I have been mentally been writing this post for months now: answering questions in my head, snapping pics, listing my favorite threads and embroidery notions, and I’m finally ready to put fingers to keyboard, type it up and send it out to all of you patient, patient readers!
You might already know this from following me on Instagram or Facebook, but if you don’t, I really, really like thread! I will give any thread a chance and if I like it, I’ll probably add it (in all of the colors that I can get!) to my stash.
One of the questions that I am asked most is: How do I know which thread to use and where? Well, ask no more! I’m here to share all of my thread knowledge with you! Every thread that I mention here, is a thread that I use and love. I won’t recommend a thread that I personally wouldn’t stitch with. Whenever possible, I will share links with you that will take you to the shops where I buy my threads.
I’ve broken my mega-thread round-up into five main categories:
- Stranded threads
- Non-stranded threads
- Threads to add texture
- Threads for beading
- Threads for embellishment
And one more thing before we get started…everyone’s second favorite question: What kind of needles should I use? Under each thread category, I will note the type of needles that I like to use for those types of thread. However, I have found that needles are a very personal choice…you might like working with appliqué needles for every type of embroidery or you might prefer a milliner’s needle. I tell my students to pick the needle that works best for you. If you aren’t sure what that needle is, then buy a variety pack of needles so that you can work with several types and decide what you like best! I am linking to a great source for needles: Sue Spargo’s shop. You will find every needle that I mention there and they are all brands that I trust and currently use.
Are you ready to journey down the rabbit hole to the wide world of threads? Let’s go!
(P.S. I have not been coerced into giving you any of these recommendations…they truly are threads that I have personally bought and use regularly in my stitching!)
Stranded Threads (threads that can be divided)
When I refer to stranded threads, I’m talking about threads that can be divided or broken down into smaller sections of thread.
WHAT NEEDLES SHOULD I USE?
(The above link will take you directly to DMC’s website where you can purchase and also check out the full range of colors available.)
When you think about stranded thread, this is probably the thread that comes to mind. DMC’s floss is easily found at most craft and hobby shops and comes in a wide variety of colors. It is also colorfast, which means that if you need to rinse your project or are stitching on clothing that will be washed, the colors will stay where they are and you do not need to worry about bleeding threads. (That sounds kind of horrible, right?!)
You can stitch with all 6 strands if you want nice, thick stitches or you can divide it up however you see fit. 1 strand would be about right if you are stitching very fine details, like facial features. 3 or 4 strands could be used if you want a thicker appearance to your stitches but aren’t ready to completely dive in to using all 6-strands at once.
This is a fairly inexpensive thread to purchase and is good for building up your stash of colors.
(You cannot purchase directly from Weeks Dye Works unless you are a retailer, but the above link will take you to Sassy Jacks Stitchery, an online and in-person shop, where you can find a great variety of these threads.)
Weeks Dye Works is a family-owned and operated company who specializes in hand-dyed fibers. Their 6-stranded floss was the first product that they introduced to the public and is still the one product with the most colors available. And let’s talk about colors! If you have ever wanted to dabble in stitching with variegated thread, but don’t want the variation in colors to detract from your project, then this is the thread that you need to use. The slight variation in color that you will see in each strand is just subtle enough to be noticeable when you look at a skein and the slight variation looks even better when you stitch with it!
The 6-stranded floss is meant to be used as is (all six strands at once) or it can be divided all the way down to just one strand. You get to decide how you want to use it!
Before stitching with these threads, take note of the description listed with the skein. Not every color is currently colorfast. You can read more about it here, but every new color released will be colorfast and they are working on making the top 50 colors colorfast. This is not a huge deal if you are not going to be washing your project, however if you are working on a project that you transferred with a water-based pen and you’ll need to eventually wash out your marks, then you might want to be sure that you are using colorfast threads. Also, if you are stitching on clothing that will be washed or a bag that might get wet in the rain, then you would want to use only the colorfast colors.
Trust me on this this and always remember to check whether something is colorfast!!
Non-Stranded Threads (threads that should not be divided)
Perle Cotton is a non-stranded thread that can be found wrapped in a skein or wound on a spool. You do not need to divide these threads! If you look at a perle cotton thread next to a stranded thread, you will see that the perle cotton has a twist in the thread. This adds a lovely texture and sheen to your stitches. I would say about 75% of my embroidery is stitched with perle cotton.
WHAT NEEDLES SHOULD I USE FOR PERLE COTTON?
(The above link will take you to Sue Spargo’s shop. Feel free to look around at the other embellishments and threads that she carries!)
