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Coats & Clark thread vs quilting thread

by Janet
(Burnet, TX)

Janet writes...

With threads sold in quilt stores being expensive, what is the benefit of those over good old Coats and Clark? Haven't those threads been used for years and are still holding together clothes and quilts from a while ago?

Julie replies...

Your's is an excellent question!

When I was growing up, both my Mom and Grandma were dressmakers and Coats & Clark was a staple in my house. I can remember looking specifically for 'Dual Duty' in the fabric store.

But as I got further into quilting I have changed over to the 50-60 wt long staple Egyptian cottons for piecing...
  • I like the thinness of the thread because it takes up so little in the seam allowance
  • I get a good stitch with it...always!
  • Long staple means the cotton fibers are longer so it makes less lint inside my sewing machine
(...and then anything I can put through the needle for machine quilting.)

If you are getting those same results and are happy, then I see no reason for you to change.

The Myth about Cost

When you see that honkin' big spool of Aurifil for over $11 at the quilt store, the immediate reaction is "Whoa! That's expensive!"

I teach machine quilting and for my students I thought I'd break down the price...and even I was surprised.

In the chart below, all the threads are polyester except Aurifil and Masterpiece which are both 100% cotton. The prices are retail from Joann's and

Thread Cost Comparison Chart**

Brand Yards Cost/Spool $/Yard
Coats & Clark Dual Duty XP 500 $4.59 0.00918
Coats & Clark Dual Duty Plus 400 $5.99 0.01498
Gutermann Sew-All
(200 meter spool)
273.4 $3.99 0.01459
Aurifil 50wt 1420 $11.24 0.00792
Superior Threads' Masterpiece 600 $8.25 0.01375
**Chart last updated 10-12-14

I was surprised!

The Aurifil isn't more expensive than any of the threads on the list. Now Joann's does have regular sales on notions so that you can get it cheaper, but when you need it, you need it and you're going to pay the price on that day.

A Question of Strength

There's an argument against using polyester thread in piecing saying because the poly is so much stronger than the cotton fibers, it will cut or 'saw' through seam allowances over time. Fixing that problem is more difficult than repairing a seam where the thread has broken or worn away.

That does make sense...up to a point.

I have had clothing rip like that—the stitches stayed intact, but the fabric split at the seam. However, I've never had that happen with a quilt.


Bindings wear out. 'Just had a quilt where the flannel fabric wore away. But never the thread cutting the fabric.

If you stitch in the ditch to stabilize your quilt, it's my hypothesis that those quilting stitches help keep the poly from cutting the fiber. If they can't move there's no sawing action.

In the end...

If you're happy with the results you're getting, go with what works. I like the 50wt cotton and recommend to my students because I like it and it works for me.

In the end, that's all you can ask for.

I hope this has helped to answer your question.

Readers, I'm interested in your thoughts and experiences. Feel free to share using the 'Comments' link below.


Julie Baird

Comments for Coats & Clark thread vs quilting thread

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Thread quality
by: Corky

I was told at a fabric shop/sewing machine shop that if you bought name brand thread like Guttermans at say Walmart, it is not the same quality as they sell at the quilt fabric shops.
That is why the price is at Walmart is cheaper.

Is this true?

From the Editor:

While many of the fabrics at big box stores are of a lesser quality than their quilt shop counterparts (I've recently discovered that the Kona's at Joann's are the same as at the quilt store) I have not heard of this with regards to thread. That is all I can offer on the subject. I have no other knowledge.

~ Julie

Coats & Clark On-Going Question
by: Anonymous

When I consider purchasing fabric for $2.99/yard rather than at my trusty quilt store, I fall back on that old adage from Ben Franklin, "penny wise & pound foolish." As the previous commenter stated, if it's as stiff as a board run for the hills.

To cut corners, I've learned to quilt my own, pull pattern designs off the internet that are free, purchase good thread on sale, and try & keep an eye out for fabric sales at my favorite shops. Lastly, I simply don't sew as many quilts each year as I have in the past. When quilt fabric runs nearly $12/yard at the shops near me, I've learned to concede that I need to go w/the flow.

Julie replies...I hear you on that. When I started quilting, quilt-store-quality fabric was about $6/yd...I can remember when it edged up to $8 and I was like OMG.

