Kreinik Q&A: Japan Threads

5 things to know about this beautiful thread

"I have Kreinik Japan recommended to me for a card weaving project. However, I don't understand how the numbers work; I know it has to do with thread weight, but I don't know if smaller numbers are heavier or lighter. Any instruction you can give me would be helpful." — emailed question

You may have the same question as this stitcher — what do Japan thread numbers mean? Does a larger number mean heavier thread? We answer these questions and more here, in 5 Things To Know About Kreinik Japan Threads. 

1. Basic Kreinik Japan Threads come in three sizes: 
  • Japan #1
  • Japan #5
  • Japan #7
  • Smooth, bright, and shiny, they give the look of stitching with real metals. 
  • Japan #1 comes on spools. Japan #5 and #7 are available on spools or skeins.

2. The smaller the number, the thinner the thread:
  • Kreinik Japan #1 is super fine, very thin, the thinnest.
  • Kreinik Japan #5 is slightly thicker. 
  • Kreinik Japan #7 is thicker than #5.

3. Stitch with one, couch the others:
  • Japan #1 is a passing thread; stitch through fabric as you would a sewing thread. 
  • Japan #5 and #7 are gimps, or wrapped threads, and therefore couched onto the surface rather than sewn in and out of fabric. The metallic foil is wrapped around a core fiber, so if you stitch and and out with Japan #5 and #7, the wrapping may separate or come off.
  • Japan #5 and #7 can be couched singly or multiple strands at a time for unique effects. Couch with a matching color of Japan #1, or a contrasting color of metallic or silk thread depending on the look you want to achieve.

4. Kreinik also makes Japan Threads in Braids and Ribbons:
  • This gives stitchers/weavers/fiber-artists more Japan Thread textures (ie, creative options). A Japan Thread in Kreinik Tapestry #12 Braid, for instance, looks like a checked or serpentine metal thread. 
  • They are thicker, stiffer, and more texturized than the basic Japan Threads.
  • Popular in needlepoint, counted thread, crazy quilting, temari, crochet, and surface embroidery techniques. 
  • Look for a "J" after the color number, as in 002J or 001J.
  • The smaller the Braid number, the smaller the thread. Kreinik Very Fine #4 Braid is the thinnest Braid, for example, and Fine #8 Braid is twice as thick as #4 Braid.

5. Kreinik Japan Threads are easier to care for than their historical counterparts:
  • This generation of Japan Thread is synthetic and thus less expensive and more readily available than real metal threads.
  • They have a percentage of real metal, but are non-tarnishing. 
  • You can dry clean needlework made with Kreinik Japan Threads.

Side note on couching Japan Threads: A squared-off spool known as a Koma is often used to hold the thicker Japan Threads or other couching threads as you stitch. The Koma won't roll off like round spools, and you can unwind thread as you couch. See our blog "Need Another Pair of Hands?" for more details (and a good couching illustration): http://kreinikthread.blogspot.com/2012/05/need-another-pair-of-hands.html

In case you missed it, check out an earlier blog about using Japan Threads with ideas from other stitchers: http://kreinikthread.blogspot.com/2011/07/what-is-japan-thread.html

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