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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Keeping a Thread Log


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“Thread Log” is a strange name. But that’s what I call it. And it seems to work.

Whenever I receive an order of embroidery threads for specific large embroidery projects, I log them in a project notebook. In fact, I log everything I can about the project in the notebook. I started doing this when I was working on this church embroidery project, and I found it’s a very useful when I want to remember specifics about a particular embroidery project.

Most of all, the notebook ends up being a Thread Log, because that’s the majority of information that I note – the thread and how and where I used it, or the thread, and how I didn’t use it. I also include information on time involved and on quantities.

Embroidery Thread Log

I have no doubt there are more efficient ways to do this, but this is the way I like to do it. A notebook is easy, portable, uncomplicated.

So on that blissful day when the post arrives with a much-anticipated order of new thread, I unpack the package with my notebook handy. I examine each item in the order, cross checking it with the invoice, and write it down in the notebook, under the name of the project I ordered it for. If a thread doesn’t come with a specific manufacturer’s description, I concoct enough of a description of the thread so that I know basically what it is. For example, there are some threads that only have color numbers, not names indicative of the color, so I’ll describe the color: brick red – dk, brick red – lt, and so forth.

With the actual invoice that comes with the order, I jot down on it any project names related to the threads therein, hole-punch it, and put it in a binder.

Some day soon, I plan to go through all my threads and work them into a thread inventory system of sorts. Needle Artworks has a free thread inventory system that covers a wide range of thread manufacturers. It’s a great concept! But many of the inventory lists haven’t been updated in several years. I know there are thread inventory software programs out there, too, which are actually a very good idea, especially for tracking large and expensive stashes for insurance purposes, if nothing else. Flood or fire can ruin a stash, and replacing it can be a costly endeavor. For me, I’m working up my own “database” – which is really just an excel file. But it works!

For those of us who embroider mostly for fun, keeping strict track of supplies, stitches, time involved, and so forth is not really necessary, though if you like the process of jotting and journaling, it can be a good way of keeping track of what you’ve done. But if you’re in the “business” in any way – if you take commissions, if you teach classes and sell kits (even just at the neighborhood volunteer level), it’s a good idea to keep track of what you use, how you use it, the time involved, and how much it costs you. That way if you ever need to reproduce a project, you have the essentials written down.

What about you? Do you keep track of your stitching endeavors, supplies, ideas, and so forth in any specific tangible way? If so, how? Any ideas you’d like to share with the rest of us? Leave a comment and let us know! We can all benefit from each other’s experiences on these types of things!

Tomorrow, a give-away: A Trish Burr kit, and a little surprise or two along with it. So look for that!

Hope your week is going well!


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(32) Comments

  1. You have a great system going on!
    I do not keep inventory of my supplies however I’ve always wanted to have a Project Log in which to take notes of everything related to that project (threads, fabric, pattern/design, time, dates, pictures, samples, etc.) and I even started one…. but… must confess, I do not keep up with it :-/. I found out that, since my time for stitching is limited, keeping a log was taking some stitching time away.
    I really need to organize myself a bit better and perhaps get some ufo’s/wip’s out of the way and start from scratch.

  2. I also keep a thread log using Excel. Actually two. One log is of the threads I have on hand. I take this when I go to stores so I don’t duplicate. It has manufacturer, /name/description of color, # and size (Perle 3, 5, etc). Once you set it up it doesn’t take long to keep up as new threads come in. I also do a project list thread log so that I can remember what I used if I need to repair or add to the piece.

    What I also found very helpful to me, perhaps most helpful, is photocopying the piece. I do ‘story’ embroidery pieces with vignettes and so I photocopy the various scenes as I complete them and write (briefly) the thread info so I know exactly where and how it was applied. It also gives me something to refer to when I have given the piece away so I know how something worked with a stitch or thread or, conversely, how it didn’t.

    Thanks for this blog by the way. I so look forward to it.

  3. what a wonderful idea. I find my mind too disorganized to create a project such as this.I do not take enough time to sit down and create an organization book.
    getting bak to different thread measurements. Do you decide whtther to use a different weight thread by the feeing you wish to express?
    carol gross

  4. Mary,
    I do keep track of every thread color and type that I use in a project in a notebook of sorts. It’s a huge binder with page protectors inside, each of which has a detailed project sheet that gives the particulars on a current project… fabrics, threads, including color numbers, designs, costs, etc. I may even keep snippets of the fabric and threads used inside the page protector with the project sheet. When the projects are finished, their file goes into a filing cabinet, sorted by type of project.
    I do vestments for people and it has often come to pass that a customer that I had years ago will come back and say, “Make me another stole just like the one you made for me in 1995”. Since I may have made several dozen stoles since then, I’d be at a loss to remember just what design, let alone the colors and threads use if I didn’t keep detailed track of each project. I also give each customer a detailed invoice noting all the materials and costs of a project and keep a copy for myself, for tax purposes if nothing else. I also keep almost as thorough a project sheet and inventory on things I do for myself and for fun…including jotting down things that didn’t work out so I’ll know what NOT to do next time.
    I also keep each thread type sorted into containers by type…cotton floss, silk floss, linen threads, metallic threads, etc, then into bags by color and color family with color numbers and names or descriptions noted on a card stored in each bag. There’s also a complete list of all color numbers and quantities in each container on the top of the container so I can check and see what I’m low on. I keep a running list of needed colors in my purse at all times. But then, I’m a bit OCD.

