Define Too Much Thread…


I may have over reacted to a recent sewing crisis, when I ran out of black thread mid-project on a weekday evening. Sewing ground to a halt until the weekend and I hit up the Internet, stock piling. I use all-purpose polyester thread, unless there’s a good reason not to.

Over purchasing? I’d argue that I’m not as mad as I look…

My ten-reel purchase of black and white Gutermann cost me £12.14, or just over £1.20 per spool of thread. Compare that to a typical online price of anywhere between £1.70 and £3.50 for a single spool of Gutermann. Not bad.

The gift box was a demand (no, request!) for my birthday. Isn’t it gorgeous? And again, breaks down to a pretty sound investment at about £1.10 per spool.

thread ii

I still think my investments in Belding Corticelli silk thread are some of the best pennies I’ve ever spent. This thread is perfect for hand basting and I love its sheen.

I’m sure you could argue that there are only, say, ten basic colours of thread that a Sewist needs to make any outfit of any hue. Is this true, do you think? And what would those base shades be?

Of course, none of this stockpiling helps my recent wails about a dedicated sewing space and storage. Turns out I’m in the minority. Over 1000 people took that poll and 60% of you have a dedicated sewing space. There was one reader suggestion that has me eyeing my disgusting under stairs cupboard. The one where the spiders live. Maybe it’s time to serve notice…

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43 Responses to Define Too Much Thread…

  1. Barbarags says:

    60% with their own sewing space! Certainly not amongst my sewing friends. Perhaps those without their own sewing space are too busy trying to find space in their home to respond. As to stockpiling sewing thread I tend to sew in a limited colour range so a mixed box would leave me using up some of the threads completely and not touching others. Beside I am rather fanatical about getting as good a match as I can to the extent of trawling several outlets to find the best match. Thanks for the tip about white and black, those would certainly be worthwhile for me to bulk buy.

  2. Fadanista says:

    I also stockpile thread as I live in terror of running out. I own thread of every hue and saturation, but I rarely go out and buy thread for particular fabric, which is weird because I love buying thread.

  3. Miriana says:

    I have three boxes of mixed thread from Lidl. I think they were a tad cheaper than your Gutermann beauties, but the quality is different.

  4. louise says:

    I purchased a mixed bag off Ebay (all unused) it was great when they arrived. abit like a lucky bag. I priced them up individually, and even though there are a few I probably may not use I still made a massive saving. Its a great way to shop stockpiling, and they don’t take up much space.

  5. helen says:

    A while back via a link on ‘the sewing forurm’ there was someone selling job lots 50 spools of Coats thread for £7.50 inc postage. It was a lucky dip for colour. Some were 200mts and some were even silk. It’s been great as I’ve hardly had to buy any threads as I always seem to have a matching one in the box.
    I don’t think I’d stop at 10 basic colours, not if you want to topstitch.
    My problem is keeping them tidy.

  6. Jackie says:

    Strangely notification of your post came into my email box just as was reading a post by Tilly on the cost of sewing (April 2012). I have masses of thread accumulated not through sewing but through mending shop bought clothes! I have just bought my first length of fabric to start sewing again after 30 plus years & without thinking bought 2 reels of thread as well – which now I have checked, I don’t need. My basics would probably be navy, brown – tan & dark as well as black, white & cream. However I have seen some fantastic green fabric with black specs so green I will need to be added.

    I don’t have a dedicated sewing space & my DH has a garden office but prefers to work on the dining room table! I am in supportive wife mode at this time – he is doing yet another degree so will have to wait until he goes to Uni to cut my first top!

    I love the sewing blogs (your’s is my fave) – so inspirational & informative.

  7. Marianne says:

    Ten colours, are you kidding? Matching thread for every project is a big deal for me! One can never have too many shades of red, or blue, or whatever. For topstitching or twin needle finishes I sometimes use two spools at once so my definition of having too much thread is having more than two of the same colour number. Yep, my boxes are bursting with thread!!

  8. Jackie says:

    Hope Lynn Truss isn’t viewing my punctuation in the last sentence!

