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Should Thread Be Lighter or Darker Than Fabric?

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Are you having difficult time to match thread color to the fabric? When it comes to choosing thread color to match fabric, there is question about whether the thread color need to be lighter or darker than the fabric. 

As a beginner sewer, determining which shade of thread color can be a tricky task to resolve. Let’s discuss whether dark or light thread tones should be used when matching thread to fabric.

Should thread be lighter or darker than fabric? When sewing, thread color should be always darker than the fabric. 

Lighter color threads actually show up compared to the darker thread blended in the fabric. Select color being slightly darker rather than lighter when there is no exact color match available. 

People employ sewing for various reasons, including upcycling, making from scratch, and also using sewing pattern to create garment. In the case of sewing projects, there are different thread colors and fabric styles to choose between. 

Distinct colors arguably give a unique pattern that assists in creating the desired outcome, and can be rearranged when it comes to choosing the color of sewing thread. The good news is that the whole process is easier than you can imagine. 

In this article, we are going to learn how to select thread color for your next sewing project. Answered below are frequently asked questions about selecting thread that is either lighter or darker than the fabric, and why the shade choice is important in relation to the finished garment.

How do I choose the thread color for sewing?

When choosing the thread color for sewing, consider the closest option to the fabric selected for the project. In case you find thread color almost matching, it will be better to choose the darker color as it blends easily into the seams. 

Normally, the lighter thread color appears in lain sight and sticks out, hence it does not produce a clean look. All in all, there are some aspects you need to ponder when choosing the right thread color for your sewing project. 

Start by considering the kind of project you want to initiate. Usually, tailoring old jeans, completing a t-shirt embroidery, or dressmaking are examples of projects that demands specific types and qualities of thread. 

Here are some consideration to acknowledge when selecting thread:


Once you pick the fabric and have the right project in mind, the next essential thing can be finding the ideal thread. The kind of material you select for the sewing task must rhyme with the fabric material. 

For instance, if the fabric material being used is cotton fabric, the sewing thread should therefore be cotton. Follow the content of the primary type of sewing fabric material to match the thread content and quality.

  • Nylon: This thread makes seams strong and durable. Suitable for leather, canvas, and vinyl.
  • Wool: The wool thread generally consist of three strands that can either be used together or separate. Works best with heavy fabrics such as wool or canvas.
  • Metallic: This type of thread provides a unique design and decorative purposes that can be used as embroidery, sewing, serging, and detail handwork projects.
  • Cotton: Cotton thread is best used when sewing natural fiber fabrics. Also, it mercerizes where it becomes easy to dye and gives a lustrous and smooth finish.
  • Polyester: Polyester thread looks and feels like nylon thread. It is mostly used in different projects for both hand and machine sewing. 
  • Bobbin threads: Bobbin thread are generally a lightweight polyester thread that are about 60 to 70 weight. Since bobbin thread does not show on the right side of the fabric, no need to match the top thread.  
  • Silk: Silk threads can be used both on and off the sewing machine. However, they fray and break easily compared to polyester or cotton threads.


After picking the material and color, the next vital consideration can be choosing the right quality of the thread to utilize for the project. 

Just in case you are employing a thicker fabric, then a more solid kind of thread will be required. If you are working with thinner fabric, then it would be wrong to consider a thick thread. 

The reason is that thick thread can be too strong or sturdy, which can lead to fabric ripping. 

The available kinds of thread quality include:

  • Invisible thread: It is super fine-stranded thread that looks like a fishing line. Generally made out of nylon or polyester, it is suitable for repairs, beading, or patching to make it unnoticeable but very strong.
  • Machine threads: All machine threads are made from cotton, nylon, polyester or even silk. Depending on the fabric you are working with, use the same type of thread as the fabric. 
  • All-purpose: It is polyester thread that is a synthetic material for most machine and hand sewing. Also, it works well with any stretch knit fabric due to wax or silicone finish that slips through the fabric easily.
  • Heavy-duty: Made out of synthetic materials that are able to withstand stress and tension. It works best with thick fabrics like denim, canvas, and leather. Also, it has soft furnishing as you will notice that most heavy-duty thread are a mixture of cotton and polyester.

How will you know the right quality? Well, there is an approach to checking thread quality. Simply cut the thread and hold it towards a bright light, then employ a magnifying glass and light to check the strand carefully and see smoothness or imperfections. 

However, if it is a frizzy, hot, and linty mess, then it is not the right quality and may be old thread that needs special instructions to restore the condition. Basically, frizziness and fraying signify more lint created in your sewing machine. 

How do you match thread to fabric?

Matching the thread to fabric is easy, just follow these general rules to make it a success. There are two factor to consider when it comes to matching thread to fabric, color and weight.

  • Color: The background color is the first thing you will want to match after selecting the fabric. Even though the fabric’s backside is white, you require the thread to rhyme the right side of the fabric, especially when the intention of the thread was to showcase the garment’s surface.
  • Weight: The weight of the fabric and that of the thread must match. The ranking of the thread is done via a graded number system. A high number shows fine or light thread, and alternatively the medium number indicates 50 weight of the thread and low number is extra thick thread. 

In order to match thread to fabric, consider color and weight. The color needs to be matched with slightly darker or same shade as solid fabric or background color of printed pattern. Additionally, the weight of the fabric and weight of thread needs to stay the same to get the best sewing result. 

Tips to Choose Thread Color

It can be intimidating to choose thread color that accompanies the sewing project and does not look awful when finished. However, some prints or hues are very difficult to select. 

The rule of thumb is your sewing thread should be the color closest to the color of the fabric, and slightly darker if that is the only option.

Here are essentials tips to choose thread color to match with your fabric:

  • Match the size, weight, and properties of the fabric and thread.
  • Align the cotton thread for natural fibers, and polyester thread for synthetic blend fabrics.
  • Use all-purpose polyester thread to get the best results for basic sewing projects.
  • Look for quality thread as a lack of will show on the finished garment. 
  • Choose a smooth, nub and fuzz-free strand that doesn’t twist easily.
  • Utilize color wheel for dressmaking to match fabric and thread color. 

When it comes to selecting thread for fabric, it is best to have a small swatch with you for your next store trip. Simply pull a thread from the cut edge of fabric and compare the thread with spool of thread to find the closest matching color. 

Should thread be lighter or darker than fabric

Lighter vs Darker Thread Color: Conclusion 

No matter what type of sewing project you are working on, it is crucial to consider the right thread and fabrics that blend perfectly. This will be worth it if you take your time when selecting the materials, however it can be tricky when deciding to go with lighter or darker thread color.

Follow the general rule of selecting thread color that is slightly darker than the fabric. A lighter colored thread shows up and even some mistake can be visible where as darker colored thread blends in well with every seam.

When selecting thread to match with fabric, understand the different materials that thread consist of and quality that is same level as the fabric. Foremost, evaluate the color and weight of the thread. 

The weight of the thread must be same as fabric to avoid from puckering or thread keep breaking while sewing. If the thread is stronger than the fabric, the fabric could also tear.

Whether you are beginner or intermediate level sewer, use these tips to choose thread color properly. Overall, the goal is to help you create beautiful and clean items that are ideal to add value to your DIY wardrobe.

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