Updated August 24, 2018
Do you ever wish there were handy guidelines to teach you how to substitute threads?
Because I stitch from stash all the time, I often find myself substituting threads. You may also find yourself in a position where you need to substitute threads. I’ve developed some guidelines that help me when substituting threads and that will help you in this process as well.
Here are the rules to apply, with the easiest substitutions first.
You can substitute brands of floss for each other & stranded silk for cotton floss.
However be very careful to check colors if you are mixing brands of floss. While different companies have compatible colors, one company’s may not play well with another company’s.
If you mix companies with floss or stranded silk, check all the colors of these threads together.
You can often substitute the same color in one thread with that color in another thread from that company.
Depending on your project, you could substitute pearl cotton for floss or Impressions for Watercolours. However different fibers take dye differently and different threads have different textures. That means that while the colors will be close, they will not be exactly the same and that the texture will be different.
If you stay with threads from the same company, you can usually substitute one thread for another in the same color. There will be differences in color quality and texture, but often these are minor.
Threads of similar construction and fiber can be substituted for each other
There are three kinds of thread construction: round, flat, and stranded.
Round threads can be plied up but cannot be separated. They are uniform in thickness. They are the easiest threads to use.
Flat threads are flat, like ribbons. They can twist during stitching. They create smooth almost fabric-like stitching in many cases. Ribbons are flat threads. Flat threads can be treated like ribbons.
Stranded threads are made from several round threads that can be separated to make thinner or thicker threads. Without separating (plying) and recombining these threads are round. After recombining they become flat threads.
If you stay within the same kind of construction and the threads are similar in size, they can be substituted without changes to your pattern.
However the textures of the threads can be very different even if the threads have the same construction. This will affect the look of your stitching.
Threads the same structure and size can substitute for each other but changes will change texture.
Solid and multi-color threads can be substituted for each other.
This is the hardest substitution to make successfully, especially if going from solid to multi-color.
Two things affect this. First, and easiest to correct, you may have to make your stitches differently when using multi-color threads.
Second, many multi-colors will have parts that do not coordinate with the other threads in your piece. These areas will need to be cut out. You may not notice them until you start stitching.
The closer the multi-color is to a solid, the easier it is to substitute.
I regularly substitute threads in my projects It’s exciting to use the threads you have on hand to make exciting needlepoint. The key to making this work is to pick your new threads carefully and to be willing to make changes as you go along.