How do I separate my strands?

by Jessica Warcup
(Yukon, OK, USA)

I have just begun cross-stitching again and the directions are not very clear.

All the directions say are "separate the strands." Does that mean separate the 'bundle' of strings into the six individual strands?

I would think that when cross stitching with one individual strand the colors won't be 'full' enough. I have started with the strands by 3 but now I am second guessing myself thinking I may run out of string.

Any tips would be appreciated!

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Length of Srrands
by: Debbie Rice

Beginner mistake includes not using the correct length of strands -- too long and you'll knot and tangle like nobody's business. If you do find thread twisting or misbehaving on you, let threaded needle dangle freely before taking next stitch (it will untwist itself).

18 inch lengths are general rule of thumb for correct strand length. Cut length before separating strands (really miserable and snarly if you try to separate strands in whole skein of thread or try to separate more than one at a time).

The specific (versus general) length is to measure from your own personal nose to tips of fingers when you stretch your arm out parallel to floor. Then cut in half.

For most adults that's 36 inches (1 yard) and cuts to 18". For children that's smaller lengths which is perfect for them.

It's the perfect size for you because as you stitch the bending of your own elbow determines how long a thread you can easily control and stops the too-long thread from snarling and catching on things around you while sitting and bending your elbows.

If you move on to odder threads or patterns, try shorter lengths until you are more familiar with the fiber/stitch.

There's always someone to sell you a gadget but most I've seen for separating threads take longer to use than just pinching one end while tugging a strand from the other. They work well but I wouldn't invest in unless a little practice separating threads still defeats you.

--from a needlework shop employee who taught beginning cross stitch to adults and children

How do I separate my strands?
by: Valerie Kalyani

Most threads come in six-strand skeins. To separate your strands, cut a length of thread and hold it up in front of you, lightly pinching the ends about 1" down from your cut. Take hold of a single strand and pull the strand out of the bunch straight up. The rest of the threads will gather up a little, that is alright. After freeing the first strand, run your fingers down the remaining length to straighten them out and repeat the process with all the strands.
*If you do not straighten them, they will tangle.*
You may then use as many or as few strands to do the work as you want or the chart calls for.
The reason you separate them, even if you were using many together, is the thread will give much better coverage after being separated. The fibers tend to get packed tight in the packaging process and benefit from a little 'fluffing'.

How many strands to use
by: Carol

Most cross stitch worked on 14 count fabric is worked in 2 strands taken from the six in the bundle.

On the embroidery floss page I have created a little video that shows a simple way to separate the strands without getting them tangled.

On the same page you will find a table that shows how many strands to use on different fabric counts.

Hope this helps.

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