Monday, April 1, 2013

Managing your Threads.

I think one of the reasons people don't enjoy embroidery is knots, tangles and frustration. I know that these things can turn a fun project into a pain in the butt. Let me share with you a few tips on how to make it more enjoyable just by managing your threads and floss.
I'll post a few short tips and tricks this month. Let start with bobbins.

I like using bobbins. I know that a basket full of floss hanks can be very decorative. But once you start pulling threads you will find that that beautiful little pile is a big pile of problems. Then you stop embroidering.
Here is a cute image from the Invincible Summer Blog by Nikki.

Before you judge, you have to visit her cute blog tutorial on how she makes her own bobbins. Easy peasy and so cute!

I use basically 2 different threads for most of my embroidery. There are more, but these are commonly available in most craft stores, so I can keep my stash stocked.
I like to buy high quality embroidery threads. When you purchase the bargain brand you are asking for some problems.
They tend to knot up more.
They sometimes leave color behind in stitches, so when you remove a stitch, you are left with a colored hole in your fabric.
They may not be colorfast. That means they may fade in sunlight or with washing.

Your time and creative efforts deserve the best. Embroidery is not a fast little craft. It involves many hours and days of work. Can you imagine creating a little masterpiece only to see it deteriorate before your eyes? I would cry.
Besides, if you are selling your work, your customers deserve the best. They have so little control over what goes into their items. Its up to you to be a watchdog for quality control. Your payoff will be work you are very proud of. That's such a great feeling. DMC has a nice product which can be found everywhere. I am using their images of their products. I'll be posting more about the different embroidery threads later. In the meantime, take a look at some of the info and tutorials here.

Perle Cotton is a multi ply, cotton thread that cannot be separated. It comes in a variety of sizes. I use size 5 for most of my work, but use size 8 for details.
It comes in a 27 yard skein or a 49 yard ball in 306 colors. Sizes range from thinnest to thickest 12. 8, 5, 3. Most craft stores sell size 5 or balls in a variety of sizes.
It is has lovely sheen. You can easily create a nice thick line or a full solid satin stitch.
I use the smallest embroidery needle I can fit into the eye. Size 24 or 22 Tapestry needles work well. More on needles later.

6 Strand Embroidery Floss is my other go-to embroidery thread. It has 6 separate strands which can be pulled apart for your desired thickness.
Floss comes in 8.7 yard skeins in 454 colors.
It is the perfect choice when doing tiny work with lots of detail. Most crazy quilts are embroidered with single or 2 strands. I use 3 strands when I want a good filler. But 2 strands work for most projects.

This post is mainly about how to manage your embroidery floss and thread so it is ready to go when you are.
I use bobbins instead of skeins. This helps me keep my stash tidy and bobbins fit into most organizers.

DMC sells plastic bobbins. Any brand will work.

You can find some fun handmade bobbins. I found these on Etsy.
Here are some adorable wooden bobbins from Giggle Snort Society

Here are more designs from Sugar Cookie

They may not be the most practical bobbins, but they sure are sweet!

Here are Nikki's bobbins from her tutorial, "Embroidery Floss Organizer".

I'm just using the plain plastic bobbins for now.
Here is how to manage your embroidery threads...

Perle Cotton
I am showing one skein as it comes from the store and the other has the wrapper undone.
Don't throw that wrapper away just yet. I recommend making a note of the color number on your skein, so when you run out, you know what to purchase.
I write the number onto the middle of the bobbin and also on the very end. There is a rough side of the plastic and a smooth side. I use a pencil to write the numbers down.

You will find the beginning and end to the skein at one end. they are tied together. Carefully snip them apart making sure to remove the knot.

Untwist the skein just enough to expose the loop of threads.
Begin winding one end onto the bobbin. Wrap a few times to make sure it has a good start.

Now here is a trick I've learned which involves some very technical equipment...your knees. They work better then anything I've tried and they are always available.
Just place the skein over your knees and pull it taut. As you unwind the thread it won't twist or twirl and you will avoid knotting and kinks.

Continue to wind your bobbin keeping the thread taut, but not stretched.
There is a lot of thread to wind, so try to keep winding your thread evenly across the bobbin till you get to the end.

Ta da! Ready to use and to store.

As you use the thread just keep tucking the end into the slit on the bobbin. When I have left over thread I just wrap that onto the bobbin. That way you won't waste an inch.
If you are stitching on a rough fabric and your thread becomes worn and ragged, don't keep the leftovers. They will only cause you headaches later. Keep them for the birds!

6 Strand Embroidery Floss
Now anyone who has ever used floss knows that it knots very easily. Winding onto a bobbin helps by smoothing the floss fibers onto the bobbin. Less folds and kinks means less knots later on.
Again, unwrap the label from your floss. Make note of the color number on your bobbin in the middle and on the end.

Carefully split the skein into a loop.

My special tool for floss is my wrist, (roll up your sleeves for this).
Place the loop of floss over your hand so the end easily unwinds.
Begin winding the floss onto the bobbin. AS you pull the thread it will spin around on your wrist and easily unwind without tangling. If it catches up on itself, slow down and unwind it by hand for a bit until it starts to spin on your wrist again.

As you use parts or strands of each color, wind the leftovers back onto the same bobbin to keep things neat and avoid waste.

When you are done, keep them clean and organized in a box. I found mine for 99 cents.
Everything in its place...

I have a confession. My boxes do not look like this. I used this photo from Junie Moons blog.
I'm a busy stitcher. I promise to show you my stash later.
Now go stitch!


margaret said...

very interesting about the bobbins, I have not seen the animal ones before but have all my stranded cottons, flower threads on bobbins. Not that I use stranded cotton often I have not wound the other threads that come on longer skeins but have plaited them instead, regretfully as they are had to be pre cut so cannot use them for tattting etc, at least I have learnt from my mistake!!

Shava said...

It's pretty to keep them with the floss side up as they are in the Junie Moon picture, but if you keep them with the fat plastic end up, you can mark the floss number (with a D for DMC and so on for the make of the floss) on the exposed fat white end, and thereby have your OCD system for keeping them straight in the box.

I keep my DMC solid floss in one set of boxes, and everything else in another box, as I don't do so much with perle or what-not or other brands. It makes sorting through things easier. And then, I keep different projects in freezer ziplocks, so I can look quickly to see if I need a bobbin from one project or another I haven't finished. (uh, oops, yes, that's a thing...)

Bayou Queen said...

My strand floss was tangled from the beginning . What did I do wrong??

Unknown said...

I know this is an older post, and I am not sure if you respond to comments, but I will ask my question anyway.

I am new to cross stitching and have chosen to start with kits with printed patterns and floss included. The floss is precut and organized on a single piece of cardboard with holes punched and labeled along the sides. The precut floss is looped through the hole and allowed to hang loose.

This is my third such kit. This pattern is a little more complex and calls for more colors. There are 16 punch holes for floss on one side of the cardboard. The first two only used one side. This pattern uses 37 colors, using two sides of the cardboard, plus a second one.

It was fairly easy keeping the floss from tangling while completing the first two kits. I'm afraid that won't be the case with this one. As soon as I gently removed the floss from the package, I had a strong premonition of a huge tangled hot mess.

I bought a huge pack of plastic bobbins. I will hand wind the precut floss if need be, but I am hoping you have a few tips for speeding up the process. Anything? Please...

Thanks for taking the time to read this.


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