Not All Threads are Equal

When selecting a thread, consider your project. Is it a table topper, an heirloom-to-be or other decorative piece that may be precious to the next generation? Or is it a small project that isn’t handled or washed much?

It is important to consider the thread quality especially when you factor in the time and energy it takes to make a project.

Thread size relates to thickness. For more information on thread size refer to the Guide to Thread Size page.

What Makes a High Quality Thread?

There are a few points to consider when factoring in the quality of the thread. Here are a few considerations:

  • Quality of Cotton - The longer the cotton fiber the higher quality it is. The longest fibers (Egyptian cottons) are 1.5”-2” long and make top quality threads. Cottons from India and Asia are less than 1” and because of this short staple length produce a weaker thread.
  • Number of Cords - Typically, most thread consists of two-cords, three-cords or six-cords (cordonnet). In general, the more cords a thread strand has the stronger and more durable it is. However, this is only true when comparing thread that is made of the same quality of cotton.

Two-cord threads, such as pearl cottons, are considered the softest thread and have more “fuzz.”

Three-cord threads, such as Cebelia, are soft and have less “fuzz.”

Six-cord (cordonnet) threads, such as Lizbeth and DMC Cordonnet, are considered the highest quality thread. This thread typically holds it body the best and is a strong, firm thread. It is more suitable for heirlooms, hardworking wearables, and decorative designs. This is not the same as a six-strand embroidery floss, which is designed to be separated into individual plies.

  • Mercerization - In the manufacturing process, cotton thread that is mercerized is treated with a caustic solution under tension, which causes the fibers to swell and become more lustrous. This strengthens the thread and improves the receptiveness to the dyeing process. Mercerized cotton holds its color well, and is almost always colorfast.
  • Gas-singed - When holding a piece of thread up to the light, you will notice “fuzz” along the strand. This is a common feature to all cotton threads. However, some brands have more noticeable fuzz than others. One way to reduce the amount of fuzz is a manufacturing process called gas-singing, where the thread is passed very quickly through a gas flame to singe away these fine fiber ends. It does not completely eliminate all of these “fuzz” ends, but reduces the amount of them. This results in a more uniformed strand of cotton.

Below is a chart listing thread quality based on number of cords:

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