Embroidery is a delicate art, so it’s essential that you know your embroidery thread to bring out the beauty of the design. Choosing your embroidery floss can be overwhelming because the quality of your final product rests on it. However, if you take the time to consider your project, and also the type of embroidery you’re doing — by hand or machine — you can significantly narrow your choices.

It’s not a good idea to skimp on the quality of your embroidery threads considering the hours that you’ll be spending on the needlework project. So whatever project you’re doing — embroidery, counted thread, cross stitch, crewel, smocking, needlepoint, quilting, applique and punch embroidery — have a definite plan and use quality materials to get excellent results.

How to Choose Embroidery Floss?

If you’re working on an embroidery design, be sure to check out the embroidery floss recommendations with it. When you know your embroidery thread, you’ll choose the best embroidery floss brand, type, and color. Make sure that you take the design with you to the craft store. You’ll likely want to make a list of the colors that you’ll need for your project, so you can keep to your color scheme.

Adding texture to your embroidery design will enhance its appearance. Make a note of any particular thread you’ll need to add texture to your pattern. Say for example if you’re embroidering a landscape, to emphasize the feel of the grass you can use wool thread. It may be best to avoid buying old threads from dollar stores or on clearance racks because they might break while you’re working on the design.

When buying embroidery thread, carefully select floss from reputable, high-quality brands. Using thread from a popular brand will significantly reduce your chances of ending up with low-quality product. Cheap floss may not be colorfast and will be rough and hard to work with which may yield poor results. So we highly recommend that you work with high-quality threads. Shown below are some reputable brands of embroidery threads.

  • DMC
  • Isacord
  • Floriani
  • Jennie Haskins
  • Mettler
  • Madeira
  • Sulky
  • Robison Anton
  • Presencia
  • Superior Threads
  • YLI
  • Janome
  • Anchor
  • Coats& Clark
  • Cosmo

The basics of using embroidery floss

Before you get to know your embroider thread, here is some basic embroidery advice. The number of embroidery strands that you’ll be using for your project will depend upon what fabric count you’re stitching on. Likewise, it also depends upon the effect you’re trying to achieve. If you want a thick, bold line, opt for more strands. If you want a thin, delicate application, go with fewer.

It’s a little trial and error, but if you don’t like what you are doing, after about an inch, pick out your stitches and raise or lower the number of threads. Sure, we could include a concrete chart on how many strands of floss to use for each weight of fabric, but embroidery is first art. Experiment and see what you like.

Securing the embroidery floss

It is advisable to avoid knots when starting the embroidery because it will cause a bump on the back of your work. So it’s better to anchor your floss using loop method. This method is useful if your project calls for even number strands of floss. But if you’re a beginner, you can secure your floss with a waste knot.

How to separate strands of embroidery floss?

When you separate individual strands from the original bunch of threads, it is called stripping the floss. Whether you’re doing surface embroidery or cross stitch, stripping your floss adds a positive impact to the look of your stitches.

Steps to separate the floss

Cut the desired length of the thread. Now hold the thread between your thumb and finger while leaving a small measure of yarn at the top. Gently pat the head of the protruding threads, this action will separate the threads. Hold one strand from the bunch and pull the strand straight out. Now neatly lay the threads next to each other on a surface. Finally, thread up your needle with whatever number of strands you want to use and start stitching.

Best Threads for Hand Embroidery

Choosing the correct embroidery thread for your design is essential to get stunning results. Hand embroidery has some significant health benefits. It boosts your creativity, increases confidence and lowers your blood pressure. It is imperative that you know your embroidery thread used for hand embroidery. Shown below are the best threads for hand embroidery.

Cotton thread

pink cotton threads

CC0 BY Skyangel via Pixabay

Stranded cotton is undoubtedly the most famous cotton thread in hand embroidery. People in the United States call it embroidery floss. This type of thread comes in skeins. The entire thread that comes off the skeins can be separated into six fine threads. Each of these threads is twisted gently by two smaller fibers. Using a single strand will give you a delicate effect whereas if you’re using more strands, it will result in a thick, textured look.

Perle cotton

It is slightly thicker than a single strand of stranded cotton thread. You can use Perle cotton for surface and needlepoint embroidery. It consists of two threads twisted together that can’t be separated. The Perle cotton creates a more textured look than the stranded cotton. Though it comes in a single strand, you can get Perle cotton thread in different weights. It’s best suited for chain stitch and stem stitch.

Silk thread

Considered the Cadillac of the embroidery threads silk adds a shiny and lustrous look to your design. Silk is the strongest of all the embroidery fibers and also the one with the highest sheen. To add a beautiful shine to your silk thread press it with a steam iron on the back side of the embroidery.

Spun silk and filament silk are the two types of silk threads used in embroidery. You get spun silk from the broken and leftover cocoons while the filament silk is obtained from single silk filaments as they are pulled out from the whole cocoon.


