Gay Ann Rogers Needlework

Gay Ann Rogers Needlework

Lessons on Threads






New Lessons

Thread Lesson #2

Cotton Floss or Silk?

My Answer: Both

In today's world of thread selections for needlepoint, silk seems to prevail and many stitchers overlook or avoid using cotton floss. We tend to regard stranded silk and cotton floss as interchangeable threads, and if so, why not opt for the lush silk rather than the more spartan cotton.

Fair enough, I guess.


Except I find them only partially interchangeable and I tend to use them for different purposes.


In the last years I've been stitching portraits in which I mix both floss and silk. I like to do faces (the mask) in cotton floss: it has a harder,  less flexible feeling and it looks crisper and cleaner going in and out of the congress cloth. It provides a wonderful background for the features.


Interesting in the last two portraits I've stitched, I mixed cotton floss for the mask, but I chose silk for the cheeks. This choice had more to do with color choices, and when I was stitching the cheeks, I would have preferred the harder crisper look of floss. But the silk colors were better and in this case color trumped texture. In that way the two are more or less interchangeable. More or less, but not always completely.


I like to do hair in floss; again, it is the harder more wirey feeling of floss that I like. I've used silk for hair on occasion, but I always notice the silk mushes ever so slightly and doesn't preserve a hair-like look to my eye.


For lush and elaborate clothes, I always use silk: there is a look to it that is no doubt luxurious.  The silk I like is softer and it seems to splay out a bit, blending well for different textures for clothes. Floss looks leaner and crisper, silk looks more full-bodied, soft and pliable and no doubt, more luxurious.



As I began designing another portrait, I wondered if this is just a habit I've fallen into? To answer myself, I set up an exercise where I tried reversing the two: I used silk for a part of a face and cotton for a couple of cloths details. It didn't work for me at all.


On several occasions people have written asking me please to discontinue using cotton floss, that they much prefer all silk. If you are one of these people, I suggest you set up an exercise like mine and try reversing my roles for silk and floss. Do you see what I mean? Or do you simply prefer one or the other?


Interesting exercise.


My World of Needlework


New Lessons


In 2015 I wrote a series of lessons for the beginner, intermediate and advancing needlework student.


I always intended to add to them but the year had a way of getting away from me, and here I am, a year later.


I'll do the best to add to my lessons as 2016 progresses.


If you have any topic you wish I would write about, please email me and I will see what I can do:


Click here for 2015's Lessons

For Beginning Students


Click here for 2015's Lessons

An Overview of Needlepoint


Click here for 2015's Lessons

For Intermediate Students


Click here for 2015's Lessons

For Advancing Students


Coming Soon in 2016

Lessons in Design

Above: my favorite silk, Soie d'Alger. On the right: Anchor floss in one of my most often used colors.

On left my portrait of The Young Catherine: her face and chest are mostly floss, her costume and background are mostly silk.