Guide to the Best Threads for Hand Embroidery

Hand embroidery is a tactile art. It begs to be touched! Why? Usually because texture and dimension are a noticeable part of embroidery.

Sometimes, texture and dimension happen accidentally, but often, designers purposely add dimension and texture to their embroidery projects in order to increase their beauty and interest.

In the first part of this series on dimension and texture in hand embroidery, we’re going to look at common embroidery threads and how their fiber, weight and twist help add dimension and texture to embroidery.

Hand embroidery threads: cotton, wool and silk

While there are many types of threads on the market that can be used in hand embroidery, we’re going to concentrate first on the most common fibers used for surface embroidery: cotton, silk and wool.

Cotton embroidery thread

Stranded cotton

The most popular cotton thread used in hand embroidery is undoubtedly stranded cotton, which is also called “embroidery floss” in the United States.

Stranded cotton embroidery floss

Stranded cotton comes in skeins, and the whole thread that comes off the skein is divisible into six separate, fine threads. Each of these threads is made up of two smaller plies that are softly twisted together.

Because of its soft twist, texture and dimension depend more on the weight (thickness) of the floss and the type of stitch, rather than on the twist of the thread.