Another way to combat the higher prices (and use up stash) is to make scrap quilts. I'm working on a pattern right now intended to be two color.

Now blue is not my favorite color, and I was certain I wouldn't be able to pull enough from my stash, but there where 69 different blues that made it into this scrap quilt. If I'd gone with a single fabric, I'd have had to buy it. Scrappy saved the day!

~ Julie

cotton weights
by: Anonymous

I thought the number of the cotton weight, was that the higher the number the thicker the cotton. From comments it looks like I was wrong.

I inherited a lot of cotton thread from my mum, and it is either Dewhursts or Coats, and mostly 40 weight. So is that too thick to use for quilting and piecing?

Julie replies...Yes, with thead the higher the number, the thinner the thread. With needles, it's the higher the number, the bigger/thicker the needle. It is certainly confusing.

My preference for piecing is a 50wt cotton or 60wt polyester—the thinner the better as it takes up less room in the seam allowance.

Can you piece with 40wt?

You can piece with anything you want. There are no quilt police. However, do a sewing test before you begin your projects to fine-tune your seam allowance. Since the 40wt is a bit thicker, it'll take up more room. You may need to make some slight adjustments. Testing will show you for sure.

The 40wt is fine for quilting. You may want to try a thinner thread in the bobbin, if for no other reason than you'll be able to get more thread on it. Again, test on a practice quilt sandwich made from leftovers from your quilts to adjust your machine's tension.

Good luck to you!

~ Julie Baird

Threads for Free Motion Quilting
by: Betty New

Free Motion Quilting is the most popular class that I teach, and there are many questions about thread from my students. They always ask which threads do I use or recommend. Here are some main points:

-If it works in my machine, I like it and use it.
-I use all weights in the top from heavy 12 wt cotton to 100 wt silk.
-Different wt threads require different sizes of needles.
-Tension always has to be adjusted.
-I use many brands and types of threads.

However, if in a class someone is having constant problems with their thread breaking even after adjustments of needles, tension and delivery, I have found that the thread is almost always Coats and Clark.

But if it works for you, use it.

From the Editor: Great advice, Betty!

~ Julie Baird

Will poly batt "cut" cotton thread? (related to will poly thread cut cotton piecing)
by: Christie W

Hi Julie.

Do you think, then, that it's ok to use cotton thread with polyester batting?

I am stabilizing the seams on both sides, as I pressed them open to the sides. This is my first quilt. I have been using all cotton thread, though the quilt was pieced on machine with polyester thread before I started asking questions!


Christie W.

From the Editor: Absolutely! You are fine using polyester batting with cotton thread.

You will probably run into quilters who are 100% cotton—100% of the make that, I'M CERTAIN you'll run into quilters who follow that philosophy.

But I believe that given good information, you can certainly make the BEST choice for your own quilts...based on the time, the money and the materials you have available to you.

I have not had any of the fabrics in my quilts get 'cut' by the Bottom Line (a 60wt polyester thread by Superior Threads) that I piece with every once in awhile. I use it for the simple reasons:
  1. It doesn't lint up my machine
  2. At a 60wt it's really fine so I can get more on the bobbin and don't have to stop as often to rewind
  3. The 60wt thread also takes of less room within the seam allowance, so that 'scant' quarter inch that everyone talks about, doesn't make much difference to my accuracy.

Oh, and I've always got it on hand. In my mind, those are all good reasons to use it! :D

What I choose to warn beginning quilters about is not to use crappy, cheap products in their quilts. Use the best quality materials you can AFFORD. (This quilting hobby certainly isn't cheap!)

YOUR time is valuable! And to spend it with inferior products just isn't a good match, in my humble opinion.

Skip the unlabelled, cheap rolled batting (no label means you don't know what it's made of, how close or far apart to quilt it, or even how to launder it). Skip the 10 for $1 spools of thread. Skip the $2.99/yd fabric. If it feels like a board on the bolt, it's not going to feel any better in your quilt, right?!

If possible purchase your fabric at a quilt shop or reputable online quilt store. I know it's more expensive...and I've done plenty of shopping at the big-box stores when I couldn't afford anything better...but I know the quality of the fabrics in a quilt store is much better. Reliably.

OK. I'll get off my soapbox!

But yes, you can most certainly use cotton thread with polyester batting and have no fear of the batting cutting the thread. Good question...keep them coming when you need help or reassurance!



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