There are so many different types of floss that it can be a little confusing when you first start out. Which thread do you use? Which is best for which project?

Variegated, Perle, Metallic, Light Effects. All have their places but what the heck are they?

Well, my stitchy friend, read on and find out just exactly what each of the different threads are and which projects they are best for.

There are so many different types of floss that it can be a little confusing when you first start out. Which thread do you use? Which is best for which project?

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Stranded Floss

Stranded floss or cotton is the floss that you would usually use in a cross stitch project and comes in a huge range of colours.

Standard floss is stranded, there are 6 strands of cotton in each skein. You then separate these into the amount needed for your fabric type. Generally two or three strands depending on the size of your fabric.

When to use Stranded Floss:

This is your everyday run of the mill floss that you would usually use in your cross stitch project.

Shop Stranded Floss


Sometimes called variations thread, variegated thread has two or more different colours or tones along a single strand of thread which enables you to have a ombre or coloured effect as you stitch.

There are two main types of variegated thread. The first is tone on tone, this thread consists of multiple shades of a single colour, such as different shades of blue. Contrast consists of multiple repeating contrasting colours such as yellow, red and green.

Use tone on tone when you want a gradient effect and use contrasting when you want a pop of colour.

Variegated threads minimize the number of thread changes because they normally consist of four different values changes.

When to use Variegated Thread:

Variegated thread is fantastic in blackwork pieces or on bold lettering.

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Perle Cotton

Perle cotton is a non-divisible thread. Unlike stranded DMC, you can’t break up Perle cotton into separate threads, as it is only one. This thread is tightly twisted, which will give your project a more textured effect than regular cotton floss. The weight will give your project a raised aspect and great definition.

Perle cotton comes in four sizes normally used in needlework: #3, #5, #8 and #12, with #3 being the heaviest and #12 being the finest.

When to use Perle Cottons:

Use Perle Cotton for that piece you want to pop. It tends to be used more in embroidery than cross stitch but there is no reason why you can’t give it a whirl and see the effect you get. Make sure to use a smaller weight though or you may find it too bulky to go through your fabric easily.

Shop Perle Cottons


This is a fancy DMC collection of floss. It has the sparkle of metallic thread but not the intense anger you get while stitching with metallics.

Etoile thread comes in the same 8-yard skeins as the regular 6-strand floss but the composition is different. It is 73% cotton and 27% lurex which gives it almost a fluffy appearance. This thread is softer and airier than standard floss.

You use Etoile like standard floss, you can separate the floss into strands as per but the effect is twinkly and soft (if that makes sense). The airiness of the thread makes it super easy to divide into strands.

Etoile is not a full-on sparkle like metallic floss, it is more of a subtle twinkle.

When to use Etoile Thread:

This is a special thread that needs a special project. The subtle sparkling that is sprinkled throughout the skein makes it perfect for a wedding gift, baby sampler or something that needs a little extra something something.

Shop Etoile


Metallics are notoriously hard to work with. I’ve seen Metallics being described as the “Devil’s Pubes” in several Facebook Groups I belong to.

This floss has six strands just like the non-metallic versions and is made from a shiny polyester metallic and viscose blend. This thread is quite stiff and tends to snag easily. Use short strands and work slowly.

In the days of old, metallic threads used to be made of thin strips of metal wrapped around a silk or linen fibre. Nowadays they are made of synthetic material with a metallic finish.

When to use Metallic Thread:

On a piece that doesn’t matter if it gets thrown in the bin in frustration. Just kidding. Kind of.

Metallic thread as a fantastic enhancer to your projects such as the stars in a night scene or another object that you want to stand out or emphasise.

Shop Metallics

Light Effects

Light Effects Thread is a type of DMC thread that is basically metallic thread. However, this line also includes neon, pearlescent and glow in the dark thread.

I haven’t personally used glow in the dark thread yet but am itching to try it out. I mean, c’mon! Glow in the dark thread! It’s like an 8-year-old girls dream.

You can use light effects thread on its own or combine it with a strand of cotton floss for a touch of oomph and sparkle.

For the best stitching experience, work with a shorter length of thread (try 12 inches). This will help keep the fibres fresh and prevent fraying. If the thread becomes twisted while stitching, drop the needle and let it unwind itself.

When to use Light Effects Thread:

You can use a strand of light effects and a strand of standard cotton together on a whole project to give a unique effect or use them on select parts of your project like metallic thread to emphasise different elements.

Shop Light Effects Thread

Diamant Metallic Thread

Diamant is another metallic thread, however diamant isn’t stranded like regular floss. Rather, it is a single strand thread that keeps its twist as you stitch.

One strand is equivalent to two strands of standard cotton thread so if you don’t like the thought of separating metallic stranded thread, diamant metallic might be the ideal solution.

When to use Diamant Metallic Thread:

Again, use this thread to emphasise key elements in your design.

Shop Diamant Thread

Metallic Pearl Cotton

As the name suggests, Metallic Perle Cotton is the union of metallic floss and Perle cotton in one product. Like Perle cotton, Metallic Perle Cotton is a non-divisible (not stranded) thread on a twisted skein.

However, the composition differs from Perle cotton in that it is made up of a polyester metallic and viscose blend.

Metallic Perle Cotton comes in size 5 on a 27 yard skein.

When to use Metallic Perle Cotton:

Use it for those special elements you want to accent.

Shop Metallic Perle Cotton

Final Thoughts

So there you have it! There are a swathe (always wanted to use that word) of different types of threads you can use to enhance your project or give it a different look.

Depending on the thread that you use, you can make different effects. From ombre to glow in the dark to twinkling, who knew there were so many different options?

Which one do you want to try out first?

There are so many different types of floss that it can be a little confusing when you first start out. Which thread do you use? Which is best for which project?
There are so many different types of floss that it can be a little confusing when you first start out. Which thread do you use? Which is best for which project?

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