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So, now that you know how important it is to buy the best quality supplies you can afford, let’s chat about choosing the best threads for your needlepoint projects.

If you’re looking for tips on choosing yarns for knitting and crochet projects, check out this post. I divided the information into two posts, so it would be more convenient for you to read.

Why don’t you pour yourself a cuppa and let’s talk thread?!

Thread Love

Are you a thread-aholic? Unashamedly, I confess that I am. There — I admit it, so I can tell you the whole truth. I have A LOT of thread — in fact, I probably don’t need to buy another single skein (ever!) — except, it’s just  sooooo pretty and I might really need it for that canvas I stashed away a couple of years ago…

And it’s true! You really might need that beautiful skein of over-dyed silk, but before you begin choosing threads to stitch your canvas, there are several things to consider. Below are a few questions you really should ask yourself first.


What’s the purpose of the item?

Is it functional or decorative? Will it be worn or displayed? Who is it for? How do you think that person will use it? If it’s a pillow for a child’s room, you should choose threads that are more durable than those you might select for a bolster for the living room sofa. And you can use all kinds of silky, sparkly threads on a Christmas ornament that you shouldn’t use on a belt.

Ask yourself what qualities you’re looking for in your finished project. Does it need to be washable/machine washable; durable; delicate; textured; silky; light-colored; neutral in color; dark-colored, glittery; plain? Will it be framed and hung on the wall or will it get a lot of use (like a pillow for the family room sofa!)? Once you determine the item’s purpose, you’ll be better equipped to make decisions about the fiber content and texture of the thread, and last, but not least, color (my favorite part!).


What kind of fiber should I use?

First, check the label to see what the thread is made of. Some threads contain a combination of fibers, making the decision a little trickier, but we’ll sort through it so you can make decisions with confidence. Generally speaking, there are four different kinds of needlepoint threads: wool, cotton, silk and novelty. Let’s take a closer look at each one now.

Wool Thread

Wool is, by far, the most popular type of thread used for needlepoint. It’s quite durable, making it the perfect choice for projects that will receive a lot of wear. A few of my favorites are Appleton (both tapestry and crewel wool), Bella Lusso, Planet Earth Wool, and Vineyard Wool. The beauty of Appleton tapestry wool, Planet Earth Wool, and Vineyard Wool is that they are designed to be used in single strands, which means that they’re really good for beginning stitchers. Appleton crewel wool and Bella Lusso are light-weight threads that lend themselves to blending colors and shading by using multiple strands threaded in the needle.

Cotton Thread

Cotton threads are quite durable, too, and they come in a plethora of colors. Perle cotton is particularly good for beginning stitchers, as it comes in a variety of sizes and is suitable for different mesh sizes. Six strand embroidery floss is the other cotton thread that can be used quite successfully in needlepoint, but it requires special treatment (stripping strands apart, putting them back together, and using a laying tool) in order to get it to lay down smoothly on your canvas. DMC is my “go-to” thread when I want to use a solid color of cotton thread on my canvas.

Silk Thread

Pure silk thread slides through your canvas like melted butter and it has a sheen that is unparalleled. Unfortunately, it’s not as durable as its wool and cotton counterparts, so you should really think about how the piece will be used before choosing silk thread. It’s also more costly than either cotton or wool thread. Silk thread is available in two main forms: twisted silk (like Pepperpot and Vineyard Silk) and plied silk (like Splendor and Soie d’Alger). Twisted silk behaves much like perle cotton and is easy to use. Plied silk, however, can be fly-away, so you have to use a lot of care when working with it. The strands will either tend to stick together — or you’ll find a straggler that wants to go its own way. Using a laying tool is an absolute necessity when working with plied silk.

Novelty Thread

Novelty threads add sparkle and dimension to your needlepoint canvas and they come in an assortment of textures and finishes: metallic, silky, fuzzy, velvety, prickly, sparkly, shiny, matte, etc. Each novelty thread has its own unique properties that require special handling in stitching. Rainbow Gallery and Kreinik threads are my favorites for adding bling and pizzazz to my needlepoint.

