Sewing vs Embroidery Thread: Are They The Same? (Difference)

Without thread, all you have are a few pieces of cut fabric and no good way to put them all together. But not thread is thread, there are subtle differences in different types so that any sewer can make their next sewing or embroidery project look even better.

There are some subtle differences between the two styles of thread. The embroidery thread is glossier and a bit thinner than regular cotton thread. That lack of size means that embroidery thread is better for those very dense embroidery projects you undertake.

To learn more about the difference between embroidery thread and regular thread, just continue to read our article. It has the information you want to know about in order to apply the right thread to your projects.

Is Embroidery Thread the Same as Sewing Thread?


While the two styles of thread can be made from the same fibers, i.e. cotton, silk, polyester, rayon, and so on, there are subtle differences to them. Those differences make each style of thread perfect for the purposes they are used for.

For example, the regular thread is perfect for seams, hems, and other sewing areas, that require the stitches to be very strong and withstand a lot of rough treatment. The purpose of each thread is one difference you need to factor in.

Then the regular thread is not good for those embroidery projects that require a lot of stitches very close together. So the purpose is one of the biggest differences that play a vital role in how your sewing project will come together.

But other than that, the threads are very similar in that they go through fabric very easily, with the right needle, they do their jobs well, and make great stitches. They both come in a wide range of colors and fibers so you have lots of options at your disposal.

Although, you may not want to use a synthetic embroidery thread if you plan on dyeing the creation any time soon. That is another issue altogether.

Differences Between Embroidery and Sewing Thread

The following quick comparison chart will provide you with a lot of the subtle differences and similarities that exist between the two threads.

Category Embroidery Regular
Made from rayon, polyester and sometimes nylon made from an assortment of fibers
Thickness usually thinner than regular thread usually thicker than embroidery thread
Looks has a sheen to it usually dull in color brightness with exceptions
Strength not as strong as regular thread can be quite strong
Applications for decorative purposes mostly, not good for those clothing sections needing lots of strength can be used in any sewing project, any clothing section and can be used for decorative purposes
Colors comes in lots of different colors come sin lots of different colors
Weight comes in a variety of weights comes in a variety of weights
Use can be used for needlepoint, cross-stitch, hardanger, blackwork, whitework, shadow work, ribbon embroidery, and so on used for darning, sewing and odd embroidery projects
Cost varies but generally cheaper than regular thread can be quite expensive at times

The cost will depend on where you buy your thread. One location had embroidery thread listed at $1.95 while another place had regular thread prices at $4.50. The price is a minor difference.

Embroidery Thread vs Sewing Thread


This will depend on the purpose of the thread’s use. Embroidery thread is perfect for appliques, embellishments, decorative lettering, and so on. The thread does not have to be that strong as the treatment those areas of sewing get is not as rough or as stressful as the treatment regular thread has to endure.

Each style of thread has its own purpose and while you can use embroidery thread for seams and hems and other strength-related sewing areas, it is not the best choice. It just does not have the strength to hold up that well.

Regular thread is best for hems, etc., simply because it is strong enough to handle the treatment those areas of clothing receive. Then, while you can use regular thread for embroidery, it just does not have that sheen embroidery thread has and the end result may not be as glamorous as hoped.

Also, a regular thread is bigger than an embroidery thread so it is not the right choice when you have a very dense embroidery project to complete. Each thread is best when they are applied to their intended purpose. Outside of their intended purpose, they are merely second best to the other.

Is Embroidery Thread Thicker Than Regular Thread?

No, it is not. regular thread is thicker than embroidery thread. That size difference is why you can’t use regular thread in very dense embroidery projects. it just is too thick to use.

To tell the difference between the threads, the bigger the weight number, (30,40, 50 wt, etc.) the smaller the thread. For example, a regular 40 wt thread is used for regular sewing and sometimes a 50 wt thread is used for quilting.

Then some thread spools, etc., may have a second number on them and the numbers look like this 50/2. The first number indicates the weight of the thread while the second number indicates how many plys the thread is made with.

The higher the second number the stronger the thread. That higher number means that the thread should hold up very well under normal circumstances and use. There are 12 and 18 wt threads out there but they are generally used by hand sewers and those experienced sewers who do a lot of topstitching.

Also, there is a 28 wt thread and a 60 weight option but these are supposed to be rare. The 60 wt is normally reserved for the bobbin.

Is Embroidery Thread Strong?


Not necessarily. It will depend a lot on where you apply the thread and what treatment it receives. But generally, embroidery thread is not as strong as regular thread. One reason for this difference is the type of fiber the embroidery and regular threads are made from.

For example, some embroidery thread is made from rayon but the rayon fibers lose their strength when wet. That means the thread would most likely weaken and fall apart if you used the thread in a pant leg hem and your child spent time traveling through puddles.

Cotton threads can shrink which is why some embroidery threads are made from polyester. That fiber resists shrinking but it also resists dying. While your clothing may change color, the polyester thread remains the original color it was given.

Then polyester embroidery threads still have the heat problem that polyester fibers have. If exposed to too much heat, those threads could melt on you. A good cotton thread will resist the heat and look a lot better under those conditions.

Then overall, the thicker the thread the more strength it will have. It just has more density that will help it to withstand rough treatment than thinner thread has.

Can I Embroider With Sewing Thread?

