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How to Separate Embroidery Thread Without Getting Knots

How to Separate Embroidery Thread Without Getting Knots

Did you know you can separate hand embroidery thread? Six strand cotton embroidery thread is made up of 6 individual strands of thread that can be separated to create different weights when stitching. This is similar to using a fine line marker vs a fat bold marker.

When I teach embroidery workshops, many attendees who've tried embroidery before don't realize you can in fact separate the embroidery thread. And if they've tried separating their thread, they've probably turned it into a giant knot.

Here's How to Separate Your Embroidery Thread Without Getting Knots

How to Measure Embroidery Thread:

  1. Hold the thread with the barcode at the top. Find the thread end that is sticking out on that side of the skein.

Hand holding skein of embroidery thread

2. Now measure out an arm's length of thread. I usually recommend measuring the thread from your nose to your finger tips. One arm's length ensure's you'll have enough thread to work with for your own arm. This length will also ensure you are less likely to leave thread in the back of your embroidery or have it tangle up.

Hand pulling thread out of an embroidery skein

3. Cut the thread away from the skein. Make sure to use sharp scissors to get a crisp even cut.

scissors cutting embroidery thread

Separate the Embroidery Thread:

  1. Pinch the thread end. Then find one strand of thread and gently pull it upwards, so that the thread bunches underneath your fingers

hand holding embroidery thread while other hand separates one strand from the bunch

2. Lay the single thread flat next to you. Flatten out the thread you just pulled from. Now repeat until you have the desired number of strands to embroider with.

hand holding embroidery thread as one strand is pulled away.

Things to Avoid When Separating Embroidery Thread:

Pulling more than one strand of thread away from the length at a time will cause it the tangle on itself.

Pulling the thread like a Y or V instead of upwards so that the thread bunches under your fingers will also cause the thread to tangle on itself.

Hand holding an embroidery book

Looking for more helpful embroidery tips?

Try my book, How to Embroider Texture and Pattern. This is a beginner-friendly to advanced primer to hand embroidery. It will walk you through the process of getting started in hand embroidery, includes 32 hand embroidery stitches, include 20 landscape inspired embroidery patterns, plus tons of helpful tips and tricks.


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