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Thread Thickness Cheat Sheet

Different thread thickness cheat sheets
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Have you ever tried figuring out the size of your thread?

Three different labels but all the same thread width.

If you look at the picture, you can see 3 spools of thread that are sized differently. Surprisingly, they are all the same thread thickness.

I always thought that the size on a spool of thread was how thick the thread is. It’s not. It’s actually a measurement that comes from the manufacturing process. The numbers don’t directly tell you Thread Thickness.

What do those numbers mean?

Okay, so what’s with the numbers? The numbers come from formulas that use the length and weight of the thread to create the number you see on the spool. You can see an example of how this works in my post about Thread Weight.

Manufacturers use some form of the physical weight of the thread to help track how much material (not the fabric kind) was used to make the thread. Great information for the manufacturer, but not as helpful for the folks sewing with it.

Lots of Different Sizing Labels

Something else that makes it hard to use the numbers listed on your thread is that there lots of different sizing labels that go with the numbers. Different manufacturers use different formulas. You can see some of the different size labels in the picture below: Wt, #, Ne, No, Tex.Different thread size labelsHaving a bunch of different size labels means the average sewer can’t just compare them against each other. But there’s one more major challenge.

 

Differences in Fibers

Visually see the difference between cotton and polyester

Even if you can mentally juggle all those different sizing labels that have different formulas, different fibers change the results.

Seriously, some weeks I have trouble remember what day it is . . . there’s no way for the average person to easily make sense of the different labels and fibers to equate it all into a Thread Thickness.

I just want an easy way to compare Thread Thickness between different spools.

Looking for an Easier Way

Okay, I talked about why trying to use the sizing labels on thread spools isn’t an easy way to figure out Thread Thickness. Lots of different sizing labels and different fiber contents mean different results. (Oh, I almost forgot, some thread brands don’t even list a number size on their spools.)

I got to wondering, is there an easier way to understand Thread Thickness? Something more practical that quilters and sewers can just just glance at and use without getting boggled down with labels and numbers?

(Honestly, being able to say a thread is blank inches thick might be helpful for a few people but I think it’s meaningless for most of us. I logged over 1,300 measurements to create the cheat sheets down below. Even my brain got bored just looking at a chart of numbers.)

Comparing Threads against each other

It occurred to me that it’s more helpful being able to compare threads against each other, no numbers necessary. You can look on the cheat sheet and a see the different thickness in different threads. YLI Soft Touch was the thinnest cotton thread measured and it is second on the list. Floriani was the thickest thread I measured and you’ll find it on the bottom of the list. Visual between a thick and thin thread

I measured 26 different spools of thread from 12 different manufacturers. I took 50 measurements from each spool and averaged them to get an average thickness.

Thread Thickness Cheat Sheet

How to use the the Thread Thickness Cheat Sheets

The threads are arranged from thinnest to thickest on the chart. I used whole numbers to label the bars at the top. I thought the number 10 would be nicer than 0.001 (decimals seem to spook a lot of folks).

Remember, thinner threads will help your seams lay flatter and thicker threads offer more coverage when you are stitching on top of your quilt. 

The long infographs at the bottom of the post all have the same information, just fun variations in colors. A few people on my Nosy Quilter Facebook page mentioned they wanted to see threads in alphabetical order, so the white sheet is in alphabetical order and should print out on a regular sheet of paper.

orange dotted lines with nosy quilter logo in the middle

 SewingMachinesPlus.Com carries Madeira, Mettler, Aurifil and Superior Threads. They also have a lowest price guarantee.

FatQuarterShop.Com carries Gutermann, Mettler and a larger selection of Aurifill. Their Gutermann thread comes in cones, not the little spools like JoAnns. 

If you buy something from these two links, I’ll get a small compensation but you won’t pay more.(and the compensation will quickly disappear into my quilting projects and experiments.) 

 

If you’d like to download  Full Size Thread Thickness Cheat Sheet, you can use this link to a special album in my Google Photos and download it there.

orange dotted lines with nosy quilter logo in the middle

Last Thoughts

I hope you find these Thread Thickness cheat sheets informative. If there is enough interest, I wouldn’t mind adding more threads. I would create a Cheat Sheet for Cottons and one for Polyester. LOL, this would keep the sheets from being a mile long. 

What do you think, would you like to see more thread thickness to compare? And, are there any particular threads you’d like to see added?

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70 thoughts on “Thread Thickness Cheat Sheet

    1. Replying to say that I found this extremely informative! It actually helped with a project that I had been doing as one 40 wt poly really didn’t fill things in as I wanted. I switched to one you had as thicker and it did the trick! Thank you.

    1. Thank you Mary. If you like me on Facebook, you can help shape my future posts. I have a ton of things I want to explore and will be asking on my Facebook page what topics people would like to see first.

    1. Rikki, what is the thread you wanted to know about? If you’d like, you can mail me a 24″ section of the thread and I will measure it and let you know. Or if you want to see it included in future experiments, you can donate a new spool and I will add it to my threads samples and eventually a thread catalog I’m building.

  1. What sort of tool did you use to measure the thread thicknesses?

    What measurement system are you using? milliliters? (I understand that you are using whole numbers – but I was wondering what the “base system” they are coming from);

    1. Hi Sharon, thank you for asking. I use dial caliper to do the measuring. They have 2 nice flat sections that the threads easily sandwich between. The measurement I used is inches because it’s the one most people in the US are familiar with.

