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 Alsatian Twist and Coats Ritorto Fiorentino


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DMC and Coats are both well-known needlework thread producers, world-wide. I marvel at the variety of threads they produce for the various markets around the world. Jeanine up in Canada recently sent me a gift from Italy – two types of thread that are available on the Italian market, but not available here in the US. Check them out…

The threads are DMC Alsatian Twist (or Retors d’Alsace) and Coats Cucirini (Anchor’s Italian branch) Ritorto Fiorentino. Both threads are similar to pearl cotton, but they are not the same as pearl cotton.

DMC and Anchor Threads from Italy

There are three hanks here – the two green hanks on the left are DMC Alsatian Twist and the white on the right is Coats Ritorto Fiorentino. I put the typical 6-stranded DMC floss next to the hanks, so that you could get a proper sense of the size of the Italian bundles.

DMC and Anchor Threads from Italy

Both threads come in two sizes: 8 and 12. They are similar, as I said, to pearl cotton, though there is a difference in look and feel. The Alsatian Twist, for example, feels heavier and limper than pearl cotton, and it has more of a sheen.

Jeanine mentioned that the Alsatian Twist by DMC is a return to an old style of thread DMC stopped making at the turn of the century. They re-released the thread this past May in Italy, and they may release it to other markets as well, though there are no present plans to release it in North America. You can find references to Alsatian Twist in the old advertisements in needlework and pattern magazines from the turn of the last century, and especially in the Therese Dillmont books like this one, Motivi per Ricami (Embroidery Motifs) – a PDF hosted on the Digital Archives. Check out the advertisements in the back of that book (which is full of beautiful embroidery motifs, by the way), and you’ll see this thread listed.

DMC and Anchor Threads from Italy

The Alsatian Twist is listed on DMC Italy’s website, if you want to take a look at it. You can drop the URL in Google for a translation if you want. The thread comes in 77 colors in size 8 and 56 colors in size 12 – all in 20 gram hanks like these above. (They’re… HUGE!)

DMC and Anchor Threads from Italy

The Coats Ritorto Fiorentino is produced exclusively for the Italian market. It comes in many colors as well, in 40 gram hanks (even HUGER!).

DMC and Anchor Threads from Italy

I had a resource to share with you here, but as of 2018 (this article was originally written in 2009), the resource is no longer available!

That’s the way the cookie unfortunately crumbles (or perhaps the thread tangles?) in the small businesses in the needlework industry, I’m afraid.


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(15) Comments

  1. I'm curious why the bundles are so much bigger. Is it because needlework is more popular, or the type of needlework uses that much more threads? On the other hand, I have room for more colors in the smaller bundles!

  2. Thank you for the information on the new Itallian threads.Also the new site Tutto Ricamo. What a beautiful site As a New hand embroiderer(spelling)I saw so many possibilities there. I also would like to comment on how much your site and the RSS feed has helped mr. Thank you again
    Karol (karmicraft)

  3. Now I'll have to find out where I can get it…which means I'll have to brush up on my Italian and see if someone can ship overseas 😀 Any places you know of that could shorten my search?

    P.S. I just picked up Trish Burr's book (Crewel & Surface Embroidery) and I'm waiting for some supplies to get started. I blame you for the time I'm going to lose when I should be working (designing 2 cross stitch patterns for work). 😀

  4. That sheen is really something!! Not sure I'd want to purchase such huge hanks, but those threads could really be worth it. I'd be interested to read a review of how they stitch up. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  5. These threads look lovely. Maybe we could ask a company such as Lacis to carry it. Is this the same Jeanine who worked the lovely "TR" monogram on the TuttoRicamo website? If so, your work is excellent.

  6. I, too, am curious as to why the thread comes in such large hanks. What is it typically being used for in the Italian market?

    It almost looks like floche in the first picture.

    The 'Tutto Ricamo' site is a true treasure. (I needed yet another online place to spend a few hours. 🙂

  7. Hi, I’m Caterina from Italy, I like very much to share with others the embroidery passion. In Italy Retors d’Alsace is used for Hardanger Stitch,it is a very good embroidery thread, there are a lot of colours. I read this post and I’d like to inform you that in my embroidery shop it is available DMC Retors d’Alsace. If you are interested you can send me an email at shop@artedelricamo.com

  8. Hello, i’m new to this so bare with me, just visited…TuttoRicamo… unfortunately it was up for sale..(.HugeDomains.com)…
    I really enjoy your “blog” if that is what it is? I am new to embroidery…great asset to have needle’n’thread, thanks very much Mary.

  9. I live in France and retors d’alsace is available from a few vendors here, usually in just a few colours such as cream, white, blue and red, but today I have managed to order from an Italian site, http://www.casacenina.com, which has a very wide range of colours. The delivery to France was no more expensive than domestic postage, though obviously non-EU countries would have to pay duty on top. I don’t speak Italian, so I used auto-translate on the pages, and it was straightforward to order using Paypal. I have both #8 and #12 retors in my stash and I think the latter is the nicer thread – very lustrous and incredibly well behaved in the needle. #8 can be substituted reasonably well by cotton perlé #8, though the retors has a bit more body, but #12 is a really beautiful thread for stitches such as fishbone, fly, cretan, etc – I hope to get it in a wide range of colours.

  10. Hi,

    I am going to Florence, and I thought I would try some European threads. Does anyone have any insights to share as to which threads they would suggest buying. Are any threads particularly delightful to work with? Or frustrating?



  11. Hello! Have been interested in Il Punto Antico recently and wanted to try my hand with it. Found in Giuliana Ricama some references to Retorts d’Alsace threads. Since it seems these are not available in US presently, are Perle cotton threads a good substitute? Would you recommend something else for the difference in sheen and handling? Many thanks.

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