Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Comparing Cotton Threads, Stitched


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It’s all well and fine to compare cotton embroidery threads straight off the skein, but what’s even more important is to see how differently they stitch up, right? After all, it’s all about the stitching!

This week, we’ve compared two less familiar threads – cotton floche and coton a broder. Then, we looked at some familiar threads (perle cotton and floss) up close, comparing them to floche and coton a broder.

Today, we’re going to compare several lines of stitching, using the more familiar threads – perle and floss – and then we’ll compare floche and coton a broder, stitched, to each other and to the familiar perle cotton and floss. Eventually, I’ll tie this all in with the thread choices I’ll make for the Secret Garden Hummingbirds project.

My hope is that, even if you aren’t interested in working the Secret Garden project yourself, you’ll still find the information useful for your own embroidery endeavors!

Comparing Cotton Embroidery Threads

Here they are, four weights of perle cotton, in stem stitch. The thread sizes are the same as yesterday’s samples: a is perle cotton #3, b is #5, c is #8, and d is #12.

I used stem stitch for two reasons: 1. it’s an overlapping stitch – that is, each stitch overlaps with the previous stitch. This gives a little more thickness to the line, it shows off the texture of the thread, and it really shows you what the thread does when it twists together with another stitch; 2. When you turn the work over, you have a backstitch (more or less) on the back, so it gives you two stitches in one!

Comparing Cotton Embroidery Threads

Here’s the back of the stitching, with the perle cotton #3 to the left, followed left to right by #5, #8, and #12.

You can see that the size 3 makes fairly large stitches. With thicker threads like size 3, it’s impossible to stitch small, delicate, stitches, so this type of thread is never suitable for detail work on smaller projects. If you were embroidering a huge wall panel that you wanted a lot of bold texture on, you could get away with using perle cotton #3. But for the average sized surface embroidery project with detail to it (like the Secret Garden project), chances are, you wouldn’t opt for perle cotton #3, unless you plan to couch it rather than stitch with it. Even then, the heaviness of the thread would overwhelm the design.

Notice the smaller backstitch with the size 5. As the thread decreases in thickness, to maintain decent looking stitches, your stitches get smaller, too. And so, by the time we get to the size 12, the backstitches are small indeed.

Stating the obvious here, but that’s why a heavy thread is so much quicker to work with. It requires fewer stitches to cover the same amount of fabric.

Comparing Cotton Embroidery Threads

Now let’s throw in stranded cotton.

Line “e” is all six strands stitched in stem stitch. I did not separate (or “strip”) the strands and put them back together, but instead, stitched with the floss as it came right off the skein.

When you stitch with stranded cotton, it is normal to strip the floss down to individual strands, and then put the number of strands you want to work with back together again. As I mention in this tutorial on stripping floss, always strip one strand at a time, and then, if you’re stitching with two strands, put the two back together again.

This helps keep the thread smooth and makes your stitches look much neater.

There’s a trend these days among craft embroiderers to use all six strands of floss straight off the skein. You can see that it creates a very thick line, but it isn’t the most attractive line. If you want an attractive, ropey stem stitch that’s nice and thick, you’ll get better results if you strip the thread first, or if you use a #3 or #5 perle cotton.

In most surface embroidery, it’s rare to see all six strands of floss used at one time.

Line “f” is one strand of floss from the six, in stem stitch. It makes a tiny, delicate line.

Comparing Cotton Embroidery Threads

You can see very clearly here that size-wise, the most delicate line is created by the single strand of cotton floss, in the blue. The #12 perle cotton looks heavy by comparison.

Comparing Cotton Embroidery Threads

Flip the work over, and you’ve got a pretty clear story. You can tell by looking at the back that it takes a lot of stitches with one strand of cotton floss to cover the same distance while keeping the rope-like integrity of the stem stitch intact. You could take longer stitches with the single strand of cotton floss, but the longer your stitches, the less like a stem stitch your stem stitches will look.

It’s also worth noting at this point that, when working with a fine thread, the longer the stem stitches (or any line stitch, including backstitch, chain stitch, outline stitch – you name it), the more difficult it is to embroider a neat, smooth curve.

Comparing Cotton Embroidery Threads

Finally, for the fun of it, I added a line of stem stitch stitched with two strands of cotton floss, because it’s pretty common to work surface embroidery with two strands of floss at a time.