  2. This is so helpful! I’ve gone crosseyed looking at the numbers on the spools. The most common threads in my LQSes are ones you’ve listed here. But I’ll be interested to learn what else is out there.

  3. Hi Mary, LOL, even after all the research and measuring I did, the different labeling systems still give me a headache. I have a number of future thread experiments planned, but I want to add a few more threads before I start. Superior Thread’s Micro Quilter is on my list of threads to get.

  4. I read much but not every step of this enormous project but didn’t find what is used to measure the weight of threads & that is a key point.
    How long have you worked on it? What percentage of the project would you say is done? How many people are helping? My questions are all the basic list that all people hav.
    It’s a very needed & helpful project & I applaud your efforts. I look forward to learning more about this topic.

    1. Thank you for the compliment. Glad to hear it. I use dial calipers. They have a nice flat area that the threads fit between and a fine adjustment wheel that helps keep the results uniform. LOL, who knew that almost a decade of using calipers to measure jet engine part repairs would come in handy for my quilting.

      I’ve only been working on thickness for a little over a month. I’m doing all the measuring work myself to keep the results as accurate as possible. I do have one lady who is very interested in my work and she has been polling her friends to help me figure out which threads I should add to the list.

      I have a number of other thread comparisons I’m dying to do, but I’m going to wait just a little. I’m going to to add a number of other threads to my samples. Once my sample pool is complete, I can start onto the next experiment/review.

  5. Many of my friends & one who sells Superior’s King Tut acknowledge that while it claims to be one size (thickness), it stitches & appears to be significantly thicker. While this need not be part of its thickness, it does affect (effect) other aspects of projects- Superior guarantees that it is 100% Egyptian long staple cotton (I believe it is the only such thread). It’s main side effect of being all that type long staple- it is very low lint & when making a large quilt, that is of huge importance. It makes an enormous difference in how much time is spent cleaning rather than sewing.
    This aspect or advantage, doesn’t fit into any chart but is surely a significant advantage. I wonder how such aspects can either be acknowledged or communicated within this type study. It strikes me as impossible & a significant loss when eliminated.
    I know that other thread companies claim but mostly intimate that the thread is all Egyptian long staple but falls short.
    I can’t think of a company or association that would be motivated to do such a study. Hats off to you for taking it on!

    1. King Tut was one of the thicker threads I measured. So that certainly makes sense. I love that you can look at the chart and just see that.

      Aurifil and YLI state on their websites that they are made from Egyptian Long Staple cotton. Coats Quilt + says its Extra Long Egyption Staple Double Mercerized. I’ll be keeping this in mind and see what shows up in experiment results. I’d like to know. Lint is one of the things I hope to test later. It’s still in the experiment design stages.

      I’m so glad there are other people who find this interesting on a deeper level. I invite you to email me and we can have a more in depth discussion.

  6. Many of my friends & one who sells Superior’s King Tut acknowledge that while it claims to be one size (thickness), it stitches & appears to be significantly thicker. While this need not be part of its thickness, it does affect (effect) other aspects of projects- Superior guarantees that it is 100% Egyptian long staple cotton (I believe it is the only such thread). It’s main side effect of being all that type long staple- it is very low lint & when making a large quilt, that is of huge importance. It makes an enormous difference in how much time is spent cleaning rather than sewing.
    This aspect or advantage, doesn’t fit into any chart but is surely a significant advantage. I wonder how such aspects can either be acknowledged or communicated within this type study. It strikes me as impossible & a significant loss when eliminated.
    I know that other thread companies claim but mostly intimate that the thread is all Egyptian long staple but falls short.
    I can’t think of a company or association that would be motivated to do such a study. Hats off to you for taking it on!
    THIS IS NOT THE SAME AS EARLIER COMMENT BUT I JUST READ IT WASN’T ACCEPTED BC IT’S THE SAME!

    1. I hope to make this website a place for good easily understood information. I’m finally getting back to work on my blog after being sucked into home renovations for the last half a year.

  7. A powerful share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a bit of analysis on this. And he actually bought me breakfast as a result of I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! However yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I really feel strongly about it and love studying more on this topic. If potential, as you turn out to be expertise, would you thoughts updating your blog with extra particulars? It’s extremely useful for me. Large thumb up for this blog put up!

    1. That is so awesome Tambra. I am sorry it’s taken me 3 months to respond. Who knew tackling a condemned Victorian would suck up so much time and mental energy. I am still curious about thread thickness and bought more threads to test before life got so chaotic. This year I’m going to figure out how to juggle a blog while doing much of my own home renovation. If you want to know when I do more on thread thickness, you could sign up for my newsletter so you can get a notice in your mail box. It will have all my new posts for that month so you can quickly scan through.

      I will also put an update link on the original post.

  8. I’ve read some just right stuff here. Definitely value bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how much effort you put to make any such fantastic informative web site.

    1. Slyvain, I like how you put that. I hope to be to some sort of quilting research soon. It’s amazing how much time doing your own home renovations takes.

    1. Thank you for the encouraging words Sanny. I am going to slowly get back to work on my blog. I apologize for the long silence while I’ve been renovating our very old ‘new’ home.

    1. I’m so glad you found it helpful. I’ve got a few other projects in the work but can’t wait to continue my research on threads.

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