Pillow needlework

What weight thread should I use?

Deciding which threads will work best for your canvas is one of those things that you’ll get better at with practice. The most important thing to know is that thread weight correlates to mesh size.

The weight (which can also be thought of as thickness) of your thread should be such that it slides easily through the hole in the canvas. There are several different sizes of canvas mesh, but the most commonly used today are #10, #13, and #18. (We’ll keep things simple here and assume you’re working a basic needlepoint tent stitch on mono-canvas.) Generally speaking, smaller threads work best on smaller mesh and thicker threads work best on larger mesh. You want to be sure that you don’t have to tug to pull your threaded needle through the canvas, but you also don’t want to be able to see canvas peeking through your work. If either happens, you need to re-evaluate your thread choice. The exception to this (isn’t there always an exception?!) is with novelty threads. Some novelty threads create “drag” when being pulled through the canvas simply by virtue of their texture. When in doubt about whether or not a thread will work on a particular piece, you can always do a small test out on the edge of the canvas. (And be sure to keep an eye out here on the blog for more hints and tips coming soon!)

Thread texture

What texture should my threads be?

Your choice of thread texture can make — or break — the overall aesthetic of your finished piece. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong stitching an entire canvas in tent stitch using wool, cotton, or silk threads. Your finished piece will be a classic, traditional heirloom that you and your family will treasure for many years.

Novelty threads allow you to experiment and have fun with texture. The addition of novelty threads can (and should) enhance your piece with just the right touch of sparkle and pizzazz. A word of warning, though — be careful not to over do it with those funky fibers. The result can be a shockingly obnoxious mess.

Finding a happy medium — one where you use both natural fibers and novelty threads — is your ultimate goal. My best suggestion for using those novelty threads? Look at the design element on your piece, think about what texture that item has in the real world, then try and find a thread texture that mimics it.

Corrie Ten Boom Quote

What color threads should I choose?

Now we’re finally to my favorite part of choosing threads for a project — COLOR!!!

Color can be overwhelming — especially when choosing threads for a needlepoint canvas. Hand-painted needlepoint canvases can be quite pricey, as can the threads. And there’s nothing more disheartening than to invest a lot of money into a project that you don’t like because you botched picking out colors. (Been there — done that!) Unless you’re familiar with color theory, I suggest that you match your threads to the colors of the paint on the canvas. (Remember, the artist has already chosen colors that play well together.) If you can’t find a perfect match for a particular part of the design, find one that’s as close as possible, then make sure it looks good with the other threads you’ve already selected.

Changing Colors

Sometimes the colors in an otherwise lovely canvas don’t match your decor. And then, there’s the canvas that you L-O-V-E…but it has that awful putrid green that you just can’t stand! (I know — you bought it anyway and now, you don’t know what to do. Been there — done that, too!) It’s quite acceptable to adjust colors on a canvas.

Just. Be. Careful.

Changing all of the colors on a piece can, sometimes, ruin the overall design. It’s usually better to change a few that might be glaringly out of place in your decor. You can always tone down a couple of colors here and brighten up a few colors there. If you’re not sure, you can always send me a note. I’ll be happy to share my suggestions.

After you choose your colors, be sure you get enough thread — in the same dye lot — to complete your project.

I’d love to hear from you, so please share your thoughts in the comment box below! Have a question? You can include it below, too. I read all of your comments and will be happy to help.


  1. Gina Henrie

    May 18, 2018 at 10:29 am

    Thank you for sharing some things to consider before you choose what kind of thread to use. I will have to keep some of these things in mind as I start my next project like whether or not it will be machine washable. It’s good to know that wool thread is good for beginning stitchers.

