Needlework Thread Info

Cotton

Threads can be shiny or dull, depending on how they were treated during the manufacturing process.  The mercerized threads are shiny looking, like silk, when stitched.  Cottons are strong, long-lasting, and washable.  You will probably notice that your cotton thread will lose its shine as you stitch.  It will reappear after a wash in mild soap.  Cotton threads can be twisted (pearl cotton) or plied (floss).

Linen

Threads are very strong, making them particularly suitable for pulled thread work.  They are not very shiny. Linen is extremely long-lasting, and washes very well.

Metallic

Threads are often a pain to work with but the results are worth it.  Use short lengths when working with metallics.

Rayon

Some say that it is not a pleasure to work with rayon thread, although there are those who seem to have success with it.  Dampening the thread helps control the "fly aways".  Properly stitched rayon is ultra shiny and smooth.  Rayon is washable and holds the dye well.

Silk

A delightful thread that gives a subtle sheen when stitched. This thread has been used for embroidery of all types down through the ages.  While the fiber itself is washable, silk may not take dye well, so care should be taken.  Test a bit of thread to see if the color bleeds before you start stitching.  That way you will know how to treat your project.

Synthetic

Threads come in a mind-boggling array of shapes, sizes and types.  Have fun playing with these threads.

Wool

Relaxing to stitch with.  It is quite forgiving.  It is strong, and, yes, washable in tepid water with a mild soap.  It will outlast you if you use for upholstery or rugs.  Wool threads are both plied (Persian) and twisted (tapestry).

Color Cards

Some thread companies have color cards for their threads and some do not.  Sometimes even we are ordering a thread by number alone.  Sometimes threads differ so much from one dye lot to another that a color card is not useful anyway.  There are a few companies who print a printed color sheet, giving an approximation of their color line. There are actual thread sample cards available for some threads, but they tend to be pricey and they are not returnable.  When the company adds or subtracts colors from the line, as some companies do once or twice a year, that card will be outdated.  If you know the thread you want by its number, great!  Otherwise, we have posted an online image of the color cards where available.  These will be of some use, but be warned that color will vary according to your computer monitor and are only an approximation.  A color that appears green on your monitor may appear blue in real life. 

Wise Words on Colorfast qualities of Thread

Due to the strict regulations imposed by the FDA on dye chemicals now, NO thread is guaranteed 100% colorfast by manufacturers. The FDA and EPA have removed many ingredients from dyes over the past 15 years or so and now we, the consumers, must take special precaution with any colored fabric or thread. We seldom have problems with our colors running but we cannot guarantee complete colorfastness.

Specialty threads must be treated gently. Overdyes must first be unskeined, put into a bathroom basin 1/2 filled with slightly tepid water with 2 tbls. of vinegar and 2 tbls. of salt.  Soak 1-2 minutes, remove, blot with a towel and let dry.  This is recommended for a piece that will require washing.  Please note:  Hot water and using a steam iron will reactivate the dyes and cause bleeding.

A suggestion for removing dyes that have bled, is to soak the piece in ice cold water until the color starts to bleed out.  Remove from water and run an ice cube over the area and place back in fresh ice water to soak again.  Repeat this process until the area of worked piece is clear of dye.  This may take continued effort over a few days but it does work.