Sunday, November 8, 2015

Crochet Cotton for Needlework

Using Crochet Cotton thread for needlework is something that different types of Italian needlework call for. Crochet Cotton is a twisted mercerized cotton thread. It is not shiny the same as Pearl Cotton but does have a sheen to it. It gives a different effect to the embroidery. There are various weights and I've done some experimenting with it for tassels, using DMC Baroque and Natura but until recently, I've never tried it for embroidery.

DMC Babylo #10 ecru thread on 38 ct Sotema 20L linen.

Here is a sample of Sardinian Knot Stitch done on 18ct fabric with Anchor Crochet Cotton and DMC Pearl Cottons (click on the photo for a closer look):

When telling you about Giuseppa Federici's new book here, I mentioned that it called for Crochet Cotton and that in Italy (and other parts of the world) both DMC and Anchor offer a decent colour range in their crochet cottons. Alas they do not offer the same threads in North America and so I set about hunting down some Crochet Cotton in lots of colours.

A kind friend from Italy sent me some Anchor Freccia #12 which is similar in weight the #10 Crochet Cotton we can find in North America. Then I found some DMC Babylo #10 on a UK website that I have ordered from often for other things. They appear almost identical in thickness. Pretty close to Pearl Cotton #5 but a bit thinner. Please note that I could not try all of DMC's products like Cebelia and Traditions or Coats Aunt Lydia's because I could not find them locally in colours that I wanted and there were only so many funds I wanted to spend on online ordering for an experiment. The point of my experiment was really to find a #10 Crochet Cotton in the widest range of colours possible. There are other products available in North America that you can try.

An internet search led me to a website called Handy Hands which sells a line of various weights and colours of 100% Egyptian cotton cordonnet thread called Lizbeth. It comes in 102 solid colours, 87 variegated colours and 10 colours which are a mix of three different colours twisted together. Handy Hands is based out of Paxton, Illinois, though they do not have a bricks and mortar storefront.

Now, Anchor or DMC #10 Crochet Cotton which is what I was looking to match, is made of 3 threads twisted together. Lizbeth thread is made of 6 threads twisted together so obviously the look of the Lizbeth thread is a bit different but I decided to see if it would be a suitable substitution.

I wrote and asked them if they could help me match some samples of Anchor and DMC colours that I had gotten from Italy. They answered right away and gave me some matches but it's difficult to match from photos so in the end, I mailed them my thread samples because there just isn't anything better than having something in your hand when you're trying to match colours!

I have to say, Handy Hands' customer service is excellent. They must have looked up the colours as soon as my samples arrived because, allowing for cross-border mailing, it was no time at all before I received colour-matches for all the colours I asked about. These colours are for a project which I will tell you about in a different post.

The Lizbeth #10 thread is the same thickness as my Anchor and DMC threads but because it is made up of three sets of 2 threads twisted together, it's a little like stitching with a cord instead of a thread.
I did three lines of stitches: stem stitch, chain stitch and Palestrina Knot stitch. The top or first line of each set is the Anchor Freccia and the other is the Lizbeth.

Anchor Freccia #12 and Lizbeth #10 on Zweigart 36 ct Edinburgh linen.

There is a bit of difference in sheen and of course the twist, but overall, I'd say it's an excellent substitute! I love the way the thread sits up on the fabric for a very textural embroidery. I'm thinking Palestrina EmbroideryParma Embroidery, Umbrian Embroidery, even traditional embroidery when you want to create a more rustic, raised effect.

Lizbeth thread is distributed worldwide, they have a list of distributors online for a store near you or you can order directly from their website. Signing up for their newsletter before December 31, 2015 gets you free shipping in the US.

Much thanks to Barbara at Handy Hands for her infinite patience, valuable insight and quick, efficient service!


  1. Molto interessante, non avevo mai pensato al ricamo con filati più grossi, l'effetto è magnifico!