What Are the Different Types of Embroidery Thread?

Machine embroidery thread is designed to withstand the stress of running through embroidery machines.
Embroidery thread.
Wool is sometimes used in the creation of embroidery thread.
Embroidery floss is used for cross stitch.
Metallic thread is frequently used for embellishment.
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  • Written By: Stacy C.
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 13 April 2015
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Embroidery is a traditional sewing craft that involves decorative stitching by hand or machine. This art requires different types of thread, depending on a few factors, including what type of fabric is used, what stitch or embroidery technique is performed, and what kind of needle is required. Although embroidery and other needlework are traditionally done by hand, in recent years, sewing machines have been developed that can complete complicated embroidery patterns using software. There are seven common types of hand embroidery thread.

Embroidery floss is also called stranded cotton, and is comprised of six strands of thread. It is usually slightly shiny. Typically made of cotton, this type can also be made of silk or rayon blends. Embroidery floss is most often used for cross-stitch crafts, and is easy to divide into single strands.

Matte embroidery floss is similar, but is made of just five strands of tightly-twisted thread, instead of six. It gets its name because it is matte instead of glossy or shiny. This kind is also sometimes called embroidery cotton.

Perle, or pearl, cotton is an embroidery thread made of non-divisible thread, and a high sheen. Unlike other types of floss used, it generally comes in different, numbered weights. The heaviest of these is 3, while 16 is the lightest and finest. Perle cotton also comes in weights in between — 5, 8 and 12.


Crewel yarn is a two-ply thread. It is heavier than other embroidery flosses because it's made of natural or synthetic wool. It is often used for tapestry work or stitching on heavy fabrics.

Persian yarn can be made of wool or may be synthetic. It is comprised of three loosely-twisted strands, as opposed to crewel yarn's two. It is most often used in needlepoint.

Another kind of floss is called tapestry yarn or tapestry wool. This is twisted very tightly and is made up of four strands of thread. Yet another type, known as Medici, is also made of wool. This is a fine, lightweight type when compared to the other wool embroidery threads.

Machine embroidery thread is usually synthetic, and made of polyester or rayon. Metallic machine embroidery thread is also common. Both hand and machine embroidery threads come in a vast variety of colors. Dye lots are usually numbered, so crafters can match embroidery floss colors exactly.

Almost any material can be embroidered when the right type of thread and other supplies are used. Even paper and thin wood can be good mediums for this stitched art form. One of the most popular mediums for picture embroidery is 14-count Aida cloth, an open weave fabric. Plain or patterned material is suitable.



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Post 3

I've used the Perisan wool before with crewel projects. Usually, you still only use one ply, rather than all three, unless a very heavy stitch is called for.

Crewel is much easier than embroidery, because there aren't as many tiny stitches. It still requires great attention to detail, though, for the finished product to look like it's supposed to.

Persian wool can also be used for embroidery, depending on the project. If it's something that will be used a great deal, then the Persian wool might be the best choice, since it is a long wearing type of material.

Post 2

Another type of embroidery thread is glitter thread, or thread that has a shiny, metallic finish. This is often used on crafts for clothing, or custom machine embroidery. It is especially effective when used to make the satin stitch, because the stitches are so close together and the glittery thread creates a shimmering effect that cannot be replicated with regular floss.

Some of the glittery floss even has the hologram effect, so it appears to change color as you view the finished project. This is generally used with embroidery sewing machines, but can also be used in hand work, although it is a bit more labor intensive.

Combine glittery floss with beads and you have a huge amount of sparkle on any project.

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