What Is The Difference Between All Purpose Thread And Quilting Thread?

Fact Checked By:Aithley Balder

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Choosing the right thread for your sewing projects is crucial for achieving the desired results and ensuring the longevity of your work. Among the many types of threads available, all-purpose thread and quilting thread are two common options that serve different purposes in the world of sewing. This article will delve into the key differences between these two types of threads, exploring factors such as material composition, thickness, finish, and application. By understanding the distinctions between all-purpose thread and quilting thread, you will be better equipped to make informed decisions when selecting the best thread for your next sewing project, whether it’s a garment, a home decor item, or a cherished quilt.

What Is The Difference Between All Purpose Thread And Quilting Thread

All-purpose thread and quilting thread are both used in sewing projects, but they have different properties and applications.

Material composition:

  • All-purpose thread: Typically made from polyester, cotton, or a polyester-cotton blend, this thread is designed to be versatile enough for use in a wide range of projects. It has a good balance of strength and flexibility, making it suitable for most sewing tasks.
  • Quilting thread: Quilting thread is specifically designed for quilting projects, which involve sewing through multiple layers of fabric and batting. It is typically made from 100% cotton, although some types may contain polyester or other synthetic fibers. Cotton quilting thread is often preferred because it has a low lint production, is less likely to cause tension issues, and it shrinks at a similar rate as quilting cotton fabric, leading to a more even and stable finished project.

Thickness and weight:

  • All-purpose thread: This thread has a medium thickness and weight, making it suitable for most fabric types and sewing projects.
  • Quilting thread: Quilting thread is generally a bit thicker and stronger than all-purpose thread to withstand the stress of sewing through multiple layers of fabric and batting. It is important for the thread to be strong enough to hold the layers together but not too thick, as this can create tension issues or break the needle.

Finish and texture:

  • All-purpose thread: It usually has a smooth finish and even texture, allowing it to glide easily through different fabric types.
  • Quilting thread: This thread may have a matte or slightly textured finish, which helps to create a better grip on the fabric layers and prevent the thread from slipping out of the stitches. The texture can also add a visual interest to the quilt’s design.


  • All-purpose thread: As the name suggests, this thread is designed for a wide range of sewing projects, from garment construction to home decor and crafts.
  • Quilting thread: It is specifically used for quilting projects, including hand and machine quilting. This thread is ideal for creating the stitches that hold the layers of a quilt together, as well as for decorative stitching on quilt tops.


  • All-purpose thread: The colorfastness of all-purpose thread varies depending on the brand and quality. Some all-purpose threads may bleed or fade over time, especially when exposed to sunlight or frequent washing.
  • Quilting thread: High-quality quilting threads typically have better colorfastness, meaning they are less likely to bleed or fade. This is important for quilts, as they are often heirloom items that require long-lasting colors.


  • All-purpose thread: Polyester and polyester-cotton blend all-purpose threads have more elasticity than pure cotton threads, making them suitable for sewing stretchy fabrics or projects that require a degree of flexibility.
  • Quilting thread: Cotton quilting thread has less elasticity compared to polyester-based threads. This characteristic is desirable for quilting projects because it allows for better control and more precise stitches, ensuring that the quilt layers remain securely in place.

Price and quality:

  • All-purpose thread: The price and quality of all-purpose threads can vary widely, from inexpensive, lower-quality threads to high-quality, more expensive ones. Lower-quality threads may be more prone to breakage, lint, and uneven tension.
  • Quilting thread: Quilting threads are typically of higher quality and may be more expensive than all-purpose threads. They are specifically manufactured to meet the demands of quilting, ensuring durability, even tension, and minimal lint production.


  • All-purpose thread: Due to its versatility, all-purpose thread is widely available in fabric stores, craft stores, and even general merchandise stores. It comes in a wide range of colors and spool sizes to accommodate various projects.
  • Quilting thread: While quilting thread is not as widely available as all-purpose thread, it can be found in specialized quilting stores, fabric stores, and online retailers. The range of colors and spool sizes may be more limited compared to all-purpose thread, but they are specifically curated for quilting projects.