With two strands in the needle at once, you can see we get a line that’s double the thickness of the single strand – and close in size to the #12 perle cotton.

The next time we talk thread, we’ll compare stitched lines of coton a broder and floche to each other, and then to the threads above.

Any input on thread? Any questions occurring to you on this subject, that you’d like to see cleared up? When you do surface embroidery with stranded cotton, what number of strands do you use most frequently? Are you a two-stranded stitcher, three, or always one? Have your say below!


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(75) Comments

  1. Mrs. Corbet,
    The only thread that I have ever used for surface embroidery is DMC stranded cotton. Probably because that is just the only kind of thread there was in my mom’s thread organizer. I commonly use two strands of thread when stitching, and sometimes three. Funny thing though, I have never even thought of separating individual strands! No, I have always just fought with knots, and thought to myself, “There must be an easier way to do this!”. I usually only use one strand of thread if I am using satin stitch or fishbone stitch.

    Thanks! Sarah 🙂

  2. I’m finding your thread discussions immensely informative and useful for my stitching education. I refer back to many of your posts. I was wondering if you would lay a needle parallel to the thread skeins and stitched samples so there would be a reference of size. You take such wonderfully sharp close-ups and we can see every detail, but, at least for me, that distorts my sense of how thick the threads really are and how large the comparative stitches are. Other than that, thanks so much for sharing your vast store of stitching knowledge!

  3. Mary–

    What I am struck by in this tutorial is how you thread remains twisted so evenly and neatly–especially the heavier perle cottons. I find that I constantly have to either re-twist or untwist as I’m stitching, depending on the direction I’m moving. I’ve tried doing the “turn the needle 1/4 turn in your hand for every stitch” trick, but I either turn it too much or too little…

    Do you have this problem too? And if so, how do you keep your thread twisted to the same degree so consistently across the line?

    If you don’t have this problem, please share your secret!


    1. 🙂 It’s a very secret secret, Carol! But I’ll tell you! I let the thread determine how far to twist and untwist, by occasionally dropping my needle and letting my thread dangle to untwist itself. This is my standard mode of untwisting thread when using any size of perle cotton, especially, or any single, non-divisible strand of thread.

      However, I also occasionally use a laying tool if my thread is particularly cranky. For example, with the #12 perle cotton, it was put up in a somewhat tightly twisted skein, rather than a loose skein or on a ball. So it had some wiggle and bounce issues. Using a laying tool kept those issues from becoming a frustration, and it kept the thread twisting just right.

      This is my video on how to use a laying tool: https://needlenthread.wpengine.com/2010/11/how-to-use-a-laying-tool-video.html In the video, I’m working the satin stitch, but you use it pretty much the same way with any stitch. You don’t really have to “stroke” the threads when you’re only using one strand – the laying tool just helps you keep the thread pulled somewhat taut as the stitch goes into place, so that there’s no tangling, extra twisting and so forth going on. Although it seems awkward to use a laying tool when you embroider, once you get used to one, it’s more or less second nature and it doesn’t slow you down any. You can also use a large tapestry needle in the same way for the same results, if you don’t have a laying tool. A needle is not as comfortable to hold, because it’s small, so if you decide that the method works well for keeping your stitches looking nice, it’s worth investing in a comfortable laying tool.

      With regular stranded cotton, I find dropping the needle to the floor to let the thread untwist works well, but when doubling or tripling strands, a laying tool can make a huge difference in the way your surface embroidery stitches look. In the stem stitch above, with the 2 strands of cotton floss, I didn’t use a laying tool, and you can see the occasional warble of a thread in a stitch here and there – those are less likely to happen when using a laying tool.


    2. Yep, I do all that. Laying tool, dangling, etc.

      I think that my problem is that the thread twists in one direction or another while I’m pulling it through the fabric, so I really can’t do anything about it except pull it out and try again. I’ve tried to overtwist or undertwist the thread before taking the stitch to account for this, but never seem to figure out how much I need to do it. Mostly it seem to unwind while I’m stitching, so the thread looks much more relaxed than it should.

      I guess I must have a weird hand motion when I stitch that I just can’t figure out. Oh well.

