Needlework Thread Information
From glitzy to garish, from serene to traditional, you can make your embroidery or needlepoint anything you want just by the materials you select. You can choose from a wide variety of materials, from dental floss to the finest silk. If it can be threaded through a needle, pushed or pulled through a fabric, or tacked to the surface of the fabric, we call it a thread (we do have a customer who has used wire).
Thread may be made of cotton, linen, metals, rayon, silk, man-made fiber, wool or any combination of these. Each fiber has its own characteristics and can produce effects which are very different from the others. Since every stitcher has different tension and style and every project has different needs, these are only general recommendations. You may have a different experience with these threads.
Strand The whole piece of thread, as you cut it from the skein.
Ply Most threads that are not manufactured as one piece are made up of plies, i.e. separate units of the strand. Sometimes these plies are twisted together so tightly it is difficult to separate them. These threads may not be suitable for use on all fabrics, as they may be either too fat or too thin. Other strands of thread are not twisted and the plies can be separated with ease. For example, Waverly wool is made of three plies, which can be separated. These threads are very versatile, you can add or subtract plies according to the size of the canvas or fabric you are using or for the effect you wish to achieve.
Stripping When using multi-plied threads it is advisable to separate each ply then put them back together again. The thread will look smoother when stitched if you prepare it this way.
A laying tool will help tame your threads and allow them to lay smootly on your fabric or canvas. A laying tool is a pointed needle or stick, generally a little larger than your needle. You lay the thread over the tool, stroke to spread the plies and guide them into a smooth stitch.
So much fancy stitching is done on 18 mesh canvas, we have chosen to use it as our point of reference. Just know that if you are stitching on 13 mesh, you will use more thread and if you are straining your eyes on a 24 mesh you will use less. If a thread is not suitable for an 18 mesh, we do try to tell you what count it is best on. However, please feel free to ignore our suggestions if you want a different look.
Over-dyed A multi-colored thread where one color has been dyed on top of another one. These threads are fun to use and give interesting effects but the color is not always stable, so avoid washing them. Overdyed threads may differ wildly with each dye lot, be sure to purchase plenty.
Space-dyed Another multicolored thread: the thread is brushed, sprinkled, or dipped into the dye. Again they may not be colorfast, and no two dye lots will be the same, buy more than you think you will need.
How much to order?
We calculate the amount of thread needed for a project based on the amount of thread needed for the basketweave stitch. Not only is the basketweave the most stable and longwearing of the tent stitches, it uses a middling amount of thread. Some stitches will take more, some will take less. Basketweave takes an average amount.
Generally, basketweave requires 1 and 1/2 yard of thread to cover 1 square inch of canvas. Let's say you are going to stitch a design 10 inches by 10 inches. 10 inches x 10 inches = 100 square inches. 100 square inches x 1.5 yards of thread = 150 yards of thread. You will then want 150 yards of thread as used for stitching on the count of canvas you are using.
This can get complicated when you are using a thread in which you are using plies of thread rather than stitching with the full strand. We are happy to help you compute your thread needs. Just call! (801.394.4355!)
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).
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.
Threads are often a pain to work with but the results are worth it. Use short lengths when working with metallics.
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.
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.
There are a lot of fun synthetic threads. Most involve some kind of nylon and/or polyester.
Wool is relaxing to stitch with. It is forgiving, strong, and, yes, washable in tepid water with a mild soap. It will outlast you if cared for correctly. If you tire of wool, you can return it to the earth by composting(!) Wool threads are both plied (Persian) and twisted (tapestry).
Some thread companies have color cards for their threads, some do not. Sometimes even we are ordering a thread by number alone. Some threads differ so much from one dye lot to another that a color card is not useful. 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 is 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.