The cross stitch thread you need to use is called embroidery thread, or stranded cotton. Cross stitch thread comes in skeins and is 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 strands of cross stitch thread that best suits the fabric you’re stitching on to.
If you’re new to cross stitch you can find out more about cross stitch basics in our cross stitch for beginners guide. We also have a helpful guide to cross stitch needle sizes, to help you choose the right needle for your next project. If you are looking for guidance on threads to use for other types of stitching we have some handy guides available, check out this guide to sewing machine threads.
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
Find DMC cross stitch thread on Etsy.
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 the thread. So the number code listed in the key helps you find the same colour cross stitch thread to buy to use in your cross stitching.
Anchor stranded cotton cross stitch thread
Find anchor stranded cotton cross stitch on Etsy.
Anchor stranded cotton cross stitch thread is a high-quality 6 stranded cross stitch thread, also widely available in the UK. There is 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
Find Madeira stranded cotton on Etsy.
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 that 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 your plastic packaging waste for environmental reasons.
Cross stitch thread organiser
Keeping your threads in order can be tricky business, if you don’t want to end up with a ball of tangled threads, we’d recommend this cross stitch thread organiser which will help to keep your threads separate and make the whole stitching process smoother.
Find the cross stitch thread organiser on Amazon.
Specialist cross stitch threads
Metallic cross stitch thread
Jazz up your project with these beautifully coloured threads.
Find metallic cross stitch thread on Amazon.
Satin cross stitch thread
Add some sparkle to your cross stitch with these shiny threads.
Find the satin cross stitch thread on Etsy.
Glow in the dark cross stitch thread
Light up your cross stitch with this cool glow in the dark thread, use it to add finishing touches to your Halloween designs.
Find the DMC glow in the dark thread on Amazon.
Variegated cross stitch thread
Mix up your stitching with this multi-coloured thread!
Find the variegated cross stitch thread on Etsy.
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 comment below.
Now you’ve got your threads sorted, you’re going to need a project to get started on. Lucikly for you, right here on Gathered with have plenty of free cross stitch patterns for you to download! Get started today with these cute cat cross stitch patterns, which are great for beginners (and cat lovers!). If you’re looking to spruce up your home with some fun cross stitch decor, try these kitchen cross stitch patterns, or the bee cross stitch pattern to add a little charm to your home. If you’re not sure what you’d like to do take a look at these modern cross stitch kits for some inspiration.