The threads that you will see me stitch with the most are from the Eleganza Perle Cotton collection from Sue Spargo and Wonderfil Specialty Threads. I love these threads…the colors, the texture of the threads, the variegated colors and because they come on spools. In my opinion, nothing beats a spool of thread that doesn’t tangle when you toss it in with all of your stitching supplies!
There are 3 sizes of Perle Cotton: size 3, size 5 and size 8. I like to reference 6-stranded thread when I explain the sizes of Perle Cotton. All 6-strands of a skein of thread would be approximately a size 3 Perle Cotton, 4-strands of the stranded skein are approximately a size 5 Perle Cotton and 2-strands are approximately a size 8. So size 3 is the thickest weight and size 8 is the thinnest weight.
I always recommend a size 8 or a size 5 Perle Cotton if you are just getting started with embroidery.
(The above link will take you to Alison Glass’ shop. She has curated her own colors of Perle Cotton in collaboration with Wonderfil Specialty Threads.)
These Perle Cottons are spooled differently than the Sue Spargo Perle Cottons but the thread is the same Eleganza Perle Cotton made by Wonderfil Specialty Threads. Currently, these are available in size 8 only.
If choosing color makes you nervous, Alison has done the job for you! Her threads are available individually or they are available in box sets. Each color palette is just so amazing that I could not choose and now I have one box of each set! If you like her fabric, then you will go crazy for her threads!
(The above link will take you to 123stitch.com, an online retailer that has a large selection of the Pearl Cotton colors.)
Again, what I love most about Weeks Dye Works are their gorgeous, hand-dyed colors. If you are looking for a slight variegated effect in a perle cotton, then these are the threads for you!
Another bonus is that Weeks Dye Works currently has four sizes of Pearl Cotton: sizes 3 (the thickest), 5, 8 and 12 (the thinnest). Size 12 Pearl Cotton is a really nice addition to my thread arsenal and it is not a size that you can commonly find when searching for thread. We’ll talk about this later on in my thread round-up, but for beading, this is my go-to thread size!
THREADS TO ADD TEXTURE
The fibers in this section are generally much thicker than a regular embroidery thread and they may have uses other than embroidery. That being said, there should be nothing stopping you from using non-traditional-embroidery threads in your embroidery! I recommend experimenting with as many fibers as you want to while stitching! The unexpected is what makes your work fun! If you have leftover beautifully colored yarn bits that you used in a knitting project, absolutely work them into your embroidery!
What needles should I use for Textured Threads?
(The above link will take you to DMC’s website where you can purchase 390 colors of tapestry wool.)
DMC’s tapestry wool is made with 100% wool and is a much thicker thread than the embroidery floss you may have stitched with on other projects. It is typically used in needlepoint projects. I like to use it whenever I want to add unexpected texture and thicker stitches. When you stitch on a fabric with tapestry threads, you’ll notice the little wisps of wool on the tapestry thread, which lends an organic feel to your project. This is also a colorfast wool, so you do not need to worry about the colors bleeding if your project gets wet.
(The above link will take you to DMC’s website where you can purchase 100 colors of soft cotton thread.)
Soft Cotton or Retors Mat is a tapestry thread that is made of 5-strands of cotton. Don’t let the strands confuse you, though, this is not a thread that is meant to be divided. The beauty of this thread is in the thick, matte stitches that you can embroider. It is great for stitching Colonial Knots or any other stitch that is meant to really stand out from the fabric and pop!
(The above link will take you to The Thread Gatherer’s online shop for silk ribbon, plus lots of other fabulous threads!)
For a touch of sophistication, consider adding silk ribbon to your embroidery. I have a love for anything hand dyed and The Thread Gatherer never fails to disappoint in their selection of beautiful silk ribbons. I love to use silk ribbon in floral designs and it’s always a bonus when I can pair silk ribbon with beads. You may see silk ribbon used in wool embroidery, but I find that it works great in appliqué embroidery as well.
(The above link will take you to Chiagu’s shop, more specifically the mini-skeins club which is a great way to add a variety of yarns to your stash!)
If you are not a knitter, or crocheter, or any other sort of yarn-y person, then you might be wondering what is the best way to add skeins of a thicker yarn to your stash? Koigu mini-skeins are just perfect for that! For a hat or scarf or sweater, you might need several large skeins of yarn, but for embroidery, you really don’t need that much. I love the Koigu KPPPM yarn (which is a sock-weight yarn) to embroider with. This yarn is thinner than a tapestry yarn, so it is a great first step into the world of thicker threads.
threads for beading
I love using beads and sequins in my embroidery and 12 wt threads are the perfect thread for combining beading and sequining with embroidery. All of the threads in this section are 12 wt and I use them frequently for beading.
WHAT NEEDLES SHOULD I USE WITH BEADING THREAD AND BEADS?
