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Embroidery Threads

Threads and Fibers for Hand Embroidery

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Threads for embroidery are available in a wide range of fibers, colors, types and weights. Your choice of threads will depend on the type of fabric used, the fabric thread count, and the type of embroidery you are stitching.

There are very few hard-fast rules when it comes to selecting embroidery thread. Use the type of thread or weight that looks best, or has the effect you want to achieve in your project. Experimentation is often the best indicator of whether or not a thread will give you the desired look.

If you are looking for contact information for thread manufacturers, click here.

1. Embroidery Floss

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Embroidery floss is easy to find, and comes in a huge range of colors.  The six individual plies of embroidery floss can be separated, so you can use the thickness that is best suited for your project by combining plies. Visit the tutorial to learn how to separate floss without tangling.

TIP: Always use threads from the same manufacturer in an embroidery project that uses floss, as the finish on the threads can vary from shiny to matte.

2. Pearl Cotton

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Pearl Cotton is a single ply embroidery thread with a lustrous, pearly finish due to a process called mercerization.

Peral cotton is available in a variety of weights or thicknesses, and depending on the weight can be available in a twisted skein or in a ball.

A wide range of colors are available for size 5 pearl cotton, with a lesser variety for size 8. Other sizes have a limited color selection.

The weights shown here include sizes 3, 5, 8, 12 and 80.

TIP: When selecting pearl cotton, remember that the larger the number, the finer the thread.

3. Silk Threads

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Silk threads have a soft hand and are a joy to stitch with - but these threads can be expensive.

Silk threads for embroidery are available in embroidery floss, pearl and other weights, as well as fine ribbon. Use silk thread as you would any other thread.

Threads shown here include Belle Soie, Water Lily 12-ply thread from the Caron Collection, Dinky Dyes hand-dyed silk, Soie d' Alger and Soie Gobelins thread.

4. Metallic Threads

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Use Metallic threads to add glitz and glamour to your embroidery projects.

Narrow weights of metallic thread can be stitch directly onto the fabric, while thicker or wired varieties should be couched to the surface of the project.

Weights for metallic threads can be very fine and whispy to very thick and somewhat stiff. Metallics are also available in floss, single ply or pearl cotton varieties.

Colors include gold, silver and platinum as well as copper and antique or aged versions.

The metallic threads shown here include Treasure Braid from Rainbow Gallery, Precious Metals, metallic pearl, Color Infusions Memory Thread and metallic thread from DMC, halographic braid and metallic blending filament from Kreinik and metallic ribbon.

5. Satin and Rayon Threads

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Satin and rayon threads are synthetic threads that are shiny like satin. These threads are usually packaged as a floss that can be separated or single-ply threads such as braids, narrow ribbon or halographic ribbon

Synthetics can be unruly to stitch with, so keep some thead conditioner handy when using these types of threads.

Threads shown here include Treasure Braid from Rainbow Gallery, Jewel Effects satin floss from DMC, cable thread from Madeira, and a halographic braid from Kreinik.

6. Overdyed Threads

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Overdyed threads feature more than one color in a single strand, and can be hand-dyed or mass-produced. Weights can vary, and overdyed threads are often produced in cotton or silk embroidery floss and in varying weights of pearl cotton.

Overdyed threads are not to be confused with variegated thread or floss, which features varying shades of a single color.

The overdyed threads shown here include pearl cotton and floss from Weeks Dye Works, pearl cotton and a textured 3-ply floss from the Caron Collection, and Color Variations pearl cotton from DMC.

7. Wool Threads

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Wool threads come in a variety of weights, including very fine crewel wool, divisible Persian wool, and tapestry wool (most commonly used in needlepoint).

Shown here is a Persian wool from Paternayan, alpaca and angora wools from Rainbow Gallery, Sheep's Silk from The Thread Gatherer, Stardust silk and wool blend, Vineyard merino wool, and tapestry wool from Appleton, Anchor and DMC.

8. Ribbon

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There are many different types of ribbon that can be used for embroidery. These ribbons can be silk, cotton or synthetic and are available in varying widths, from a narrow 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch or larger.

This thread is used in ribbon embroidery, utilizing a variety of surface embroidery stitches, or cit an be used as a decorative accent with other types of embroidery.

The ribbons shown here include silk ribbon from River Silks and Gloriana.

9. Floche

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Floche is a size 16 mercerized, single-strand embroidery thread made from long staple Egyptian cotton. This lustrous thread has a soft, luxurious hand and is most commonly used in whitework, cutwork, openwork and needle painting.

Use a laying tool when stitching using multiple strands of floche to keep the stitches smooth and even.

10. Novelty Threads

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Novelty threads encompass a wide range of styles, textures, materials and supplies. They can be fuzzy, metallic, textured, leather, plastic and more!  Novelty threads are a lot of fun to stitch with and can add a fuzzy texture to a project including using a fuzzy thread for hair or beards, and other special effects.

These types of threads can be difficult to work with, so be sure to choose an appropriate, often simple embroidery stitch. Otherwise, you could be fighting a losing battle with the thread.

Shown here are a variety or novelty threads from Rainbow Gallery include Fyre Werks nylon, Fancy Fur, Patent Leather, Fuzzy Stuff and Very Velt, as well as GlissenGloss Estaz.

I've included Rainbow Gallery's Mandarin floss here as well, since it's made of bamboo rather than cotton or silk.

11. Wired Threads

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Wired threads are not normally used for stitching, but are instead stitched to the surface of a finished design to add texture, dimension and detail to a project.

These threads can be bent, twisted and curled and hold their shape due to the hidden interior wire.

The most common wired threads are Kreinik's HotWire and DMC's Color Infusions Memory Thread.

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