Embroidery School: Lesson 2

We covered the basic tools we need a couple weeks ago so now it's time to talk about the most fun part of embroidery...the floss (the colorful thread for the newbies out there).

You can buy floss at any big-box department store or small needlework shop.
The big box stores generally carry the workhorse brand DMC. Now, don't let the workhorse mislead you! DMC makes a luxurious (100% cotton) product and it is what I use 90% of the time. Most independent needlework stores carry it as well along with smaller, boutique brands such as Weeks Dye Works.

How much you spend on floss depends on your budget. (This is where I tell you the good news.) Overall, floss is seriously affordable. You will only spend about $1 for a skein of DMC, but it does go up from there when you are looking at the hand-dyed varieties. But, much like the other tools I talked about, I advise beginners to start with the less expensive. You will have a lot more fun if you aren't so worried about wasting money during your learning curve.

Once you get comfortable with embroidery, you can experiment with alternative threads such as linen, ribbon, etc. There are a lot of fun supplies out there from companies like Purl Soho.

Each section of embroidery floss pulls apart into 6 strands of thread.
(hand-modeling by Troy!)
Once you get your cotton floss in hand, you will notice that each little yarn-like rope consists of 6 strands of thread. (Hence the term, 6 strand embroidery floss.) These strands are meant to be split apart and used as a single thread, double, triple, etc. Most times, 3 strands is what you want to use. For instance, in our Woodland Pattern Series all stitches are to be made with 3 strands unless otherwise specified. By varying up the thickness of the thread, you can create depth the same way you do with different stitches. It's another way I like to experiment with design in this medium.

Speaking of design....this is another topic I wanted to cover today. There are many design options out there that suit many tastes. Whether your aesthetic is modern, 40's-50's retro, Victorian, country, Sesame Street...there is something out there for you. I have used coloring books for templates, pre-printed fabric, my own drawings, templates from other designers...there are so many places to get designs. The trick is to have the design suit the project. For instance, you may not want to embroider a densely stitched flower on a light flour sack dishtowel. That would be better for something like the hem of a skirt, or a pillow front. I have a vision of making a quilt with embroidered blocks...let's just throw that on my list of things I want to accomplish!

Right now I am in the throes of designing the Woodland Patterns Series. I am having a ball dreaming these up. Design 2 will be released this Monday. (Keep an eye out for a fun little critter that lives in trees!) I have also updated our first design "Hare" to include directions, color chart, and stitch guide at the request of readers. From now on, all of our patterns will include these basics designed especially for people new to this craft. It aligns with our goal to try to encourage as many people as possible to get out of their comfort zones and try their hand at a new technique.

A peek at Monday's new pattern!
As always, we invite you to send us comments or questions regarding our tutorials or patterns. Thanks!



  1. I am a knitter and have tried cross-stitch, but embroidery scares me! Thank you for posting these tutorials, I will be following along and I am sure I will be inspired to try my hand at it.

  2. Please do! It is so much fun...a great summertime activity, kind of reminds me of coloring. There is something oddly lighthearted about it.


  3. What perfect timing! I recently began teaching myself to embroider. I'm enjoying it quite a lot. I'm actually doing crewel work now, Alicia Paulson's ABC sampler, but I can't wait to get back to floss: the colors! the smoothness! Did I mention the colors? :)

  4. I know! Love the colors! It's like a box of candy!! Let us know if there is anything missing from our tutorials...glad you are enjoying them :)


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