DMC Perle Cotton #3 – Friend Or Foe?

DMC Perle Cotton #3 is a great thread for beginning needlepointers.

One of my followers recently sent an email to our help desk asking why I don’t like DMC Perle Cotton #3. It’s been a while since I used it and, in all fairness, I knew that I should give it another try before I responded… hence last week’s episode of Needlepoint TV™. 😉 

So here’s a recap of my “revisit” to DMC Perle Cotton #3…

Let’s start with a closer look at the thread, itself. DMC Perle cotton #3 is a 2-ply non-divisible thread. It has a very tight twist which is what gives it the bumpy look that it has when you stitch it into your needlepoint canvas. 

As of today, there are 292 lustrous colors available. Each skein has 16.4 yards/15 meters of thread. There are other sizes of DMC Perle Cotton available, too – 5, 8, and 12 – but we’re going to keep our attention here today on Perle Cotton #3. 

Okey dokey – back to the thread…

It’s mercerized, which means that it goes through a special chemical process that makes it stronger and less likely to shrink. The mercerization process also creates more luster and dye affinity. (That’s just a fancy way of saying that it absorbs the dye more readily and more completely.)

Here are a few skeins of DMC Perle Cotton #3, so you can see what it looks like…

DMC Perle Cotton #3

To stitch with this thread, follow these steps…

  • Begin by sliding the labels to the center.
  • Find the end with two loops and cut through the bottom of each loop.
  • Move the labels back into place, then pull out a single piece of thread from the top loop.
  • Thread up your needle and commence stitching.

A few thoughts about stitching with DMC Perle Cotton #3…

It provides full coverage when working in tent stitch on 13 mesh needlepoint canvas. 

Here’s a little stitch sample so that you can see what it looks like.

DMC Perle Cotton #3 stitch sample on 13 mesh canvas


The texture isn’t as smooth as a stranded silk or even Silk and Ivory, but the sheen of the thread is quite lovely.

This thread is too thick to use for tent stitch on 18 mesh canvas.

It works very well for providing full coverage when using true horizontal or vertical straight stitches, though. 

This is the brick stitch worked in DMC Perle Cotton #3 on a piece of 18 mesh canvas.  As you can see, the coverage is terrific! 

Brick stitch worked in DMC Perle Cotton #3 on 18 mesh canvas

Again, it’s not as smooth as stranded silk (like the purple Splendor that’s also in the picture), but the sheen is ahhhh-mazing! 🙂

When stitching with DMC Perle Cotton #3, you’ll want to keep a short tail in the eye of the needle. 

Why’s that? Because anything below where the thread rests in the eye of the needle will likely need to be discarded.

The eye of the needle is pretty rough on this thread. Heck – the eye of a needle is rough on a lot of threads! So go ahead and make this tip a habit. 😉 

One more important bit of info…

DMC Perle Cotton #3 is touted as being color fast. That means it’s not supposed to bleed or fade. In fact, DMC says it can be washed frequently without fading at high temperatures. (Their definition of “high” is 95 degrees Celsius or 203 degrees Fahrenheit – and that’s pretty hot!)

While needlepoint isn’t usually washed regularly, it’s nice to know that you can likely use the wet blocking method on a canvas that you stitch entirely in this thread. (It’s super important to test the color fastness of ANY thread before you get it wet, though!)

As it turns out, DMC Perle Cotton #3 isn’t so bad after all. 

In fact, I think it could be a good option for a beginning stitcher since it’s a single strand thread that doesn’t require the use of a laying tool. 🙂

If this blog post is helpful to you, please leave me a comment down below. And if you have any questions, please feel free to ask them down below, too. I’m here for you and always happy to help! 

Alrighty my friend  – that’s all for now.

Until next time, happy stitching!!
Stitch with a smile!

14 thoughts on “DMC Perle Cotton #3 – Friend Or Foe?”

  1. I just used this thread for the corkscrew stitch on flowers. I used 11 inches at a time for each corkscrew, and as the stitch was finishing, the remaining thread would usually break. I didn’t realize it was due to the needle though.

    • Hi Monica
      I’m so sorry you had trouble with the Perle Cotton. Your canvas is so cute and, while I know it must have been very frustrating to have that happen, the daisies you stitched on your project are ADORABLE!! I can’t wait to see it after you finish.
      Have a terrific rest of your day…

  2. I’ve found that cutting a skein twice, so you’re stitching with shorter lengths leads to a much better shine in the finish. If you can feel the thread grain stitching with the grain also helps. Personally, I love Perle cotton.

    • Hi Suzy!
      Thank you so much for taking the time to write. 🙂
      You’re absolutely right about cutting the skein twice. Using shorter pieces definitely makes a difference with the sheen.
      Have a terrific rest of your day and happy stitching!!

  3. Perle Cotton is going to be my last hope! I recently purchased Pippin Canvas’ 12 chairs as a gift for a friend and I had a stitch guide done. Oh my. She had me use Rainbow Linen (one of several threads I do not care for) on a chair, Rbow L is too ‘fat’ for such a small space. So I’m going to go with the Perle. THANKS!

  4. So, I can use Perle Cotton #3 on an 18 canvas? I was recently gifted hundreds of skeins of Perle Cotton but most of it is #3. I typically work on 18 mesh. I have no idea as to what to do with it.

    • Hi Diane
      Perle cotton #3 is best used on 13 or 14 mesh canvas. It’s too thick for 18 mesh. Maybe you could stitch some hearts for the Hearts for Hospice project?
      Have a terrific day… and happy stitching!!
      Ellen ❤️

  5. I like using Pearl 5 on 18 count. I started out as a cross stitch witch and I love all the colors and the sheen…and the price. Does anyone else like 5?

    • Hi Simone!
      I like using pearl cotton 5 on 18 count, too! I agree that the colors are absolutely gorgeous. In fact, I feel like I can always find a good color match with DMC. 🙂

  6. I have a 13 ct canvas and size 3 perle cotton thread. I usually stitch with floss and continental or basket weave stitches to prevent distortion. Can I use those stitches on this project or should I use tent stitch? This is for a wall picture.

    • Hi Sharon
      Continental and basketweave (diagonal tent) are both variations of the tent stitch. 🙂
      So you can stitch your piece using either variation – just be consistent. In other words, don’t work some sections in basketweave and other sections in continental. (Note: It’s ok to mix the two when you need to use continental to work single vertical or horizontal rows of stitches.)
      Hope this helps – and happy stitching!!

    • Hi Joan
      That’s a great question. While I can’t guarantee that this is the right answer without seeing the thread or project you’re referring to, I’ve seen pearl cotton “streak” when it’s been exposed to light over an extended period of time. In other words, if the thread was hanging on the peg in a shop for a while (or laying out on a shelf or exposed drawer), it could be that the color faded. Hope this helps solve the mystery. In the meanwhile, if you want to be sure that any thread you’re getting ready to use isn’t discolored, my best suggestion is to unwind the skein into the loop and examine it closely. If there appears to be any fading, don’t use it because you may end up with the same striping effect.
      I’m sorry this happened to you…
      Have a terrific weekend and happy stitching!!
      Ellen 🙂


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Serendipity Needleworks

Hi, I’m Ellen. A needlepoint teacher and author dedicated to helping motivated but overwhelmed stitchers at every stage find exactly what they need to stitch with confidence. Whether you’re just dipping your toe into the needlepoint world or you’re ready to take your skills to the next level, I’ve fine-tuned a learning experience just for you.

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