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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Floss and Thread Organization & Storage


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What’s the best way to store floss? That is the million-dollar question! I’ve heard and read rave reviews about different methods of floss storage. Here are a few commonly available storage systems – followed by what I do (which isn’t too conventional!).

I should first make it clear that I haven’t tried every single one of these methods of storage personally. I know some people who’ve tried one or the other organizational systems, and I’ve tried just a couple of them myself. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with “mixing and matching” your organizational methods, which is what I tend to do.

Bags and Rings: Ok, first off, if you’re talking about organizing and storing a relatively large stash of floss, this isn’t the way to do it! But, bags and rings have their uses. I use the little zip-lock bags that fit onto a large ring when I’m working on a small project and I want to be able to tote my stuff with me. I select the threads I’m going to use, put them in their own little bags, run a ring through the bags (or not), and throw them in my embroidery basket. For large amounts of floss (for example, to store your stash), I say forget the bags and rings! The bags are too slippery, and the heap that ensues when you attach more than 10 or so bags to one ring just isn’t that appealing. You end up having to “dig” for your colors, and that’s just inconvenient. Besides, there’s no neat and tidy way of storing bags and rings.

Cards and Boxes: Here’s another pretty common option for storing large quantities of floss. Compared to Bags and Rings, it’s definitely neater, but… By cards and boxes, I’m talking about the little card “bobbins” that you wind your floss on, write the number on, and tuck into the “made-to-fit” plastic boxes that go with this system. You can fit quite a few wound cards into one box, which is a nice advantage to the whole idea. But… but… Personally, I don’t like taking my floss apart and re-winding it. They make a little floss-winder doo-hickey that makes the winding apparently easier, but I still don’t like the idea of winding my floss onto hundreds of little cards, and cramming the cards into a plastic box. It puts too many kinks in the floss, too many “stress” marks and fold marks. I know I would never do it with my silks! And the snag-factor is just a bit too great. I have used this option before – I just don’t like it, personally. On the other hand, I know people who use this system faithfully, and they swear by it. So it just depends on what you like.

DMC StitchBow Organizer System – Here’s a system that’s pretty interesting. There are about four components of the whole system: the “bows” that hold your thread, the binder inserts, the binder, and the travel bag. First of all, what’s good about it? I like the bows. These are plastic sticks with little arms on each end, on which a skein or two of floss can fit, stretched its normal length. It’s easy to put the floss onto the bows (no unwinding and rewinding), and on the side of each bow, there’s a plastic tab over which fits the sleeve off the floss indicating its color. That little bow thing is rather ingenious. The only problem I’ve had with it is that the sleeve from the floss doesn’t really fit those tabs, and they always fall off. It’s easier just to write the number with a permanent marker on the tab (but then the tab becomes unusable for other colors!). Ok, so that covers one component of the whole system, and if you’ve got a lot of thread, and you want to put it all on those little bows, you’re already obliged to spend a small fortune. 10 bows cost from $1.39 – $1.50 or so, depending on where you buy them. You’ll pay $15.00 easy to store 100 skeins of floss. I guess that isn’t “so” bad, but then, if you have a larger stash…. well, you’ve only bought the bows so far! Next, you need the binder insert – this is a clear plastic page with slots into which you put the loaded bows. One page holds 15 bows. One page costs around $2.29 – $2.50 depending on where you’re buying it. If you are storing 100 skeins of floss, then, you’ll spend around $16.00 for these binder inserts. So now you’re up to about $30 or more to store a 100 skein stash. Then there’s the third component – the binder – which costs around $8 – $10. It holds up to 8 loaded pages (assuming one skein of floss per bow, for a comfortable fit), and now you’re up to $40 to store 100 skeins of floss. And then you can get the travel bag – actually, a zip up binder, with side pockets for storing your project. It retails for $18 – $22 bucks. If you get that, you’re up to $55 to store 100 skeins of floss.

ALL IN ALL – that’s not that bad, considering that you can tuck the binder away, and your stash is neat, organized, and at your fingertips. However, I generally have anywhere from 300 – 400 skeins of floss on hand (I teach classes), not to mention a variety of silks, wools, metals, and whatnot. I won’t spend $200 to organize my stash! I’d rather buy fabric or threads!

Positives of the StitchBow System: 1. The bow – it’s a great idea, and for individual projects, it’s great to have some on hand to stick your floss on. 2. The binder inserts, though you don’t really “need” them. If you’re using the bows just to accommodate threads for a current project, you can put them in plastic bags. 3. The idea that you can open a binder, flip through the plastic inserts, and find just the floss you need. That’s a cool idea.