In conclusion, the main differences between all-purpose thread and quilting thread are their material composition, thickness, finish, and intended application. While all-purpose thread is versatile and can be used for various projects, quilting thread is specifically designed for the demands of quilting.


Here are some tips for using all-purpose thread and quilting thread:

Tips for All-Purpose Thread:

  • Versatility: All-purpose thread is suitable for a wide range of sewing projects, including garment construction, repairs, and basic quilting. It works well with most fabrics, including cotton, linen, and light to medium-weight synthetics.
  • Tension Adjustment: When using all-purpose thread for quilting, adjust the tension on your sewing machine if necessary. Quilting involves multiple layers of fabric, batting, and sometimes thicker seams, so you may need to loosen the tension slightly to prevent thread breakage.
  • Color Matching: All-purpose thread comes in a wide variety of colors. For general sewing or repairing, choose a thread color that closely matches the fabric to hide stitches. However, for decorative quilting stitches, you can opt for contrasting colors to add interest to your quilt design.
  • Thread Weight: All-purpose thread is usually medium weight (50wt). It’s strong enough for most sewing tasks, but if you’re working on delicate fabrics or require finer stitches, consider using a finer thread.
  • Bobbin Thread: For all-purpose sewing, use the same all-purpose thread in the bobbin as on the top. This ensures balanced stitching and prevents tension issues.

Tips for Quilting Thread:

  • Strength and Durability: Quilting thread is specifically designed to withstand the wear and tear of quilting stitches. It’s usually made from cotton or polyester and has a higher tensile strength than regular sewing thread.
  • Low Lint: Look for quilting thread that produces minimal lint. Excessive lint can build up in your sewing machine and affect its performance.
  • Choose the Right Weight: Quilting threads come in different weights, such as 40wt, 50wt, and 60wt. A finer thread (60wt) is great for dense quilting and intricate designs, while a slightly thicker thread (40wt or 50wt) works well for general quilting.
  • Color Choice: When quilting, select a thread color that complements your quilt top. If you want the quilting stitches to blend in, choose a thread color similar to your quilt’s backing fabric. For more visible quilting designs, use contrasting thread colors.
  • Specialty Threads: Consider using specialty quilting threads, such as variegated or metallic threads, to add extra flair to your quilt projects. However, be sure to check that your sewing machine can handle these specialty threads without issues.
  • Pre-wound Bobbins: Pre-wound bobbins with quilting thread are available and can save time. They also ensure consistent tension throughout your quilting project.

Remember, the choice of thread ultimately depends on your specific quilting project and the effect you want to achieve. Always test your chosen thread on scrap fabric before quilting your actual project to ensure it meets your expectations. Happy quilting!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Q: Can I use all-purpose thread for quilting?

A: Yes, you can use all-purpose thread for quilting, especially if it is a polyester-cotton blend or a high-quality thread. However, using a thread specifically designed for quilting, such as cotton quilting thread, can provide better results in terms of durability, tension, and overall appearance.

Q: Can I use quilting thread for other sewing projects?

A: You can use quilting thread for other sewing projects, particularly those involving cotton fabrics or requiring a strong, durable stitch. However, the thicker and less elastic nature of quilting thread may not be suitable for all types of fabric, particularly delicate or stretchy materials.

Q: Is there a significant difference in the strength between all-purpose thread and quilting thread?

A: Quilting thread is generally thicker and stronger than all-purpose thread to withstand the stress of sewing through multiple layers of fabric and batting. However, high-quality all-purpose threads can also provide good strength, depending on the specific project and materials involved.

Q: Does the choice of thread affect the overall look of my quilt?

A: Yes, the choice of thread can affect the overall look of your quilt. The texture, finish, and color of the thread can impact the visual appearance of your quilt’s design. Additionally, using a thread specifically designed for quilting can help ensure even tension and precise stitching, contributing to a more polished finish.

Q: Do I need to use different threads for hand quilting and machine quilting?

