Hear the term “thread arts,” and you might immediately think of sewing—and that’s one option for using thread in a creative way. However, there’s so much more to the broad category of thread arts. If you’re curious about this versatile medium with ancient roots and plenty of modern-day applications, read on to learn more.

Types of Thread Arts

While all of these crafts use thread in some way, the techniques specific to each create completely different outcomes. 

Embroidery

Embroidery can be divided into a couple of broad categories: More traditional embroidery, showcased in the designs below, features a large repertoire of stitches and knots that have been used for centuries, even if the modern-day subjects are completely fresh

embroidery flowers
A monogram wreath by student Shelley Gilbertson for Hand Embroidery Fundamentals: Stitch Your Own Floral Monogram Hoop. 
cherry blossom flowers
Embroidered cherry blossoms by student Michelle Donaldson for Blossom Embroidery Hoop Art: Using the Back Stitch & Stem Stitch & French Knot. 

Thread Painting

In contrast to more traditional embroidery techniques, thread painting uses a looser, less formal approach to creating patterns and pictures on canvas through thread. Like painting with a brush, you’ll use strokes of different lengths and colors to depict a subject or scene. 

embroidery hairdryer
A multimedia work by Skillshare student Murielle Doré for Painting With Thread: Modern Embroidery for Beginners.
embroidery succulent
A colorful lotus by student Zena Sorrensen for Painting With Thread: Modern Embroidery for Beginners.
embroidery goose
A dreamy duck scene by student Wendy Lavery for Painting With Thread: Modern Embroidery for Beginners.

Try it Yourself

Painting With Thread: Modern Embroidery for Beginners

String Art

String art uses pins or nails, thread (or string), and a board to create patterns, which are often geometric. The idea is to outline a pattern with the pins, then wind string around them to complete the shape or design. 

spiral thread art
An infinity square made from string.
spiral thread art
A multicolored geometric shape made from string.
thread art
An advanced string mandala.

Thread Crochet

Crochet is sometimes confused with knitting, but it’s quite different, both in terms of the look of the finished product and the tools used. Crochet uses a single hook (versus knitting’s two) that manipulates yarn to create blankets, items of clothing, homewares, or other items. 

Thread crochet uses thin threads rather than chunky yarns and a smaller hook, and the end result looks like lace. To learn this daintier form of crocheting, learn to crochet with chunkier yarns first, which are easier to handle, then work your way up to using finer thread.

crochet coral
Source: wikimedia
Crochet made with thread. 
crochet
Source: pixabay
Make a lace doily by crocheting with thread.

Sewing Machine Drawing

Sewing machines are typically used for the more mechanical aspects of sewing, such as making straight seams or attaching large pieces of fabric. But these utilitarian machines can also be employed in a much more creative manner.

Just like it sounds, sewing machine drawing is the process of using your machine to create drawings in thread. The speed of working on a sewing machine means that this art form is faster than hand embroidery. You can also use your machine’s unique functions to create zig zags, stitches of varying lengths, and much more.

tie dye
Hand lettering by student Jordan Gomez for How to Draw With a Sewing Machine – Free Motion 101. 
drawing made of sewing
A freeform drawing by student Miranda Lis for How to Draw With a Sewing Machine – Free Motion 101. 
sewing flower sketch
Would you believe that’s drawn on a sewing machine?

Through the Eye of the Needle

sewing eye
Combine traditional and modern thread art techniques.

After seeing all of these different kinds of thread art, you’ll never look at the humble needle and thread the same way again! Think up a subject, a color, a pattern, or a theme, and there’s a good chance you’ll be able to bring it to life just using thread, a needle, and a cloth or canvas surface. Whether you want to try more traditional embroidery techniques or something more 21st-century, there are endless possibilities. Have fun!

Stitch the Natural World You See

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