STAPLE:   The finest component of a thread. The longer the staple, the smoother the final thread. Staple length and quality are affected by the climatic origin of the wool, cotton or flax. Staples are twisted into yarn. Man-made staples can be created in any length. Silk, essentially a continuous filament, can be made from the shorter, waste staples.

PLY:    Two or more yarns which have been twisted to form a thread. Most threads are S-twist.


Brazilian rayon threads (and a few silk threads) are Z-twisted.


STRAND: A single thread, without regard to how many plies it contains. These are usually twisted together by the manufacturer and sold in banded skeins. The embroiderer then separates (strips) and uses singly or in multiple strands. The worker often lays the threads with a tool to facilitate fuller coverage of the ground fabric.

3-strand Persian wool
3-strand Caron’s Watercolors
6-strand embroidery floss (Mouline Special)
7-strand Soie d’Alger (silk – see note below)
12-strand Caron’s Waterlilies (silk)

The more plies in a thread, the smoother it will be. Plies are NOT to be separated.

Two-play threads are like those which follow:




 Cotton pearl Nos
 Caron’s            Waterlilies  Crewel
 Caron’s Watercolors  Soie d’Alger  Persian
 Caron’s Wildflowers    
 Embroidery floss    (Mouliné special)    


Four-ply threads:   Coton a broder sizes 12 to 40 and tapestry wool

Five-ply threads:   DMC floche


Please Note: Au ver a Soie is the name of the manufacturer of fine silk in France. Literally translated, it means “at the silk worm”. The term is often confused with the correct term for this floss: Soie d’Alger. It is pronounced – swah doll zhay ( zh as in leisure).