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A durable sewing material that gained popularity in 1970s fashion, polyester thread is thread made from polyester, which is a petroleum-based synthetic material. This type of thread may be appropriate for many purposes, and is commonly used for general sewing, quilting, and embroidery. It can also be used for adding fabric during upholstering.
Polyester is the most common type of synthetic fiber used for thread and fabric. Synthetic fiber is typically manufactured from chemicals. Polyester-based thread is made from polyester fibers melted and spun into fibers at a high temperature. Once the polyester fibers have cooled, they are spun into polyester yarn or thread. Other synthetic fibers include rayon, acrylic, and nylon.
Synthetic fibers are in contrast with natural fibers, which include wool, cotton, and silk. Polyester thread is not good for fabrics that need to be ironed, since it can warp, melt, or burn when exposed to ironing heat. This type of thread is also used in applications when the thread needs to have some luster and shine to work with the look of the fabric, and it is less likely to suffer damage from sun exposure than rayon fiber.
In addition to polyester, types of thread most commonly used for general sewing are cotton, rayon, and silk. Generally, polyester thread is stronger than cotton and nylon, but the feel of the thread can be more rough than other types of thread, making it a less desirable sewing thread for soft clothing and blankets. Some quilters use polyester thread that has been wrapped with cotton fibers to make use of the durability of polyester without sacrificing the natural appearance and softness of cotton thread.
The structure of polyester thread gives it some advantages for sewing machine use. Because it does not stretch and pull as much as natural thread, polyester-based thread tends to be easier to use in a sewing machine and generally requires less precise sewing machine adjustment than cotton threads. The color from polyester will not bleed, making it beneficial for embroidery applications in which the polyester thread is in contact with fabric colors that can be ruined by wayward dye. It does not lose its color when exposed to bleach.
I've never used polyester thread much, unless it was the cotton covered kind. Most of the sewing I've done has been for garments that would need ironing, so polyester thread wasn't the best choice.