Threads For Needle Painting Embroidery

As promised here is the first on  materials information for needle painting – THREADS.  I have presented it interview style based on questions you have asked in the past.

Which is the best thread to use for Needle Painting and why?

DMC & Anchor stranded cotton are best, here’s why.

1.  The matt sheen is more visually appealing and suited to this style of embroidery.

2.  Cotton is easier to work with and split than other mediums.

3.  One strand of cotton is the perfect width.

4.  It comes in a wide range of colours which is essential for needle painting.  I use both Anchor and DMC shades combined to find the exact colour I need.

5.  It is completely colour fast and good quality.

Which Is the Best Brand?

Both DMC & Anchor are available in a range of approx 450 solid shades and I have my favorites in each.  The DMC range is excellent but I would like to see more very pale shades in each family of colour and some of the colours are a bit on the bright side.  The Anchor range is more subtle and includes a good selection of shades from very pale to dark in each family.  An example of this is shown in the picture – the Anchor range is parituclarly good with its greens whereas there are some mid tones missing in the DMC range. Basically I use whichever shade I need whether it be from DMC or Anchor and they work well together.

As far as quality goes they are similar.  Anchor is slightly softer than DMC but inclined to fray a bit towards the end if your piece is too long (longer than 50cm).  Both brands are priced about the same and now readily available online.

If I want to start a collection of stranded cotton which shades should I purchase?

My advice would be to purchase the sludgy greens, golds and browns in both ranges.  These are used for branches, leaves etc in most needle painting projects.  Then get a selectionof reds, muted pinks, yellows and oranges from light to dark.  The colours that you are unlikely to use are bright pinks, purples, blues and oranges.  If you do need these occasionally for a project (nature is full of surprises) you can place a special order.

It’s going to cost you but is a good investment just do without a hairdo or a visit to the dentist for a couple of months it will be much more rewarding and far less painful!

How do you use the thread?

Every thread has a nap (the direction of the pile) and it really does help to achieve smoother shading if you use your thread with the nap in the same direction.  To ensure that you are doing this look at the skein of thread and you will see it has six divisible strands.  Pull one strand out from the rest as shown in the picture and cut it off near the top.  Each time you need to re-thread, pull out another strand and thread in the same direction.

For those of you who have spent hours winding your thread onto little bobbins – don’t do it!!  Rather use it off the skein for the very reason that you will not know which end you are using if it has been taken off the skein and put onto bobbins.  However if you have done this or are have pre-sorted your thread onto cards there is a solution – mark one end with a permanent marker pen and use this end to thread into the needle.  It goes without saying that you will cut off the bit painted with the marker:)

What is the best way to store your thread?

Ok this one depends upon your personal needs, how big your collection is etc.  I store my big stock of thread by number so I can find the colour on my shade chart and then look for the number.  However, I store my left over threads in transparent plastic drawers in colours, i.e. greens in one draw, pinks in another.  I can see the colours through the plastic.   When I need a shade I just dig through and when I have finished with a project I just throw the left overs back into the appropriate draw.  I find this works well for me but you may have another solution.  Perhaps you could let us know how you store your threads, it would be very interesting?

Can you use other threads for Needle Painting?

I have to be careful here because in my book CREWEL & SURFACE EMBROIDERY –  I experimented with combinations of silk, wool and cotton.  It was great fun and I loved the results of the combined mediums, however it can be a bit tricky to obtain all the different threads, so after that I decided to make my life and everyone elses easier by sticking to cotton.  Silk is lovely to use for needle painting, if you like the shiny effect, but is not the easiest thread to use and handling it can be a nightmare unless you use a hand cream.  AU Ver A Soie have a lovely slightly matt silk which is great but I find it a bit too thick for this work.   Having said this I do use Chinese silk for fine details, because I can split it down to one hair’s breadth.  Crewel wool is a wonderful way to learn the technique as it is very forgiving and the hairiness hides imperfections but it is a bit on the thick side and does not provide the fineness that cotton does.

You seem to be using more Anchor than DMC in your recent projects why is this?

Again it is a matter of what colours and shades I need for a particular project.  I try to use threads from one range for a project to make life easier for the consumer who has to go out and buy them, a shop may stock one range but not the other.  Both ranges are available through wholesalers in South Africa but the prices and availability vary.  My Colour Book is based on DMC thread and was sponsered by the DMC corporation but even then I did have to use some Anchor shades which were not available in the DMC range.