Negatives of the StitchBow System: 1. The binder they sell with it is cheap, cheap, cheap. It warps (I’ve even seen them on shelves in stores, already warped), and it doesn’t do that great of a job holding everything in. It’s flimsy and cheap. If you’re going to use this system, buy a large 3-ring binder from Office Depot. You could even buy one that zips up, and you’d be miles ahead of this chintzy little thing. So skip the binder! 2. The floss number sleeves don’t fit on the bow arm, and they will just fall off – so don’t plan on using them. It’ll just irritate you to have to chase the sleeves around. 3. The price – if you’re storing an exceptionally large stash, I say find a different method – or just buy the bows.

So those are my views on a few of the available floss organizer systems out there. What do YOU use? Let us know! What’s your opinion on available organizers? We want to hear it! There are a couple more that I’d like to mention, and then I’ll tell you what I do (which isn’t that fantastic, and probably won’t suit all tastes!), but I’ll save all that for Part II.



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(11) Comments

  1. I used the clamshell StitchBow holders at first, instead of the binder. That was a waste of money, because when the holder is closed like a book, some of the bows always come loose. I then switched to the plastic sleeves that go into a binder. I’ve found after heavy usage, the dividers between each bow starts to fall apart and you end up with two bows in one big bow pocket. Too pricey for the poor quality.

  2. i have a huge inventory on rings. Works like a charm and I use it like artist colour cubes so I totally disagree with you.

  3. At the moment I use the plastic boxes and card bobbins but I’m looking for something different because sometimes you stuff one secton in the box so tight you have to re-arrange everyyy thing else to make a new card bobbin fit which is frustrating, very frustrating. I like the plastic bobbin idea plus there is a wider variety I find I get sooooo aggravated winding the skein on a card bobbin. I’m thinking of using a regular bobbin in the plastic box and get rid of those lousy card bobbin things. I’ll just have to wait and see let you know how things work if I do.

  4. I like using zip lock bags, sandwich or quart size. I take a magic marker (Permanent) label the color number and manufacture on it bag. Place the floss in the bag. punch holes on end opposite of zip lock, and place in binder. if you have more then 1 floss of same color this works great, also I use the card bobbin for projects that I am working on. When done with the project I just slip that card back in correct bag.

  5. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

  6. I think your information is great. As for the stitchbow system I have enjoyed using it since it came out. My floss is in way better condition than with the bobbins. As far as the tags always falling off some are tighter than others. I have just been in the habbit of either putting a small piece of tape on the end to hold it or a real small gob of stickytack under tag holds it nicely.

  7. I have stitchbow and while it's great for keeping my extra floss it no good for stitchin a project, what do I do with the piece of floss left over after I pull out one strand to stitch with? I use the bobbin and box method and I agree it's a pain to replace the floss after a project because the bobbins all need to be shifted to fit everything in. My dream is to hit the lottery and pay someone to maintain my cross stitching stashes.

  8. I keep all my stitchery supplies in plastic bags in the 7 drawer plastic bins on wheels. This has worked out great. In our last location though I stored these chests of drawers near a window and luckily it was the bags and not the fabrics and threads that got covered in dirt. Now I need to replace the bags. A major cleanup job as I have 21 drawers full! My question is this…..the sandwich bags for foods, I am assuming will be acid free but I guess I should make a tiny hole in each bag? I am living overseas and don’t have access to storage systems in the local stores. In addition to the floss and the fabrics I have many specialty threads I am particularly worried about. Any ideas out there? Thanks Elisa

  9. I’m about to start a white work/hardanger sampler. I have done hardanger before but always on even weave fabric. This will be my first time doing white work on linen though with the threads actually pulling the fabric in different directions. Any hints on unforeseen issues I may have? Is it better to use a flower thread for the insertion stitches rather than floss OR should I just use perle cotton #5 for the insertion stitches? I am using a stitch resource from many of my books rather than a set out pattern and look forward to an original design. I have done many original hardanger samplers so am not concerned with issues of centring or counting. any tips would be very much appreciated. thanks Elisa

  10. I’ve been switching mine all over to the bobbin and plastic cases. I am slowly Aquitaine every colour (more each time I got to the store. 6 bobbins fit per section in my case so I have already numbered each section and divided the colour list into groups of 6 so each colour number goes into its appropriate section and box so no shifting when I put stuff back. I love it so far for my 6 strand DMC. I am keeping my speciality threads in a separate container as I have a lot less and don’t require the same level of organization 🙂

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