The cross stitch thread you need to use is called embroidery thread, or stranded cotton. Cross stitch thread comes in skeins and are made up of 6 separate strands – within the thick cross stitch thread in your skein there are 6 individual thinner strands. Before you start to cross stitch, you’ll need to separate out a number of these strands from your thick cross stitch thread. The number of strands you pick affects the finished effect of your stitches, so on a basic level, the more strands of cross stitch thread you use, the more solid the colour blocks that you’ll create in your cross stitches.
When you’re embarking on a new cross stitch project, the type of fabric that you’re stitching on to also effects how many strands of cross stitch thread you use, as the closer together the holes are, the denser the effect of your stitches.
For the best results, select the number of stands of cross stitch thread that best suits the fabric you’re stitching on to.
Find out more about cross stitch basics in our cross stitch for beginners post.
How many strands of cross stitch thread to use?
Bookmark this page and use it to double check how many stands of cross stitch thread you need to use for different fabrics…
- 11-count aida – 3 strands of cross stitch thread
- 14-count aida – 2 or 3 strands of cross stitch thread
- 16-count aida – 2 strands of cross stitch thread
- 18-count aida – 1 or 2 strands of cross stitch thread
- 25-count evenweave over 2 threads of the fabric – 3 strands of cross stitch thread
- 28-count evenweave over 2 threads of the fabric – 2 strands of cross stitch thread
- 22-count hardanger – 1 strand of cross stitch thread
Always refer to your pattern key for the number of backstitch strands to use, as this will vary to create different effects on your stitching. Typically, when stitching on 14 count aida or 28-count evenweave, which are the most widely used cross stitch fabrics, you would use two strands of cross stitch thread for the cross stitch, and one strand of cross stitch thread for the backstitch.
Different types of cross stitch thread
DMC stranded cotton cross stitch thread
DMC is the brand that we list first in our cross stitch keys as it is the most widely available cross stitch thread in the UK. The DMC cross stitch thread come in skeins of six stranded embroidery cotton. Each has its own number code which refers to the colour of thread. So the number code listed in the key helps you find the same colour cross stitch thread to buy to use in you cross stitching.
Anchor stranded cotton cross stitch thread
Anchor stranded cotton cross stitch thread is a high-quality 6 stranded cross stitch thread, also widely available in the UK. There are a wide range of colours, and we usually list Anchor as the second brand of cross stitch thread in our keys. It is very similar to DMC stranded cotton but with slightly different colours available in the range.
Madeira stranded cotton cross stitch thread
Madeira stranded cotton cross stitch thread is typically the third brand we list in our keys. It has a slightly smaller colour range than DMC or Anchor, so there is not always such a good colour match for shading, but the storage system for Madeira means than many stitchers love this cross stitch thread! Rather than being held together by skein bands as in the DMC and Anchor cross stitch thread, Madeira cross stitch thread comes enclosed in a plastic packet. You just pull out the length of cross stitch thread you want to use, and the rest stays put in the packet, which keeps it clean, organised and labelled with its colour number. This is handy if you tend to lose your skein bands from the other brands and end up with a mystery tangle of cross stitch threads, but it not so handy if you are trying to reduce you plastic packaging waste for environmental reasons.
Do you have questions about cross stitch thread?
We hope you find this article useful in helping you work out the best cross stitch thread for you and answering your cross stitch thread questions. If there is anything else you’d like to see included in this article, or if you have any other questions about cross stitch thread, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org