Choosing the Right Thread for your Project

Choosing the best thread for your project is easy when you know a bit about threads and their qualities.

Thread Size

Thread size refers to thickness of the thread. The higher or larger the number of the thread, the finer it is. A Size 50 thread is finer than a Size 10. Changing the thread size in a pattern alters the size of the design. A doily worked in Size 70 thread, for example, will be closer to a place mat in size if you tat it in Size 10 thread.

"True" tatting threads are considered to be Sizes 70 and 80 (very fine). All other size threads on the market are referred to as "crochet cotton."

(see also About Thread Sizes)


Mercerizing during manufacture makes thread more receptive to dyeing so it accepts and holds color well and is almost always colorfast. It also adds strength and shine, so the thread has a lovely luster and can stand up to years, even generations, of wear. Mercerized thread is smooth, easy to work with, and durable -- just what you want for your tatting projects. (All cotton threads in our catalog are mercerized.) Hold your thread up to a bright light and look at the fuzz along the strand. The less fuzz there is, the more the thread has been gas-singed (which smooth's and strengthens it). Thread with less fuzz will continue to look nice after repeated washings. Use the smoothest threads for your heirlooms!

Which Thread?

When choosing thread for a project, consider the thread color and size, of course. But also consider the amount of wear the piece will be subject to. Is it a Christmas trim or other piece that will be used only periodically and seldom hand washed? Is it a hanky trim, collar or other wearable that may be hand washed a lot? Is it a table topper, an heirloom-to-be or other decorative piece that may be precious to the next generation? There are threads for each of these projects.

Six-Cord Thread
Six-cord (Cordonnet) thread consists of tightly twisted plies (six in all). A strong, firm thread, it is suitable for heirlooms, hard-working wearables, and decorative designs. Considered the best thread available for tatting, it is not the same as six-strand embroidery floss, which is designed to be separated into individual plies. The Thread Corner's six-cord threads include Size 50 Cordonnet Cotton, Flora, Manuela, DMC Cordonnet, DMC Tatting Cotton and Anchor Mez.

Three-Cord Thread
Three-cord cotton such as DMC Cebelia or Opera is often used for Christmas ornaments. It has a beautiful shine and, because ornaments are not usually laundered, holds up well.

Two-Cord Thread
Among two-cord threads, pearl cotton is the best-known, popular for earrings, bookmarks and other small projects not handled or washed as much as linens or wearable's.

You might also be interested in our discussion on thread sizes.