If you’re new to embroidery, you may assume that any type of thread (perhaps that old spool you have tucked away in the back of your closet?) will work for your craft. However, the type of embroidery thread you choose can make a big difference in your final product. Here, we’ll go over the best types of thread for embroidery, so you can make the best selection for your next project.  

The Best Thread for Embroidery

Generally, to create hand-embroidered or cross-stitched items, you will use embroidery thread, also called embroidery floss. Embroidery thread is available in a range of materials, including silk, wool, satin, and rayon, but the standard thread for embroidery is cotton floss.

Stranded Cotton Floss

Six-stranded cotton floss is a common choice for hand embroidery. As its name implies, this type of floss is made up of six individual strands. Those strands can be separated by simply pulling them apart—a process called stripping. This is useful for embroiderers, as you can use as many strands as you like to get your desired effect. Using all six strands will result in a chunkier look, while just one thread will allow you to achieve a more delicate style. 

embroidery thread
Embroidery floss is made up of six individual strands of thread woven together. 

Pearl Cotton Thread

Unlike stranded cotton, pearl cotton thread is made up of two tightly twisted strands that cannot be separated. It’s a high-sheen, lustrous floss, typically used to add shine and texture to your embroidery. It’s sold in a variety of thicknesses—#3, #5, #8, and #12—so you must specifically purchase your floss according to the look you want to achieve. 

pearl cotton thread
Source: instagram@adequate_hobbyist showcases pearl cotton thread in a variety of colors. 

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Can You Use Sewing Thread for Embroidery? 

If you already have a spool of sewing thread, you may be wondering if you can forgo the trip to the craft store and use it, rather than cotton floss, for embroidery. The short answer: Yes, it’s possible—but there are some considerations to keep in mind. 

A significant difference between embroidery thread and sewing thread is that sewing thread comes in different weights, or thicknesses. The larger the number, the thinner the thread. (For reference, 40 weight thread is standard for most sewing machines.) A thicker thread, like 28 weight, is similar to the individual strands of embroidery floss. Sewing thread also generally has a slight sheen, similar to pearl cotton thread. 

Ultimately, it’s up to you. As a beginner, it may be easier and more convenient to start with standard embroidery thread. However, as you advance and want to experiment with different looks and textures, don’t be afraid to try embroidering with various weights of sewing thread.

sewing thread
Sewing thread can be used for embroidery, but a thicker thread generally works better. 

Sew It All Together

In art, there are no rules. So while there are a few standard types of embroidery floss, don’t be afraid to experiment and figure out what works best for your projects. Between all the different materials, weights, and colors of embroidery floss available, you have the creative freedom to create any look you want!

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Written By

Katie Wolf

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