How many strands should I use?

Posted by Cassi Scott on

One of the questions I see a lot, is how many strands should be used for cross stitching?  There's no true answer for this questions but I will share with you my preferences and why.  I'm also going to talk about how many strands I use for backstitching and french knots because I use a different number for each task.

I won't keep you in suspense.  I use 3 strands of floss for cross stitching, 1 or 2 strands for backstitching, and 3 to 6 strands for french knots.  The number of strands I use for cross stitching never changes unless my fabric count changes.  Honestly, I always stitch on either 14 count aida over 1 or 28 count evenweave over 2, so because I don't have experience stitching on 16 or 18 count, I'm only going to speak to 14 count throughout this post.  

Why do I like 3 strands versus 2?  I like a nice full coverage for my pieces.  I don't like to see the white or whatever color fabric through the stitches.  In my opinion, it distracts from the overall look of the design.  Why don't I use 4 strands?  Well, it's just not necessary to get the full coverage I need and I don't like to waste floss.  The only time I have stitched with 4 strands is when I'm stitching with DMC 310 (black.)  For some reason, the coverage of DMC 310 is not as full as the other colors, so in this case I would stitch with 4.  I'll let you in on a little secret though...I only ever stitch with CXC 310 when I need black.  If you're not familiar with CXC floss, it is a cheap knock off of DMC that comes from China.  I stitch with a lot of CXC floss but some of the colors don't match DMC no matter how hard they try (I'm looking at you 762) so I use a combination of DMC and CXC floss for my stitching.  I will go into more detail on this in another post at another time but let's get back on track.  

Backstitching...I use 1 or 2 strands depending on what I'm stitching.  For my designs, if I want a more delicate look, I'll use 1 strand.  If I'm stitching a branch or something that is more part of the design rather than just an outline, I'll use 2 strands. 

For example in this design, I used different amounts depending on what I was stitching.  All of the white stitching that is outlining the designs, are only 1 strand because I wanted a dainty look to the flowers.  However, the blue branches and the red and green flowers are 2 strands.  The "Here's the thing" is also only one strand, and that's because I wanted that font to look sleek and subtle compared to the "Fuck Everyone." 

I want to mention, just because I design a pattern with a certain vision, doesn't mean you have to stitch it that way or that it'll come out wrong if you use 2 strands instead of 1 for your backstitching.  This next photo was stitched up by @lovethedilemma on Instagram.  She changed up her color palette and the number of threads she used and it looks awesome!  Instead of 1 strand for the white outline and the font, she used 2 strands for all of the backstitching.  You'll notice the branches and the red and green flowers look the same but the dainty-ness of the flowers that I envisioned are more bold and eclectic and they look amazing!  

Now let's talk about everyones favorite thing, French knots.  I looooove French knots but I know that most of you hate them.  I have shown no pity in my designs for those who hate French knots.  I add them in quite a bit.  I love the texture that they give a design.  So, as I stated before, I use 3 to 6 strands in my designs and that all depends on how big the design is.  For example, in the photo above of the "Here's the thing, fuck everyone" piece, I used 3 strands for all of the french knots because all of those flowers are pretty small.  However in the photo below, I used 6 strands of floss because I wanted the knots to resemble buds or berries and the flowers are larger and not meant to be so dainty as the ones above.  

And that's pretty much it!  I hope this post has helped you guys determine what YOU want for your stitching.  You do not have to do what I recommend in my patterns.  I do give directions for how many strands I use in backstitching and french knots in all of my patterns, if you are one who likes to follow it to the T.  I'd love to hear your stitching preference!  Comment below on how many strands use like to use.


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