Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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DMC Coton a Broder #12: RIP


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.

DMC Coton a Broder #12

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!


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(36) Comments

  1. Hello Mary,
    It is the same in France. It may be me, but I find that many needlework revues are not inspiring.
    I forgot to thank you for reviewing the Anchor Manual of Needlework. The book came in..mint condition, no marking. $16.00. The photos,the exquisite embroidery. Priceless!!!

    Merci mille fois!

  2. Hi Mary,
    What a shame! Of course I haven’t ever used it, so I really don’t know what I’m talking about. 🙂 I have 4 hanks, and have no idea what to do with it. But I have 5 hanks of Anchor No. 40, and have no idea of what to do with that either. I’m sure I’ll think of something eventually. But you’re right. Eventually I’ll come across a project in which I’ll need it, and won’t have it.

  3. The day I found out that No 12 had been discontinued, I was SO upset! As you suggest, it is used in traditional forms of embroidery such as Ukrainian drawn thread embroidery. As a teacher of merezhka poltavska (Ukrainian drawn thread work), this was terrible news!

  4. You might have more joy seaerching for Anchor Coton a Broder. I’ve found it available in UK on-line stores, yes, ticket #12! Colour #1 is equiv to DMC 5200. Hope that helps.

    I discovered #80 crochet cotton recently which was a joy – finding something of a similar texture to peark cotton but so fine.=)

  5. Dear Mary
    Yes, I have seen some threads disappearing but only for knitting. Not for embroidery threads, because I’m an embroiderer from 4 years ago and there is still everything I know

    I have only one question:
    What thread number, of cotton Ă  broder can replace a perle thread # 12?
    I asking you this question because I’m about to start a white embroidery with cutwork,etc.

    Thanks to you I bought in Lacis and I have a little treasure of white threads!!!!
    Although I have not written here, but I read every post that you wrote and I enjoy every one of them, thanks so much!!!!

    Hugs and love

    Maria del Valle

  6. where do you buy your flosses and equipment? there is no good place near me. do you buy on line? i need to purchase several items, a good frame, good floss, good material. thank you!

    Lyn procopio

    1. Hi, All – thanks for your comments! A few answers:

      Donna: No, I’m talking about coton a broder #12 – you can see it in the photo at the beginning of the post. Pearl #12 is wound in balls, I believe.

      Lyn – I buy most of my supplies online. I have one shop about 40 minutes away, but it caters solely to counted cross stitch, so, while I can buy DMC floss there that I use now and then, and occasionally some needles or little accessories, overall, they don’t carry what I am looking for. My go-to shop (online) for most of the supplies I use is Hedgehog Handworks (they have free shipping through August right now for US customers, and 1/2 price shipping for international customers). That’s where I get frames and hoops, as well as silk threads and linen.

      Maria – It’s good to “see” you!! I think a #12 or #16 might work as a replacement for your project, but they are a completely different thread. Pearl cotton is three ply with a high twist, while coton a broder is four ply with a soft twist, so the finished product will look different if you use a different thread. I hope you have fun with your cutwork project!!!

      Elizabeth, thanks for the heads-up on Anchor #12 available in the UK! I’ll look into it. I like Anchor’s coton a broder. The #80 crochet cotton is great, isn’t it? So nice for edges and needlelace and whatnot…..

  7. Hi Mary
    The DMC Coton a Broder #12 is available here in the UK from Mace and Nairn. Wendy James who runs the online shop stocks many specialist threads for various techniques. I’m sure she ships overseas, as well.
    Website is: http://www.maceandnairn.com
    All the best,

  8. Goodmorning Mary,

    Traditional Stitches in Alberta, Canada still carries #12 DMC Coton a Broder in white and ecru. I have ordered many supplies from them and find that they give wonderful, specialized service to online customers. Janice, the owner is fantastic! http://www.traditionalstitches.ca


  9. Mary, this hit a nerve with me.

    As a shop owner, I find it ridiculous that you would expect us to carry a thread that is used by LESS THAN 1% of our customers.