24 responses

  1. Hi good day its been many years since the time you sendeed me a free birs sample which i could embroideR to keep me busy but its quiet and soo boring ying around doing nothing at all i went to our local library to look for books so that i can earn step by step but couldent find any thing there the books they have are very outdated and i dont think people want that oldfasioned stuff ay more i lost my joy in life. Do u perhaps have any floss around thatsdiscontinued that i can use please and maybe one of your previis books dosent matter how it lkooks please sign it. If possible i wil greatly apreciate it thanks sharon disabke lady. Who loves to embroid. But of course not like yours

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  5. Hi Trish

    Sorry I have a very small problem. I live in Bloemfontein and some six months ago I purchased two pieces of embroidery thread in the Anchor range. However that specific colour is sold out now and all the places in Bloem who use to stock Anchor discontinued it and now I just need one more strand to finish the quilt I started. The thread is a stranded cotton multicolor no 1355 the color is bright yellow, green and blue. Do you perhaps know where I can find a shop anywhere in SA that still sells that specific thread?

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  6. Hi Trish, first of all, I have to say that your work is amazing, when I first saw it (two weeks ago, looking in Google for “ponto matizado”) I get so enchanted by your needlepainting that I have shown it to all my family. My husband (who likes those thing, and is always asking me to embroider our monograms, or flowers on linen and others things that when he was child he used to see the women doing for the house), he was also astonished by your work. My mother, my sister in law, my brother, etc., I have shown to everyone! It’s really incredible! Two days later, on Sunday, I bought in Amazon two of your books (Redoute’s Finest Flowers and Long and Short: a Collection of Flowers) and I also preordered the new one, Fresh Ideas for Beginners, which I think will be perfect for me! As I was really excited about it, I asked them by DHL, I couldn’t wait a whole month (I live in Brazil), mainly considering that I have vacations in July. While I was waiting for them, I have downloaded the pansy project that you have posted for free access and I have already finished it: the result was much better then the embroidery I was always trying by myself! Your explanations are very usefull, thank you very much! The books arrived on last Friday, and I am enjoying them.

    I also have two questions for you:
    First, you mainly uses DMC in the projects. As it’s not easy to find them here in Rio de Janeiro and moreover I already have some Anchor threads, I am trying to use this last brand. However, it seems to me that the conversion I find (in tables or internet converting tools) is not very nice… Do you have any suggestion about it (or any better table)?

    Second: yes, I am one of those who have spent hours winding the threads onto little bobbins! It’s very nice to know that someone with your expertise advice not to do this, for me it sounds as a freedom letter! But about the reasons, I could not understand, I thought it was a matter of the direction in which the thread is winded in itself, I noticed that like the an S, when I change up and down, the direction of the thread does not change. I feels as if I am missing something… Moreover, I am trying to find a nice way to storage the threads without put them onto bobbins, the problem is that when you take out one or two 50cm strand and cut them out, there are others four or five strands hanging out of the skein. Do you have some nice tip for deal with it avoiding a mess?
    Thank you very much, and congratulations, you’re a great artist!
    Michelle

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    • Thank you for your lovely mail Michelle I hope you enjoy the books and sure you will stitch some lovely projects. In answer to your question on thread – it is fine to use Anchor thread there is a good conversion table here: http://www.cyberstitchers.com/StitchingTools/FlossConversionCalc0B63.asp

      All thread has a nap – it is the direction that the thread is wound when manufactured – if you keep changing the direction it will look ok but not as smooth as if you keep using it in the same direction. This is more obvious with wool but certainly important when using cotton. There is a great tip here https://trishburr.com/2011/06/01/handy-thread-hint/ for using the thread this way. You can keep your skeins in plastic zipper bags in colours or in number order whichever you prefer then it is easy to find the colour you need as you can see through the plastic.

      Best wishes with your stitching. Trish

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    • Hi Trish,
      Thank you very much for your answer! I am using your tips!
      Now I am working in the first project of your book Redoute’s Finest Flowers and Long and Short: a Collection of Flowers (the project you propose for trainning the basic stitches). It’s very simple, but also very fine. But I have to confess that I am quite
      anxious to start a more complex work… They are so wonderfull…
      Best regards,
      Michelle.

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  7. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now. Keep it up!
    Moreover, according to this article, I totally agree with your opinion, but only this time!

