Updated August 21, 2018.
One thing about needlepointers, they are collectors. One thing they collect is threads, although we call it “stash.” Stash is more than a collection, it’s the tools of making needlepoint.
One of those tools is thread. Essential needlepoint threads are the ones always to keep on hand.
Think about it, artists have favorite colors of paint and brushes they like best. Quilters prefer certain fabrics or brands of thread. Cooks will always keep on hand some ingredients. Why shouldn’t we have essentials as well?
Today here’s a guide to thread types and colors you should keep on hand. My strategy is to buy another package of these colors when I’m near running out. That way I have them for new pieces.
I have three metallics I always keep on hand: gold, silver, and pale yellow. Because I mostly stitch on 13 and 18 mesh these are in Fine (#8) and Tapestry weight, #12. #8 works single-strand on 18 and doubled on 13. #12 works single-strand on both for me.
Kreinik makes metallics in several shades and finishes of both these colors. Many golds, but not all, are numbered 002. Many silvers, but not all, are numbered 001. Pick the shade of each you like best and make it an essential.
Pale yellow, especially in lighter weights, is the best thread for making lit windows. It has just enough glow so that in a stitch such as T Stitch, it’s perfect. Keeping it on hand means you’ll never puzzle about windows again.
Many stitchers hesitate about stitching figures because flesh colors can be so hard to find. Having a set of these colors makes your life so much easier. Happily two companies have put together collections you can just buy and keep around.
Rainbow Gallery has two Splendor Collections with 2 yards each of five colors of Splendor. I keep one of these around all the time. Having it has made doing figures so much easier.
If you want a wider range of skin tones, look to the Access Commodities skin tone collections. There are several of these in many skin tones.
The one downfall is that these collections are both silk. I love silk and these are great tools, but if you only like to use cotton floss, you’ll need to make your own collection, but having flesh tones is essential. One set will last for dozens of small projects.
Backgrounds can be a problem because they use a fair amount of yarn. Even so, you have colors and threads you like best for backgrounds, especially for small items.
Keep some of these colors on hand in reasonably large amounts. With this around, you can start a new project knowing you have what is needed to complete it. With several pieces using the same background thread you have the start of a lovely collection of finished needlepoint.
I often buy knitting yarns that are strandable for this. One skein of these kind of yarns does lots of needlepoint. Other background threads I keep on hand include white Nordic Gold (great for sparkly things), natural and linen Watercolours, and several interesting pale colors in other threads.
Threads that Make you Happy
If you’ve been stitching awhile there is probably a thread in a particular color you just love. For me this is Tahiti in Watercolours.
By making this thread an essential and keeping it on hand, you have the beginnings of lots of small projects. If you see a project on the Web or in a magazine you want to do RIGHT NOW you have the start in your favorite thread.
While having lots of one thread in green for leaves, and in brown and grey for wood isn’t essential, having little bits of many shades of these colors is. We often stitch canvases with tress or leaves. Having several threads in these colors not only makes it easier to find the right shade, your needlepoint will look better and more realistic because of the variety.
When you’re stumped for a color to buy in a new thread, buy these. You’ll build up your collection and make this variety an essential.
Personalizing your Essentials
By having these threads you have a collection of threads that will help you complete many projects, but they aren’t your threads so much as universal threads. The last step in creating a collection of essential needlepoint threads is making it yours.
Do this by thinking about the colors and threads you use most often. Buy those threads in those colors. You’ll have the threads that will work for you.
You can see how this works in the piece pictured here. I love dark periwinkle blue; it’s an essential for me. Because I had this color I was able to take a color of Watercolours that wasn’t only this color and make it into a piece I just love.
Do you have all these essential needlepoint threads in your collection?
About Janet M Perry
Janet Perry is the Internet's leading authority on needlepoint. She designs, teaches and writes, getting raves from her fans for her innovative techniques, extensive knowledge and generous teaching style. A leading writer of stitch guides, she blogs here and lives on an island in the northeast corner of the SF Bay with her family
Through a series of shops closing in my area I am now in a position where I have to find my needlepoint projects online..I do not want to purchase threads I have in my stash…some barely used..I am unsure of a good way to subtract the ones I have from the threads list the shop selects…what do you think is a good strategy??
Janet M Perry says
I know the feeling. Here is the strategy use. I need order a project kitted with threads. Sometimes you can’t avoid it with clubs, but I try ti do this. Once the canvas comes I shop my stash just as I would shop a store pulling out threads for the canvas. Once I have done this I know what threads I have to buy. Then using on-line color cards, noting thread, color name and number, I make a list of threads I still need. Then I order them from a shop.
I have never had a problem using this method.