The World of Threads – Part 1

Introduction & Kickoff

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35 thoughts on “The World of Threads – Part 1

  1. Let’s begin our discussion by talking about how the world of threads has changed over the last 50-60 years. When I first began stitching over 50 years ago, there were very few thread options – basically just wool (needlepoint and crewel) and cotton embroidery floss (embroidery and stamped cross stitch).

    In the late 70s and early 80s, as new types of needlework were introduced, some more threads came on the market. But the real explosion of threads occurred in the mid to late 90s into the new millennium. Today there are hundreds of different types of embroidery threads.

  2. Next, let’s discuss the various types of threads used for needlework. I find that they fall into one of the following basic fiber types: cotton, wool, metallic, silk, silk/wool blends, silk ribbons, rayon, synthetic and other natural fibers (such as linen, bamboo, soy, animal hair (alpaca, cashmere, angora, mohair, etc.)). Please feel free to add any that I missed by replying here.

  3. I’m sure most of us have used at least a few of these types and have many in our stashes – in particular – wool, cotton, silk and metallic.

    Please join the discussion and share, by replying here, the following about these four types of threads:
    • Look at the threads in your stash – do you have all 4 types or do you lean to just one or two of these?

    • As most of us, I love my threads. I have so many types and thought I had little wool compared to the others. But, nope! I forgot about another stash for colcha! As wool is bigger (I have large skeins) it’s just in another place. My silk ribbons are also a large stash, due to the size and storage requirements. Mostly, I have and use the silk and cotton. Linen is a small stash, with exception of my lace threads. I now have tubs of metals for goldwork!

    • I honestly haven’t looked at wool since doing “traditional” needlepoint decades ago. I have loads of cotton (every DMC color), silk, and metallic.

    • I have just about all the the thread types you mention. Just before the Taming the Stash Monster GCC, I decided to organize all my threads, get them in one place, and make a list. It turned out to be a much larger project than I expected!
      I used-and still use-mostly cotton and silk floss in my cross-stitch. One of the reasons I’m enjoying needlepoint so much is the variety of the threads I’ve discovered! It’s hard for me to keep my hands off the vineyard silk-it’s so soft! Bella Lusso wool, Rainbow Gallery Alpaca, and others give such a great rougher texture to stitching. And the rayon threads are a little fussy to work with, but their smooth texture is such a nice contrast to those. I could go on and on…

      • Susan – it’s nice to know I was not the only one that tried to make a list and reorganize threads in connection with the Taming the Stash Monster GCC. Like you, it was a much larger project than expected – still haven’t gotten it all completed yet. I love the look of silk but unfortunately I tend to shred it because of very dry skin on my hands. Loved your comment about Rainbow Gallery Alpaca and Bella Lusso wool – I recently got some and I look forward to trying each of them.

    • My mainly stitch with the cotton threads. I really like the subdued colors of the Gentle Arts Threads. I have used other types of thread in canvaswork.

    • Like most of you, I have tons of cotton and metallic but a much smaller amount of silk and wool. Being allergic to wool, I avoided wool threads for a very long time but have started to try some. My favorite so far is Rainbow Gallery’s Glisten which is a sparkling wool braid. However, I only use wool or silk occasionally, my go to is still all of the various cotton threads I have.

    • I have everything in my stash. 🙂 Whatever the designers design with, I use. My fiber stash is organized chaos. The hand dyed threads are probably the most organized with them all being stored in the same tote. I have started to organize them by manufacturer, put them info floss away bags, group brands together, etc, but that’s a work in progress. All my silks – NPI, AVAS, Kreinik – are in another tote. Generally all the fibers I tend to use in most of my projects are organized chaos; ones that are in just 1 design are stored wherever.

    • We’ll, ladies, you have covered almost all of the companies I have threads from. I have lots of cotton threads, mostly DMC but some other odds and ends mostly left overs from classes and kits. I would add Needlepoint silk to the list. It’s a nice silk thread from China. Most of my collection is organized by thread companies and then colors.

  4. Please join the discussion and share, by replying here, the following about these four types of threads:
    • What are your favorite thread companies that provide these 4 types of threads?

    • When I need a long color run, I usually rely on old DMC. It is the one thread available locally in almost every color of floss and some perle cotton colors. I do like silk, and Rainbow Gallery Splendor is my favorite silk, but a lot of my projects don’t warrant the expense. I do use a lot of metallics, especially the Kreinik braid as you can get the same in color in different sizes.

    • Nearly all my metallics are from Kreinik. Nearly all my cotton floss is DMC. Most of my silk floss is Splendor by. Rainbow Gallerry. And most of my ‘different’ threads are also from Rainbow Gallery. I have lots of overdyed cotton floss from several different companies-Weeks Dye Works, The Gentle Art, Classic Colours, and Threadworx. I don’t have much wool, but what I have is from Bella Lusso.