  5. No, I don’t. And that’s the reason that I have so many duplicates. I think a thread log might be a good resolution for me in the new year. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. You are amazing. Although it sounds wonderful for my type “A” personality – I feel like I was making progress when I put all my thread in a see-through plastic box and photographed some of the things I’ve done for various charities.

  7. What a great idea. I did start an excel file of all my DMC floss, but didn’t expand on it when I started collecting floche, coton a broder, and various brands of other silk, cotton and wool threads. This looks like a candidate for a good New Year’s resolution.

  8. Hi Mary- I also keep a thread log and project log. The thread log is simply a Numbers file (Mac equivalent of Excel), with manufacturer, color, color number, amount, where purchased and how long it took to receive if I ordered on the Internet. This helps when shopping or planning a new project, but a lot of times I’ll just look at my stash- My threads are stored in plastic 60 drawer hardware storage cabinets from Ace hardware. I can usually keep an entire color family (3-5 shades) in one drawer. Each drawer is labelled and the drawers are transparent so finding a color is super easy.

    My project logs are simply 4×6 index cards with the project name, fabric(s) used and where purchased, size of completed embroidery (and finished pillow size if applicable), list of all threads used grouped by motif (orchid petals, hummingbird wing…), frame or pillow form, etc. I also keep a tally of the time I spend on design, project setup, embroidery of each motif, and finishing. As I work on a project, its 4×6 card stays in a small zipper bag along with my scissors, reading glasses, pack of needles and small pencil- very portable way to keep the necessities together as I stitch in various locations. After completion of a project I punch two holes at the top of the 4×6 card and add it to the project file, which is held together with two ring holders.

  9. I don’t keep a thread log. All my DMC floss is carded and in organized boxes. My other random threads that I buy for fun (no self control there) are together in another box. I have enough EdMar, I should organize those in little baggies. The other threads are just for experimenting.

    I do keep a photo album of my completed projects with info like design, designer, material used and count, any extras or changes I’ve made.

  10. Oh Mary! I worry about you so…no, I don’t keep a thread journal…I’m lucky to find my shoes in the mornings!
    Obviously, I need to declutter my mind, my house, my life!

  11. that is a very good idea. I’ve never thought to keep a thread log. I have always said I was going to keep a journal of projects but have never started one. Maybe 2011 will be “the” year. I know I need to create a data base of my stash………..if I lost it to a fire/other, I’d be so totally lost. I have NO IDEA how much I own. thanks for the reminders on this!

  12. Boy! Mary, you and some of the gals really keep track of your fibers and projects. I started a long time ago to keep track of my threads and fibers…that went by the way side shortly after. The idea was great and I started to write down projects (wants, wip, stash) that too fell short of completion. However, you have inspired me to open up the notebook and try again! We’ll see what happens. Try is the word!

  13. I have kept my tatting threads info in a journal too. BUT, I got lazy and stopped. But ,how i worked it was this : 1) thread name and size
    2) color and a snippet of
    that thread
    3) what project I used it
    Anyway, thats how i did it. NOw I’m so dang far behind I’ll never catch up. Do you suppose there is an organize fairy around?? hehehe Eileene

  14. I keep a thread inventory list in Excel. Each type of thread has it’s own page or pages with the number and color name. There is also a page for miscellaneous threads I buy. There is also a section for yarns and several empty pages for notes. I printed out a master list and took the pages to Staples to have it bound. If you want to see it you can read about here: http://coffeetimestitches.blogspot.com/2010/01/book-tour-and-silly-face.html

  15. It’s nice to have that information on hand!!

    What I decided to do with all the threads that I have collected is to set up an Excel list.

    I have a column for # of Thread, color, each chart, and number of skeins.

    Then under each chart I put in a mark of the corresponding thread so I can see at a glance which threads are needed and which charts need a color.

    I also have used the calculations to have totals as a thread is added or subtracted (for future purchases, if needed)

    The major problem with using Excel is that it has gotten so wide and long that printing out a hard copy is not easy (for me)

    The book that you’re using, Mary, seems more user-friendly.

    Thanks for sharing!!!

  16. Oh oh – you mean there are people out there who actually keep track of threads? You mean everybody doesn’t take their threads and wrap them onto floss cards and not note down what they are or where they came from? Does this mean I’m in HUGE trouble with the thread police??

  17. I also quilt, so keeping a thread journal is second nature. In quilting the journal tells a story of the quilts life. A thread journal is like a pathway or journey through a pieces life. So, if I give a piece away and anything happens to damage or anything like that often the pathway can be repaired and it can be made to look as near to new as possible. I love thread journals. If you do them as you go along they aren’t hard at all and can be really beautiful.

