension than you would with cotton threads.


Brother embroidery threads are known for their high-quality and wide range of colors. They offer:

  • Polyester thread: Brother polyester threads are an ideal choice for machine embroidery, providing excellent durability and colorfastness.

To obtain the best results with Brother threads, use a size 11 embroidery needle and ensure proper tension settings for your machine.


Madeira is another popular thread brand, offering luxury threads for embroidery enthusiasts. Their options include:

  • Rayon thread: Madeira rayon threads are known for their high sheen and smoothness, making them an excellent choice for decorative stitching.
  • Polyneon thread: Madeira’s polyneon threads are a resilient polyester thread that works well for both machine and hand embroidery.

When working with Madeira threads, it is advised to use a size 75/11 embroidery needle for optimal results.