    You can’t blame a thread company – or a fabric or canvas producer, etc. – for discontinuing product that no one uses!

    Perhaps you should shoulder some of the blame due to your use of threads that no one is buying.

    Honestly – get out more!

    1. Carmen – I am not asking you to stock it. I didn’t say anything about needlework shops stocking it or not. My point is that its gone, it’s too bad, and in the needlework industry, threads come and go – even those produced by the big manufacturers. The only thing I said about needlework shops is that it is unfortunate that DMC floss is sold at “big box” stores that can undercut the smaller privately owned needlework shops, price-wise. Sorry you took it the wrong way. I’m really not sure what you mean by “shouldering some of the blame” for using threads that no one else uses – I’m not sure how my use of the thread contributed to its being discontinued. But I’ll keep your advice to “get out more” in mind. Thanks.


  10. I travel – a lot.

    Frankly, I run across threads around the world that are not available in the US or the UK.

    I always bring a nice stash home with me, but of course know I can’t find them here.

    Threads being discontinued is directly related to the demand for them.

    No demand, and they are pulled.

    It’s a bit like fashion, no?

  11. Hi Mary, long time no writing here. About 6 years ago a make a research about DMC products for an article. In that time many people were talking about the difference in prices between DMC thread bought in Europe and USA, most of them tough depended on where the where made, and of course the were assuming the trheads made in USA were using also low quality materials imported from South America.

    Well in base of my investigation, the result was that DMC ONLY have one manufacturing facility and that was located in France, for that reason, all of their products where made there, and the difference in prices was because the high volumen of consume and sales in the USA and the differences in tax charges in the countries. DMC uses the same base materials for all their product delivered around the world. Plus , we have to remember that DMC France belongs now to DMC USA, even tough the keep both companies separated.

    Amazing eh???

    I love to read your pot and found them very instructive and informative. Keep going 🙂

  12. I have heard that DMC France manufacture has closed their doors. I do not know if they moved somewhere else or not but the France manufactory is gone. Do you know anything about this?
    Debra Puma

  13. boy have I been missing a lot of special threads. I didn’t think any of these threads were still in existance. All the time when I read old directions for needlework, and a certain weight of thread was called for, I didn’t know where to get it. I thought all this time these threads were extinct and since I’m 71 now that is a long time. Thank you so much for web site to teach us and spread the news about needlework sources.

  14. It’s frustrating when things we like and use disappear. Sometimes I think all our towns will have nothing but McDonalds and Targets, and Amazon will be the only place to buy stuff on the Internet.

    I really appreciate the work you put into blogging. I know it takes a lot of time. It’s fascinating to see the steps that go into your pieces, from materials to finishing. Thanks so much for sharing your process with us! And I, too, will be trying to get out a little more. 🙂 I’d never heard of Threadneedle Street, but it’s only about a half hour drive from me, and would be a great day-trip!

  15. Dear Mary,

    I have never used coton a broder #12 and yet it still makes me sad to read that this thread has been discontinued. I never like to hear that needlework techniques are fading away and along with them the necessary threads. Having a network of like minded and resourceful needlework artists is invaluable as evidenced by the responses for possible sources for purchasing discontinued or hard to find threads.

    Thank you for your wonderfully informative website. I learn something new nearly everyday.

  16. Mary I am also sad that our threads are disappearing from the market. My favourite Madeira wool and DMC rayon threads have gone and though I have heard they are being replaced by similar ones, there is no evidence of this in our stores. The staff have not heard of replacements.
    When I first started embroidering I used them sparingly and saved leftovers. Then thinking there was plenty more in shops I used heaps.

    Alas, like many things nothing lasts forever.
    I have a little coton a broder left and love how easy it is to use. I did not know of the many thicknesses it came in.

  17. My curiosity has been tickled by your quest for this thread! Couldn’t resist looking to see if it’s available in the UK.
    Found some at:

    Although other UK websites do mention about threads becoming discontinued.

