Decoding the Enigma | Does Embroidery Thread Go Bad?

You can easily tell if you can work with your old embroidery thread or if you need a new embroidery thread. Old embroidery thread tangles, knots, and fades due to poor-quality materials. Bad embroidery thread gets tangled easily and the colors run down from them when it is washed. Sometimes threads become frayed which is also an indicator that the thread is bad.

Embroidery threads do not have an expiration date, they expire due to changes in temperature, exposure to sunlight, too high humidity or too low humidity, etc. It will get weaker and it will break, so it will be difficult to stitch with it. It can be used in small projects or basting a project, but better not to use it in a sewing machine. In this article, we have discussed, materials of embroidery thread that last longer, differentiation of good quality and bad quality thread, ways to store them, etc.

Key Takeaways

  • Identifying common problems in embroidery threads that are the key signs to tell you that your embroidery thread has gone bad.
  • Differentiation between weak and strong embroidery threads and how to maintain your embroidery thread properly.
  • Factors to keep the embroidery thread good to sew and what to do with embroidery thread or other threads that have gone bad.

Does Embroidery Thread Go Bad? – 3 Common Embroidery Thread Problems

3 Common-embroidery-thread-problems
3 Common embroidery thread problems

Several factors affect the quality of embroidery threads. The thread can fade or become brittle because of humidity and temperature. This can decrease the quality of your craft. Sunlight can also cause discoloration. Moreover, tangles and knots in the thread can happen from dirt and dust. For this reason, keep embroidery thread in a cool and dust-free area to maintain its quality.

Common embroidery thread problems are tangling, breaking, and plucking.


If the thread tension is too high or too low, thread tangling would occur. Before starting your project, check thread tension. Moreover, use the quality thread and store them in a cool, dry, dark place.


Thread breaking can happen when embroidering. It can happen from problems with the needle or the machine. Always use the right size needle for the fabric and thread and replace it often. Check the bobbin and tension discs to see if they are in good condition and if they need any adjustment.


If the fabric is not properly stabilized, puckering can be a problem. Use a stabilizer based on the fabric you are using and with a light spray adhesive, secure it to the fabric. Moreover, use a lower tension to stop puckering.

Maintaining Embroidery Thread Properly

Maintaining embroidery thread properly

To make sure that your embroidery thread does not go bad, here are some factors to look at to make sure that you maintain embroidery thread properly.

Quality Of Thread

We can easily identify good quality threads by the following.

  • What we understand about quality thread is that it will have a smooth texture, and it will not shred, break or fray.
  • It should not shrink, fade, or colorfast and it should be durable.
  •  The quality thread should be resistant to chemicals and sunlight.
  •  Threads should have good tensile strength to have secure stitches.
  • They should be resistant to knotting, tangling, and lint – build-up.
  • The quality thread should provide optimal elasticity which ensures that stitches will be in place without stretching out.

A Strong Thread

It is important to know if you are using the right kind of thread for your sewing projects. Weaker threads will destroy the project. Below we have given a few characteristics of a strong thread.

  • High-quality thread should be used to avoid wear and tear. The material will determine how the thread will stay in place even after repeated use.
  • Thread should be tightly wound and have no slack, for an ideal sewing project, threads should not have too slack.
  • The thickness of the thread determines its durability.
  • The purpose of threading is important when you are using thread for upholstery, they will be stronger than threading used for clothing.

Storing Thread

To store your thread properly, you should follow the following.

  • Store your threads in air-tight containers to prevent tangles and frays.
  • Labeling them will help you to find the color quickly. It will also help to store spools by the order of color and tone.
  • You can also connect the spools on plastic rings and hang them with hooks, in your spare room. Or, you can place them in plastic jewelry containers. Or, you can use a reusable bag.