  9. Courtney says:

    I may be in the minority as I do freelance alterations work but gosh no ten colors isn’t near enough. You need at least 10 shades between ivory and chocolate alone, with 4 different khakis in the middle. 3 of each other asides (greens, teals, pinks, reds, yellow/golds, blues, purples), 4 greys, and a backlog of 5-8 each white and black (I thought five was enough but here I am running out only four months later…), the big spools not those sweet little Gutermanns…..And of course a bobbin for each! Then you should be set. 🙂

  10. I would be interested to know what colours you use the most. I cleared out my thread drawer recently & found I had multiple spools of the same colour bought for completely different projects & fabrics. I clearly have an eye for some specific shades

  11. Jane says:

    I find myself buying the same thread colours over and again: navy, red, charcoal grey, cream and white. I now buy them in massive spools because I know I’ll keep using them. Occasionally I also need pale blue and sea green. That’s it more or less. I had a Cath Kidston gift pack years ago that included most of these colours, that was really useful. It also included pale pink and yellow (both used up for craft fair makes and the occasional dalliance with yellow). It also contained two reels of purple thread which have never been touched….! x

  12. Katy says:

    Ahhhh that Gutermann pack looks amazing! I totally think there is no such thing as too much thread! And definitely find yourself a clean neat, albeit small, permanent sewing area ASAP 🙂

  13. sewbusylizzy says:

    See I have reels and reels of thread… but never quite the ‘right’ colour.. I always wonder how can be there be so many shades of blue/green/pink….

  14. Definitely not too much thread. Too much thread isn’t possible 🙂

  15. i’ve found that the most crucial thread colors to own are shades of grey – they have an amazing ability to blend in and disappear in a wide variety of fabric colors. I think I found that tip on Gertie’s blog. I went through a wonderful period about ten years ago, when I was constantly been given the no-longer- needed sewing supplies of various spinster aunts and so on. Alas those days are over – but I have a cornucopia of odd, old-fashioned sewing threads, buttons and gizmos, which I love.

  16. I don’t think that I could last with only 10 colours of thread but I do a load of topstitching and for me the colour has to match exactly or I can’t sew with it *shiver*. I have a large bookcase in the studio. One shelf is full of the little plastic stacking drawers from the Poundshop (which are fab for keeping thread in. You get about 10 in each drawer) all sorted by colour to make finding a matching one easier. (Yes, I also used to sort my CDs alphabetically and chronologically). I also have more plastic stacking boxes filled with *other* threads like silk, topstitching or quilting. 99% are Gutermann although I do have some Coats and Madeira. Plus, I have a ton of overlocker threads in maybe 20 colours in sets of 4. I know that I have a lot of problems with acquisition but I have been sewing seriously for the last 10 years. I do use a lot of black thread but am a product of the Eighties. 🙂

  17. Katie says:

    I asked for, and received, a set of nice neutral coloured Gutermann threads for Christmas. It’s still paying dividends, and the ‘rainbow’ of neutrals suits nearly all my sewing. I got a thread rack too which helps keep them all nicely in order.

  18. SewingElle says:

    That’s not too much. That’s not enough !

  19. Terzi Begum says:

    No thread is too much thread! I have also some thread but not much ofc 🙂

  20. Hélène says:

    Some years ago, I read on a sewing blog that grey was a neutral colour for thread when you can’t find the perfect match and it is true.

  21. Janet says:

    You could probably get by with only ten colours, but it wouldn’t be half as much fun as a drawer full of all the colours of the rainbow (and then some).

    I inherited my Grannie’s collection of thread, and I’ve barely bought a spool in the last three years. There’s so much orange in there – even though I can’t remember her ever wearing orange! Plus there’s lots of silk thread, which I use for tacking as it comes out really easily and some buttonhole thread, too. I keep it in the cutlery drawer of my ‘sewing sideboard’ – the compartments make it easy to find the right colour. But my toddler likes getting them all out and playing with them…grrr.

  22. I only match thread for topstitching. Could care less what my inside seams look like. I will just use a light thread with light fabric etc..Sometimes my top and bottom threads don’t even match. The colors I use the most are black, white, off white, navy, and greys. SO I buy huge spools of those colors.Grey is great at blending in.

  23. Nathalie says:

    I have no idea what a normal amount of thread is, I have never bought a single spool. My grandmother has so much thread that it will last us 3 generations of seamstresses.

  24. Jen (NY) says:

    I haven’t counted, but I’m sure I must have at least 100 spools. Most of those are Gutermann. Recently I realized how expensive thread can be – it seems like I use about 1-1/2 spools of Gutermann for most projects. So I started buying quasi-industrial thread at SIL in NYC. It is thinner, but strong polyester thread and it’s sold in about a thousand colors. It’s about US $3 for at least 500m. I’ve only got about 5 colors of that thread so far. I’m using the industrial thread for high volume (overlocking) and areas that don’t show, and reserving the Gutermann for top-stitching and places where stitching might show through.

    And, yes, serve the spiders with notice!

  25. EBS says:

    I found an ebay lot of thread a few years ago, and that has served me well at 50+ spools. I do buy the occasional “perfect match” for top stitching if it’s a special garment. Also, I second (or third, or whatever) the dedicated space for sewing. Having everything at your fingertips makes a world of difference – and prevents stray pins being dragged all over the house!

  26. BMGM says:

    Thread shelf-life varies with climate. When I lived at the beach, thread hardly every dried out and became brittle. I could use 10 yo thread successfully.