The wool thread is highly suitable for hand embroidery because you cannot use wool in a machine due to its roughness. The most tactile embroidery threads include the tapestry wool or the crewel wool. You can use this yarn to create a fuzzier effect in your design. Say for example you’re embroidering a rabbit; you can use brown or white wool thread to make the rabbit look furry.

Metallic hand embroidery thread

Royalty and clergymen have been using metallic thread for centuries to show their exalted status. You can use metallic thread to give highlights to other embroidery techniques or use it in gold work. Though it is famous for its beauty and brilliance, it tarnishes easily, however, synthetic metallic threads do not lose their luster.

Persian Yarn

It is a soft yarn which you can use on canvas and other dense material. The Persian thread is made of 3 plies of pure fine wool. They are loosely twisted together which you can separate or combine to adjust the thickness. It comes in an array of 400 colors. The Persian yarn was initially made to repair Persian carpets. You can purchase Persian yarn at discount shops or online.

Felted wool yarn

It is a woven textile. Felted wool contains a soft and fluffy texture. You can use it for soft applique projects, and making soft clothes with a hint of drape. Felted wool comes in an array of colors and is available in richly textured patterns and plaids.

Variegated threads

The variegated threads come in different shades of the same color in the same skein. You can notice that the color changes along the length of the same thread. This thread is available in all fibers such as cotton, silk, and rayon. Moreover, it gives a stunning look to your design if you use it correctly.

Best Threads for Machine Embroidery

Machine embroidery is reliable, and it is quick and efficient. You have to put in less labor, but you get more perfection in the finishing of final products. It is essential that you know your embroidery thread used for machine embroidery. Listed below are some of the best threads to use for machine embroidery.

Rayon thread

It is a favorite to use in machine embroidery because of its widespread availability, attractive sheen, and high performance. The best part is it holds to high-speed stitching without breaking or fraying. Rayon thread is an excellent choice if you are a beginner. Rayon is made of organic cellulose and gives you a soft touch. But despite all these advantages it tends to fade over time.

Polyester thread

Polyester threads have excellent strength and vibrancy, and they are the new favorite for quilters and machine embroiderers. These threads are similar to rayon in their sheen and ease of use but have an added advantage of being fade and bleach resistant. Polyester thread even holds up to chlorine bleach. Trilobal polyester threads are made from multiple fibers, and they are highly durable. The triangular shape helps them to reflect more light than rayon and stranded polyester threads.

Cotton thread

The cotton threads are not as shiny as polyester or rayon threads but have a high-performance and have a high sheen to it. You obtain the best cotton threads from the staple Egyptian cotton. In addition to being strong, these fibers are lint free. You can use cotton stitch in machine embroidery for redwork, quilting, bean stitch and cross stitch designs. Cotton threads are available in weights up to a very fine 100 which is said to be heirloom quality.

Silk thread

Silk usually gives you the impression of luxury. Silk threads have unique sheen and function. If you want to get best results for your embroidery, then go in for 30 to 50 weight threads. Silk threads absorb dyes more effectively than other fibers. You can consider embroidering it on luxurious fabrics. Moreover, silk is a favorite for machine stitched applique enthusiasts. By and large, the threads nearly disappear when you use silk threads.

Metallic and Mylar Embroidery Threads

The metallic threads contain a center core that is wrapped with thin silvers of metal foil. These threads are a popular choice to add sparkling accents to your embroidery design.

You obtain Mylar thread from layers of the film kept like a pile, then cut into slices to form a flat filament thread. These threads are available in a wide range of colors as well as holographic hues. Usually, these hues pick up light and color from the surrounding objects and give beautiful luminous accents to machine embroidery.

Special effect embroidery threads

As an embroiderer, you’ll want to experiment with different kinds of materials to add special effects to your design. Here’s a lowdown of some of the special effect embroidery threads, because, you want to know your embroidery thread options.

Clear nylon monofilament threads

Monofilament thread looks invisible when stitched onto the fabric. Typically it is much thinner than most sewing threads. So try to use a small needle when you work with it. These monofilament threads are suitable for invisible applique and quilting.

Variegated Yarns

These threads come in hundreds of color combinations and chiefly produces incremental color changes. Variegated yarns are ideal for tone on tone designs and patterns. Moreover, these threads have subtle repeated colors while others are bold and distinct.

Solar activated threads or light sensitive threads

Perfect for astrological designs or Halloween patterns these threads are white under normal conditions but glows brightly in the dark. These threads add a priceless intrigue to embroidery designs. And, of course, kids love the magical effect of these threads. Now, you really do know your embroidery thread.

Know Your Embroidery Thread, Embroider Better

A few tips for the new embroiderer: While doing your embroidery have good lighting in your sewing room. And, select the color of your threads under natural lighting if at all possible. Don’t forget to launder or dry clean your fabric before you work on your design.

If you know your embroidery thread, and choose the perfect floss for your design, it will come out as close to perfect as you can make it. Eventually, you’ll create stunning patterns that’ll be a crowning jewel for your artistic abilities.


CC0 BY blue morphos via Pixabay