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How Many Strands of Embroidery Floss To Use

6 strand embroidery floss

The most commonly used embroidery floss is 6-strand cotton floss. This floss is great for surface embroidery and cross stitch because of it’s divisible strands of thread. A frequent question many people have is how to decide how many strands of embroidery floss to use.

First of all, there really isn’t a wrong answer to how many strands of embroidery floss you should use!

However, I’m making this post in hopes that it will guide you to making the right decision for your embroidery.

This post is a part of a series for how to embroider for beginners.

How many strands of embroidery floss should I use?

The number of strands you should use depends on a few different factors.

Type of Embroidery Stitches Used

Some embroidery stitches, like the split stitch, require an equal amount of strands for the stitch to look even. This is because this stitch is worked by coming up through the last straight stitch made, splitting the thread in half. If you’re using this stitch, 2, 4 or 6 strands are ideal.

On the other hand, knot stitches may fair better with a larger amount of thread. Things like colonial knots, French knots, etc. look great when you use all 6 strands of floss.

Woven wheel roses are known for how 3 dimensional they are, so this stitch is normally worked with all 6 strands of embroidery floss. Sometimes people will actually double the floss to make it pop off the fabric even more.

Play around with using different amounts of thread the next time you’re practicing stitches to see what feels right for you.

Learn different types of embroidery stitches.

How Intricate Your Pattern Is

Patterns with more intricate details may be harder to stitch with all 6 strands of embroidery floss. If you’re trying to stitch super fine lines, using fewer strands of the thread will give you a thinner stitch.

Everything You Need To Learn Embroidery In One Place

Any new skill can leave you feeling overwhelmed with where to start and let’s face it: your time is limited.

I created this guide with you in mind!

It has everything in it that you need to know to get started stitching. Comes with tips, material recommendations, and 6 fun projects that will build your confidence and allow you to not just learn the art of embroidery but have something to show for it!

The Type Of Embroidery You’re Doing

There really is no “rule” to the amount of thread you use in regards to different types of embroidery…However, there are a couple of examples of certain styles that are easier to do with a certain number of strands.

If you’re threading painting, only using 1-2 strands of embroidery thread will make it easier to blend colors together. From personal experience, using 3-6 strands for this style of embroidery makes the embroidery less smooth looking and the blending of colors is more obvious.

Cross stitch traditionally uses 2 strands of embroidery floss. Contrary to surface embroidery, cross-stitch has a flat appearance and is a form of counted needlework that is normally stitched on even-weave or aida fabric. To achieve the look of traditional cross-stitch, you don’t want to use more than 2 strands because the thread will be more visibly raised off of the fabric.

Read about even more types of embroidery

The Type of Fabric You’re Using

Some fabrics have a tighter weave, or they may be more fragile or hard to work with. Sometimes using fewer strands of the thread will make it easier to embroider on and lessen your chances of damaging the fabric.

Learn more about what the best fabrics for hand embroidery are.

Desired Appearance Or Style

The final thing to consider when you are choosing how much thread to use is to consider what you want the embroidery to look like.

Using more strands of floss will create fluffier looking stitches and it will also cover more surface area per stitch.

Using less strands of thread will achieve a flatter, more fine appearance.

In Summary

You don’t have to stick to using a certain number of strands for your entire embroidery project. Mixing it up and choosing the amount of strands you’d like to use depending on all of these factors will help you make the right choice!

Experiment with using different quantities to see what you like best!

Need more guidance on how many skeins of floss you should buy for a certain project? I have another post that will show you how to estimate how much floss you’ll need.


how many strands of embroidery floss should I use?