Embroidery is a traditional sewing craft that involves decorative stitching in colored thread atop a fabric. It is an art form that requires different types of thread depending on a few factors, including what type of fabric is used, what stitch or embroidery technique is being performed, and what kind of needle is required. Although embroidery and other needlework are traditionally done by hand, in recent years sewing machines have been developed that can complete complicated embroidery patterns using software programs to design and execute precision stitching.
In general there are seven different types of embroidery thread, each very similar but designed for a specific purpose or intended to achieve a certain look. Stranded cotton floss tends to be the most common, and is often seen as the “standard” in the craft.
Matte floss is similar, but is usually made with one less strand and has a less shiny finish. Perle varieties have a high sheen and can’t usually be separated into individual threads, and in most cases are sold by weight; crewel yarns, though, tend to be the heaviest, and are commonly made of thick wool. Persian thread is most often used in needlepoint, and tapestry wool and Medici threads are common choices for embroidery involving heavy materials. People who use an embroidery machine rather than crafting by hand might also want a thread specially designed for the machine’s stitching arm. It’s usually the case that the different threads and variations can be interchanged, but the results aren’t always great; using a dense woolen yarn for a craft that was intended to be made with a shiny floss will usually still work, but the result will likely be different than expected. Making the right choice is usually a matter of understanding the options and having a firm sense of the end goal.