  4. Thank you so much! This post is wonderful. I love seeing the side by side comparison and am looking forward to the next one.
    My book arrived this week and I have had so much fun looking through it over and over! Soon my linen fabric and embroidery hoops will arrive. Really looking forward to learning new stitches and improving my embroidery skills.

    1. Hi, Staci! Glad you enjoy the book! It’s fun, isn’t it? I just want to sit and color in it all day… but I suppose I should really concentrate on the stitching part of the whole project, if I ever want to make any progress! Concerning hoops, this is something I’ll be talking about over the next week. I’ll be using frames rather than hoops, but hoops will work ok. Just make sure you bind them – you might want to get some twill tape for the inner ring, and some scrap muslin or cotton or whatever, to protect the fabric from the outer ring. ~MC

  5. Dear Mary,

    Thank you once again for your willingness to put together such wonderfully helpful information. Your tutorials are clear and concise, and always focused on helping people who embroider make high quality items. The information that you have provided in your thread comparison tutorials has changed how I think about embroidery threads and is enabling me to make informed choices about which threads to use.

    Please continue your good work! I appreciate it so much.

    Northern Illinois

  6. Dear Mary

    A really informative look on the comparisons of perle and cotton threads and I love the back it’s interesting how stem stitch on one side turns into back stitch on the back side. A great close up on the stitch using different sized cotton threads. Now I realise that it’s really useful to test threads before you start a project so you can visualise better what type of thread and stitch to use and more important what the stitch/thread suits the fabric for the relevant project. Great blog Mary really informative and thanks for putting so much work into this and sharing with us your views on this very important point.

    Regards Anita Simmance

    1. Hi, Anita! I’m glad you find it useful! Yes, I thought it would be easier to show backstitch and stem stitch, just using the one stitch! If I had stitched it as backstitch on the front, the back of it would definitely not be as neat a stem stitch! ~MC

    2. Dear Mary

      Thanks for your reply and I look forward to more thread comparisions.

      Regards Anita Simmance

  7. Thank you so much for the time you take to instruct us. You are an amazing lady! I am so blessed, because I am just learning how to embroidary, and you are schooling me wisely too make the right choices. Thank you again so much. I love receiving your emails!
    Lynn McIntosh

  8. I normally use the number of strands of thread suggested by the pattern. I don’t like the look of the heavier threads though and your article really made that clear to me. Thank you for the examples of the different weights and number of strands used. I think I like the smaller number of threads unless the article I am working on needs something heavier…then I will give in and use them. Really enjoyed reading this article. It has been awhile since I have done any threadwork and I am getting that bug to do something again and you just fed that desire. Don’t know if my hubby will thank you or not!

  9. Seems I should be able to use #12 as a substitute for 2 strands of floss. This would make my cross stitching much faster due to not having to fuss with the separating of the strands. Your newsletters are chock full of info and I enjoy every one. Thank you!

    1. Hi, Christina! Well, the problem with subbing #12 for 2 strands is the notion of “spread” – especially in counted cross stitch, you want the thread to “spread” to cover your spaces. Stranded cotton does this well. Perle cotton would not do it the same way. Perle cotton is a much tighter twist, too, so you would get a completely different look to the stitching. ~MC

  10. Hi, Mary —

    When I was taught surface embroidery, oh so many years ago, it was with stranded floss. It is still my favorite go-to thread since I don’t do anything really fancy. I have ventured into using #12 perle cotton for some pieces but still favor using two strands of floss.

    I enjoy reading your articles and have watched your videos. What an education I have gotten!

    Have you done anything on needles, i.e., what needle to use with which thread? If so, where can I find it? If not, would you? Thank you!

    1. Hi, Evie – Yes, we’ll touch on needles a bit later. I was going to mention that, with the larger sizes of perle cotton, obviously you’ll need to use quite a large needle – and the weird thing is, when you do, if you’re not used to using such heavy threads, it’ll feel as if you’re embroidering with a railroad spike! ~MC

  11. Hi Mary,

    Lovely post once again and I really picked up useful information. I have always used stranded cotton and 3 is my number. I find separating the strands and putting them back together a big chore. I had read in one of your earlier posts about having all the strands ready to go so that once I start embroidering I dont have to stop too often to get the threads ready. Do you know of any tools that I could use to help ‘store’ the separated strands? I currently just use a plastic plate/ tray and wind the separated strands, but the threads can sometimes get mixed up and its double the work 🙁

  12. I thank you for your informative and beautifully photographed lessons. I ordered the secret garden book as soon as you posted about it and I love it. I went page by page trying to decide what you might pick out to stitch. The peacocks were one of the three that I decided on. I am going to my favorite needlework store here in the bay area of California (Needle in a Haystack) to obtain the materials once you have decided on the fibers to use. This is all great fun!

