How Much Thread Do I Need?

trubbey needlepoint nativity

Trubbey needlepoint nativity,photo copyright Napa Needlepoint

For all stitchers, not just those beginning needlepoint, the question of how much thread to buy is perplexing. Yes, there are “formulas,” but they don’t take into account stitches, whether you ply the thread, or even your stitching style. Each of these things can make a difference in how much thread you need.

Here is a sure-fire method for those beginning needlepoint to find out how much thread to buy using ANY thread, ANY stitch, and ANY mesh size.

happiness is homemade petei needlepoint canvas

Changing colors on this canvas took it from 80’s dated to modern, Petei canvas, copyright Napa Needlepoint

To begin, you will need:

    canvas in mesh of project (you can use the unworked margins of your project)
    the same thread as you are planning to use (it doesn’t need to be the same color) cut in 18″ lengths
    labels from or another skein of the same thread
    diagram of the stitch you will be using
    your project

Here’s how to do it, step-by-step:

  1. Mark out a 1 inch square on your canvas.
  2. Using your cut lengths of thread and your stitch diagram, stitch the square in your stitch. Keep track of how many lengths you use.
  3. Round up if the number of lengths is odd, and divide by two. This is how many yards it takes to stitch one square inch in that thread.
  4. Look at your labels or skein and see how many yards are in it. Write that down.
  5. Look at your project and figure out how many square inches of each color in that thread you have. It will be an estimation, which is fine. Write this down in a list by color.
  6. Divide the yards in the skein by the yards needed to stitch an inch. This tells you how many square inches can be stitched from one skein.
  7. Subtract 20% from this number for a fudge factor.
  8. Go through color by color and compare the number of square inches by the number available in the skein. This tells you how many skeins of each color you need. Always round up.
  9. Repeat this process for every type of thread and color in the piece.

needlepoint cashmere stitch sampler

Craftsman Trees, design & photo copyright Napa Needlepoint

When you are done you’ll have a list of the threads and amounts needed to stitch your project. For threads that vary in dye lot or that use alot, I often buy an extra skein.

Now even if you are just beginning needlepoint, you’ll be able to calculate the amount of thread needed.