Which thread should you use?

Specifically, which thread is best to use on wool? The answer depends on how much, or how little, you want the thread to show. It also depends on whether you are going to stick to something simple like a blanket stitch, or whether you are going to add embroidery.

I use a blanket stitch on wool most of the time because it looks nice and it’s fast. I change the look of the stitch by using different kinds, and weights, of thread. (FYI: I fuse my wool applique shapes in place with Soft Fuse before I begin stitching. It works, and it really is ‘soft’.)


This thread from In The Patch is a wool blend. It is strong, thin, and a little fuzzy so that it blends well with the wool. Use it when you don’t want your stitches to show much. You can add embroidery stitches on top of these nearly-invisible stitches if you want to.


I carry 5 different weights of Prescencia Perle cotton, #16 is the finest. It is very similar to the wool thread, but it is not fuzzy. The cotton has a tiny bit of shine and the plies are tightly twisted—both of these qualities make this a slightly more visible, yet still fine, thread.

You can use #16 perle cotton in your sewing machine with a large needle.


Perle cotton sizes range from #3 (thickest) to #16 (finest). Even though the differences between them may be subtle, I find that there are uses for each weight. That is especially true when you use these threads on cotton fabric.

Prescencia Perle cotton #12 (right) is the next thickest thread.The #5 thread on the left is two steps in size away from #12 and it shows.


#8 Prescencia Perle cotton is the mid-weight. It can look either thick or thin, depending on how you use it. Compare it to the thinner wool thread on the far left and the thick #3 Painter’s Pearl cotton in the center and you can easily see the differences between them.

(More on the Painter’s Pearl cottons in a bit.)


Prescencia Perle #5 is a thick thread and the Prescencia Perle #3 is the thickest. You will need to use a big chenille needle with these threads and even then, you are likely to feel some resistance as you pull them through your fabric.

I’ve shown this chart before but it’s a good one so here it is again:



Next up is Sea Grass thread, on the right. Sea Grass cotton thread is flat, and a little stiff when you first thread your needle. It softens up as you sew with it. It looks like it has plies, but they don’t separate. Sea Grass is similar to a #3 perle in size.


I find myself using Sea Grass often.


Painter’s Pearl cotton thread is a wonderful, variegated thread. It is made in Germany and must be hand dyed and painted because the changes in color are very random. When sewing with most variegated thread, a color pattern quickly forms. That doesn’t happen with these threads. I love them!

I have Painter’s Pearls in sizes #8, #5, and #3. The dye lots vary, a lot. Rather than letting that bother me, I’m embracing the differences!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this thread tour! You can find out more about wool applique in our book, Wool Applique the Piece O’ Cake Way. And if you are interested in embroidery, you might also enjoy Creative Stitches by Sue Spargo.

And even though the focus in this post has been on wool applique, I want you to know that I use all of these threads with cotton fabric as well.

3 thoughts on “Which thread should you use?

  1. That was interesting. I found the link on Theresa’s blog. I have a marked preference for 8 and 12, but love using the Caron Impressions wool/silk blend on anything at all. Thanks for posting this.


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