A: There are threads specifically designed for hand quilting, which are usually thicker and coated with a wax or glaze to make them easier to work with by hand. Machine quilting threads are often smoother and more suitable for use with a sewing machine. However, you can still use high-quality all-purpose or quilting thread for both hand and machine quilting, depending on your preference and project requirements.

Q: How does thread weight influence the choice between all-purpose thread and quilting thread?

A: Thread weight refers to the thickness or diameter of a thread. A lighter weight thread will be thinner, while a heavier weight thread will be thicker. The choice between all-purpose thread and quilting thread depends on the desired outcome and project requirements. Quilting thread is typically thicker and stronger, making it suitable for sewing through multiple layers of fabric and batting. All-purpose thread is versatile, with a medium weight that works well for a wide range of projects, including garments and home decor. Choosing the right thread weight ensures proper stitch formation, balanced tension, and an overall polished appearance.

Q: How do I determine the quality of a quilting thread or all-purpose thread?

A: To determine the quality of a thread, consider the following factors:
·       Material composition: High-quality threads are usually made from long-staple fibers, which provide better strength, smoothness, and durability.
·       Consistency: A high-quality thread will have a consistent thickness and texture throughout its length, ensuring even tension and stitch formation.
·       Colorfastness: Quality threads should have good colorfastness, meaning they are resistant to fading and bleeding when washed or exposed to sunlight.
·       Lint production: Quality threads produce less lint, reducing the need for frequent cleaning and maintenance of your sewing machine.
·       Brand reputation: Reputable thread manufacturers invest in research and development to create high-quality products. Researching customer reviews and recommendations can also help you find threads of good quality.

Q: Can I mix different types of threads in a single quilting project?

A: Mixing different types of threads in a single quilting project is possible, but it requires careful consideration of the thread properties, such as material composition, thickness, and elasticity. Ensure that the threads you choose are compatible with your fabric and batting, as well as with each other, to avoid issues with tension, stitch quality, and overall appearance. Mixing threads can add visual interest and texture to your quilt, but make sure to test your thread combinations on a small sample before committing to your main project.

Q: How do I choose the best thread for machine quilting?

A: To choose the best thread for machine quilting, consider the following factors:
·       Material composition: Select a thread that complements the fabric and batting you are using. Cotton thread is often preferred for quilting cotton fabrics.
·       Thread weight: Choose a thread weight that is suitable for your project and compatible with your sewing machine. A thicker, stronger thread is often desirable for quilting.
·       Thread quality: Opt for a high-quality thread with consistent thickness, minimal lint production, and good colorfastness.
·       Sewing machine compatibility: Ensure that the thread you choose is compatible with your sewing machine, as some machines may have specific thread requirements or limitations.
·       Personal preference: Ultimately, choose a thread that aligns with your preferences and desired outcome for your quilting project. Experimenting with different threads on sample pieces can help you find the best option for your needs.

Q: Is it necessary to use thread conditioner or wax when hand quilting?

A: Thread conditioner or wax is not always necessary when hand quilting, but it can be beneficial in some cases. Applying thread conditioner or wax can help reduce thread tangling, knotting, and fraying, making it easier to work with. Additionally, it can help the thread glide more smoothly through the fabric layers, resulting in more even stitches. However, using thread conditioner or wax is a personal preference, and some quilters prefer not to use it. If you are unsure, you can try hand quilting with and without thread conditioner or wax to see which method works best for you.


In conclusion, understanding the differences between all-purpose thread and quilting thread is essential for choosing the right thread for your sewing projects. While all-purpose thread offers versatility and adaptability for a wide range of applications, quilting thread is specifically designed to meet the unique demands of quilting, providing strength, durability, and a polished finish. Factors such as material composition, thickness, finish, application, colorfastness, elasticity, price, quality, and availability play a significant role in determining which type of thread is best suited for your needs. By selecting the appropriate thread for your project, you can ensure optimal results, longevity, and satisfaction in your sewing endeavors.

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Aithley Balder

Hello there, my name is Aithley Balder from Texas. I am a cookware, sewing, toilet, technology enthusiast and I have been sharing my passion with my friends and likeminded folks for close to 4 years now. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me via the contact page.

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