    • Ellen Johnson

      May 18, 2018 at 8:29 pm

      Hi Gina!
      Thank you for your note. I’m so glad you found the information helpful. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions. I’m here to help!
      Ellen 🙂

      • Cara Greco

        October 7, 2020 at 10:48 am

        I’m a newbie to needlepoint and love it so far! I was confused at my local store when the lady was trying to tell me about thread choice for canvas size. She said if I use a 18 canvas mesh I need to use #5 Perle. If it use 10 or 13 I need to use silk ivory. Is this the case? I’d like to reuse threads I have with new canvases if I can and not buy new every time. Can you please explain?

        • Ellen Johnson

          October 7, 2020 at 12:42 pm

          Hi Cara!
          Thank you for writing. The lady at your local shop was right about using #5 Perle cotton on 18 mesh canvas and Silk and Ivory on 13 mesh canvas. There are lots of other options, too, though. I have a blog post that includes a list of threads that can be easily used on 13 and 18 mesh canvas. My best suggestion is to start there – and if you have some threads in your stash that aren’t mentioned in my blog post, please feel free to come back here and ask about them. I’ll be glad to help.
          Have a wonderful Wednesday…

  2. Carol F

    June 26, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    As a writer and a needlepoint stitcher, I am impressed by the care you take (and the time it takes you to write these posts) in order to communicate so clearly about this area of your expertise. I appreciate and benefit from every post I have read. Thank you for being so generous with your knowledge, sharing information and your passion for all things needlepoint.

    • Ellen Johnson

      June 27, 2018 at 11:18 am

      Awwww…Carol, thank you so much for your kind words. ☺️ You just made my day!!! It makes my heart happy to know that you’re enjoying my posts (and learning from them, too!). It’s an honor to be able to share my knowledge with other stitchers, like you and I appreciate you taking the time to read my blog.
      Have a great day and happy stitching!


    March 1, 2019 at 8:41 am

    HI: Would you recommend a few online sites for high quality needlepoint materials, canvases, fibers, etc.? I am unfortunately in an area that doesn’t have any specialty stores that sell the high quality needlepoint supplies. Thank you, Carol

    • Ellen Johnson

      March 1, 2019 at 11:10 am

      Hi Carol!
      Thank you so much for taking the time to write. My best suggestion for shopping online is to work with Stitches by the Sea in Delray Beach, Florida. I’ve ordered from them and had really good luck.
      Happy stitching!
      Ellen 🙂

  4. Donita Leatherwood

    April 30, 2019 at 3:26 pm

    I have decided to return to needlepoint after 45 years, and I am stunned at the current costs involved for this genre! How can I lean into some projects that won’t necessarily bankrupt me. I have six Grandchildren, and I would be delighted to create something special for each one.

    Donita Leatherwood

    • Ellen Johnson

      May 13, 2019 at 7:48 pm

      Hi Donita!
      Thank you for taking the time to write. My best suggestion is to look into counted canvas embroidery/needlepoint. There are some lovely designs available that won’t break the bank. Needle Delights Originals by Kathy Rees would be a good place to start. 🙂
      Please reach out if you have questions. I’m happy to help!

  5. Allene Peek

    December 2, 2019 at 2:05 pm

    Thank you for this information. I am 70 years old. I spent 2 years with no memory and have had 1 year with my memory back. My liver was 100% dead. When that happens it draws on your kidneys and mine were 80% gone. God made a miracle for me. Today I am doing so good. I am alive and feel great. I have done needlework before and have always enjoyed it. So I have ordered a piece from Herrschners, Guardian Angel, in needlepoint, first time ever in needlepoint I will need to order the thread myself. I found you online and I love how you explain everything. Thank you !

    • Ellen Johnson

      December 2, 2019 at 8:06 pm

      Hi there, Allene!
      Thank you so much for taking the time to write. I’m delighted that you found me and I sincerely appreciate your kind words.
      I’m so happy that you’re trying your hand at needlepoint. I think you’re going to LOVE it! Of course, I may be a little partial. 😉
      Please reach out if you have any questions. I’m happy to help.
      And God is truly wonderful, isn’t He? Such a blessing you’ve received – and I’ve received one, too, through your sharing of it with me here.
      Sending you lots of love and a great big hug!

