Common Thread – Evaluating the real cost of thread

Expensive really is in the eye of the beholder.  Take thread for instance.  I often read things like:

I love x brand, but it’s so expensive!

or

Brand y is pricy, but I think my quilts are worth it.

So I thought I’d do a little price shoot out with thread.  I’m using pricing from a well known online shop based in the Unites States for consistency, except where they don’t carry a particular line.  I’m not going to name it, because I haven’t dealt with them.
The exceptions were: Coats and Clark, Connecting Threads, and Mettler’s Silk Finish Cotton.

Note: Yes, I know that you can find brand X cheaper at so and so’s and Brand y is cheaper if you buy in bulk.  That’s not the purpose of this experiment.  I chose one shop who sold most of the threads on purpose.  I wanted average prices.

Take the following spools of cotton thread:

Allthread

  • Superior Threads’ King Tut (100% Extra long staple Cotton, 40/3) 456 meters / 500 yards  : $7.50
  • Superior’s MasterPIECE (extra-long staple Egyptian cotton 50/2) 548 meters / 600 yards: $6.95
  • Aurifil Mako Ne (100% Cotton, Long Staple 50/2) 1300 meters / 1422 yards – $9.50
  • Mettler Silk Finish Cotton (100% Cotton Silk Finish Thread, 50wt)  500 meters / 547 yards – $6.95
  • Robison Anton (100% Egyptian Cotton, 50wt) – 456 meters / 500 yards – $3.75
  • Gutermann 100% Cotton thread – 250 meters /274yards – $3.45
  • Connecting Threads – (100% Extra Long Staple Cotton, 50/3)  1097 meters / 1200yards – $2.50
  • Coats and Clark – (100%  Cotton, 50/3)  1097 meters / 1200yards – $4.95 (unless you want beige or white, then add about $1)

The one I hear most often as being expensive is the Aurifil, and at a glance, it does look the most expensive at $9.50 per spool.  But what happens when we even the playing field, and calculate the price based on a common length of thread?

If we calculate the price of each of these threads based on 1000m (1093 yards), what does the cost really look like?

First, we need to determine the number of spools required to make 1000 meters of thread.

  •  divide 1000 meters by the number of meters in a spool.

Then, we need the price of each thread for 1000 meters.

  • I’ll multiply the number I found above by the price of a spool of thread.

 

Ready?  Here we go:

King Tut  456 meters / 500 yards  : $7.50

1000m / 456m = 2.19 Spools of thread required to make 1000m

2.19 spools of thread * 7.50 = $16.45 is the price for 1000m of King Tut Thread.

MasterPIECE 548 meters / 600 yards: $6.95

1000m /548 m =  1.82 Spools of thread required to make 1000m

1.82 spools of thread * 6.95 = $ 12.68 is the price for 1000m of MasterPIECE

Aurifil Mako Ne (100% Cotton, Long Staple 50/2) 1300 meters / 1422 yards – $9.50

1000m / 1300m =  0.769 Spools of thread required to make 1000m

0.769  spools of thread * $9.50 = $7.31 is the price for 1000m of Aurifil Mako Ne

Mettler Silk Finish Cotton (100% Cotton Silk Finish Thread, 50wt)  500 meters / 547 yards – $6.95

1000m /  500m =  2 Spools of thread required to make 1000m

 2 spools of thread * 6.95 = $ 13.90 is the price for 1000m of Mettler Silk Finish Cotton

Robison Anton (100% Egyptian Cotton, 50wt) – 456 meters / 500 yards – $3.75

1000m / 456m = 2.19 Spools of thread required to make 1000m

 2.19 spools of thread *3.75 = $8.21 is the price for 1000m of Robison Anton

Gutermann 100% Cotton thread – 250 meters /274yards – $3.45

1000m / 250m =  4 Spools of thread required to make 1000m

4 spools of thread * $3.45 = $ 13.80 is the price for 1000m of Gutermann Cotton Thread

Connecting Threads – (100% Extra Long Staple Cotton, 50/3)  1097 meters / 1200yards – $2.50

1000m / 1097 m = 0.91 Spools of thread required to make 1000m

0.91 spools of thread * 2.50 = $ 2.28 is the price for 1000m of Connecting Threads

Coats and Clark – (Machine Quilting thread – 100%  Cotton, 50/3)  1097 meters / 1200yards – $4.95 (unless you want beige or white, then add about $1)

1000m / 1097 m = 0.91 Spools of thread required to make 1000m

0.91 spools of thread * 2.50 = $ 4.50 is the price for 1000m of Coats and Clark or about $5.41 if you want the beige or white.

