Threads + Fibers

One of the joys of stitching is choosing your threads and fibers!  From color to fiber content to weight and texture, there are limitless choices.  Selecting the right threads can also be overwhelming, especially when you're just starting your first project or trying new things.  Let's take a look at what's available!


Embroidery Floss, also called Stranded Cotton, is made of 6 strands of cotton thread, used in different quantities with according fabrics.  DMC is the most used floss worldwide and the most easily found, and it comes in over 500 solid colors, as well as numerous variegated colors and blended fibers.  There are many other brands of floss, including many small batch, hand dyed varieties.  One could stitch with floss for a lifetime and never run out of colors and shade combinations.

In the image below I've used the same DMC embroidery floss in a few different ways.  On the left the top 3 cross stitches show all 6 strands that have been stitched over 4 threads of the fabric.  Below those I've used 3 strands of the floss stitched over 2 threads of the fabric.  On the right, both sets are stitched over 2 threads of the fabric with the top row using all 6 strands of floss and below I've used just 3 strands of floss.  



Pearl Cotton is a hi-sheen, non-divisible twisted thread used in embroidery, cross stitch, needlepoint and many other fiber arts and general crafts. It is most commonly offered in sizes 3, 5, 8, and 12.  Size 3 being the thickest and size 12 the thinnest.  It is sold in skeins, as well as small balls.

Valdani Pearl cotton in size 12 (the thinnest) in a range of solids and a couple variegated shades.


Pearl Cotton in sizes 3, 5, 8, and 12 (left to right)


Sashiko Thread is a matte, 100% cotton thread. It can vary slightly in weight depending on the manufacturer but is usually similar to embroidery floss, however, it is non-divisible.  As the name states it is intended for Sashiko projects, but can be used in a variety of projects and comes in a range of colors.


Wool for stitching comes in a variety of sizes, fibers, textures, and of course colors.  What type of wool is dependent on the fabric or canvas you are using for your project.  For needlepoint you will likely choose the tapestry weight, for embroidery you would want crewel weight.  As mentioned before, there are countless manufacturers for these fibers and choosing just one can be quite daunting. 


Sewing Thread.... there are so many options when it comes to sewing thread, and, as with other notions and tools, there are specific items for specific projects, but it comes down to personal preference and experimentation.

Metric thread sizes are based on the length of a set weight: 1 kilogram.  So a 30 weight thread is when a cone of thread weighing 1 kilogram equals a length of 30 kilometers.

  • 30 wt: 30 km = 1 kg
  • 40 wt: 40 km = 1 kg
  • 60 wt: 60 km = 1 kg

As with other fiber size ranges, the higher the number the smaller or finer the thread.

Sewing thread fiber content... well, they are too numerous to list here.  One train of thought is to match your thread fiber content with the fiber content of what you are sewing.... use cotton thread when sewing cotton fabric.  However, this is not always possible. 

What comes to mind is the quote attributed to Arthur Ashe:

Start where you are.

Use what you have.

Do what you can.


In all honesty, each of these thread and fiber types could easily have an entire post or even a whole website dedicated to their uses, manufacturing, history, etc.  So, grab some fabric and needle and give one a try...