  6. Rachel

    December 7, 2019 at 7:31 pm

    This was extremely helpful and easy to understand as a new stitcher! My first canvas came with threads and I just got a couple canvases that did not come with anything. I have been going crazy trying to figure out what to do! They are all different mesh size also. So thankful to have found this post! Do you have any recommendations for a frame or stretcher bars? The canvases are not finished around the edges at all. Thanks!

    • Ellen Johnson

      December 7, 2019 at 8:12 pm

      Hi Rachel!
      Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m tickled to hear that you found the post helpful. 🙂
      I prefer using stretcher bars for smaller projects – anything smaller than 15″ x 15″. I like scroll frames for larger projects. I also recommend that you bind the edges of your canvases. My preference is to use artist’s tape. You can find it at art supply stores or on Amazon.
      Let me know if you have any questions. I’m happy to help!


    September 29, 2020 at 12:52 pm

    I have a question about having so many threads, how do you keep them? Over time don’t the threads get weaker? Is there a recommendation as to where to store threads? the market has different methods.

    • Ellen Johnson

      September 30, 2020 at 11:50 am

      Hi Katherine!
      You have a great question! It’s one of the quintessential questions that all people who do any form of needlework for a hobby have. I wish I had to “one size fits all” answer, but, alas, I don’t. My best suggestion is to catalog your threads by fiber type. You can use a Google spreadsheet or you can print out a blank table and fill it in by hand – whichever works best for you. I keep my threads organized by color, using the color wheel as my guide. Threads generally won’t weaken to the point that they’re not usable during one’s lifetime unless they’re not stored properly. It’s best to keep your threads in a cool, dry, dark place (e.g., a closet in your home). I hope this helps. 🙂
      Have a happy Wednesday!!

      PS: We cover a lot of this info in the Thread Talk section of The Stitcher’s Club, too. 😉

  8. Barbara KD

    January 30, 2021 at 2:37 pm

    thank you for the information. I am only a beginner and was left me a canvas
    without instructions and want to try this project. I used the method to attempt
    to calculate # of yards but don’t know where to purchase online the yarn and
    what type of yarn for wall hanging. Do you have any more info I can view?

    • Ellen Johnson

      February 2, 2021 at 12:00 pm

      Hi! My best suggestion is to contact Saira at Chandail Needlework in Houston, Texas or Melissa at The Wool and The Floss in Grosse Point, Michigan. Both shops do quite a lot of mail order and the owners are delightful to work with. I hope this helps… 🙂

  9. Sara

    March 29, 2021 at 11:38 pm

    Thank you Ellen for the helpful post! I’m going to try tackling a backgammon canvas on #13 mesh. Do you have any recommendations for threads? I think I’ll finish it kind of like a tray so the game pieces will slide right on top of the thread…. which I think means cotton or wool would be better than silk…. but that’s about as far as I’ve gotten! Your thoughts are much appreciated 🙂

    • Ellen Johnson

      April 1, 2021 at 9:42 am

      Hi Sara
      What a fun project it sounds like you have in store for yourself! You might consider using Silk and Ivory thread. It’s a wonderful single strand thread, which means you won’t have to use a laying tool! It comes in a huge array of colors. It’s a silk/wool blend – 50% silk and 50% merino wool.

      If you want to use a 100% wool thread, Waverly Wool is one of my favorites. It’s a 3-strand/ply divisible thread. You’ll need to use 2 strands and it will require a laying tool, but it’s quite lovely. It, too, comes in a rainbow of colors and is very nice to work with. Oh – and one more 100% wool thread to think about using is Rainbow Persian. The color palette is more limited, though – and you’ll need to use 2 strands of it (and a laying tool).
      I’d love to hear what you decide, so please keep me posted on your progress.


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