The Beginner’s Guide to Embroidery Floss

Most aspiring needle artists come to embroidery after seeing an amazing project that inspires them. But before you dive into that dream project, let’s take a few moments to cover some of the basic knowledge you’ll need for successful stitching from start to finish! On this Beginner’s Guide to Embroidery Floss, we’ll cover some of the frequently-asked questions new stitchers have about choosing, storing & using embroidery floss.

Types of Embroidery Floss

If you’re a crafter, you’ve probably already seen colorful skeins of embroidery floss that look like this:

The Beginner’s Guide to Embroidery Floss

Also called six stranded embroidery floss, skeins like those shown above are one of the most commonly-used types of floss. But did you know that there are many other kinds of specialty floss, too? Rayon, silk, metallic, ribbon and even some wool fiber yarns can be used for embroidering. For beginners, we recommend working with 6-stranded cotton floss while you practice your skills. It’s easy to find, inexpensive, comes in a million colors and will help you master the basics before adding in more expensive or delicate materials. We also recommend sticking to the same floss manufacturer when purchasing colors for your project to ensure consistency, as the thickness of threads and other factors can vary from brand to brand.

Storing Floss

Each company uses a numbering system to identify colors, which can also help you keep your collection organized. Since floss comes in small skeins which need to be cut and unwound, you’ll be removing the labels from them. This could get messy quickly! The solution is to use bobbins: when you remove the labels from your skein, use a paper, plastic or specialty bobbin (such as those shown below) to wrap your floss around until you need to use it; make sure to also write the number of the floss on the bobbin with a permanent marker or small label so that you can easily identify it later.

The Beginner’s Guide to Embroidery Floss

There are many specialty containers created specifically for storing embroidery floss bobbins, but you can store them in virtually any drawer, box or container that works for you. Some crafters prefer to store their floss by color, while others sort by number. There is no right or wrong way – it simply comes down to a matter of personal preference.

The Beginner’s Guide to Embroidery Floss

Don’t be afraid to get creative! Here are a few more ideas for keeping your floss safe and tangle-free:

Use some heavy card stock and a hole punch to loop your strands of floss:

The Beginner’s Guide to Embroidery Floss

Repurpose items such as clothespins to create an eye-catching storage option:

Repurposed household items to keep floss organized

To keep a particular project’s floss colors together in one handy place, you can use a ring or chain to connect your bobbins:

Idea to keep threads together

Or, a specialty floss organizer can add a little fun to your stitching project:

Specialty Floss Organizer

The important thing is to find a storage solution that works best for you: not only will this keep your embroidery floss tangle-free and ready to use, it will also prevent you from buying duplicate skeins.

Preparing Your Floss For Stitching

Six stranded embroidery floss needs to be separated before use; typically, you will use 1-2 strands at a time, but this depends on your pattern, fabric count, and personal preference.

To separate the individual strands; start by untwisting a one-inch section on one end of the thread.

The Beginner’s Guide to Embroidery Floss

Securing the opposite end, pull 1 thread vertically in the opposite direction:

The Beginner’s Guide to Embroidery Floss

If it comes easily, you picked the correct end; if it resists, try this process on the other end of your floss.

We hope this post helps you get started in your new needlework hobby. For more information, we have many more resources available here on our website. Non-members can access our PDF glossary of terms and projects for free; we also share information about scholarships and award opportunities, our monthly Stitch-Along, the EGA Library and more.

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The Beginner’s Guide to Embroidery Floss

5 thoughts on “The Beginner’s Guide to Embroidery Floss

  1. You didn’t mention any of the floss storage options that don’t require winding the thread onto a bobbin or bobbin-like tool.

    Personally, I hate bobbins and the like. I use FlossAWay bags to store all of my floss. Easier to keep track of shorter ends which are still long enough to use. Easier for keeping track of multiple skeins. And I don’t need to take time to wind new skeins onto bobbins.

    1. Those are great tips, Christine!

    2. I agree. I don’t like the bobbins for several reasons: 1. you have to wind the floss on the bobbins, 2. if the number of the floss is lost, all is lost, 3. the folds in the floss are annoying, 4. When you remove floss to use the remaining floss most be rewound or lost, 5. Keeping the floss in numerical order is difficult especially when your box overturns and dumps the bobbins on the floor, 6. The plastic bags are not any better because they slip and slide and the ring that holds the bags together often breaks. My solution lacks a name because I cannot think of it. It’s Annie’s something.

  2. Sarah I do believe you are referring to Annies Keepers I am a beginner as well. After researching and trying out the various options, this system appealed to me. I like storing them in the hanging folder style because visually I can differentiate the colors. I like having my threads pre cut. I also like the ability of easily putting my threads on a ring for my project

  3. I have all of the above for floss storage at one time or another. I keep going back to the plastic or paper bobbin – I write the color number on the bobbin as well as manufacturer.

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