General Question

Jeruba's avatar

Is there any reason not to use old sewing thread?

Asked by Jeruba (46090points) November 30th, 2012

After a long interval, I’ve recently decided to take up sewing again and bought a new machine. The spools of thread that are meant to be used with it look like this. [ new thread ]

I still have a quantity of cotton thread in assorted colors that look like this. [ old thread ] Some of it is 20 years old. Some of it might be a lot older than that.

Disregarding size and shape of spool, is there any problem with the age of the thread itself? Will using it ruin anything? Theoretically at least, is there any reason why I shouldn’t use thread that’s 50 years old?

Do I have to throw it all away and start over?

What if I use old thread for bobbins and new thread for the top spool?

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18 Answers

bookish1's avatar

I am by no means a sewing maven, but thread is often made from organic material, and can disintegrate or even rot.

marinelife's avatar

Thread, especially cotton, can rot.

Here is what an expert says:

“First, sewing thread that came on wooden or styrofoam spools weakened over time because of chemicals in the spool that react with fabric.

Second, if the thread was not kept dust-free, lint may be affecting the thread tension as well as collecting in your machine.

Third, the sewing thread may not be appropriate to your new project.

Oops, I lied – I just thought of a fourth possible reason. You may have used a different type of thread in the bobbin.

Just because they were the same color red does not mean they will work well together.”

The Artful Crafter

Bellatrix's avatar

It is more likely to break and to be weakened by age.

linguaphile's avatar

Threads made 20 years ago were nylon/polyester based, not cotton. If you still have stickers on the ends, that should say what the thread was made of. The polyester ones should be fine, but I’d test a length for strength.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, test it first,if you can snap a strand in half fairly easily it is old thread.
Heh….just have to inject my joke about calling my ex “The black thread” lol

Sunny2's avatar

Black thread in particular rots. If you stitch a seam, you don’t want a weak thread ruining the whole job. You could also ask at a fabric store like JoAnn’s.

Kardamom's avatar

So this is a thread thread? How clever : )

I would agree that old thread can be very brittle. I just tried to sew a button onto my pants with some thread that was at least 30 years old and it kept breaking.

gailcalled's avatar

@Jeruba; OTOH, I have the exact same collection of old thread that you photographed and I use them for buttons and minor repairs all the time. Mine are nylon, however, and not cotton.

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YARNLADY's avatar

I would double stitch the seams, but I have used 20 – 30 – 40 year old thread without any problems.

Brian1946's avatar

Even though I don’t have a doctorate in Sartorial Science or Fabric Physics, I would say the cumulative amount of stress on thread would be more of a factor than sheer age.

E.g., I have clothing that I’ve hardly ever worn that’s decades old, but is still in good shape, whereas a lot of my frequently-worn articles have developed faults in less than 10 years.

If you have or are going to buy any new thread, perhaps you could conduct a comparative strength test between them.

gailcalled's avatar

I just tried to break a piece of old black thread; if I had tried any harder, it would have removed a finger tip. Unbreakable, apparently.

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Brian1946's avatar


Christan Audigier bikin Ed Hardy Bikini Smful short_t-shirt ed hardy short tank AF tank

This thread is about thread, not threads.

fremen_warrior's avatar

my first thought was: because nobody is probably following it anymore and you won’t get answers xD

cazzie's avatar

I would give it a try. You may find that it breaks a lot as you are sewing. If that is the case, unpick the seam, throw the thread out and use new thread. I have some pretty old thread myself and I just use it up if it is any good. As you sew, you can see how ‘even’ the thread is. If it varies with loads of thin weak spots, just toss it and rethread your machine with new stuff, but don’t throw it out because it is old. I have brought brand new (but cheap) thread that I have just tossed because it was utter crap.

rooeytoo's avatar

I would hate creating a masterpiece of sewing excellence and then have it fall apart or need constant seam repairs because of old thread. So I would save the old for minor repairs as stated above, and buy new thread for use on the sewing machine. Sewing machines put a lot more tension on the thread than hand sewing. I also find it annoying to have to keep rethreading the machine because of cheap or old thread.

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