    Out of interest, how does the thickness number system work? Is #12 the thickest or #30? And just how thick are the different numbers? I’m curious to see what the thread is actually like but have no idea just how thick they are 🙂

    Mind you, from your description Mary and from what I can see in the photos, it looks very like the stuff I remember using when I was a little girl in primary school for simple embroidery …. those were the days 🙂

    Cheshunt, Herts, UK

  18. Sad. I don’t think we expect all LNSs to carry all needlwork products. It would be lovely, but disasterous to my finances though.

    But I do understand the decision by DMC to stop making it, if it’s not a big seller. Now if Anchor also stops, yikes!

  19. Hi Mary,
    Thank you for the explanation about the size numbers. However, are the different sizes measurable? Without actually seeing the different threads it’s hard to know which ones to buy if you wanted to try some of them and are ordering over the Internet.

    I’m pretty sure that an item I made when in primary school was made using coton a broder and the threads on that are 2mm thick ….. what size would that be please?

    Thanks as always for your help.
    Cheshunt, Herts, UK

  20. Hi Mary, sorry to be late responding to this subject. I love crewel work and mourn the loss of DMC Medici and am treasuring my last remaining skeins. Fortunately my needlework store here in Auckland has sourced a wonderful replacement wool – Bella Lusso which is 100% pure merino wool, made in Italy. Comes in the most vibrant colours as well as soft shades and is so luxuriant to the touch. Lovely to work with and a fine replacement for Medici.

    I was most surprised to read Carmen’s comments and perhaps this is why more and more we are shopping on line and stores are disappearing.

    Love your daily news
    Glenys Wild in New Zealand

  21. Hola buenas tardes queria saber donde conseguir estos hilos pues tengo una merceria y me interesa bueno creo yo segun precios

    Âż Como puedo ver precios?

    Un saludo Julia

  22. I Have just bought Guiliana Buonpadre’s book Gli Antichi Retichello and am champing at the bit to get practising, however the first hurdle cannot be crossed because of the lack of coton a broder 35, I have searched high and low for someone who can tell me of an alternative and found no one, is there anyone out there who knows what else I can use, I would be most grateful.Thanks kelvin

  23. Dear Mary-
    I ran across your site when looking up the DMC Broder threads. I just purchased a whole shoebox full of this thread, most of it in 10-packs. I will get back to you if you are interested in this. I was amazed at the amount of thread I got (looks brand new in bundles) at a garage sale. More than I could ever use in my lifetime, I think. I will count them, tell you the colors, etc. when I have more time. Feel free to email me if you are interested in something specific that I can tell you. There are also some that are broders that are from JanLynn.
    Shirley Gray, Santa Clara, California

    1. Hi, Shirley – Thanks for your note! You’re welcome to drop me an e-mail when you get it sorted out. You can contact me at mary (at) needlenthread (dot) com. I’m pretty well set with threads, but I’d love chatting about them, hearing what you have, and helping you find a solution if you want to “unload” some of them! ~MC

  24. Hi, Any idea what would replace a Coton a Broder #20 or #30? Need it fast for a workshop that didn’t give much time to locate supplies.

    1. If you’re ok with working with perle cotton instead, you could go with a #12 perle cotton, but it wouldn’t be the same. Depends on the technique you’re doing. You can find the coton a broder in both sizes through Hedgehog Handworks. They’re pretty quick with shipping…esp. when it comes to thread.

  25. Bonjour,

    Je vous ai trouvĂ© en navigant sur un blog français qui parle de vous et de vos crĂ©ations. Le fil que vous nous montrez plus haut est-il “perlĂ©”? Si c’est le cas la vente en France se fait sans problème et dans diffĂ©rentes couleurs. Si vous avez besoin d ce coton je pourrais vous aider en passant commande et en vous l’envoyant. J’espère que vous pourrez traduire ce post car je suis nulle en anglais. Cordialement

  26. Mary,
    boa tarde!

    Gostaria de saber se a linha da ilha da madeira pode ser substituĂ­da em algum trabalho pela linha floche.

    1. Yes, you can sometimes replace floche with wool, but often the wool threads are thicker or heavier than floche, so you might need to enlarge your design for it to look right.

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