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An Alternative To Embroidery Floss

An alternative to embroidery floss

You can use yarn, ribbon, twine, or cord as alternatives to embroidery floss. Ribbon has a decorative look, whereas, yarn is thicker. You can use recycled materials, such as denim or scraps from old t-shirts are great for weaving. You can choose the materials depending on the craft you want to create. It varies from person to person. Embroidery floss has various alternatives which will help you create your desired look, both traditional and modern.

Old Embroidery Thread

Thread can lose strength, and can become more prone to breakages, tangles, and knots. It’s important to check the condition of the thread and replace them, or else, your machine could damage. Replace your thread after 3 – 4 months of usage and keep an extra spool as a thread in your hands.

Old embroidery threads can be used for different purposes which are given below:

  • Old embroidery threads are brightly colored and have different textures.
  • Old embroidery threads can be used in making friendship bracelets.
  • For a party décor, use embroidery thread to make a tassel garland.
  • For wall hangings use embroidery threads for a permanent setting.
  • You can create intricate patterns by using embroidery hoops and stitches.
  • You can make hair accessories, such as scrunchies and bows with embroidery thread.

Storing Too Old Thread

The old thread should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry place. If a thread is stored in extreme temperature or light, then it should be discarded. Nylon and polyester thread last for many years, and cotton and rayon thread degrade very fast. Without proper knowledge of the kind of thread and its storage conditions, it is difficult to maintain the quality of the thread.

Testing Sewing Thread

You can check your thread to see if they are still good to use on a project. Below we have given some ways to test a sewing thread.

  • To test your thread, cut about 12 to 14 inches long of your thread, take it in your hands and pull it to see if it breaks, if your thread shows some resistance, then it is good to use and if it breaks without much effort, then it is bad, do not use it on your projects.
  • To test color fade, keep your thread in direct sunlight, when the quality is not good, the color will fade, do not use this thread for any project unless you are working on small projects or your work is not up for exhibition.
  • If you notice that the thread of your sewing machine breaks or the needle has lint on it, then it’s a sign that your thread is not good to use for any projects. In this situation, clean your sewing machine, change your thread, and use a new spool.

Cotton Thread Goes Bad

Cotton threads deteriorate more than other fibers as they are made of natural fibers, this is why, buy cotton thread from a brand company.

Polyester Thread Goes Bad

The polyester thread will fade if it is kept in direct sunlight. As the polyester thread is made of synthetic fibers, its quality and strength will remain almost intact.  

3 Factors To Keep Your Thread Good To Sew

There are 3 factors given below that will keep your thread good for a longer time.

  1. Sunlight: Keep your thread at a distance from direct or indirect sunlight. Store your thread in a box, so that it remains strong and does not color fade.
  2. Humidity: When youare keeping your thread in low humidity, your thread will become brittle, if you place it in high humidity, your thread will become sticky, these situations are not good for your thread, if your thread is getting brittle or sticky, buy new thread.
  3. Dust: Dust is not good for thread, for this reason, keep your thread in a closed box.


How do I know if my embroidery thread is bad?

If your embroidery threads break easily, then they are bad, compare it with a new spool of thread to see which one is intact.

How long can embroidery thread last?

Embroidery thread can last from 20 – 50 years. If they are made from high-quality materials, they will last longer than poorly manufactured threads.

How do you preserve threads?

Keep them away from direct sunlight, and store them in a dark place.

Final Thoughts

As we have discussed, sewing thread needs proper care. Keep them out of direct sunlight, maintain proper humidity, and clean dust regularly to use them for a longer time. When choosing the materials, find the high–quality threads, then you can expect that they will last longer than 20 – 50 years. Usually because of the components in polyester thread, it last longer than cotton thread. You can store them in a ziploc bag, old jewelry box, etc. to reuse them in your next project.

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Hey I’m Sherry Howes an expert in sewing, knitting, crocheting, and embroidery. With a passion for fiber arts and a talent for crafting, I Have spent years improving my skills and sharing knowledge with others. Whether teaching a class or creating a new project, I’m always excited to share my love of crafting with the world. I like researching new techniques and trends in the crafting arts community.

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