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I’ve always wondered if I could interchange sewing thread with embroidery thread. 

Is there a difference between sewing thread and embroidery thread? Sewing thread is stronger and more durable than embroidery thread and is meant to be used when constructing your garment or project. But embroidery thread is for giving your finished item some decoration or individual detail. Embroidery thread is thinner but has more of colorful sheen than sewing thread.

There are other differences that can help you to decide whether it is a good idea to use regular sewing thread interchangeably with embroidery thread. See what you think.

But whatever you decide, be sure to use a good quality thread. If your thread is poor quality or old, you may find that it breaks or clogs your sewing machine.

Sewing Thread vs Embroidery Thread

Sewing thread 

  • Made of cotton that is wrapped with polyester, silk, polyester, cotton or nylon. 
  • Strong & durable. This helps your seams to be strong to take more wear and tear.
  • Comes in different weights. The higher the weight number means the finer the thread is. Weight 50 is great for sewing medium weight material such as lighter pieces of cotton, synthetics and stretch knits. Weight 40 (heavy duty) works best for heavier fabrics such as denim, heavy cotton, or upholstery material.
  • Comes on spools
  • Mercerized to make it colorfast
  • Fewer colors

Embroidery thread

  • Comes on spools or as hanks (6 threads twisted together)
  • Made of cotton, polyester, or rayon. Rayon may not be colorfast
  • An abundance of rich colors
  • Has more sheen
  • Comes in 30 – 60 weight
  • A finer thread which makes it weaker.
  • Sized differently than sewing thread. A weight 40 of embroidery thread is thinner than a weight 40 of sewing thread.

Can I Use Regular Thread in an Embroidery Machine?

Sometimes you may not have the right color of embroidery thread to use for your design. But you do have the right color in regular sewing thread. 

Or you may just want to use up your stash of sewing thread before investing in embroidery thread. Hint: Embroidery thread tends to be more expensive.

There are several things to consider.

First, using regular sewing thread in your embroidery machine may not hurt the machine but your machine may not like the thread. Each machine tends to have its favorite thread. So I sugges to test the thread first before using it in your design.

Second, if you are using a digitized embroidery machine, your design is probably designed for #50 weight thread. Sewing thread is usually heavier at #40 weight. So this would mean that your design would end up being denser. The stitching may overlap a little bit. Your design may end up being stiffer than you want.

Third, use a needle with a larger eye. The eye of an embroidery needle will be small since embroidery thread is finer than sewing thread. Try using a top stitch needle. It has a longer eye. You should find that the top stitch needle will help keep your thread from breaking as much. An embroidery machine stitches at such a fast pace that if the thread is rubbing against a smaller eyed needle the thread may start to shred and break. How frustrating! 

Fourth, regular sewing thread may cause more fluff and lint. So make sure that you clean the bobbin area frequently.

So with these things in mind, go ahead and give your regular sewing thread a try. 

Can I Use Embroidery Thread in a Regular Sewing Machine?

Yes, you can use embroidery thread in a regular sewing machine. Embroidery thread won’t damage your machine but you need to decide if you want to use embroidery thread for your project.

If you are sewing clothes, you need to know that embroidery thread (especially rayon) isn’t as strong as sewing thread. So depending on what you are sewing you may want to choose a stronger thread.

Most embroidery thread is colorfast but there are some colors that may not be. I would be cautious of very rich, bright colors. So make sure you use a color of thread that closely matches your fabric. Just in case the color runs

Cotton embroidery thread may shrink a little if you plan to wash your completed garment or project in hot water or use a hot iron on it. When the thread shrinks it will cause the seam to pucker.

In my opinion, it is best to use embroidery thread for decorative details and embroidery instead of using it to sew your garment together.

I feel better knowing that I have used a strong thread to sew my clothes together. I want my clothes to last as long as possible. 

What is the Best Thread for Sewing?

I like to look for the strongest thread that matches my project. For example, the strongest thread is heavy-duty nylon thread. But it is best for sewing outdoor fabrics, upholstery fabric or leather. 

So what is the best thread for your project?

Consider the type of fabric you are sewing and the final use of your project. 

Also, consider the quality of your thread. I know that you may not always be able to buy the highest quality. But buy the best quality that you can afford.

Here is a little guide. Hope it helps.

Type of Thread Have Give?CharacteristicsSuitable Fabrics
CottonNoDurable
Heat resistant
100% Cottons
Sheers & Delicates
PolyesterYesStrong
Smooth finish
Excellent for most 
projects
Both woven and
knits including
synthetics, knits &
stretch fabrics
Heavy-DutyNoStrong
Use for heavy-
duty projects
Coat fabric
upholstery
vinyl
canvas
duck cloth
NylonNoVery strong
Will melt
Nearly invisible
Different weights
Most fabrics
(match weight of
thread to weight of
fabric)
RayonNoNot for sewing 
seams
Any fabric that an
embellishment is
being added
SilkYes!Strong
Fine thread
Doesn’t leave a
hole in the sewn
fabric
All fabrics but
especially wool &
silk
WoolYesDurable
Soft
Wool
Canvas
Especially nice
when making
blanket stitching
on edge of 
blanket
MetallicsNoDecorative
Delicate
Use to embellish
Not for sewing
seams