  18. When I was weaving, I had a Project Notework page that I filled in for every project. This included the yarn used, width and length of the project, drawing of the weaving draft, etc. I also included a sample of leftover threads, and a weaving sample if I had enough yarn to do so. I have though about doing something similar for each needlework project (minus the needlework sample). I think a sample of the thread used and how mcuh of each color was used would be helpful, along with demisions of the projects and a draft of the design, along with any notes. This is really handy for figuring out future projects, or if you want to duplicate something.

    Happy New Year!

  19. Wow – I am impressed at your organization! I have small boxes and baggies all over… you are going to inspire me to do something drastic and organize some of my stuff!

  20. I have never kept a thread log but find your idea great. I have this huge counted cross stitch pattern for which I have over 100 skeins of floss but some of them have have been discontinued. So I must have a thread log to try and match the colours to the nearest suitable shades. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Mary, the journal is a great idea. I especially like the page protector idea mentioned as you can see at once threads, colors etc. If metal didn’t rust so fast here I would go in for the 60 drawer holder for threads. That sounds so much more convinent(sp.) than my large “under the table” plastic boxes that I have to use.
    Ji honolulu

  22. After coming home a few times with my favourite DMC browns and greens and realising I had bought the same ones again (and again), I started an excel file in google docs so that I can keep it updated both on my iphone and at home. It is really just a sorted list of numbers, but it allows me to know at a glance if I have a colour already, or even if I have three spools of it (since I have enetered the number as many times as I have the thread). It has worked so far, though the temptation of picking up more 779 is always there… 🙂

  23. In reference to #3 above, my bible for checking whether I can substitute one thread for another based on the thickness of the thread, is: “Threads for lace” by Brenda Paternoster. It is written for lacemakers but includes lots of embroidery threads since modern lace can be made of anything, even chenille and wire. The current edition and its addendum cover about 1500 threads from around the world. They are grouped by type: Linen & other Basts, Cotton, Silk & Hair, Synthetic & Man Made, and Glitter. Among other things the author measures the number of wraps per centimeter of each thread and has a section where the threads are listed by number of wraps. For example, Au Ver a Soie d’Alger (spun) has 8 wraps as do 35 other threads of various types, any of which could be a substitute.

    You can get more information here: http://paternoster.orpheusweb.co.uk/threads/threads.html

  24. I just have a spreadsheet. It has many tabs for books (needlework, sewing, gardening, etc), patterns (needlework, sewing, knitting, crochet, etc), threads, beads, equipment (sewing machine feet, quilting rulers, etc). Some days it’s just too much for 1 spreadsheet! But on the other hand, I like having only 1 file to update.

    So far my stitching projects are designed by others, so I just keep the pattern as a reference for what was used. Should I ever design my own project, I’ll re-visit the need for a project diary.

  25. Because of this post, I realized that before I ended up with loads of new embroidery thread that I’m starting to collect again, I needed some method to keep track of what I have already.

    I collected a lot of DMC floss years ago when I did cross stitch. Now that I am exploring silk embroidery, I’ve bought a few basics, but I know I will be getting more.

    My method that I spent tonight setting up, is a little database in Bento, the db-light version that is Mac only (similar to Access for PCs). I’d set up my costume patterns so I knew it would be easy to set up a template for my threads. I’ve got a lot of info that I put in, as I am not sure what will be important for me later. It even will work with my collection of sewing threads, and machine embroidery threads, as there is a field to check which type it is mainly for.

    I know it will take awhile to enter in all the threads I own, but should the worst happen, I will know what I had to replace it. And being a digital file, once I get an iPhone or iTouch which is planned to get in a few months, I will have this data with me at a touch. For now, the computer with print-outs of what I need/have/want will work fine, as most of my purchases are online, with occasional planned forays into the local embroidery store.

    Thanks again for an inspiring post to help us keep track of what we own.

  26. As I teach as well,I find having a sketch book going at the same times as stitching helps with this project, other projects and if you stop and start, different projects(who doesn’t!!)
    I put the name,design,date started, threads ,needles used and sewing hints and tricks used. When the project is finished the whole page(with a photo if necessary) goes into the relevant folder.

  27. Ciao Maria, è molto interessante questo post ma io non ordino mai fili diversi dal DMC moulinè, solo in fiera, qualche matassina sfumata a caso, che poi non uso perchè mi dispiace… Ma quando voglio fare uno schema dove ci sono fili che non conosco, ho grandi difficoltà a ricreare il colore con quello che ho e sono sempre alla ricerca di visualizzare il colore in net. Mi sembra un’ottima idea la tua, io tengo un quaderno dove scrivo i lavori finiti con delle note generali, ma la tua accuratezza mi sembra molto utile. Grazie per i tuoi consigli, ne farò buon uso, spero. Ciao!

  28. I have made three Instructables about dealing with the floss itself. I am trying to begin a habit of recording the colors I use if only so I can finish a leaf in the same colors I began it. It is a worthwhile task that I wish to high heaven I had begun when I was a teenager.




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