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Punch Needle Thread

When it comes to punch needle embroidery, the choice of thread can make all the difference, and there’s a fascinating array of options to explore.

4 skeins of embroidery thread including gray Mouline Etoile, dark green pearl cotton, glow in the dark and orange 6 strand embroidery thread on a white background with text overlay " Guide to Specialty Thread for Punch Needle Embroidery"

As far as embroidery goes, punch needle is one of the easiest styles to learn. There is one stitch to master which is basically stabbing and that’s about it.

While that makes it great for beginners and easy to pick up, it can also make it a little bit boring. One really fun way to bring a little bit of pizzaz to your punch needle is with specialty threads.

All of the threads I’m going to talk about today can be purchased at Michael’s or Joann’s (sometimes both!) and the majority are from the brand DMC.

One great thing about DMC is their coloring system. They carry the numbers across different lines, for example, black is always 310 so in 6-strand, pearl cotton, etc. you know they’ll match.

6 Strand Embroidery Floss

Close your eyes, think back to your childhood, and imagine a round blue tin in your grandma’s house. It’s not cookies, it’s sewing supplies and chances are good she had at least a skein or two of 6-strand embroidery floss!

three skeins of 6 strand embroidery floss on a white background

6-strand embroidery floss is cheap (about 70 cents a skein when you get them one at a time), easy to find, and comes in a bajillion colors.

You can separate the threads but I use all 6 at the same time in the medium-sized needle tip with my Ultra Punch.

You go through thread really quickly with punch needle and I barely have the patience to rewind my skeins onto bobbins, splitting a skein in half would put me in a coma faster than a small Victorian child slurping down a blue raspberry slushy.

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I don’t have anything bad to say about this style of floss, I just prefer the look of pearl cotton so that’s what I use for most of my pieces (and if we’re being 100% real here I get overwhelmed by all the color options).

If you’re looking to do some punching and you want a great deal you can pick up a multi-pack from Michael’s in their store brand Loops & Threads. I’ve played around with both and I didn’t find any differences in how they worked up.

Light Effects – Glow in The Dark

If you’re at all familiar with glow-in-the-dark craft supplies I can feel your suspicion from here. Most of them suck (I’m looking at you every single glow-in-the-dark paint on planet Earth) but this thread does not.

skein of glow in the dark embroidery floss from DMC

Is it going to illuminate your whole house? No, of course not.

But it does glow! And I found it very easy to work with despite the somewhat odd texture. It has multiple stands but they aren’t twisted the same way the regular 6 stand floss is so it does look a bit different.

glow in the dark moon with black pat punch needle

I punched the bat and moon on the same loop height in the same needle and the black stands up just a tiny bit higher, the glow in the glow-in-the-dark stitches seemed to flatten out just a bit more than the regular floss.

Get the Free Glowing Moons Punch Needle Embroidery Pattern

It’s also not exactly white, it does have a bit of a tint. If you were to use it as white in a design I’d think you’d be fine but if you used it along with a true white you would see the difference.

The DMC Glow-in-the-Dark floss is going to cost quite a bit more, so I don’t recommend replacing all your white thread with it! At Michaels, an 8.7 yard skein will run you about $3 with no sales or coupons.

Light Effects – Pearlescent

Moving into the first thread I’ve ever considered ‘not beginner friendly’ the Pearlescent threads. The six-strand threads are very stiff and come in 8 pastel-adjacent colors.

The stiffness comes into play when you’re threading your needle because you have to fold the thread in half to pull it through the needle.

I managed to break a threader trying to thread my medium needle and then after I switched to a large needle I broke that too.

It was the first time I’ve ever used the large needle so it might have been faulty to begin with and I did have another on hand so I was able to do some stitching with this thread.

punch needle moon with back cat silhouette with green eyes sitting up against an orange pumpkin

In the end, it’s super pretty, very stiff, and feels like a glamorous brillo pad. The individual threads aren’t twisted around each other so the loops kind of open up instead of staying together like with regular floss.

At $3 for 8.7 yards it’s the most expensive thread per yard and that combined with the issues working with it makes me less likely to reach for it.

Mouliné Étoile

Moving into one of the most unique threads you’ll find we have fluffy Mouliné Étoile Floss which comes in 25 colors. The thread is made of 6 stands, each stand is a loosely twisted cotton thread with a thin strip of shiny metallic and costs $1.95 for a 8.7-yard skein.

skein of grey mouline etoile thread

The shimmery effect is a lot more subtle than with the pearlescent or metallic threads but it’s definitely there!

The fluffy stitches work really well for animals or anywhere you want to add some soft texture. I think it would also make some really pretty snow with its fluffy sparkle!

black cat with green eyes punched in mouline etoile thread

The stitches are very loose and open but the loop height is pretty much the same as with a size strand floss.

I did notice they are less likely to push plain thread away, meaning your areas might look a bit smaller than if you had punched them with regular thread. It’s not a deal breaker for me, just something to keep in mind.

You can easily solve this ‘problem’ by punching another row or two to bulk out your stitches a bit.

Pearl Cotton

Now we’re getting to my favorite thread for punch needle, pearl cotton. Specifically size 5 pearl cotton which is nice and thick.

The thread is made up of two strands that are twisted together and unlike 6-strand floss, you don’t separate them.

Michael’s and Joann Fabrics both carry them but they seem to have slightly different inventories. When it comes to color selection you’re going to be a lot more limited than with 6-strand floss but as a person who struggles with decision paralysis, it works in my favor.

Make adorable Santa Hat Punch Needle Ornaments with this quick pattern utilizing 2 loop lengths for texture

Loops made from pearl cotton are looser and floppier (the dark red hat is pearl cotton, the bright red hat was made with 3 strand floss).

Get the Free Santa Hat Punch Needle Pattern

This thread costs $2 for 27 yards, making it more money upfront when you’re building your stash but I think it evens out in the end.

Metallic Pearl

After my issues with the Pearlescent thread, I was not optimistic about trying out the metallic pearl.

This thread is made up of two stands of metallic thread twisted together and it ends up being thinner and more manageable than the pearlescent threads.

black bat punched in metallic pearl thread with a white punch needle background

It punches like a dream, it’s so smooth, and it’s really easy to get uniform stitches. The unique structure of the thread makes it look almost like it’s beaded.

The stitches do stick up very straight and as a result, they stand up higher than regular pearl cotton stitches when punched on the same setting.

It has a very rough texture, with punch needle you don’t handle the thread very much so it’s not really an issue but with a different kind of embroidery I can see how it would be very rough on your hands!

That’s also something to keep in mind if you plan to use it on clothing or somewhere it will be coming in contact with your skin like a pillow.

My biggest issue with this thread is the limited color palette, Michael’s carries gold, silver, rose gold, copper, gold black, and grey (which is what I used for the bat). I picked up some of the copper to make some pretty autumn leaves but I really wish they had more options!

At $5 a skein, there is a bit of sticker shock but like the pearl cotton each skein has 27 yards so it’s only 18 cents a yard. In comparison, the Pearlescent thread works out to be 34 cents a yard.

What is your favorite thread to work with?

Check out my Punch Needle Embroidery page for more ideas or start here:

green embroidery hoop with white fabric and blue punch needle with a punched green chicken and a off while background