  13. I am enjoying these tutorials so much! I can’t wait to get started on the actual design.

    I almost always use one strand for stem stitch or satin stitch. Generally 2 for back stitch or chain stitch. Depends on how ‘delicate’ the pattern is.

    I’ve used all 6 strands (shudder) for some folk art stuff. And yes, I separate the strands first. I also always cut the skein into 18″ lengths. I tame the floss before separating. I use a damp sponge.

    I’m probably going to do this project with DMC since I have all the colors. If I had a needlework store close to me, I might think differently.

  14. Thank you! Your posts are so informative and appreciated. I’ve only used stranded cotton floss because that’s what I’ve always known and it’s offered locally. I like the clean look of the others you have used in the past and demonstrated. I’m now looking into online ordering a selection of each to see how they stitch.

  15. Dear Mary,

    Thank you for such an informative blogs on thread/floss. I love your clear pictures. I have not stepped into surface embroidery a lot. I have a couple of questions. One, I know that you use metallic threads frequently, can you demonstrate the different sizes of metallic threads. For example, I find the new DMC Diamente threads are thicker than say Kreinick threads or Rainbow Gallery’s threads. Do you know of a guide that could help me out with this?
    Two, do you use threads other than DMC stranded cotton only because of how thick or thin it looks stitched up?
    Thank you so very much for all your help.

    God bless, Nick

    1. Hi, Nick – I’ll see what I can do – I don’t have an extensive range of metallics on hand, unfortunately. There are only a few I like to stitch with. The rest pretty much give me a headache! 🙂

  16. Hi Mary,
    Thank you so much for your time to make these comparison articles. It has helped me tremendously. The only question I would have is with the Stitch Long and Short would #12 perle cotton work better than 1 or 2 strands of Floss? I am still trying to figure that out… Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi, Naomi – no, I wouldn’t use perle cotton for long and short stitch. You won’t get as smooth a result. You can do it, but it doesn’t cover the same way or look as smooth. One strand of regular floss works better. Floche also works well. – MC

  17. Mary,

    I am just here to say thanks, everyday I open my email and find you and you are my first reading of the day….Very instructive and interesting.

    See you tomorrow


  18. With stranded cotton, I normally use 2 strands, but I have recently started working with 1 strand for very fine detail work and using perle cotton for most other work.

  19. I love this topic of thread comparison! Your pictures are so detailed (as always). I never know how long to make my stitches, especially when stitching on regular fabric/linen (i.e. not even-weaves). It looks like your back stitches for the single strand of floss take up 2 threads. What count of fabric are you using?


  20. To keep stranded threads in order as a project proceeds, one may lay them lengthwise on a cotton hand towel or piece of flannel. They tend to stay where they are placed and not tangle. The towel with threads inside can be rolled or folded for transport or storage. A layer of tissue paper over the threads further prevents confusion in the rolled/folded version. Also, the towel may be hung (clothes pins and a coat hanger/skirt hanger with clips) The threads will stick ti it.

    Thank you Mary for the great information on threads.

  21. I have read/heard that some people put a particular end of the thread in the needle first–that the thread has a “rough” side and a “smooth” side. This escapes me. If this is true, how do you tell if you can’t feel it? Does it make a difference in how the thread lies?

    Thanks for such clear tutes!

    1. Hi, Deborah – Although some authorities do this and insist that there’s a difference, I have never noticed one, and I don’t pay attention to thread grain, especially when using cottons. I just don’t think there is one. You can find a good article on that subject at the heritage shoppe website, here: http://heritageshoppe.com/thread-grain/ I think the insistence on thread grain, especially on cotton threads, complicates the whole embroidery process, especially for beginners, but really for anyone. I don’t think the science is there to prove that there’s a grain to cotton embroidery threads or at least that, if there is one, the grain makes a noticeable difference to the eye. Others may argue the point. If they want to do it that way, that’s well and fine, but I don’t, and I’m not going to complicate my stitching life worrying about it when I’ve never ever noticed a difference, no matter what kind of stitching I’m doing… -MC

  22. Hi Mary – I so appreciate these tutorials on the threads. I am collecting each as you publish and putting into a favorites folder for later reference.