So let’s put those in order of best price per 1000 meters

  • Connecting Threads – (100% Extra Long Staple Cotton, 50/3)  1097 meters / 1200yards –$ 2.28 /1000m
  • Coats and Clark – (Machine Quilting thread – 100%  Cotton, 50/3)  1097 meters / 1200yards – $4.50/1000m
  • Aurifil Mako Ne (100% Cotton, Long Staple 50/2) 1300 meters / 1422 yards – $7.31/1000m
  • Robison Anton Quilting Thread (100% Egyptian Cotton, 50wt) – 456 meters / 500 yards – $8.21/1000m
  • MasterPIECE 548 meters / 600 yards: $ 12.68/1000m
  • Gutermann 100% Cotton thread – 250 meters /274yards – $ 13.80/1000m
  • Mettler Silk Finish Cotton (100% Cotton Silk Finish Thread, 50wt)  500 meters / 547 yards – $13.90/1000m
  • King Tut  456 meters / 500 yards  : $16.45 /1000m

So it turns out that the Big Box / fabric store thread isn’t necessarily the great  deal that it looks like it is.  In fact, Gutermann and Mettler are 2 of the most expensive threads you can buy.  The Superior threads, I kind of expected to be at the high end of the price chart, but MasterPIECE ending up cheaper than either the Mettler or the Gutermann thread surprised me, more than a little.  And how about that Aurifil price now?  Sometimes I think that the Aurifil “looks” more expensive, because the spool doesn’t look that much bigger than other spools, so it may be an initial sticker shock reaction, but really, it’s one of the more cost-effective threads you can buy.

The average price of the 8 threads that I compared here today is $9.89.   And in the list of threads that came in under the average, at least 3 of them are very well regarded amongst quilters, based on the reading I’ve done.

Is this all there is to picking a favorite thread?  For some, it might be, but for me, I’m also looking for value for my money.  If the thread I choose – because it’s “cheap” – breaks a lot, or has a lot of joins in it, or lints up my machine, it’s not likely to become a favorite.  I don’t feel that there’s a lot of value in the frustration that a poor quality thread might give me.

For me to feel like I’m getting value for my dollar, I have to have a good performing thread, not just one with a low price.

As days go on, I will do reviews of many of the threads that I have here.  I currently have Aurifil, Robison Anton, Gutermann, Mettler, and King Tut to review.  The others, I haven’t got or in the case of the connecting threads, I may not have quite enough for a true review.  Perhaps I’ll do a mini review of that one.

I’d love to know what types of criteria you would like to see the reviews based on.  Leave me a comment below with your thoughts.

18 thoughts on “Common Thread – Evaluating the real cost of thread”

  1. I’ve been in sewing repair places and seen a top of the line machine come in with 99cent visibly lumpy thread on it. It always amazes me that people will spend thousands of dollars on a sewing machine, but then insist on using the perceived lowest price thread.

    It’s nice to see an actual cost per unit comparison instead of a “I like this thread so it’s the best one” type of argument.

    1. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? Dollar store thread never showcases a machine’s potential so I don’t even see a reason to use it for a demo machine. I’ve become a thread snob, I admit it but wow, my frustration level sure is lower because of it.

      The same goes with needles. I had an embroidery machine come in for repair – shredding thread. It was a dollar store needle (or something similar) with a huge burr in the eye. I’d shred thread with that piece of shrapnel in me too!

      To me – fabric, stabilizer and batting are way too expensive to cheap out on needles and thread. The thread breaks and undoes my work now or down the road and the needle can damage and “run” the fabric, ruining it. Why risk that? I change even Longarm needles with every major project.

      There are a lot of opinions sold as fact in the sewing / quilting industry. I think that you’ve hit it on the head why this post seems to resonate with people so much (besides total justification for using Aurifil. ;)) It continues to be one of my most popular ones more than a year and a half out.

      1. Dollar store thread usually just looks… Bad. When a spool of thread has visible changes in consistency and fuzzies I really don’t see the “savings”
        I’ve “fixed” my inlaw’s machine a couple times just by taking off the 3 for a dollar thread and putting on something decent, yet they always go back to cheep stuff.

