All About Stranded Thread

stranded thread

When you have been doing something for years, you tend to take some knowledge for granted. You kind of forget that there people don’t know this stuff. For me stranded thread is one of those things that I kind of just assume everyone knows about. But I realised recently that not everyone does. So today I’m going to share the low down on stranded thread.

Stranded thread is the most common thread to use for embroidery. I have been using it for cross stitch recently and remembering how much I love working with it!

The two major brands of stranded thread are DMC and Anchor, and you will often find that craft stores carry both of these brands. There are hundreds of colours available and each one has a number. This makes it easier to find the perfect shade whether it is to match the key on a pattern or chart, or whether it is to match thread that you already have. I store my thread on small cards in a thread box and I write the thread number on each card so i can find them again.

dmc thread box

It is called stranded thread because it is actually made up of 6 strands that can be used together or pulled apart for stitching. I most often  cross stitch with 2 strands of thread and then stitch the backstitch lines in one strand, but it can depend on the weight of fabric that you are stitching on and what kind of stitch you are doing. For outlining a picture using running stitch or backstitch only you might use all 6 strands to create a clear thick line. For really tiny stitches on linen you might use only 1 or 2 threads. Experiment with both and you will quickly see the difference.

How to Separate Threads – Two Ways

separate threads 1

Method 1:

  • Cut off your thread to the length you need.
  • At one end separate the threads a little and hold one thread with one hand and the rest of the threads with your other hand.
  • Gently pull them away from each. The thread will twist as you pull so sometimes people hold the end in their mouth or clip a bulldog clip on the hanging end to give it weight and stop it tangling into a knot.
  • Repeat this process to pull out the threads you want one by one.

separate threads 2

Method 2:

  • Cut off your thread to the length you need.
  • At one end separate the threads a little and hold one thread with one hand at the end of the thread and the rest of the threads with your other hand about an inch down the strands.
  • Slide the single thread out of the set, hold the rest of the threads still. They will sort of bunch up under your fingers, so stop and smooth the rest of the threads back away from the single one.
  • Continue to gradually slide the single thread free of the others.
  • Repeat with more threads one by one if you need them.

Personally I prefer the second method and I have found I can pull more than one thread at once this way, but the key is to find the method that works best for you and avoids tangled thread.

Another tip: How to start your stitching without a knot

Check out my latest stitching project: Cross Stitch Rainbow Block with a free chart for readers

Your Turn

What have you been stitching lately? Did you use stranded thread?

Tonya Grant (288 Posts)

Tonya is the voice behind She dabbles in lots of different crafts – patchwork, quilting, cross-stitch, scrapbooking, knitting, crochet and sewing. She also writes about blogging and social media.


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