    • Like Rosemary & Susan, my floss is DMC. For perle cotton, I have a mix from DMC, Anchor & Presencia. When I use silk I tend to look at Pepper Pot, Planet Earth, Waterlilies & Soie Cristale from Caron Company. For wool, I tend to look at Rainbow Persian & Glisten from Rainbow Gallery and Bella Lusso. For years I only used Kreinik metallics but now have added several of them from Rainbow Gallery and Snow from Caron Collection too.

    • DMC is my favorite non-hand dyed cotton floss. Anchor is good, too, but it doesn’t seem to be as popular, i.e., easily available, as DMC.

      I lik all the overdyed cottons – GAST, WDW, CC – although sometimes I feel CC likes to knot easier than the others (probably just me).

      My favorite silk is NPI. I love the range of colors. Gloriana has nice silks, too.

      Regarding wool, I don’t have a lot of experience with the different varieties available. In the cross stitch world, GAST is starting to branch into a wool line. I’ve used it in a Summer House Stitche Workes Design and decided it’s “ok”, but I like their cotton floss line better. I’ve recently started doing more counted needlepoint (for example, Kathy Rees) that use a wide variety of fibers including some that are wool based. I haven’t worked enough with these fibers to develop favorites.

      For metallics, I primarily work with Kreinik. I love their braids, not in love with their blending filament. 🙂

      I use the same fibers as the designers use in their charts. I’m not confident enough to go out and make substitutions – especially with colors – so I stick to what they design with. I don’t have an LNS – closest one is probably 2 hours away – and order everything online. I probably get to visit a shop in person (pre covid) about twice a year; Salty Yarns in Ocean City, Maryland, and Stitchery Nook in Osage, Iowa. I attend a retreat in those areas each year.

  5. Please join the discussion and share, by replying here:
    • You want to use a pearl or braid type thread in a color you can’t find – can you make your own?

      • Braid type threads usually refer to metallics such as Kreinik braids or Rainbow Gallery Treasure Braid & Silk Lame Braid. They are a made from multiple strands “braided” together to obtain a certain weight/thickness. For example, a Kreinik #4 braid is 4 strands of blending filament “braided” together.

        A pearl (also called perle) thread is a thread that has multiple strands twisted together depending on the weight/thickness. Most commonly they are found in cotton and silk threads. The silk threads will usually identify what size pearl cotton they are equivalent to. Pearl cottons come in weights of 3, 5, 8, 12 & 16. The number of strands twisted together varies by weight. Both braid and pearl type threads are non-divisible threads.

      • There are several ways to “make your own”. First is to think about how many strands of floss the perle is equivalent to. This is why I recommend experimenting with whether you want the same number of strands for perle equivalency or whether you want the added texture you get from using perle. Here are some equivalencies:
        Perle 3 is equivalent to 9 strands of floss
        Perle 5 is equivalent to 6 strands of floss
        Perle 8 is equivalent to 3 strands of floss
        Perle 12 is equivalent to 2 strands of floss
        Perle 16 is equivalent to 1 strand of floss

        Concerning making you own. Linda Reinmiller has a wonderful set of instructions for making your own perle on her website at
        It is really fairly easy thanks to Linda’s directions!

      • Anne – I do that when I can but sometimes I want a specific color that is not available anywhere as a braid or perle so it is nice to know I can make my own and not have to change my color scheme.

  6. For our initial challenge, related to these 4 types of threads, let’s use any of the 3 wonderful stitch samplers (cross, straight & diagonal) that Marilyn Owen shared at
    If you don’t want to use these, you can use any pattern (to include one already stitched) or just a doodle cloth.

    CHALLENGE: Explore the differences between using floss (cotton, metallic or silk) and a pearl or braid for the same set of stitches and share your “findings”. Here are some questions to help with your explorations.

  7. CHALLENGE QUESTION #1 – How did the look of cross stitches change between floss & pearl or braid type threads? Did it change the texture? Did it change the appearance?

  8. CHALLENGE QUESTION #2 – How did the look of straight stitches change between floss & pearl or braid type threads? Did it change the texture? Did it change the appearance?

  9. CHALLENGE QUESTION #3 – How did the look of diagonal stitches change between floss & pearl or braid type threads? Did it change the texture? Did it change the appearance?

  10. CHALLENGE QUESTION #4 – Did you use the equivalent number of strands of floss to the pearl or braid type thread? If not, did you need more or less to get the effect you wanted?

  11. CHALLENGE QUESTION #5 – Can you give an example of something you’ve stitched previously where you successfully substituted pearl of braid for floss, or would try that if you stitched it again?

  12. Check back frequently as we continue to explore other types of threads and discuss challenges to explore them. Please let us know what threads you would like to explore by replying here!

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