This week I am continuing with the series on Miniature embroidery, we will be discussing threads.
Having tried numerous thread brands over the years I can in all confidence say that DMC/Anchor stranded cotton are the best threads to use for needle painting in general. They provide the right combination of sheen for a natural, realistic effect, without too much shine, has a good range of shades which as you know is essential in this work and lends itself well to long & short stitch. I use both Anchor and DMC for the simple reason that they both offer a different range of shades, the Anchor are slightly more subdued than the DMC and when I need to find the exact shade to reproduce an aspect of a picture I look to whichever brand has the nearest shade. If you try to substitute either Anchor for DMC or vice versa you will not get the same tonal effect so it is worth trying to buy the correct threads. Both Anchor and DMC threads are available and I have included some online outlets to make it easier for you to source them. You can access the PDF file here. Needle painting is very fine so we use one strand throughout unless the pattern tells us otherwise. Of course there are no rules and you are welcome to use silk if you prefer, but ensure that it has a range of at least 350 shades or more.
When it comes to miniature embroidery one strand of cotton works well, but I find myself wishing for something a bit finer so that I can add all those minute details and outlines such as facial features, strands of hair, feathers, thorns on flowers etc. I have used very fine silk for these details in the past but as you know the brand I used was discontinued and other brands are either not always easily obtainable, or do not have enough shades. So I set out to find an alternative.
By chance I was in a sewing shop one day and glanced at the sewing thread display –I decided to give it a try and found that Gutermann polyester sewing thread worked perfectly! I tried different types of machine embroidery thread such as silk, rayon and cotton but found the Gutermann polyester worked best. It has a slight sheen which closely matches the stranded cotton, the polyester is soft, and it comes in an extensive range of 400+ colours, is colour fast and washable. Additionally it is easily obtainable from most high street/online sewing shops and very affordable. The pictures below show DMC/Gutermann comparisons. In the first three examples you can see the different widths of outline – half strand Gutermann, one strand Gutermann and one strand DMC. You will notice how much finer the Gutermann sewing thread is compared to DMC?
One strand is about half the width of one strand of DMC cotton but I then tried to split the strand further to achieve a very fine thread and found it easily split into two perfect plies. Unlike some threads that will break or fuzz when split, these plies are strong, will not break and can be used successfully for very fine details. When separating the plies they will tend to want to coil back on themselves – but if you let it hang for a minute the coils will drop out.
The example below shows a half strand (or one ply) used for the eyes, brows and facial features on this little girls face. If I had used one strand DMC I would have ended up with little blobs for eyes and deep sockets for the nostrils, not very endearing!
I then decided to try one strand of sewing thread for use in long & short stitch – it delivered a smooth, fine result which I was thrilled with, so who knows in the future we may find ourselves using sewing thread for our embroidery?
I am now including these outline threads in all miniature projects. There are not many shades that you need, mainly neutral browns and greys and as each cop is 100m it will last a very long time. The first two designs to include these outline threads are the new kits – Saucer of Milk for Kitty and A Slice of Sweet watermelon, which were added to my Etsy shop two days ago.
For your convenience I have made up thread packs for sale in my Etsy shop. The first is Neutral shades – which consists of greys and browns that I most often use in the miniature projects. The second is Shades of nature which I use for flowers, branches, leaves etc. There are 5 shades in each and these shades should cover all miniature and/or other needle painting projects. There are limited stocks at present but I have them on order and they will be readily obtainable in the near future.
Next week is school holidays and I will be away in the Pilansberg Nature reserve hoping to catch a glimpse of the big 5 and spending some quality time with my family, so the shop will be closed from 25th June – 1st July. Until then wherever you are in the world be it winter, spring, summer or autumn have a wonderful week and many happy stitching hours. Trish
11 thoughts on “Threads For Miniature Embroidery”
Hello! Sorry to dig up an old thread, however I recently purchased your miniatures book. The Gutermann thread colors are no long available. I’m struggling with the Covid closures to figure out what would be close by looking at an online pic. Any update on what your using now?
Ty so much
Hi Stacy you can find an update and conversion list on my site here: https://trishbembroidery.com/pages/book-miniature-needle-painting-embroidery-vintage-portraits-florals-birds
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Thanks, Trish! Very helpful and informative. I’m interested in very fine gauge threads as I’m considering producing 1/12th scale embroideries. The idea of using sewing threads etc had alredy occurred to me, so I was very grateful to see how it works in reality!
Glad you found it helpful Elizabeth and good luck with your miniatures. Trish
Another fascinating and informative article about the use of a different thread for outlining features in miniature embroidery. Just a couple of questions. When you experimented using sewing thread for long and short stitch as shown in the above sample. Did you still manage to come up through and split the finer threads from underneath as we would when using DNC cotton thread? Or does it not matter so much with a finer thread – perhaps the gaps would not be as visible? Did you need use a different size needle? Just curious. ( I have just found some Gutermann thread to try out myself but I have only got one reel of a dark brown colour at the moment!)
Many thanks for sharing all the information on Miniature embroidery and best wishes for a lovely holiday.
Thanks Pam. I think I came up between strands when using the Gutermann it is so fine that not really noticeable and it would be difficult to split such a fine thread. You will need to use a sharps needle no 11. Have fun trying it out:) Trish