Yes, you can and it may be a good idea to do so when the embroidered decoration is going to be given rough treatment for the next few years. Even though there are subtle differences and different purposes to each thread type, you can still embroider with regular thread.

After all, a thread is still a thread and each style does basically the same thing. The time you do not want to use regular thread is when your embroidery project is going to be very dense. Those types of projects are made for embroidery thread because it is finer and thinner than regular sewing thread.

It will also be easier to work with than regular thread and you should have fewer problems with your sewing machine if the machine likes the thread. That is a key concern as if your sewing machine does not like the thread you are using, you will have some sewing issues that slow your progress.

What that means is that you have to watch the brand name on the spools of thread. Some sewing machines do favor certain brands over others. This match may depend more on trial and error than anything else.

How to Embroider With Sewing Thread


Embroidery doesn’t have to be done with embroidery thread. You can replace that style of thread with another style of regular thread. One option would be regular cotton sewing thread.

When you make the replacement, you will have to make some adjustments to your sewing style. The first adjustment you will have to make is for the thickness of the thread. The regular thread may pile up on you and you will get more coverage on the fabric than you would with embroidery thread.

Second, you will have to slow your sewing speed down in order to make sure the stitches come out just right. Then you should watch the ply on the regular thread as 2 ply lies flatter than other larger ply numbers.

Third, you will need to change the needle to make sure the eye can handle the thicker thread. Also, you should check your tensions and make any adjustments you need there just in case.

Other than that, machine embroidery with regular thread is basically the same as it is with regular thread. The recommended stitch pattern to use is a zig-zag stitch but you are free to use whatever stitch pattern you want.

We also wrote an article on using serger thread instead of embroidery thread. That article may add some more pertinent information we may have not included in this one.

The biggest key in replacing embroidery thread with regular thread is seeing if you are getting too much coverage or not enough. Most likely, the former will be the case and you will have to alter your sewing style a little to compensate for that difference.

Tips for Embroidering With a Regular Sewing Machine

Some sewers may not embroider enough to justify spending a lot of money on a sewing machine dedicated to embroidering. They end up using their regular sewing machine. That is not a problem and here are some tips to make sure the task goes smoothly:

  • 1. Trace the letters - this is important as the image will help guide your work. Also, use a marker or pen that washes out easily. There are many different fonts available and depending on your machine, you can download them from the internet to be more creative.
  • 2. Needle choice - always an important decision and since regular sewing machines can handle embroidery thread, keeping the eye to the right size for the thickness of the thread is vital. You will want to use a strong thread as thread breakage can be a problem.
  • 3. Needle adjustment - if this is possible on your regular sewing machine, make sure to read your owner’s manual to find the right position for the needle. Also, adjusting the feed dogs should help relieve you of any issues around the needle.
  • 4. Cloth placement - this is important as you want to make sure you can see the design and embroider the right side of the material. Once you have the cloth positioned right, place it under the needle. Make sure the needle is raised at this point.

After the cloth is in place, lower the needle and start stitching. Make sure to move the cloth as you sew so the design is filled with stitches. This step is hard to do and some practice needs to be done before attempting the real design.

  • 5. Clarity and precision - since the design you embroider has to be expressive and easy to read, delay being creative until you master these two aspects of embroidery. You can get creative after you master these two steps.
  • 6. Go slow - there is an old saying that goes ‘first you get good, then you get fast’. Those words are important when you are a beginner embroiderer or sewer. Speed is not important until you have mastered embroidering on a regular sewing or another machine.

Types of Embroidery Thread+

One of the keys to using embroidery thread is to match the thread to the machine. This may be hard to do at first as there are different types of embroidery threads out there and a whole host of different sewing machines all with their individual nuances.

The best way to find the perfect match is to do tests on scrap fabrics first.

  • 1. Polyester - This type of embroidery thread has become the industry standard. The reason for that is that this thread is strong, maintains its color, durable, and resists chlorine bleach. It also resists breaks and has the sheen embroidery thread should have. But this style of thread is not for every embroidery project.
  • 2. Rayon - It is popular because it has a wider array of colors than polyester thread. The major drawback to using this thread style is that it is weaker than the polyester option and can lose its strength when it gets wet. But it works well in high-speed machines and is softer than polyester.
  • 3. Cotton - This style may not have the high sheen that rayon or polyester has but its soft sheen does work in many different embroidery projects. Plus, you can get this thread in a variety of textures, weights and it works well in most machines. This style also comes in different thicknesses.
  • 4. Silk - One of the more luxurious embroidery threads you can use. It has strength and softness that beat both rayon and polyester. Also, it comes with a beautiful sheen that just looks better than all of its competitors. The major drawback to using this thread style for embroidery is that it can be very expensive.
  • 5. Metallic - This style of thread can add a new level of look and creativity to your embroidery projects. Their gold, silver, and bronze colors rival silk and just adds that special touch.

However, the major drawback to using this style of embroidery thread is that these options break very easily. You may end up re-threading your machine far more often than you would like.

Part of the problem is due to how they are made and the thread can fall apart very easily when you are not careful. But if used right, your embroidery design will look exquisite.

Some Final Words

Embroidery can be difficult if you do not own an embroidery machine or the right tools and supplies. But with the right thread, you can make any design look like it is very expensive, creative, and very professional.

Choose the right thread for the purpose to make sure you get the best results. Once you have perfected your embroidery talent, then get creative.

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