What TYPE of thread should I buy?
For most projects, all purpose thread is the type of thread that you want to use. This type of thread is normally 100% polyester so it is very strong (polyester is stronger than cotton). I use this type of thread on clothing, bags, purses, bibs, pillows, etc. Probably 85% of the thread that I own is 100% polyester, all purpose thread.
When you go to the store, there will be ALL types of thread. All purpose thread, upholstery thread, hand quilting thread, machine quilting thread, denim thread, machine embroidery thread, etc., just to name a few. An employee may even tell you to buy upholstery thread if you are making bags so that they hold up better. I am here to tell you that most beginners do not start with heavy fabrics, like vinyls and leathers, in their projects so an all purpose thread will be just fine.
If you are making a quilt, it is recommended to use 100% cotton thread however. There are some different theories on why that is and I will go into those more when we talk about quilting. If you only have polyester thread on hand though and want to start on a little quilting project, then by all means, sew!! I have been known to break the rules too.
What BRAND of thread should I buy?
This question will definitely solicit lots of answers from different people. For beginner sewists, many don't want to invest a lot of money into thread initially. Here is a rundown of the most common thread brands and where to find them:
Coats and Clark Thread: This is the most inexpensive but decent thread on my list. Their all purpose thread is Dual Duty XP. You can find it at Walmart, Joann Fabrics and even some Michaels carry it. Hobby Lobby just stopped carrying it as they have their own thread brand now. It isn't as strong as some of the other brands on the list but I have used it for years especially since it comes in almost every color under the sun. What creates the strength in the thread is the material used in making it (polyester) and how it is braided together. I would dare say that Coats and Clark thread isn't braided quite as tight as some of the others but it still does a good job. Here is an example of a spool that you would look for at the store:
Mettler Metrosene Thread: Mettler is the brand and Metrosene is the name for their all purpose thread. I buy my Mettler thread at Joann Fabrics but you can also find it online. This is a very good thread and just a little more expensive than Coats and Clark.
Gutermann Sew All Thread: This is Gutermann's 100% polyester all purpose thread and is one that I really like to use. I also purchase it at Joann Fabrics. I also buy Gutermann thread at wawak.com. I buy the Mara 100 thread which is also 100% polyester thread. This thread from Wawak is very economical as it is normally under $3 a spool and has over 1,000 yards of thread on each spool!
If you have a Joann Fabrics near you, they will put their thread on sale for half off so watch for those sales and then stock up!
A couple of final thoughts about thread...
When friends and family hear that you have started sewing, they may want to give you Grandma's old sewing basket that is full of thread. Please keep in mind that thread can dry rot. A simple test is to wrap the thread around a couple of fingers on both hands and try to break it. If it breaks easily, throw it away. You don't want thread that is not as strong anymore going into a special project that you are putting a lot of time into. You want thread that will hold up.
If you do decide to use a thicker thread, like upholstery thread, you will need a much heavier needle with a bigger eye for the thread to fit through. I'm talking a size 14 or 16 needle which may leave holes in your fabric if it is thiner.
When choosing thread for a project, go with a slightly darker thread color as opposed to lighter. You are seeing a very dense version of the color on the spool so it is best to go a little darker as it will actually be a little lighter when it comes off the spool.
Cheap thread: you may be tempted to dip your fingers into the bin of no-name thread that is 4 spools for a $1. I remember that Walmart used to have a bin with cheap thread. Hancock Fabrics used to sell a package of 20 spools of thread from a company I had never heard of for dirt cheap. I would really caution you to stay away from it. It just is not very strong. I had students bring in those spools and they were constantly breaking in their machines until I gave them another spool from a company mentioned above. Problem solved.
I hope this information helps you as you purchase thread for your projects! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below. I would love to help answer them!