  23. cara gentile Mary, vorrei chiederti un consiglio:dovendo ricamare un tessuto rustico di cotone un disegno matildico con punto palestrina, è meglio il perlè 12 o 8 per tracciare i contorni?Ti saluto e ti ringrazio per la tua disponibilità

  24. Hi Mary,

    These articles are very informative, especially the way you lay out the thread and stitch samples next to each other. This provides an excellent reference, although I think I may make up these samples myself so I’ll have real samples to look at. I actually did that with machine embroidery threads. Maybe the next time you start a silk thread project you could do the same thing (or even with wool).

    I generally use one thread of stranded cotton when embroidering, but occasionally will use two or three, depending on the project.

    Thanks for laying this all out for us!

  25. Hi Mary, I’m doing pulled (not withdrawn) thread work on a 28 count linen with 12 perle overdyed cotton and having a lot of fun as it’s quick and rewarding work. The 12 perle cotton is the recommended thread for such type of embroidery and I can see why. It is strong enough to draw the threads together as I’m working and I can quickly settle into a rhythm. You wouldn’t want to use two strands of cotton thread (floss) as it would wear with the pull against the linen threads.

  26. Your stitches are incredible! I can’t seem to get the same uniformity. Is it just practice, practice? Maybe my stitches are too long ?

  27. Nearly all of the time I stitch with just one strand. I think that most of my questions have been answered, but I reserve the right to ask some later, maybe once we begin to stitch.

    In addition to your articles I love the way you respond to the comments! Days like today it is like you have tossed short bits of information that are as needed for embroidery as are your daily messages into the mix!

    Thank you for being you!

    1. Hi, PJ – I often wonder if folks actually read the comments! 🙂 I’m glad you do! I don’t always have time to answer as thoroughly as I would like, but on these types of posts, I like to clear up any questions as they come in, if possible… MC

    2. Mary…

      Yes! There are probably millions of us (well, hundreds and hundreds at least!) who read every single comment to your posts every single day! This is truly an international community and I am thrilled when I read posts from New Zealand, Australia, Europe, and all across the world from folks who all share the interest of learning more and more about stitching. I often find that someone else has posted my question or thoughts…and it is so wonderful to find that I am on a similar wave length. Thanks for teaching us all sorts of “stuff” and for giving everyone a chance to share feedback to you and to each other!

  28. Hi Mary,
    Thank you so much for the wonderful amount of detail you put into you blog and tutorials and for the web links you put in. I live in a small country town in a small country at the bottom go the world (New Zealand) and so now, thanks to your site I am able to see some incredible examples of needlework. Your tutorials are so helpful. I have been embroidering since my teens and am now in my 60’s and you are answering so many of the questions I have been looking for answers to. Thanks again for all the details you give in your daily emails.
    Gail MacNeill

  29. I love how you use all threads tp get the look and then omit one’s that wouldn’t work.Also,is there any other shops that carry the linen you have suggested for this Hummingbird Garden ,the one you suggested is sold out and I can’t seem to find any. Thank you,pat Rand

    1. Hi, Pat – Thanks for your comment! Actually, the distributor is completely sold of the Alabaster Angel, too. You can substitute a Legacy linen called Napery Ivory – it’s the same type of linen, but a slightly ivory-white. It’s not off-white or cream, and it looks pretty white when it’s on its own, but next to a bright white, it looks kind of like an egg shell white, if that makes any sense. Not quite white, but not cream. You can also wait a bit for the Alabaster Angel to be re-stocked. I know the distributor is restocking it, but it just takes a while, because it’s a European linen. Another linen you can substitute is Alba Maxima. It’s slightly heavier, which can make tracing the pattern a little more difficult but it would work very well for the project. It just depends on whether or not you want to try tracing with it, or try a different transfer method. Every store that I know of that carries Alabaster Angel is out of stock, so I think it’s either a matter of subbing a linen or waiting for the stores to be restocked.


  30. I’m really enjoying this series of posts. I usually use 2 strands, except for outlining when I use 1 (unless directions say otherwise). I’m not at all familiar with cotton floche or coton a broder – will you be showing samples stitches using these threads?

