Gratis verzending binnen België vanaf 75€

3 verschillende soorten garens liggen naast elkaar op een witte achtergrond

3 kinds of embroidery floss unravelled: stranded, pearl and tapistry

You may have already experienced it yourself: when you want to embroider something, you have a wide range of choices on what floss to pick. But which floss is most suited for the project you are working on? To get you started, I've listed the 3 most used types of floss below, with their pros and cons.

Right hand is holding 3 different types of embroidery floss

Stranded floss (or mouliné)

Stranded floss - or mouliné - is usually sold in skeins of 8 metres, in a whole range of colours. It exists of 6 separate threads, which you can pull apart to come to the volume you want. Most stranded floss is made out of cotton, but you can also find it in different materials. When you opt for the mercerised type, you can be sure that you are holding beautiful, shiny and strong embroidery floss of which the colours won't fade.

  • Pros: Readily available, wide range of colours to pick from, flexible volume, lies nice and flat on your fabric.
  • Cons: Since you're working with different threads at the same time, it may take some practice to work with it.
  • Usage: Can be used for any type of embroidery. This is the type of floss that I use the most, both for mending as for embroidery artwork.

Pearl cotton (or perlé)

Pearl cotton or perlé consists of only 1 thread; which you can't split up in smaller threads. You can buy it wound up in a ball, or as a skein, depending in the length and thickness you choose. It's available in different sizes, where the highest number stands for the smalles size. Pearl cotton is usually mercirized, to make it strong, shiny and colour-fast.

  • Pros: Adds texture, consists of 1 thread only, comes in different sizes and a whole range of colours
  • Cons: Comes in less colours than the stranded floss, doesn't lay flat on your fabric (which can be exactly what you are aiming for, of course), making it sometimes harder to handle.
  • Usage: Mostly used to add decorative details, to add texture, and to embroider in 3D. You can also use it to mend holes.


Tapistry or retors is a thicker type of floss that you can't split and that you buy as skeins. It isn't shiny, and is available in limited colours only. Mostly used for large projects such as carpets or pillows. I mainly use it to go underneath other embroidery stitches, adding volume as such, or to mend knitwear.

  • Pros: Quick and easy to embroider with, adding warmth and volume. Best to embroider thick, covering stitches on large projects.
  • Cons: Limited colour choice, not suited to embroider details with. Most of the time not suitable to mend clothes, unless you're mending thicker knitwear.
  • Usage: Perfect to cover large areas and backgrounds, such as carpets and pillows, and to mend knitwear.

Which type suits you best?

If you are planning to work on a small project or to embroider something on your clothes, stranded floss or pearl cotton is the way to go. Which of these two you really need to pick, depends on the effect you want to create, and on your personal choice.

Not sure? All three types are used during the embroidery workshops that I host, where you have the chance to test them all. Already have questions? Don't hesitate to ask them in the comment section below.

Have fun embroidering!

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

en_GBEnglish (UK)


Fancy a 5% discount on your next purchase?

Subscribe to our newsletter, and receive your discount code in your mailbox.

We don't spam. Read all about it in our privacy policy.