How To Find Replacement Threads

Not everyone has all the DMC colors, and whilst I would suggest everyone joins the journey to owning all threads, sometimes it just isn’t viable. But how exactly would you go about replacing threads if you need to?

Why Replace Colors?

I guess we should start by discussing the possible reasons we might need replacement threads though, as this impacts how to change threads.
You’ve probably come up with these issues before as a stitcher, and may have just delayed your stitching until the right thread could be procured or given up on the idea of changing things, but you don’t have to!

DMC Embroidery Floss Color Card (Source:
DMC Embroidery Floss Color Card (Source:

Missing The Thread

As we’ve said above, it’s possible that you just don’t have the thread. Maybe you overlooked it, ran out, or could have struggled to get hold of it somewhere (or even worse, saw some dye lot issues in the store).
In this situation, you’re looking for basically the same thread, or as close as you can get anyway.

You Have A Bad Pattern

Sadly, the cross stitch online community has an issue of people struggling to find good quality cross stitch patterns. Thanks to sites like Etsy and Aliexpress, people and companies can send out some terrible patterns into the wild.
In these situations, you need yourself a color that works in the setting, but something better than what they’ve chosen. Maybe the skin looks too grey or the red torii gate has a random pink line in it. This is where picking colors will start improving the pattern you have (although you should be careful next time).

You Don’t Like The Pattern

This is a slightly different situation from the above two though. Instead of having a bad pattern, you simply don’t like what you see. Maybe you want to change the color of an umbrella, or the hair color is not yours, or the collar on the dog isn’t the one you think would work best.
These are the decisions I LOVE to see in cross stitch. These choices are what make your project personalized. But it also means you’re not looking for a ‘close’ thread anymore. Now you want something that looks totally different.

Offical Color Card

Regardless of what you’re replacing a thread for, a color card is the place to go. We’ve long thought every stitcher should have one, and there is a kind of technique in how to use a DMC color card for some more complicated things, but even the most complicated color change is a breeze. Simply look up your color and the one nearest it is the closest to it. Above is lighter, below is darker.
But what about a total color change? That’s easy too! Look for a color you want to change it to, and pick that one. If there are highlights, use the color above, and if there are low lights/shadows, use the color below. You now have yourself a nice run of colors!

Online Color Card

These color cards however aren’t always the easiest to get hold of (especially in the US), but there is another option!
Official DMC color cards online. We even have our own DMC color card for you to look at, and most of those out there actually use ours anyway.
The great thing about these is that they’re the real deal, but for free! The downside is that your screen might not be 100% accurate. This is sadly a fairly common issue, so whilst these online ones can be a great boon, you need to make sure they’re the right color in-store or by comparing threads before you stitch something up.

DMC Thread shade card with new colors with logo by Lord Libidan
DMC Thread shade card with new colors with logo by Lord Libidan

Closest Thread Calculators

Don’t have a color card and are not sure about your screen? Don’t worry. Here we can go to the wonderful internet to provide!
Companies such as thread-bare offer tools to find the closest DMC thread. Unlike the color card option, it picks from all over the color chart to pick the closest ones.
This is great as if you use the highlight or lowlight color found in the color cards, this tool can suggest an alternative!


Another possible option is using guides. These are tools that put together a list of known color runs so you can swap them into your own design.
We’ve made guides for how to find the perfect threads for skin tones and the perfect threads for hair, but there are loads of lists out there for simple things like a nice run of reds or a good sky combination. You could even directly contact designers if you like an element of their pattern and ask what the threads are.

Skin Tone Cross Stitch Thread Table by Lord Libidan
Skin Tone Cross Stitch Thread Table by Lord Libidan

Other Thread Companies

There is finally, another option though; using a different brand. Sometimes you can get your hands on another brand’s thread, or maybe you have to get extra thread for a kit and don’t know the brand.
We’ve said before, and we will say it again, that cheap embroidery thread is good, and whilst we prefer cotton threads, there is nothing wrong with using polyester blends. In fact, we scored some cheaper threads very highly in our list of best embroidery thread brands too
But there is a little word of warning here; not all thread brands have perfect copies, and dye lot issues are always possible too.

Samples of DMC threads, CXC threads, Anchor threads, Sullivan threads and J&P Coats threads using the same colors (Source:
Samples of DMC threads, CXC threads, Anchor threads, Sullivan threads and J&P Coats threads using the same colors (Source:

Have you got any tips for replacing threads? Or have you yet to delve into the world of personalizing cross stitch patterns?
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

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