How many strands of thread to use in embroidery?

If you're a beginner at stitching, you might get confused why some artists use less number of strands, and the others more.

What is the big deal? What is the difference at all? Can I work a pattern designed for using 6 strands, with 1 strand? And can I work a pattern design for 1-2 strands of thread, using 6 strands?

Let's take it one step at a time :)

Related posts:

10 tips for hand embroidery beginners

Top 10 beginner mistakes in hand embroidery

How many strands should I use?

There is no correct answer for that because it depends purely on your taste.

Take a look at the little chart below.

Here I stitched short lines in stem stitch using from 1 to 6 strands of thread. As you can see, the difference between the first line and the last line is quite striking.

In short, the more strands you use, the bolder and more raised and dimensional your stitching is. You also will need less time to work an element.

And the lesser the number of strands, the more delicate and “flat” your stitching is. However, you will need more time to work the same element.

It is also important to mention, that the thread consumption will be lower if you use a lesser number of strands. If you stitch with 6 strands all the time, be prepared that your skeins of thread will finish quickly.

Speaking of time, stitching the same element with 1 strand of thread will take more time than with 6 strands.

That's why, if you want to make some cash by selling your needlework, adjust your resources and time wisely. Stitching a larger scale artwork with 1 strand will take quite a lot of time and effort and you will need to charge quite a lot for it.

If you want to charge moderately, it would be reasonable to increase the number of threads – it will speed up the process but it will increase expenses.

Or you can stitch smaller works with 1 strand of thread – either simple, minimalistic designs, or something of a brooch scale.

Yeah, it is tough maths!

However, I hope that you choose what you ENJOY first! That is our priority, since making art that you are not enjoying is very sad :(

Now, as for embroidery patterns, most of them are designed with a specific number of strands in mind. If you use a bigger/lesser number of strands, you will definitely get a different result than intended. 

Will it be better/worse - no idea. In the best-case scenario, it will be just as pretty but either bolder or more delicate. 

Sometimes switching up number of strands is not even possible. Because, let's say, a pattern designed for 1-2 strands may have tiny elements that will be very inconvenient to work with a bigger number of strands. 

In the end, it all boils down to your preference! 


  1. Amina thank you for the blogs....could you please advise on which threads do you use while you work with paint embroidery?

    Thank you

    1. Hi, Ranita! I use DMC stranded cotton thread :)

  2. Thank you so much for sharing. Your handwork is beautiful! I just love looking at it.

  3. I had to pin this. Excellent post. The photos are perfect.

  4. I had to pin this. Excellent post. The photos are perfect.

  5. I had to pin this. Excellent post. The photos are perfect.


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