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    • Thanks Shaffy I will take that as a compliment?? I wish there was more time to post articles of interest but I am doing a hundred other things behind the scenes. Glad you agree this time! Trish

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  9. Thanks, Trish

    I enjoyed reading this post, with the Q&A style. Great information, thank you for sharing it with us. I dream of being organised with threads!

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  10. I story my floss in zip-loc baggies (sandwich size, mostly) by color number. Each baggie corresponds to one column on the DMC color card.

    I’m not carding, rethreading or any of that stuff. I way way too many other things to spend my time on than that!

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  11. Hi Trish,

    What a wonderful, wonderful post! So very informative with information I’ve never read before (ie DMC/Anchor for thread painting).
    Although I am crying a little, after all that work of winding my cotton onto cardboard bobbins – 7 embroidery boxes worth. I’ll mark the ends as you suggest.
    I showed you a picture once – you may possibly remember it – a historical bookbinding with a lily needlepainted, and then a very dimensional, built up border covered in silver purl.
    I was planning on using Pearsall’s silk, as I have very little silk and would like to use some, and I have the Pearsall’s colour chart (I won one from the Needleprint blog).

    What say you? Should I go with good ol’ DMC for this project? Or, given I have such a high quantity of silver metal, go with the shinier silk? Or maybe they will be a good complement to each other? I just don’t know.

    Thankyou so so much for sharing this information with us,

    Megan/Elmsley Rose

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    • Thanks Megan. I think your Pearsalls silk would be lovely for that piece – goldwork or metal lends itself well to silk. Stranded cotton is ideal for needle painting but every form of embroidery lends itself well to different types of thread. Have fun with it. Trish

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  12. Thank you Trish.

    This is brilliant.

    I’m looking forward to (fingers crossed) joining an online class next year.

    You are really looking after us overseas stitchers with your books, DVD online class and now materials information.

    Thank you, once again.

    Kind regards
    Chris McGarva

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  13. Hi Trish,
    I have a few comments, as always.
    First, now that I am working with Anchor on the Chinese Flower Project, I can certainly agree that the Anchor floss does tend to fray a bit easier than DMC so it is better to use shorter pieces. But I love the softness of it, and it seems as though it is easier to blend than DMC.
    Second, the colors are subtly different as you point out. I know a few heirloom/embroidery teachers who swear by the Anchor ecru as being a bit lighter than the DMC. I find I really like it, too.
    Third, here in the US I have heard, but don’t know about this first hand, is that DMC has had to make many of their threads NOT colorfast so they can meet the price points demanded by the big discount craft retailers, mainly Michael’s, Joann’s, and Walmart, which has since left the craft business. Skeins of DMC are usually available for $.29 USD while Anchor is $.87 USD, which is quite a difference. Also, DMC is available practically in every town big enough for a Michael’s or a Joann’s, while Anchor is much less available. As I mentioned in my blog, I had to drive to Laguna Beach to purchase the Anchor floss for the Chinese Flower project, but as it is such a lovely trip, I’m not complaining.
    Fourth, I completely agree with not winding on a bobbin as how on earth can you tell how the nap lies? Besides, I am way too lazy to do that.
    Fifth, thanks for the advice on what colors to buy when we don’t have a specific project in mind – this is extremely helpful.
    Sixth, I store my threads by number in special little baggies that I buy at Joann’s and thread on large metal rings. I also look at the color chart when searching for a particular color. I’m thinking of putting all the baggies of threads on some pegboard if and when I ever remodel the pigsty I call my sewing room!

    Thanks so much for this post, it was so informative.
    Cynthia

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  14. Very informative post, Trish! I did not know that cotton threads had a nap and that using it in the direction of the nap was preferable. I cut my DMC in 18 inch lengths and then loop them around the prong in my Pako thread organizer ready to use. When I pull out my thread to use it, I have no idea if I am using it with or against the nap! I will have to start marking the ends to show the correct direction. Thanks!

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  15. Thanks for this, Trish. I found it very helpful to know that a master at needlepainting uses threads that are readilly available to me. I use silks a lot and it not only is shiney, but small imperfections show up really well 🙂 With all the talk now about silk thread embroidery, it’s easy to become a “silk snob” 🙂 Cottons are so much easier to work with and like you say, the range of available colors is superior.

    I use the little bobbin cards to keep my floss and keep them in plastic cases by color/shade. I put my left overs into zip lock baggies and keep them by color, but just in one drawer all together.

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