Can You Embroider With Regular Thread? (What You Need To Know)

using regular sewing thread for embroidery

Can You Embroider With Regular Thread?

The easy answer to this question is yes, but there are some other things to consider before you start using regular sewing thread in place of your embroidery thread.

Things To Consider Before Embroidering With Regular Thread

Sewing Thread and Embroidery Floss Have Different Thickness

First of all, if you are hand embroidering, most of that is done with embroidery floss, not thread. For hand embroidery, I use DMS embroidery flosses basically because they are readily available at my local Walmart, even after they scaled back their fabric department.

I also have this DMC kit that offers quite a variety. Each skein is made of 6 wound strands. When I embroider, I separate those strands so that I can work with two at a time. Some projects require thicker floss, at which point you would use more of those strands – maybe even all of them.

Expect a Different Result

If you were to use regular sewing thread, even double strands would be thinner than the embroidery floss. So even though I could use regular thread instead of floss for hand embroidery it will change the look of my finished product. Having said that, if you want to create an old-fashioned or open look, maybe using regular thread would give you the desired results.

Embroidery Machines

You also see a difference in machine embroidery. The spools of sewing thread look very similar to spools of embroidery thread and they are interchangeable. I often use my embroidery threads for sewing projects because the vibrant colors are such great matches or contrasts for many of the fabrics I choose.

On the surface, they don’t seem too different. The difference is actually in the weight of the thread. Most spools of embroidery thread are #50.  Sewing thread generally is #40. The lower number means the thread is heavier.

So your machine embroidered designs using regular sewing thread will be heavier and thicker than the ones you make with embroidery thread. If your fabric is lightweight, they might not be able to handle the heavier thread. The fact that embroidery thread is spun differently is also why #40 sewing thread and #40 embroidery threads are not the exact same thread. 

Embroidery Thread is Stronger

Another thing to consider before substituting sewing thread for embroidery thread on your machine is that embroidery thread is spun to be stronger because it will be pulled more than a regular sewing machine pulls sewing thread. That means if you use sewing thread on your machine embroidery designs, that thread will likely break more often. 

Difference in Sheen

Since most embroidery threads are made of polyester or rayon, cotton sewing threads would lack their luster. Keep that in mind if you are thinking of using a sewing thread in with your embroidery design as an emergency filler. If the sheens won’t match, you’re better off waiting until you get the right thread to finish the project.

If you are stuck and need to use sewing thread in your embroidery machine, you will get better results from using a #30 cotton thread. Its weight is the most similar to machine embroidery thread (although you may miss that sheen as noted above).

You can also use serger thread in your embroidery machine, as long as the spools are a fit.

Another word about cotton threads in your embroidery machine – they are okay to use, but be sure to dust away any fibers or lint that may remain after using them. As previously mentioned, unless you go with the #30 sewing thread, you will probably see more breaks. You want to dust away any of those floating fibers to keep your machine clean. 

Increased Thread Variety

Ultimately, ask yourself why you want to use sewing thread instead of embroidery thread or floss.If you fancy yourself a sewing rebel and just want to do it because it is a little on the wild side, by all means, give it a try. If, however, it is because you are missing a particular color, but have that color on hand in sewing thread, it is time to increase your embroidery thread collection. Whether you embroidery by hand or machine, there are a lot of reasonably priced bulk options that allow you to buy a lot of color variety. 

If you are just getting into embroidery and have yet to buy thread in bulk, don’t forget to include a storage solution in with that first purchase. The threads machine embroidery threads I linked above come with a storage case, but there are a ton of other options out there. If you have the counter top space and plan to limit  your on-hand thread count to 60 spools, you might like this wooden thread rack. If you want to mount your storage unit on a wall, take a look at this 2-pack of wall-mount racks

What About Needles?

When choosing a needle, you should consider the type of fabric you will need to sew on. The thread, then, should match the needle. Refer to your sewing or embroidery machine owner’s manual to determine which needle to use with which thread and fabric. Remember, sewing and embroidery machines are fascinating pieces of equipment that very much rely on every little component working as it should. Using the wrong needle or thread can require an adjustment of the machine’s tension (your manual will also explain the specific way to make these adjustments because all machines are a little different).

If you are hand sewing, people generally use those interchangeably between sewing and embroidery as long as the embroidery floss is limited to two strands. The thread or embroidery floss should fit in the eye of the needle with room to slide. The thread should not be a tight fit in the needle’s eye. These Clover gold eye embroidery needles are my favorite pack. The packaging holds them neatly in place and they stand out against my regular sewing needles if I happen to leave one sticking in my pin cushion. The way they are packaged also easily shows the size of the needle’s eye, which helps you pick the best hand embroidery needle for your embroidery medium (2 strands of floss or more, ribbon, crewel yarn, etc.).

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