Have you ever looked closely at the twist on your embroidery floss?
This is a close-up of a #5 perle cotton embroidery thread, by DMC. Look closely at the twist! Besides being just downright pretty, the way the plies wrap around to form the strand, there’s actually something significant here. This is an S-Twisted embroidery thread.
It’s called s-twisted, because the direction of the twist follows the central slant of the letter S.
This is a single strand of DMC cotton embroidery floss. It’s a lot finer than the #5 perle cotton above, and the twists are not quite as compact and pudgy, but, if you look closely, you can see that both threads twist in the same direction.
Both of these cotton embroidery threads – the perle cotton and the regular stranded cotton floss – are s-twisted threads.
Here, we have a strand of Soie Perlee, which is a silk embroidery thread made by Au Ver a Soie. Do you notice the difference in the twist?
If you look at all three threads lined up together in one photo, you can see a definite difference in size, with the #5 perle cotton being the thickest, then the Soie Perlee next in line, and finally, the single strand of cotton being the finest of the three here.
But you can also notice something else, if you look at the three and compare them.
The Soie Perlee is a Z-Twisted Embroidery Thread. It’s called that, because the twist lines up the slant on the letter Z.
Now, all of this technical stuff is well and fine, but what does it all really mean for you, the stitcher?
Well, not necessarily a Whole Lot, but it depends! In most commonly used embroidery stitches, you’re not going to see that much of a difference between the way the stitch looks, whether you’re using an s-twisted thread or a z-twisted thread. But there are some exceptions. You see, as you stitch, depending on the stitch you’re stitching and the way the stitch twists the thread (whether with the twist or against it), some stitches will look quite different if you’re using a z-twisted thread compared to an s-twisted thread.
Stitches not affected by the twist of the thread would include straight stitches that pass through the fabric without working with the stitch before, like backstitch or running stitch, or satin stitch. Stitches like chain stitch are not affected, either.
Stitches that are affected by the twist of the thread include stitches that twist together, such as stem stitch or outline stitch, as well as stitches that involve wrapping the thread, such as the bullion knot, and even (to a minute degree) the French knot (though the French knot is so small that you don’t really notice the twisty-thread-thing going on with it).
Next up, we’ll look at some stitching differences between s-twisted and z-twisted threads, just to prove the point that there is a difference between the two twists when stitching certain stitches, and that the difference will affect the way your finished embroidery looks. And later on, we’ll look at a list of common threads that fall into each category.
Any questions? Feel free to leave a comment and ask!