Have you ever wondered what the letters in thread sizes stood for? Or why some threads are sized differently? The thread size tells you the thickness of a thread. Getting the proper thickness affects the strength, diameter, sewing machine used, and visibility. It’s an important decision. We’re going to decode thread sizes and show you what each one means and how they compare with one another. When you go to compare the size of two different threads, you’ll want to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. There are many different methods of measuring thread size, and different countries and industries use different units of measure.
4 Common Thread Sizing Systems
Weight (Wt): Weight is measured by a fixed weight system. It is determined by measuring the length of 1 gram of thread. If 1 gram is 30 meters long, for example, then it is 30 Weight thread. The higher the weight, the finer the thread.
Tex (T): Tex is the most consistent of the measuring methods. It uses a fixed length to measure the weight of a thread. Tex is the weight (in grams) of 1,000 meters of thread. Or, in other words, 1,000 meters of thread that weighs 1 gm. = 1 Tex. The higher the tex, the thicker the thread.
Denier Count (Td or d): Denier also measures thread at a fixed length. It is the weight (in grams) of 9,000 meters (or 9 km) of thread. You might recognize the term from descriptions of nylon fabrics, which are often classified by the denier of the threads from which they are woven.
Commercial Sizes (V): Commercial sizes are used for heavy-duty threads for sewing heavy upholstery, canvas or webbing. Commercial sizes are set sizes of 30, 46, 69, 92, 138, 207, 277, 346, 415 and 554. They are the thread’s denier divided by 10. Commercial sizes are standard for marine grade thread (you’ll see commercial sizes on the Sailrite website for our outdoor thread). Here’s a little table that shows how the different sizing methods compare:
6 Quick Tips about Thread Size
- V-69 is the heaviest commercial size recommended for home sewing machines.
- Heavier threads make your stitching more visible.
- The thread size measures the thread’s thickness. If another weight is given for thread (like ounces), it refers to the amount of thread on the spool.
- Thread tends to get stronger as it gets heavier.
- The tension on your sewing machine will need adjusting when you switch thread weights.
- Try to use a needle where the eye is 40% larger than the thickness of the thread.
If you’d like to learn more about thread, check out our post on thread applications, Thread: From Outdoor to Home Décor, or see our Thread & Needle Recommendation Chart. Find the perfect size thread for your next project at www.sailrite.com.
Update (11/19/2014): One of our readers, Sue L., sent in a Thread Size Cross Reference Chart that she put together to assist her with her work in the textile industry. It includes thread sizes and also tensile strength, weight, and diameter. Download her chart here! Thanks for sharing this with all of us, Sue. Great information!