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Thread vs. Yarn: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 6, 2023
Thread refers to thin strand used in sewing; Yarn refers to thick, twisted fibers for knitting or weaving.

Key Differences

Thread is a type of yarn but much thinner and intended for sewing, used to join materials together. Yarn, on the other hand, is a collection of twisted fibers that are used to create textiles, either by knitting, weaving, or crocheting. Threads are finer and stronger, designed for durability in stitches. Yarn is bulkier and varied in texture, suitable for constructing fabric or textile products.
In textile manufacturing, thread is often made of cotton, polyester, or silk, created to be smooth and uniform for use in sewing machines or hand sewing. Yarn is spun from a variety of materials, including wool, cotton, bamboo, or synthetic blends, and its thickness can vary from fine lace to bulky weights. Thread must possess high tensile strength to withstand the sewing process, whereas yarn is valued for its loft and warmth, especially in hand-knitting.
Threads are sold in spools, measured in yards or meters, typically used in tailoring, upholstery, and embroidery. Yarns are sold in skeins or balls, measured by weight or length, and are a staple in crafts like knitting and crocheting. Thread's color and finish are designed to match fabric, often striving to be inconspicuous, while yarn's color and texture contribute to the aesthetic of the finished textile product.
Threads are selected based on the type of material being sewn and the durability required of the seam, whereas yarns are chosen for their color, texture, and the warmth they provide. Sewing thread is an essential element in garment construction, ensuring seams are secure, while yarn is fundamental in creating fabrics themselves, offering endless possibilities for patterns and design.

Comparison Chart


Sewing to join materials.
Knitting or weaving to create textiles.


Typically finer.
Can range from fine to very thick.


Cotton, polyester, silk.
Wool, cotton, synthetic blends.


High tensile strength.
Varied, often softer and more pliable.


Skeins or balls.

Thread and Yarn Definitions


A fine cord of twisted fibers used in sewing.
I need to replace the thread in my sewing machine.


Fibers spun and prepared for use in knitting.
The basket was filled with balls of yarn.


A theme or characteristic running throughout a situation or piece of writing.
The theme of bravery is a common thread in his novels.


A tale, especially a long or fanciful one.
He could spin a good yarn about his travels.


To pass thread through the eye of a needle.
It took her several tries to thread the needle.


Material produced by spinning raw fibers of wool, cotton, or other material.
The yarn used in this fabric is very high quality.


A helical ridge on a screw.
The screw's thread is stripped.


A long continuous strand of interlocked fibers.
She knitted a scarf from a soft, colorful yarn.


A sequence of messages in a conversation or online forum.
She followed the thread of the conversation closely.


To tell a story, often an exaggerated or imaginative one.
Around the campfire, they took turns yarning.


Fine cord of a fibrous material, such as cotton or flax, made of two or more filaments twisted together and used in needlework and the weaving of cloth.


A continuous strand of twisted threads of natural or synthetic fibers, such as wool or nylon, used in weaving or knitting.


A piece of such cord.


A similar strand of other materials such as glass or plastic.


How is yarn defined?

Yarn is a thick, continuous strand of interlocked fibers used in knitting or weaving.

Can thread be used for knitting?

Typically, no; it's too thin and not suitable for knitting.

Do I need special thread for a sewing machine?

Yes, sewing machines require specific types of thread based on the material and project.

How do you choose the right thread for fabric?

Match thread material to fabric type for the best results.

Can yarn be made of synthetic materials?

Yes, yarn can be made from synthetic fibers like acrylic.

What exactly is thread?

Thread is a type of yarn, very thin, used for sewing.

Is all yarn suitable for any knitting project?

No, yarn comes in different weights and textures, chosen based on the project.

Does thread color matter?

In sewing, it's often chosen to match the fabric so it's less visible.

Is there waterproof thread?

Yes, there are waterproof threads for outdoor and marine textiles.

Can I use any yarn for baby clothes?

It's best to use soft, hypoallergenic yarn for baby clothes.

What's a yarn dye lot?

A dye lot is a batch of yarn dyed at the same time, ensuring color consistency.

Can yarn be too old to use?

Yarn can degrade over time, especially if stored improperly.

How do I prevent my thread from tangling?

Use shorter lengths and quality thread to minimize tangling.

What's a yarn swift?

A tool used to hold and wind yarn into balls from skeins.

What type of yarn is best for beginners?

Beginners often start with medium-weight yarn as it's easier to work with.

Should thread be the same strength as the fabric?

Yes, to prevent seams from breaking.

Does yarn type affect the final product?

Absolutely, yarn can change the texture, drape, and appearance of a piece.

What's the difference between single-ply and multi-ply yarn?

Single-ply yarn is one strand of fiber, while multi-ply is several strands twisted together.

Are there environmental concerns with thread?

Yes, production and materials used for thread can have environmental impacts.

Is cotton or polyester thread better?

Depends on the fabric and use; cotton is softer, polyester is stronger.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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