If you’re here from a Google search, that means you’ve been searching for a simple answer to a very basic question asked by many beginners before you, and many beginners to come: which embroidery floss (or thread) is best?
And if you’re here because you’re a regular reader of my blogs, emails, or even my social media posts or tutorial videos – you probably already know what I’m going to say in answer to this ubiquitous and controversial question!
Either way, I’m glad you’re here, and I’m here to help!
I’ll be answering this question in three parts. First, I’ll discuss the “best floss” (or thread) to use for hand embroidery in general; this section is meant for the embroidery-curious beginner who isn’t sure where to start, let alone what to look for. Next, I’ll discuss the “best brand of floss” (or thread) to use for hand embroidery, a section meant for those who are looking to ensure they’re picking the right brand of floss for their particular goals and needs. Finally, I’ll discuss phrasing, in a section where I hope to urge other embroidery stitchers and teachers to think critically about how we phrase our answers to these simple questions.
What's the best floss (or thread) to use for hand embroidery?
There is no best floss to use for hand embroidery; if it’s string-like (thread, shoelaces, yarn, etc.), and you can get it through your material (fabric, pre-cut wood, canvas, etc.), then you can use it for hand embroidery.
That said, the most common type of thread used by stitchers, in general, is six-stranded cotton embroidery floss. Stranded embroidery floss can be divided into separate strands, allowing you to work with just 1 strand, all the way up to all 6. What that floss looks like in the store depends on the brand, with many delivering their floss in skeins, others on spools, and some pre-wound onto bobbins.
If you are an absolute beginner to hand embroidery, I typically recommend starting with stranded embroidery floss -- not because it’s the “best,” but because it’s what most resources (such as blog tutorials, tutorials on YouTube, patterns, etc.) use in their examples.
What's the best brand of floss (or thread) to use for hand embroidery?
There are so many different brands of stranded embroidery floss available to stitchers, including larger brands (such as DMC, Anchor, and Lecien Cosmo), smaller brands (such as Sublime Stitching, which I use in most of my kits), and even off-brand “friendship bracelet” floss (found in craft stores, dollar stores, and online!).
There is no best brand of floss to use for hand embroidery. Rather, the “best” brand is the brand most easily accessible to you, and the brand that best fits your particular needs and goals.
Financial and geographical accessibility
In the United States, the easiest, most affordable, and widest range of floss available in our craft stores (other than generic friendship bracelet floss) is the DMC brand. However, DMC can be cost prohibitive in other countries, which makes it less accessible to many stitchers around the world. Brands such as Anchor and Lecien Cosmo, which are also incredibly popular brands of floss, might be more accessible to you depending on where you live.
When I first got started in hand embroidery, I couldn’t afford the DMC brand -- so I started with generic “friendship bracelet” floss. Using friendship bracelet floss as a newer stitcher allowed me to play around with a larger color palette than I would have otherwise been able to access, which helped me to play around with different styles and techniques more easily.
I continue to emphasize my use of friendship bracelet floss because I want to be sure that newer stitchers who are in a similar financial situation know that you’re still welcome to join us, even if you can’t afford those fancier materials just yet.
What are your particular needs and goals?
Even if you don’t have any barriers in terms of access to whatever brand of floss you might be interested in using, it’s worth thinking about your particular goals or needs.
If your goal is to create work to be hung in your own home, given to friends or family, or even sold at marketplaces online or in person, ultimately you’ll want to go with a brand that you enjoy using. Like most things in hand embroidery, those preferences will come to you naturally over time. If you’ve only ever stitched with DMC floss, try ordering floss from a new-to-you brand to see what you do or don’t like about it, and go from there.
If your goal is to create digital patterns, you might start by considering your customers’ access to different brands of floss. For example, most of my customers live in areas where DMC is the easiest brand of floss for them to get, so I often use DMC floss in my patterns. I also like to include generic color names (such as “light pink,” “medium pink,” “dark pink,” etc.), just in case a customer would prefer to use another brand of floss, or even friendship bracelet floss. This allows me to cater to people who have financial and geographic access to the brand I’m using, and to those who are in similar situations to the one I was in as a newer stitcher. That’s what works for me, but your goals and needs could very well be different!
If your goal is to make embroidery kits, it’s worth thinking about considerations around marketing, cost, and your own personal preferences. Would using a particular brand of floss be of interest to your customers? Is it a brand you can get your hands on at a good wholesale price? Do you like using that brand, yourself? For example, I almost always include Sublime Stitching embroidery floss in my kits because I get to expose my customers to a brand they won’t find as easily in most physical stores, I love working with the brand’s creator (Jenny Hart, an absolute icon in the industry), and I love the floss itself.
Again, your own goals and needs -- and the conclusions you’re brought to when considering those goals and needs -- might very well vary from my own! I only provide these as examples in hopes they’ll help you to think through your own process of choosing a brand of floss to use in your work and products.
Does phrasing matter?
My conclusion here is that there is no best brand of floss to use for hand embroidery. That conclusion has made people angry in the past, for a variety of potential reasons.
One reason might be that they’ve marketed their products as being better than others because, unlike others, they’ve used “the best floss” for a project, kit, or pattern. I actually mention this as a potential red flag to look out for in another blog post, how to choose an embroidery kit, so I won’t spend more time on it here – other than to emphasize that this isn’t a great way to market a product in an honest, helpful way.
Sunk cost fallacy
Another reason might be due to the sunk cost fallacy, such that stitchers who’ve spent an incredible amount of time and money using and promoting a particular brand of floss are psychologically primed to defend that choice – even if it means isolating people who aren’t able to afford that particular product (or prefer another brand for any number of potential reasons).
Another reason – and the one I want to emphasize in this section – comes down to how we communicate our preferences through language (i.e., how we phrase things). Consider the two phrases below, and ask yourself which one is most helpful and accurate:
Actually, (brand) is definitely the best floss, because it’s (attribute). Example: “Actually, friendship bracelet floss is definitely the best floss, because it’s the most affordable.”
Although there are no rules in hand embroidery, I personally prefer to use (brand) for (specific purpose) because (specific attribute). Example: “Although there are no rules in hand embroidery, I personally prefer to use friendship bracelet floss for my personal work because it’s so affordable.”
The intention with both of these phrases may indeed be the same, but the second phrasing is more helpful (by emphasizing that this is a personal preference) and accurate (by emphasizing the particular situation in which the speaker prefers to use the floss).
Whether you’re already teaching, interested in teaching, or simply interested in being as helpful as possible to an embroidery-curious friend, I would urge you to consider your phrasing when discussing supplies. Using helpful and accurate phrasing protects you from giving into capitalist marketing ploys, so that you’re less likely to pit yourself against others via the “objective better-ness” of your supplies. It also helps to prevent you from falling prey to simple logical fallacies, so that you’re less likely to find yourself psychologically tied to a specific brand for reasons beyond your own, actual preferences.
Thank you for being here, and happy stitching!
I hope this was useful, and I can’t wait to see what you make - whether you create something from one of my kits or patterns, or from a design of your very own! If you’d like to share your work with me, you can always tag me on your social media accounts (@hopebroidery on Instagram and Twitter, @hope.broidery on TikTok). If you don’t have public social accounts, but still want to share, consider emailing me a few pictures -- I would love the chance to tell you how much I love your work!