    Now that I live in Colorado, I have to be careful how I store my thread and to test before use. Some Colorado seamsters tell me that they store their thread in a bag in the refrigerator produce bin for the extra humidity. Produce lives in mine so I keep my thread in a closed drawer on the sewing table.

    My sewing has slowed down lately so I will use up bits of slightly mis-matched thread rather than buy a whole new spool that will rot before I can use it up.

  27. Heidi says:

    If I could buy the whole thread display, I would. I LOVE looking all the different gradations of shade, so well organized.

  28. amcclure2014 says:

    Spiders – be gone!! I replied to your survey that I don’t have a dedicated space – but really we no longer have a dining room, except on special occasions. I’m busy buying more thread because I don’t have the correct shades.

  29. Chris says:

    Karen, I would completely agree with you that there is never enough thread. Those boxes you bought are worth their money just for looking at them!
    I’ve stopped using cheap thread after a few disappointing experiences and now use Gutermann only (apart from on my overlocker which will take anything). Much happier now!

  30. I love looking at the full rainbow of threads in sewing shops, but in practice do get by with about ten. White, black, grey, red, denim blue, light blue, yellow, purple, a sort of pink-brown-maroon-ish, and mid brown. That covers all the main colours in my personal palette (I don’t wear green) and most prints will co-ordinate with something in there. The mid-brown especially is very good for that – it’s a neutral enough colour that it blends in with a lot of things.

    Having a very basic thread library works for me: I have very little storage space, I don’t have to worry about whether I have the right colour because I know exactly what I have, and it’s dirt cheap. Also it helps that I got a lot of my basic colour spools from a local charity shop that sells them ex-industry, and they’re big enough to last ages so don’t need replacing often. My spool of purple thread is about the size of a coffee mug and was 7km new!

    That all said, when I made a fluoro pink-and-orange jacket, I did have to buy a couple of spools of orange thread because nothing I had came close to matching. I use the remaining orange for basting as it’s guaranteed to show up against any normal fabric …

  31. Nope, you can never ever have too much thread 🙂

  32. So true – you can never have too much thread! I lover Gutermann thread and it’s amazing shades, but it is SO expensive to buy it here in Australia. If any Aussie readers buy Gutermann, I would love to know where you get it from!

  33. Brenda says:

    After reading this post, I had to go count. I have 185 spools of thread!! I sew all the time so I don’t feel too crazy!

  34. I have every colour of Gutermann Sew All, and replace them when I use one up. Also, if there are larger size reels, I buy those in preference as it is so much cheaper. The price of the 1000m is about 1/2 that of the 100m (£7.50/10 = 75p as opposed to £1.50). Even the 250m ones bring the price down to around £1.30. (Looking at SewEssential for approximate prices, no affiliation.)

  35. gingermakes says:

    I keep huge spools (5500 yd!) of grey, navy, and black thread, and when it comes to other colors, I buy a matching spool when I buy the fabric, even if I’m not planning to use it right away. Thread doesn’t take up much space (I have a wall rack), so I’m happy to keep lots of it! Overlocker thread, on the other hand, DOES take up a lot of space, and I don’t really care if it matches, so I have it in three common colors (black, white, and grey) and a favorite (sky blue) and just work with one of those regardless of the fabric color!

  36. Katie M says:

    I have too many reels of thread. I keep it neatly sorted by colour in clear, lidded boxes. It’s certainly stopped them unravelling and tangling. I save those really random colours (like the three rolls of kermit green thread that I don’t even remember purchasing) and use them for basting and gathering. You can use up a lot of thread gathering.

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  38. Fiona says:

    I used to just have a small selection of the ‘basic’ colours but then I realised that really you need a thread to match every colour of fabric so it doesn’t show. So now I’ve become obsessed on building up my collection. One of those thread notebooks is on my wishlist!

    I’ve also gotten into variegated threads, they work well on a multcoloured patterned print and they look really pretty. I just bought a set of metalltic glittery thread too! I love Gutermann Sew all as well, that’s what most my threads are.

  39. Fooniks says:

    10 basic colours? I would die. Right now I have a big wall filled with different thread colours. I guess saying I have ten tones of each basic colour would be more accurate. I mean this is my thread wall right now and it needs an expansion as a lot of my threads don’t fit there anymore.And I still feel like I don’t have enough colours. Not having the perfect shade comes painfully obvious when you do repairs and I do a lot of those. About 50% of my income comes from doing repairs and that has caused my thread wall to pretty much explode in size.

  40. There is no such thing of having too much in stock ;)…Because you will surely use it one day…Here in Belgium 1 Guterman spool costs 3.20 eur for only 200 meter…Think I’ll consider a gift box too ;). Greetings from Belgium! x Linda

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