        I tried cheap needles once and they were terrible. I knew the machine was in good shape, as I’d just finished a project on it. The needle wasn’t so bad when just starting out, but by the time I was doing more critical stitching on several layers the machine wasn’t gliding through the fabric like it usually did (this was with he same physical size of needle) and ended up breaking when it hit some fabric wrong and deflected into the needleplate. I continued on and had problems with the stitch balance changing mid seam. Frustrated I went back to my good needles and everything went back to running smoothly.

        Fabric, stabilizer, and batting may be pricey, but your time is worth even more than just the raw materials. What you make is a work of art and to have it ruined by trying to save money on thread or needles really is just shooting yourself in the foot.
        In ye olden days people understood that cheap wasn’t cheap. one of the best brief examples of this is “Boots theory of socioeconomic unfairness”
        Basically if you buy say… $40 boots, but they are uncomfortable and have to replace them every 6 months. You’ll spend more money on them after 5 years than if you’d just bought a good, comfy pair (for maybe $150) that lasted a full 5 years.
        This isn’t to say that getting the most expensive of something is always better or going to save money, but is something to be aware of when comparing cheap to “expensive”.

        There are a lot of opinions presented as facts anytime you have someone trying to sell you something :-p

        1. Call me Draconian but I have started denying people help when they refuse to listen to me after I fix / help them fix their problem. If I say that good thread and good needles will make a difference and then prove it, then they go back to the stuff that brought me there to begin with, they are told they’re on their own. Life’s too short to fight with people who just don’t want to have their stuff work!

          I used to have that problem with one of my computer clients. He’d surf the warez (even got his antivirus from there!!) and porn sites and then of course end up with the expected result. I would clean up his computer probably once a month or more and I -never- gave him a break on my rate because it was 100% self-inflicted. Eventually – even though he was a steady revenue stream – I fired him because I was tired of cleaning up the nasties all the time when it was something he could prevent. Even the “It’s more expensive to have me out here every few weeks than to buy your AV and games” argument didn’t work.

          I think it really does come back to my favorite quote from Oscar Wilde: “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

          At some point, people have to learn on their own if they refuse to learn from us. 😉 I know that’s not the case of most of my readers though, luckily!

          I don’t think I’ve ever bought dollar store needles or thread, but I’m sure I’ve thrown it out when it’s arrived on people’s machines or one I’ve bought. LOL!

          You are 100% right of course, the boots and the value of our time. The other thing is that creating can be very stress relieving but not when your machine is boycotting the supplies you’re using. Why add stress?

          Opinions as facts: isn’t that the very definition of Marketing? 😉 I guess it’s the business analyst in me, I’ll present the facts and let people come to their own conclusions.

  2. I started using Aurifil thread about 12 years ago, and every time I take my machine in for service, my technician says “do you sew on your machine, it’s so clean in the bobbin area”. I have 4 basic colors, lt beige, med beige, lt grey, my favorite 1318, black, and white, in the large cones, they last forever.

  3. I love true price comparisons. This way I can now purchase the best thread for my money, not just what looked like it. Thanks! BTW… I have a lot of connecting threads thread, but I have not found it to be as lint free or strong as others.

    1. Hey Linda,

      Thanks for stopping by! I’ve heard really mixed reviews from people about the CT thread. Some love it, some say what you do. I have a partial spool from a friend to try, I just need to come up with a test project to see what I think of it. I’m glad the price comparison helped you out!

      You look like one of my Facebook visitors! I’ve been trying to figure out where the link was posted to. Any chance you’d let the secret out? 🙂

      BTW, your website goes to a GoDaddy holding page, is that as intended?

  4. I don’t care how much or how little it costs…I love Aurifil and have been using it for around 10 years. Very interesting article.

    1. I agree to a point. 🙂 I don’t think I’d pay say 4 times as much as the Mettler, but Aurifil is practically a “no brainer” after what I learned here. I must admit too, I’m really getting used to the Aurifil I have here. I must have a half dozen bobbins wound for various machines and use it in the bobbin case regardless of the top thread. No breaks. This I can get used to.

      1. I use Aurifil in the bobbin also, even with a heavier thread like Sulky Blendables 12 weight. Neutral colors work well for me.

    1. Hi Diane! Thanks for dropping by! I’m glad you liked the post. Looks like you found the page from Twitter? I’d love it if you’d let the person who tweeted the site know that I’m very flattered 🙂

Pssst! I'd love to hear what you think about this!