Embroidery Floss – Thread Types, Colors, and Uses
When you consider the number of hours that will be spent on a needlework project, then you will see the importance of using good quality embroidery thread. Embroidery floss is used for a large variety of needlework projects - cross-stitch, counted thread, embroidery, needlepoint, smocking, crewel, punch embroidery, appliqué and quilting. Embroidery floss is a thread that is manufactured or hand-spun specifically for embroidery and other forms of needlework. It is a loosely twisted, slightly glossy 6-strand thread, usually of cotton but also manufactured in silk, polyester, rayon, and linen.
Choosing the Right Embroidery Floss
- Embroidery flosses come in a rainbow of colors to choose from. When using a needlework chart, care should be taken to stay within the same manufacturer to ensure consistency throughout your project as thicknesses and other factors can vary.
- Embroidery thread can be divided based on how delicate you want your finished product to look as well as how closely woven your fabric is.
- The easiest way to seperate your floss is by cutting it into shorter strands and holding it in place with tape, a safety pin, or knoting it around something, and pulling it tight. Use a needle to seperate out the amount of strands you want into a y shape and pull them apart. Remove the floss and pull the rest apart.
- Use a tapestry needle when embroidering with larger weave fabrics. For more info on tapestry needles, check out the buying guide.
- Keep track of the colors you are using for a given project, so if you need to buy more or fix something, you will get the right shade.
- Embroidery floss is stored in a loop, cut it at one end for even and shorter strands.
Types of Embroidery Floss
Cotton floss is the standard thread for cross-stitch. It is made from mercerized cotton, to make the floss stronger, smoother, and give it a lustrous appearance. Cotton floss (like most embroidery floss) is divisible, meaning the strands can be used individually or in groups of strands, depending on the thickness needed for a project.
Variegated floss has a blend of soft multicolors that flow seamlessly into one another. The subtle color changes reveal themselves every few stitches. This is just a dye technique, so you could have variegated cotton, silk, or linen floss.
Light Effects is a reflective polyester floss which comes in shades including Precious Metals, Jewels, Antiques, Pearlescent, Fluorescents, and Glow-In-The-Dark tones.
Metallic Floss adds metallic qualities to any needlework or craft project. This floss is usually 100% polyester or a poly blend.
Rayon Floss is highly lustrous and soft. It is particularly striking when used as an accent thread to other threads in all types of creative stitchery.
Silk Floss is very versatile. Made from 100% silk, it adds a special elegance to any heirloom embroidery and shadow embroidery project. Noted for saturated colors and a lusterous shine, silk floss is wonderful in crewel tapestry, smocking, and cross-stitching.
Pearl cotton is a 2-ply twisted thread with high sheen. Unlike other embroidery threads it is non-divisible (the strands cannot be separated). Pearl Cotton can found five 3, 5, 8, 12 and 16, with 3 being the heaviest and 16 the finest).
Embroidery Floss Color and Conversion Charts
Needlework and Embroidery Floss Project Inspiration
Billie G. Henson
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