How much thread will my project use

A common question amongst embroiders as we begin a project is “how much thread will I need for this project?”.

I always find it amazing how we will spend thousands on the perfect machine, but when it comes to purchasing threads for that machine, we all baulk a little. Please don’t think that this is me taking a swipe at anyone.  I am exactly the same.  I remember back to one of the first projects I made.  I have a niece who was 10 years old at the time, who really loved Winnie the Pooh.  I got a colouring in book of Winnie the Pooh drawings, and used my basic software to create her a wonderful quilt (this quilt was created for personal use only, and was never sold, nor were the designs shared, naturally, I do not condone the sharing or copyrighting of information).

I was terribly worried at the time however over the amount of orange thread that was going to be used. My biggest concern was that to complete this quilt, I was going to have to go and get 10 spools of the Winnie the Pooh orange thread.

Imagine my surprise when the single spool (1000m) lasted the entire project. I was so impressed.

Since then I have learned a couple of simple calculations. Every metre of thread will stitch approximately 200 stitches.  Now I say approximately because this calculation is based on a standard flat weave fill stitch.

As an example, I created a simple design of a satin stitch line, 2.5mm wide, with 200 stitches in it, and my software tells me that this will use 1.12m of embroidery thread.


I have also digitised a square of weave fill with 200 stitches, and it will use 1.03m of thread.


So these calculations can give you a basic guide to how much thread you will use.

We do need to remember however, that this number is only looking at the thread you will stitch. By the time you add in the 5cm that you cut off as you thread, not to mention the 40cm when you cut the thread at the top of the threading guide so that it does not come backwards, this quantity of thread is now 1.6m.

My best suggestion is to ignore the amount of thread that you will use overall. I definitely like to check to see if I have enough thread to complete a project, and software these days can assist you with this) however don’t assume that it is going to be accurate to any great degree.

If you are looking at purchasing threads for a project, particularly a single colour project, I strongly recommend purchasing the threads all at once, so that they are coming from the same dye lot. I have been in multiple situations where I think the thread is going to last, only to find out that I don’t have enough to complete the last block or so.


Software has also come a long way in the 15 years that I have been working with embroidery machines. My software estimates thread usage for me, allowing me to check my stock and see what colours I need before I begin (when I remember to do this of course).  Having a quick look around at the different software on the market, most of them seem to offer this feature these days, which will make it much easier for you to purchase threads for your project.

Until next time, have a Stitchin’ day. Julie.


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1 Comment

  • Reply
    January 4, 2017 at 4:31 am

    I love looking at all the lovely thread….so I have a HUGE collection I have bought when ever I could find good deals.

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