Embroidery Fundamentals: Different Types of Thread and How to Use Them

Think your embroidery is boring? Check out these creative thread options to spice up your stitching!

What You'll Be Creating


  • Muslin fabric for stitching (about 15cm square)
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Embroidery floss
  • Hand and machine sewing threads (silk, rayon, cotton, etc)
  • Copper necklace ball chain
  • Burlap cloth (about 15cm square)
  • Ribbon
  • Easter grass
  • Glow in the dark filament
  • Scissors 
  • Needles

1. Embroidery Floss

Embroidery floss is the standard for all embroidery stitches. Most people use six strand embroidery floss for their stitching. The strands can be separated to create thinner lines if desired. Embroidery thread is versatile and can be used for backstitch, satin stitch and everything in between.

2. Hand and Machine Sewing Threads

These are the thin spooled threads you can find in any sewing store. They can be a great, economical option for including brightly colored silks in your work. I will often use these thin threads in couching as my stitching thread. These threads also come in rayon, cotton and polyester blends. You can use several strands of the same thread to create a thicker thread for stitching, or add in different filaments (metallic, glow in the dark, etc) to create your own specialty embroidery flosses.

3. Non-Traditional Threads

These are the really fun things that can add extra interest to your work! Copper necklace ball chain or pre-strung beads are great options for couching. I use them as the base "thread" and stitch them on with a thinner hand sewing thread (shown above). They are very easy to work with since they come in strands rather than single beads, and the smaller the beads or metal balls are, the more bendable they are, so they work really well on curves as well as straight lines.

4. Ribbon and Easter Grass

Depending on the thickness of your ribbon, it can be used to create any embroidery stitch. A thinner ribbon, or material like Easter grass, can be used just like embroidery floss in anything from back stitch to chain stitch, and makes great French knots as well.  Keep in mind that since you can't split a piece of ribbon into separate strands, you will not be able to do a split stitch. These materials can add extra texture to your projects, and the plastic Easter grass can add some extra shine.

Another great option with ribbon is using the width to your advantage to create flower petals, leaves and strands of grass. If using thicker ribbon widths, you may want to use a fabric like burlap for your stitching to avoid making large holes and gaps, which will occur in a tightly woven fabric like cotton or linen.

5. Blending Filaments

Blending filaments are thin threads that can be added to other threads to create a new look or feel to the thread. I have found some glow in the dark filaments that I like to blend with embroidery floss in some projects to add more interest. Add glow-in-the-dark thread to projects for Halloween, or a night scene with stars. The possibilities are endless! 

I also like adding metallic filaments to embroidery floss, which gives you some sparkle and the on-trend metallic look, without being as difficult as some metallic flosses, which can be very stiff and unforgiving.

Now It's Your Turn to Experiment

Have you tried out any different threads?  What are your favorites and how do you use them?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Source: crafts.tutsplus.com