The History of Cotton Thread

cotton thread inside the eye of a needleA cotton thread, also known as a sewing thread, is a common item in every household. It is a versatile product that is not only used for household purposes but also serves for a number of wide-scale commercial uses.

Ever wondered how it came into being? This thread is naturally obtained from cotton. In the present, it is also extracted from cellulose and other synthetic sources.

Before the advancement in the field, the thread was produced from a number of varying sources. The household thread that we commonly use has a great history attached to it. Let’s learn about the story behind its production and how it was introduced in the market.

Pre-Cotton Times

Before cotton threads were invented, people used animal skin and fur to produce sewing threads. They used pretty much anything from animal hides to wool. The process of making thread was simple – people made thin strips and then produced garments from them.

Likewise, plants were used in the process too. Plant fibers were hand-spun into thin strips until it took the shape of a thread.

But soon, the modernization of the textile industry started. Different civilizations started using different plants to make their threads. China became the hub for silk thread and garments. On the other hand, Egyptians were popular for their linen production.

History of Cotton

Cotton has been around for centuries now. The use of cotton in garments goes at least 7000 years back. It was 5000 years earlier when our ancestors first spun the cotton to produce cotton threads. Before that, only silk and other animal source materials were utilized to make threads. When the cotton thread was introduced, it instantly grabbed attention. Being easier to use, it produced better, stronger and more finished stitching.

Right now, cotton is used to sew pretty much anything. It is the regular and go-to sewing thread. It can sew a number of materials, such as nylon, linen, and leather being a few.

The Invention of Cotton Thread

In 1730, the cotton thread was made using machinery for the very first time by the British. After that, it was soon available in the market for commercial use. It got highly famous due to its shrinkage properties.

Before that, the thread did not really shrink. On the other hand, all the plant-based fabric shrunk readily. This resulted in an uneven stitching process. Thus, when a thread that boasted similar properties as the fabric was introduced, people went crazy over it.

The Ancient Process of Making a Thread

Back in the early days, the thread was produced by hand spinning. People used to spin it several times until it took the desired shape. They needed it to be circular, and it was also necessary that it maintained a firm structure. During this time, there was no concept of machinery, and everything was done by hand.

Soon, development in the industry began, and new techniques were introduced. For the very first time, a machine was used to spin a thread. An American lady used her spinning wheel to produce a thin thread. And even though it was not the best quality, it definitely paved a new path for textile workers.

The Current Process of Thread-Making

The process of making cotton thread is a long and complicated one. First, the cotton is picked from the plants carefully and then compressed into the form of heavy bales. These bales contain both pure cotton and impurities. They are then taken into factories and cleaned.

To clean the bales, they are run through comb-like machines. These machines work to separate the dirt and impurities from the cotton. The resultant clean cotton is obtained in the form of fibers, called laps.

The laps contain cleaned raw cotton fibers. These are run through machines to further clean and refine into the shape of a thread. The end product of this process is a raw thread. It needs further work to become stronger and more reliable.

The cotton thread is cleaned and combed multiple times until it is purely refined. After that, it is twisted a few times and spun as well. This procedure makes it strong. Lastly, the thread is run through an open flame that gets rid of all the weak strands that are sticking out.

The thread obtained in the end is of optimum quality, which can now run through the machine without breaking. Making it is surely a long process, but the results are totally worth it.

This thread is tested before it is released in the market. A number of quality control tests are performed to see whether the product has attained the required quality or not. These tests are conducted to check the strength, tension, and power of any thread.

If any batch lacks quality, it is discarded or given back to the factory for further improvement.

Why is Cotton Thread Better?

There are various types of thread, but the cotton thread has a distinct importance in the industry. Some of the reasons behind its popularity are as follows:

The Perfect Amount of Strength

A cotton thread is strong enough to withstand the tension of fabric and sewing. It does not harm the machine during the function as it breaks apart before damaging any important part of your sewing machine.

Unlike other materials like polyester and nylon, cotton is extremely soft. Yet, it has the right amount of toughness that makes it ideal for everyday use.


A cotton thread is quite versatile. It can be used on any kind of fabric, including leather. It is easy to use and manufacture. While other materials can be used only for a limited range of purposes, cotton is a versatile thread that can be used for almost anything.

Better Appearance

Cotton has an overall better appearance than any other thread. It can absorb color more efficiently when it is dyed. Not only that, but it also has a maximum color match ratio.

It comes in different finishes that make it optimum for various uses. As compared to other threads in the market, cotton thread stands out the most.

Types of Cotton Thread

As mentioned earlier, cotton threads are quite versatile. They are produced in multiple finishes depending on their uses. The various kinds of cotton threads are discussed below:

Mercerized Thread

This type of cotton thread is more likely to absorb dye properly. It is the most used kind of thread. To produce it, cotton is dipped in the solution of sodium hydroxide. After that, it is run through an acid bath. This process is known as mercerization.

Mercerization opens up the thread and enables it to absorb the dye efficiently. Hence, it is readily available in all colors. It provides a better match to most of the fabrics. This is why it has a high demand in the market.

Glazed Thread

This kind of cotton thread is the same as the mercerized one. Only, to create this one, after mercerization, the thread is treated with some wax and other chemicals that give it a lustrous and shiny appearance.

Therefore, with glazed cotton thread, you get the best quality. It is extremely strong but still holds a desirable color.

The glazed thread is used vastly for hand sewing. It is quite strong which renders it unable to be used in the machine. If used on a sewing machine, it can damage the parts by its wax and coatings.

Gassed Thread

This one is the most high-quality thread that is available in the market. To produce it, the regular mercerized thread is run through an open flame. This flame gets rid of all the roughness and fuzz that can be left during manufacturing. Hence, leaving it smooth and as fine as it can be.

This kind of cotton thread can be expensive and rare to find. It is used all around the world for quilting and fabric sewing. Furthermore, it is mostly used to produce high-quality pieces.

All in all, it is an excellent kind of thread for commercial use.

Cotton Wrapped Polyester

This one is the combination of polyester and cotton – the two most used types of thread. To produce this, a layer of cotton is wrapped in the ordinary polyester thread. It can be used for nearly anything. This thread has the added benefits of both of its parent kinds.

On the one hand, it has the strength and elasticity of polyester. On the other hand, it contains the color match and versatility of cotton.

This type of thread is largely used in the textile industry for several purposes.


The cotton thread is one of the most used products in the textile and fabrics industry. It is incredibly versatile, which makes it suitable for a number of purposes. Yes, it takes a long process to create a premium quality cotton thread, but the end result is surely worth the wait.

Moreover, there are variations of this thread, ranging from glazed, mercerized, gassed, to cotton wrapped polyester. Each one of these is unique and serves varying purposes.