Floche is a non-divisible thread, made up of 5 plies of softly twisted cotton. It’s a beautiful thread which stitches up wonderfully. Floche comes in a gorgeous array of colors, though not as many colors are available in the US as there are available in Europe (haven’t the foggiest reason why – ask DMC!).
Floche, as I mentioned, is non-divisible. You’re meant to stitch with the whole strand, not separating it as you would separate stranded cotton.
In the photo above, you can see the individual strands of floche in each large bunch of purple and yellow, and in those individual strands, you can see the little plies that twist together to make up the strands.
Take one strand of floche (the purple) and one strand of stranded cotton (regular DMC embroidery floss), and you can see that the floche is definitely larger than the stranded cotton floss. In fact, it’s about twice as large – you can use one strand of floche, normally, where you would use two strands of floss.
Here, you can see the end of a piece of floche. See all the little tiny plies that work together to make the whole strand?
Even though floche is non-divisible – that is, it’s meant to be stitched as is and not separated – that doesn’t mean you can’t separate it. So let’s do that and see what happens!
I’m using a trusty clothes pin, because I want to add a little weight on the bottom of the thread while I separate the plies. You don’t have to do it this way – I just find it easier to get the plies apart if the thread is suspended with a little weight on it.
Suspend the thread, with the clothes pin on the end, and pick out a ply. Gently pull the ply away from the rest of the plies, separating it from the bunch. The clothespin with twirl like mad! Separate until you’re close to the clothespin, then pinch the intersection of the single ply and the rest of the thread, and remove the clothespin. The thread will want to come back together, but just ease the single ply out at the very end. It might take a little fiddling, but as long as you pinch the intersection of the single ply and the others, and don’t let them get close to each other again, then it’ll work.
Alternately, you can strip the floche like you do with regular stranded cotton floss, but the little individual plies are kind of weak, so you have to really ease each ply inch by inch, which (as in the photo above) bunches up the rest of the plies and risks knots. The weak individual ply doesn’t withstand heavy tugging well.
I’ve separated out several plies of yellow and several plies of purple floche here. They’re quite tiny.
Taking three yellow and three purple, I put them all back into a bunch.
Now, at this point, you can lightly twist the bunch together and come up with a heavier twisted thread. (You don’t have to do this – you can stitch with the loose bunch as is). But if you want to twist them together to make a lightly twisted rope, you do it like this: Tie a knot in the end of your bunch of plies, clamp the knotted end into your clothespin, suspend the clothespin and spin it…. and keep spinning it until you get a good twist on the thread. Then pinch the middle of the thread, and bring the other free end into the clothespin. Again, takes a little fiddling… but once you manage it, the thread will twist together on its own, and you’ll end up with a nice softly twisted thread. This soft of a twist won’t necessarily keep itself as you stitch regular surface embroidery stitches, because, as you pull through the fabric, the twist will loosen up even further. Still, you’ll see two distinct bunches of threads, lightly twisted together, in your stitches.
In the left petal there, you can see what I mean by the visible soft twist of the two bunches.
This seems like a fiddly way to work with floche, but you can get some really pretty results separating floche and putting it back together. You can blend colors or just shades of one color, to add a little depth to your stitching. Bullion knots, this way, can look great – they come out very smooth. I’ll see if I can work up some pictures and show you what I mean. In the meantime, you can check out this article on miniature embroidered flowers in buttonhole stitch, if you like. The last photo – with the purple and yellow pansies – make use of this technique of separating floche and putting it back together. (If I still had that piece, I’d take better photos!)
So there’s a little fiddly tip for you – though it requires a bit of extra work, I think the results can be very pretty!