A note about needles for beading: whatever needle you choose, be sure that the eye of the needle is able to pass completely through the bead. It can be so frustrating to have a needle all threaded and then realize when you are about to stitch with a bead, that the needle cannot pass through the bead! So be sure to check your needle size before you bead!
(The above link will take you to Sue Spargo’s shop, the best source for this wool appliqué thread, a collaboration between Sue and Wonderfil Specialty Threads.)
If the idea of adding texture to your stitching appeals to you, but you aren’t ready to dive into the world of a thick tapestry thread, Ellana wool thread is a great beginning point. This is a 12wt thread and perfect for beading. I really like wool because of the visible wispy fibers that you can see when you stitch with this thread. This thread is thinner than most that I use and I will sometimes double it up to stitch with it (and it still works with beads that way!)
This thread is a collaboration with Wonderfil Specialty Threads and Sue Spargo and comes in a variety of colors…sixty to be exact! It is a merino wool and acrylic blend. I have not had problems with this thread fraying and it is easy to stitch with.
(The above link will take you to the Traditional Stitches website where you can find spools of this thread.)
I mentioned this thread earlier when talking about Weeks Dye Works. Again, it is hand-dyed and comes in a beautiful array of colors. It is the newest thread from Weeks Dye Works and I’m really excited about it. It is slightly harder to find, so you may need to look around for it (or use the link above!)
This is a pearl (perle) cotton, so it has a lovely twist to the fibers. It is 12 wt, which is my ideal for beaded embroidery. My only hope is that this thread becomes more widely available because it is a delight to stitch with!
(The above link will take you to Lonestar Quilt Works where you can find this thread.)
Fruitti thread is another one of my favorites from Wonderfil. It is a 12 wt cotton thread that comes in a variety of variegated colors. When you are looking to purchase this thread, keep in mind that it is also used for sewing machines, so the price may be higher and the spool may be larger than a typical embroidery thread. One spool will last you a very, very long time if you are using it exclusively for embroidery. They make various size spools and do have a regular embroidery sized spool, so be sure to read descriptions before you buy.
I enjoy this thread mostly for the colors but also because it is such an easy thread to stitch with. Some threads just feel instantly comfortable and this is one of those threads!
threads for embellishment
what needles should I use with embellishment threads?
(The above link will take you to the Mohair and More Etsy shop. Be sure to look around at all of the gorgeous fibers available for purchase!)
Roving is a quick way to add fluff and texture to your embroidery. With the right stitch (I recommend a couching stitch), you layer this fiber on your fabric and secure it with another type of thread. It gives you an instant three-dimensional effect.
You can just pull the desired amount from your ball of roving and roll it between your hands to shape it! And if you want to get really fancy, you can try your hand at spinning your own art yarns with balls of roving!
(The above link will take you to Sue Spargo’s shop.)
If you are looking to add a lot of shine to your stitches, then Razzle is what you want. It is a thread made from 100% rayon and has a glossy shine. It can be a little slippery to work with, but once you get the hang of it, you shouldn’t have any problems at all.
I highly, highly recommend that if you buy this thread, you should also buy Thread Guards. Because this is a rayon thread and very silky, it wants to unwind from the spool. A Thread Guard is a small, clear, rectangle of what feels like a thicker version of cling wrap. When you are done stitching, you roll your thread back onto the spool and then wrap a thread guard around the spool. It clings to itself and keeps any thread from unraveling. I can’t tell you enough how awesome these are and how much they will help you store this thread!!
(The above link will take you to Sue Spargo’s shop.)
If you like the look of metallic stitches but you don’t want to deal with the hassle of metallic threads (if you have dealt with the tangles of metallic thread, then you know what I’m talking about!!!), then you need to try Dazzle. This is like the rayon Razzle thread, however it has one metallic thread woven through. So you have the shine of the rayon with a metallic pop wound right into the thread.
Stitching with this thread is much easier than stitching with an all metallic thread but I feel like you have the same, metallic-y end result. When you cut a length of this to stitch with, don’t go overboard and cut too much. Stitch with shorter strands. When you are going in and out of fabric with a needle and thread, you are bound to get frayed edges. This thread doesn’t fray, but it works much better use it in short (12″-ish) lengths.
And, once again, Thread Guards will save your sanity when storing these threads! I definitely recommend buying them and bonus: you can reuse them over and over!
And there you have it. Is your head spinning? Are you adding things to your virtual shopping carts? Are you digging through your stash to find bits of yarn to add to your embroidery? I hope so! My goal in writing this mega-thread round-up was to open up the world of gorgeous fibers to you and show you just how easy it can be to add new threads to your repertoire!
If I’ve missed any of your pressing thread questions, feel free to comment and I’ll do my best to answer them here!