Choosing a Thread Colour

Posted in: Ask Sewing School, Know Your Notions, Sewing 101 — By on May 23, 2011 2:45 PM

We received this question from Dolly Lock about a project she was working on:

I am working on tabbed curtain panels that are striped with 1 inch olive green and 1 inch chocolate brown strips, 1/4 inch baby blue strips and 3/4 inch ivory strips. The edges are bordered with 2 inch ivory strips. Need some advice on what thread color to choose. Thanks!

Choosing the right thread colour is something that comes up with every sewing project, and with patterned fabrics like the one that Dolly Lock is using, it can be tricky to figure out the perfect thread colour.

Choose your fabric first!

You definitely want to choose your fabric(s) before choosing thread.  It is much harder to find the perfect pattern or colour of fabric, and thread is available in almost every colour and shade imaginable.  It’s best if you can have a swatch of your fabric on hand when you choose your thread.  This is so much easier than trying to use your memory, and may save you a second trip to the store!

How subtle do you want your stitches?

The next decision you need to make is whether you want your stitches to be decorative and stand out or if you don’t want to draw attention to them at all.  If you are doing topstitching, satin stitching or other decorative stitches, then you probably want to show them off by using a contrasting colour.  On the other hand, if you want a more polished finish, choosing a colour that blends in to your fabric is the way to go.

For decorative stitching….

If you want a thread that stands out from your fabric, it’s a good idea to stick with one of the accent colours in your fabric (if you are using a pattern), or a bold complimentary colour (if you are using a solid or woven). Why not try stitching with a few different coloured threads you already have on a scrap of your fabric to see which looks best.  Some colours may not stand on dark or bold fabrics as much as you’d like them to, and it’s best to find this out on a test piece of fabric than on your finished product!

To hide your stitching…

If you want your stitching to be more subtle, then choose a thread that will blend in with your fabric.  With solids, you can find the right colour by taking your fabric swatch and placing a few different coloured threads on top — if one of them seems to disappear into the fabric, that is the thread for you.

If your fabric has a pattern with a dominant background colour, this is what you should choose as your thread colour using the technique described above. When there isn’t a clear base colour to the pattern it’s better to choose a darker colour from the fabric than a lighter or brighter colour so that the stitches will be less noticeable.

Choosing a thread colour when sewing


If you’re stuck and can’t seem to find a shade that matches perfectly with the fabric, choose a darker shade over a lighter one so your stitches won’t stand out as much.  Lighter stitches will always pop out a little.

In the case of Dolly Lock’s fabric with olive green, baby blue, ivory and chocolate brown stripes and an ivory border, ivory would be the colour to choose so that the stitches are most subtle.  However, if there wasn’t ivory edging, chocolate brown thread would probably blend in the best with her striped fabric.

Required Reading:

Be sure to check out our post on different types of thread to help you buy the perfect kind of thread for your project!

Are you stumped by a sewing problem?  Ask Sewing School! Leave us your question in the comments or send us an email at  We’ll do our homework and get back to you in a future post!

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