  31. Mary, Thank you for this great explanation of the differences between the perle cottons threads and the floss. Actually seeing the stitches with the different size threads really helps me understand some of the problems that I have been having with my surface embroidery. I love your blog! Always find great information and love the marvelous work that you create!

    – Sue L.

  32. Hi mary, I hope you don’t mind me flagging up something that may be of interest to some of your readers. I know you use the DMC threads, as do many of us, but I am sure many of your followers have coats/Anchor thread collections – for various reasons I have ended up with a collection of anchor as well as my collection of DMC, mainly due to inheriting collections from others. I am based in the UK, and I was in Hobbycraft (national craft store chain)yesterday, and the cashier tipped me off about an offer just in. They are sell the anchor stranded cottons and the rayon marlitt range at 10 for £1 ($1.63 USD) or 25p each. I had to get her to repeat the offer about 3 times – normal retail pricing is about 85p a skein, so 20 skeins would normally be £17, and I got 20 skeins for £2! I hope this doesn’t count as advertising, I just thought it would be something that might benefit your UK readers. The offer literally arrived yesterday, so if iy isn’t on the shelves you might have to ask someone. I was lucky enough to be invited behind the counter and actually unpack the skeins from their boxes myself. Lots of fun!

  33. THANK YOU! This information on thread concise and all in on place is invaluable! I will be printing and keeping this information with my thread stash.

  34. Hi Mary! Great info as usual. Would you believe that the floche is not available in France?!! It’s hard to believe since DMC is a French co and threads are made in France (one of those few remaining industries on French soil!). Same with Retors d’Alsace, I buy it from Italy and have to pay €20 for postage because if the package is not registered and insured it will be stolen.
    I’m using Retors for Blackwork instead of 2 strands of floss. It’s much more convenient.
    Oh I so wish there were a floche seller around!

  35. Mary, I look forward to your column every day. You’re a great teacher and I truly enjoy each article. I am wondering why you didn’t include #16 perle cotton in your comparisons.

  36. Hello Mary. Thank you for this discussion on threads and I’ll be following with interest as you also compare floche to coton a broder. I like floche for shadow embroidery but would love to find something close to it but maybe a bit more sturdy.

    My only complaint with floche is that it does tend to wear out quickly. Maybe coton a broder will fill the bill. Thanks again!

  37. Thanks for this interesting comparison – I found your site after I bought some Anchor perle #5 to use in a small quilting project and wanted to learn more about it. I’ve not really seen it used before, though I’ve always loved the look of it. The few embroidery projects I’ve attempted in the past have only used stranded cotton.

    Great site, by the way – I really enjoyed reading about the Easter eggs, and I’m working my way through your Secret Garden posts. 🙂


  38. I have been reading your blog and watching your YouTube tutorials for about a week or so now. I never knew that you had to separate and put back together the floss. I am a total beginner, left handed at that, and still feel very awkward doing stitches, but I will get the hang of it. I was getting frustrated because my thread was getting tangled and didn’t look very good. Then, I think 2 days ago, I saw the article on separating and putting back the strands together and it made a world of difference. Not just in the (lack of) tangling, but in the look of the stitches. I am enjoying your site and I am just working on 2 types of stitches until I am comfortable moving on, just to get used to holding the needle and thread. Thank you for your site, it absolutely wonderful, even if it’s mainly for right handers…;0-)

  39. I have a Prairie Schooler book #52 which are year-round patterns. The retail store I purchased them from did not sell me enough thread and has since gone out of business. The fabric is 26 count Black Heatherfield which has very large holes. On one of the skeins it says “perle pearl cotton, grand teint, bg” which is dmc. Some of the other skeins are anchor and they say “made in Germany, 5g”. I cannot find this thread anywhere, so I cannot complete my patterns! Can you direct me where I can go to buy more of the thread I need? Thank you!

