Yesterday, I brought up the subject of favorite embroidery flosses, specifically of the cotton 6-stranded variety. While I was writing that post, it brought to mind all my favorite embroidery threads. And among the favorites is what we call in the US “coton a broder,” a 4-ply, non-divisible, mercerized cotton thread that is used especially for whitework. If you’re not familiar with what it is and what it looks like, you can read a previous article on coton a broder and thread organization, which will give you some information about the thread.
Coton a broder is made in various sizes (or thickness), but Oh My Goodness – it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find the range of sizes here in the US. Lacis is the only store that seems to consistently carry at least a few sizes. The threads are not from DMC in the US, actually – I believe they are imported from DMC in France.
Once upon a time – and not very long ago (since I began writing Needle ‘n Thread – so, within the last four years!), you could find the following sizes at Lacis, and also through other retail shops: 12, 16, 20, 25, 30, 35, and 40.
I challenge you to go find half those sizes widely available today, outside of Lacis! 40 is pretty much obsolete. Within the last four years, the Anchor size 40 seems to have disappeared in the US. I don’t know if it’s available still overseas, but it isn’t readily or easily available here. #35 is pretty much gone – I haven’t seen it available in several years. #30 is still available, and can be found if you look hard enough. #25 is a “widely” available size, because it also comes in colors, and it is a favorite of smockers. #20 is still around, and can be found here and there, as is the same with #16. What it boils down to is that 16, 20, 25, and 30 are available (you can find all four available at Lacis), but not all of those sizes are widely available – and in the last four years, three sizes (12, 35, and 40) have disappeared altogether.
#12 has met its official end. DMC has discontinued it. So if you use #12 in any particular type of needlework, you might want to find it now, before it’s all gone.
And the moral of the story is this:
Don’t take your threads for granted. Even the “big” thread manufacturers like DMC have to cut back, and they could end up cutting your favorite threads. I’m not talking the 6-stranded floss here. Obviously, that appeals to a wide market in the counted cross stitch world and will probably be around for a while, especially since DMC (in the US, anyway) rubs elbows with the big box & chain stores, where they distribute their floss and their trendy threads (a fact which contributes unfortunately to the financial struggles of the small local privately owned needlework shops). So if DMC has to cut back, imagine the difficulties for the smaller thread manufacturers out there!
What I find particularly troubling about the coton a broder disappearing, though, is that it has roots – many traditional and regional forms of hand embroidery rely on this thread, from Schwalm work, to Ukranian drawn thread work, and so forth. If we can no longer get the variety of sizes of coton a broder here, then these traditional forms of needlework will be less accessible, and may eventually disappear (in their original forms) altogether. And though we can be “creative” and use different types of threads to mimic these techniques, doing so doesn’t preserve the original form – it morphs the styles and techniques into something else.
And so my friends, I mourn the loss of #12. The picture above is my remaining scanty supply, which I will treasure and use sparingly!
Any thoughts on the comings and goings of favorite threads? Have you seen any of your favorites vanish from the market? Have you found successful substitutions? Share your thoughts on the subject in the comment section below. I’d like to hear what others think about the subject!