Thursday, February 10, 2022

A Little Chat About Pearl and Her Friends

Teri and I (Kara) are feverishly getting ready for the Academy of Appliqué in Williamsburg, Virginia, the first week in March—making kits, gathering threads, and writing patterns. Since many hands make light work, I asked a friend to come over and help me put together thread kits. I was explaining that there were a few different types of pearl cottons in the kit along with the floss. She mentioned that she hadn't even heard of pearl cotton only floss. That spawned an idea for a short post on pearl cotton and its variations, along with how it compares to floss and wool thread. Many of us who have been stitching a while use all these threads on a regular basis, but if you are new to stitching, this is for you!

This picture shows floss on the left then pearl 8, 5, 3, and wool (Dried Sage by Weeks DyeWorks)

Embroidery floss is something most of have used and are familiar with, even if we just used it for those lovely friendship bracelets back in the day. It is plentiful and relatively inexpensive as threads go. DMC is the brand that is most popular and economical. It is usually 6-stranded and when used in stitching, is best separated by those strands in order to get a smoother stitch. You can use 1-6 strands in your needle, depending on the look you want to achieve.

Here you can see the 6 strands
Embroidery floss

Pearl cotton (or Perle depending on where you live) is great to use because it is not stranded and you can just stick it in your needle and go—no separating the strands. The most used sizes are 12, 8, 5, and 3; the larger number means the smaller diameter or thinner thread. (Occasionally, you can find it in 16 as well.) You can vary the look you are trying to achieve by using the different sizes. To fit the larger diameter threads through your needle, you will need to use a needle with a larger eye. We tend to use chenille needles ranging from #26-#18, depending on the thread. Teri is going to talk about needles in the next post.

Pearl 8

Pearl 5

Pearl 3

From left to right 8, 5, and 3

Weeks and The Gentle Art (just floss and wool) are two companies we like for threads, whether it is floss or pearl or even wool. Their products are hand-dyed, which gives a great variation in your stitching, but not so much that it is overly noticeable. They also come on these little cards, which makes it a little less likely to tangle. All you do is cut the bottom loops, and you instantly have the perfect length for stitching.

Wool thread is lovely to use as well and will give a completely different texture to your stitching. It is perfect for things that you might want to appear to be fuzzy or if you are stitching on wool, it will blend in beautifully. It lends a great contrast when used with other fibers such as floss or pearl.

Another popular company for pearl cotton is Valdani. Their pearl comes in different sizes and in a multitude of colors, both solid and variegated. It is very economical as the little balls go a long way.

Our curated In the Garden set by Valdani

Lastly, another company that we like to use is House of Textile Arts (Tentakulum) Painters Threads. These threads are dyed in gorgeous unique color-ways, and their names are based on famous painters.

There are many other thread companies out there that offer pearl cotton, but these are just a few of our favorites. All of these companies offer other fibers as well, and each fiber is going to give a different look and texture to your project. Below we have listed a few sources for these products and hope you will be inspired to try them all!

Weeks DyeWorks, Valdani, and The Gentle Art

Painter's Threads

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