How Much Embroidery Floss Do I Need? Calculating Thread Quantity for Your Next Project

Have you ever started an embroidery project or pattern and wondered how much thread you need to buy at the craft store? (It’s not as easy to calculate compared to something like a knitting project!) While I can’t tell you the EXACT amount, I’m here to give you a bit of helpful tips so you can make a better educated guess!

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Types of Embroidery Projects

The first thing to consider is what type of project you’re completing.

6 strand embroidery floss

Cross stitch

Cross Stitch uses 6 strand cotton floss or pearl cotton floss. 6 strand cotton floss is dividable, and 2 strands are normally used at a time, so one skein of 6 strand floss can go a long way.

Cross stitch projects are a bit easier to estimate quantities of thread because you stitch on Aida fabric, which has defined holes in the fabric and comes in thread counts. With some math, you can calculate roughly how much thread a project will take. There are several handy tools online for this so you don’t have to do the math yourself, like this calculator by Thread-Bare!

Hand Embroidery or Surface Embroidery

Most modern hand embroidery kits and patterns use 6 strand embroidery floss, but you can also use pearl cotton thread or even yarn if you want to. Yarn will be thicker and cover more surface area, so you probably won’t need as much. Also, yarn normally comes in a much larger amount than embroidery thread, so you’ll most likely have some left over! If you’re going the more popular route, there are a few differences between pearl cotton thread and six strand embroidery floss to consider.

Common Lengths of Embroidery Thread:

DMC Pearl Cotton Floss

Pearl cotton thread is “twisted or braided”. This kind of thread is non divisible and comes in different weights. The smaller the number, the thinner the thread. This usually comes in 15 meter skeins, but it also comes in a ball, (which varies by the size of thread) and averages around 80 + meters (AKA you’ll probably have plenty if you go this route!)

DMC 6 Strand Embroidery Cotton Floss

This thread comes in 8 meter skeins, and the 6 strands are divisible. This is what I most commonly use for my embroidery projects because it has a much smoother look compared to the braided look of pearl floss.

Size of the Project

If you’re completing a project that is between 4-6 inches in diameter and you’re using a few different colors to complete the embroidery, you’ll most likely use between 1-2 skeins of thread per color. This is a general rule of thumb, as everyone has different tension, stitch length, stitch variety, etc when they are embroidering, but in my experience that’s about how much I normally use. Here is an example of a project that used one or less skeins of 6 strand embroidery thread for a 5 inch embroidery.

5 inch embroidery

Detail of the Project and Types of Stitches

I’ve noticed that some embroidery stitches use ALOT more embroidery thread than others. If you’re using some of these stitches in your project, then consider grabbing an extra skein of that color while you’re at the store.

If you’re project is extremely detailed, or covers the entire area of the hoop you’re using with wall to wall thread, your best bet is to get at least a couple of each color. In the end, it never hurts to grab more than you think you’ll need!

I hope this post helps you determine the amount of embroidery thread you’ll need for your next project! 🙂

If you’d like to read more about different types of embroidery thread, check out these articles:

The Best Hand Embroidery Thread For Your Next Project

Embroidery Thread Review – Comparing Different Brands

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2 Comments

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