Embroidery Thread for Beginners

embroidery thread dmc and flower embroidery

Embroidery Thread 101

If you’re just getting into embroidery you’ll need to pull together supplies to create your magic. Embroidery thread is certainly going to be on that list so I’ll share with you my recommendations and tips to help you get started.

Embroidery thread is sometimes referred to as skeins or floss, and while there are a variety of threads from silk, rayon, metallic, and even wool, the 6 strand cotton thread is the most commonly used and it’s what I recommend for beginner.

row of dmc embroidery thread

Embroidery threads are pretty inexpensive and they come in a motley of colors. I started off with a package of them from Amazon which work great as you are learning the in’s and out’s.

Once you’re hooked you’ll definitely want to upgrade to a higher quality thread like DMC, which is less likely to fray and holds its shape and color better. The difference in quality is very noticeable and it’s my favorite brand!

If you start off with a lower quality group of threads then be sure to also grab a few DMC threads so you can compare them.

Organizing Embroidery Thread

embroidery threads on cards

As you work with embroidery threads chances are you’ll wind up with a tangle or two, and you’ll need a way to keep all the colors organized. Here are a few ways you can do that:

  1. Wrap your thread around clothes pins.
  2. Loop your thread through holes on heavy card stock or special floss organizers.
  3. Wrap your floss on thick bobbins and store them all in a container grouped into similar colors.

My favorite way to keep my floss organized is the latter, on thick bobbins stored in a flat container.

thread organizer

Length of Your Working Embroidery Thread

Thread can get tangled and may fray as it constantly moves through your fabric, so to manage this, you’ll want to use a manageable length. There are 2 recommended lengths depending on how you use it:

Short Thread

The recommended length of thread is from your fingers to your elbow. Thread it through your needle and knot one end while keeping the other end loose. I always seem to have issues with my thread falling off of my needle so unless I need to stitch something with just one strand I rarely go this route.

Long Thread Doubled Up

Alternatively, your thread can be the length of your arm, from your fingers to your shoulder. Thread it through your needle, fold in half, and knot the two ends together. This is the way I do it.

Not only does this keep your embroidery thread from falling out of your needle but it also makes threading your needle easier and it helps to reduce the bulk that exists at the eye which is twice as bulky when using the short thread method.

threaded needles

Here’s how:

Let’s say a pattern you’re working on calls for 6 strands of thread.

Short strand with one end hanging loose:

If you want to use the short thread with one end hanging loose you would need to thread 6 strands through the needle’s eye which can be kind of difficult.

Pushing it through your fabric can also prove difficult. This is because at the eye of the needle where your thread is folded over, you’re pushing not just the needle but 12 strands of thread through.

Long strand folded over:

If you use the long thread doubled up then you’ll only need to thread 3 strands through your needle. When you fold it over you’ll end up with 6 strands. This means you’ll only be pushing the eye of the needle with just 6 strands through your fabric, not 12, which will be way easier to do!

So remember: The number of strands in a pattern is equal to the number of strands that will make up the stitch, not the actual number of strands you’ll pull from your 6 stranded thread.

Separating Embroidery Thread

Once you’ve cut your thread you can separate it into any number of strands up to 6. Let’s separate 2 strands…

thread end separating

Gently hold your thread between two fingers near one end and tap the end until the thread separates a bit. Separate 2 strands from the rest.

separating strands

Then lightly pinch the threads where they are all attached together and carefully (and slowly) pull out your 2 strands together.

pulling strands out of grouped thread

The thread will curl up below your fingers as you pull, and once you get your thread out you can slowly smooth it out. That’s it!

thread curling below pinched fingers

If you want to watch my video tutorial on how to separate your thread as well as how to easily thread your needle head over to my Basic Embroidery Tool post and scroll to the bottom.


Before I go, here are a few helpful tips related to embroidery threads.

  1. Always cut the tail behind your knot to avoid it being pulled through to the top when you push a needle up near it.
  2. It’s tempting to use as much of your thread as possible as you’re stitching but be sure to leave enough thread to end your stitch and tie it down on the back.
  3. If you plan to wash your embroidery, do a thread color test to make sure your color won’t bleed onto your fabric.
  4. Be in the habit of keeping your threads clean and organized. You’ll always know where your colors are and whether you have plenty or need to restock.
  5. A flat box is a great way to keep your supplies in one place for your current project. I use a thick 8x10x1.5 box which is so convenient, especially if I want to work in a different area of my home.

Be sure to take a peek at my other blog posts for embroidery beginners! Happy stitching!

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