  40. Hi, I have a question about the brand of floss. I’m new to embroidery. I’ve started quilting a blanket with perle cotton size 8. I’m wondering if there is a big difference in brands..as far as quality. It’s a lot of work I’m putting in and want to use a decent thread. When looking at the threads there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference. DMC feels softer to me than the cheaper brand I purchased in amazon. What do you think? Should I purchase a certain brand? Thanks for your time. I really appreciate it. Lynette

    1. Hi, Lynette – there are several good brands of pearl cotton size 8 out there – I would be careful, though, of “off brands” that aren’t well known. I call these “craft threads” – they’re great for crafts like bracelet making for kids and so forth, but they don’t necessarily hold up well for embroidery, they may not be colorfast, and they can lead to frustration in stitching, if they’re generally not well made threads. You won’t go wrong with threads like DMC or Anchor. They’re pretty much the top of the industry when it comes to widely available, good quality, consistent threads.

  41. I’m learning so much—what started as a search for what exactly “floche” is has become far more expansive. At the moment, I am trying to figure out what cotton thread would be best used as embellishment on a baby quilt. The quilt is intended for daily use, and the embroidery will be lines of ocean waves across the quilt with appliqued boats. If you have a moment to make a suggestion, it would be much appreciated.

    1. Hi, Joana – if the quilt is going to be washed frequently (as most baby items are), I’d probably just use regular DMC embroidery floss. It stands up to laundering. Make sure you test all your threads for colorfastness – especially the reds and darker, brighter colors. And I’d probably include washing instructions, if you’re giving it as a gift. Good cotton floss (DMC, Anchor, Madeira) is usually colorfast but only up to a certain temperature, so washing in cool or just warm water is always better than washing in hot water.

  42. I could use some advice.
    I am making a crib quilt/blanket.
    I plan to embroider on monk cloth and make that the top of the quilt. I read that most often a #3 perle cotton is what is recommended. I’m using an ABC pattern and the colors are in DMC floss. I’m wondering if I can use all 6

  43. I could use some advice.
    I am making a crib quilt/blanket.
    I plan to embroider on monk cloth and make that the top of the quilt. I read that most often a #3 perle cotton is what is recommended. I’m using an ABC pattern and the colors are in DMC floss. I’m wondering if I can use all 6 strands I stead of using #3. They seem to be about the same size?

  44. I am making Shepherd’s Bush Christmas stockings. I’ve made lots. I’ve run out of 644 pearl cotton #5 and wonder if I can use a double 644 pearl cotton #8. Thank you for your help.

    1. Hi, Corinne – Thanks for your comment! You might try contacting the designer at Shepherd’s Bush for the best advice on a project from them. But just off the bat, I’d say you’ll end up with a very different look, if you try to double the #8 in the needle. Perle cotton does not blend together like other floss. So you’ll have two very distinct threads. Of course, you could always experiment on a small section and see if you like the look!

  45. Thank you for excellent explanations and great images. Being able to search things from years ago is one of he many magnificent aspects of the internet and is greatly appreciated.

  46. Thanks so much the the incredible amount of information you provide on this site. I have referred to it many times.

    I am hoping there is an answer for my question: Is there a single strand thread that I can use to substitute for one strand of floss. I will use the pearl cotton number 12 in place of two strands, but am unclear what I might use in place of one strand.

    Tia for and info you might provide.

    1. Hi, Ann – why not just use on strand of floss? Weight wise, the common (and easy to find) cotton embroidery threads start at one strand (from the six) of cotton floss. There were, once upon a time, much finer weights of floche and coton a broder, but alas, no more. You could try, perhaps, the coton a broder in #30 (available through lacis.com), but it is only available in white (and perhaps black and ecru) – it doesn’t come in colors. But it’s not what I’d call super fine – just slightly finer than the #25 coton a broder. I think one strand of stranded cotton (taken from the six) is definitely finer.

    1. Hi, Carol – I don’t have the two types to compare them, I’m afraid. :-/ Maybe contact Sulky? Or Valdani? I imagine the Valdani is a #12 perle cotton, so you might just reference #12 perle cotton vs Sulky petit, size-wise, and ask the folks at Sulky.

  47. Ive been doing a lot of crewel work, with Appletons wool. But I’m moving toward pure cotton , but I’d like it to be not shiny, like floss is. Can you recommend which is the best cotton (or cotton linen mix maybe) for embroidery? A good colour range is essential.

    1. The only matte cotton (colored) embroidery thread (non-mercerized) is called flower thread, or Danish flower thread. It’s slightly heavier than regular floss – more like coton a border 25, and it’s not necessarily easy to come by. I have not found a good range of colors available in the States.

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