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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Embroidery Thread Organization… & Reminders!


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“Stash” is something that goes hand in hand with needlework. Even if you’re just starting out with embroidery, you’ll probably find pretty quickly that you can’t get too far away from building at least a wee stash of embroidery supplies, tools, fabrics, and whatnot.

Because embroidery is what I do (I’m very fortunate to be able to say that my hobby is my job), I have an extensive stash. I use my stash for planning embroidery projects for teaching or demonstration and for working up tutorials and follow-along projects for Needle ‘n Thread.

The most important part of my stash is my collection of embroidery threads. Because I live out in the boonies, it’s important to me to have threads I use on hand. I can’t just hop down to a needlework shop or to a craft or hobby shop for even regular embroidery floss. So I have a jolly collection of threads, and the storage and organization of them is an important consideration.

Bisley Cabinets for Thread Storage

Last year, after saving up, I was able to invest in a couple Bisley multi-drawer cabinets that are really perfect for storing threads. I wrote about the Bisley cabinets last year, and now that I’ve used them for a year, I’m more in love with them than ever!

Because I still had quite a few threads that need to be stored, when the cabinets went on sale again this year at Container Store (they’re on sale now!), I invested in three more cabinets.

When they arrived, I set about organizing threads!

Bisley Cabinets for Thread Storage

Working with the whole range of DMC floss, I was able to divide the threads into four drawers according to color groupings. The drawers are shallow, so that digging isn’t necessary, which is nice. They still hold a good amount of floss, even though they are only 2″ deep!

Bisley Cabinets for Thread Storage

I dedicated a drawer to silk ribbon.

Bisley Cabinets for Thread Storage

I’m not quite sure yet how to organize perle cotton, so I’ve situated the whole range of DMC’s #5 perle cotton in two of the deep drawers in the Bisley 8-drawer cabinet. I use perle cotton #5 almost exclusively for all the stitch tutorials here on the website, and it is absolutely wonderful to have a variety of colors to pull from.

Bisley Cabinets for Thread Storage

And cotton floche – which is my favorite ever cotton embroidery thread – has a few drawers dedicated to it.

Besides these cotton threads, the original Bisley cabinets I acquired last year house my silk threads, whitework threads, and wool threads. The silk threads are arranged by type and color number, as opposed to color groupings. The whitework threads are organized by type and size, and the wool threads are organized by type and color groupings.

Next up – goldwork threads! I can’t wait to organize them into drawers that allow me to see easily what I have on hand!

In the long run, the thread cabinets will save me time (I don’t have to go rummaging around through various boxes to find specific threads) and money (I won’t buy threads that I actually have on hand, but couldn’t find, or didn’t know I had on hand).

Once all my threads are in these cabinets, the cabinets will be placed on plinths, so that they can support a tabletop for my work table. That means they’ll be saving me space, too.

You can read my previous review of the Bisley multi-drawer cabinets here – I’ve listed pros and cons to them, but after a year’s use, I have to admit, I’m leaning heavily towards all pros. They are expensive. They’re extremely well made, though, and you’re paying for that quality! If you’ve been thinking about them for your own storage solutions, the Bisley cabinets only go on sale at Container Store once a year, so you might check them out now while they’re on sale. No affiliation here – it’s just a product I really love. And if you have a Container Store nearby, you can save shipping and pick them up in the store.


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(39) Comments

  1. Dear Mary, just one request, please adopt me. Will work for food and a bed 🙂 xxx
    PS It will be easy to file me. Just put me in the green stash drawer as I am green with envy 🙂
    Lots of love,
    Elza Bester Cape Town

    1. 🙂 LOL! Well, you know, that’s the pretty side of the story, all this organization. I may have to show you the more sordid side later – such a mess to get through! I was thinking about skipping it and just bedding down in the pile for the night. :-/

  2. Ahh, this is such an interesting subject. Collecting and organizing can be exciting… and frustrating… I love how stashers joke about having fabrics and threads for breakfast… :o) How we get carried away… And then learn to be sensible

    I’m a serious stitcher-stasher for almost 1,5 years now. (Yes, young, but wise already 🙂
    I too invested in certain reasonable means to keep my treasures clean and convenient 🙂 (simple obvious things like containers & organizers for basic plastic bobbins (of which I own over 4oo now. That’s as excentric as I can get, because I do mean to be reasonable… and I’m almost good…) These things are indispensable. They also save space.
    And I, too, thought of drawer cabinets for storing, although I prefer light ones, from plastic.
    Bisley are too expensive… :/

    Elza is just too funny! 😀

  3. Wow! Gee, Mary, and I thought I had a good thread stash! (I live out in the bush in the boonies, too!) That looks like a super way to organize your threads. I use clear shoe totes for mine.

  4. Dear Mary I am excellent in sorting and organizing stuff and getting rid of any mess. I had good practice with my two sons. Just say the word 🙂 xxx Elza Bester.

  5. I am with Elza:) Just as fascinating as it is to see all the beautiful threads, is to know we will be the proud recipients of tutorials, and projects that they will made into.

    I am pretty new at all this and am still trying to decide by number or by hue. I am studying Trish Burr’s color confidence and wondering the best way to incorporate her sorting. I am at the awstruck stage of beginning and am struggling with putting my needle down at the end of day. I just love this site and all the knowledge.

  6. I think I’m getting dizzy from floss fumes just looking at the pictures! Such a riot of colors, but an organized riot… And those Bisley cabinets – so many drawers and nice clean lines.

    I hear you on facing the mess. I can usually get started with a plan and everything, but then look a pony!!! or I find something in the plan just won’t work.

  7. Oh, I am so jealous. I have started organizing my stash but I do procrastinate. My DMC is still filed by number but I may give into the change and file by color. I spoke with a lot of my fellow stitchers and they store by color. Curious how your Blog followers handle it?

  8. Hi Mary,

    Your organization looks great. One day I will have a dedicated space! But I have to ask, all your skeins look full and tidy. What do you do with partial skeins, ones that you had to untangle and end up on cards, and the bits and pieces that we end up with?

  9. Hi Mary, I had to laugh at the “Gee willikers.” I haven’t heard that said in so long. My mom DOB 1928 used to say it when we were kids. I will call her and let her know the expression is still is use.
    You made my day.

  10. Amazing and marvelous. I have my DMC cotton floss organized on those floss cards. Extra skeins I have in a bag with the numbers of my extras on a piece of paper so I know what I have. My floche, metallics, rayons, etc. are in bags devoted to each type. That’s about it.

    Is it difficult to find what you want for a project in terms of having enough skeins of a color?

    1. Hi, Irene – I usually start by picking out the colors I think I want and stitch a sample piece. If it’s going to work, I order the quantity I need, without having to guess at colors. And I usually order enough to have a replacement skein, if I’ve used a whole one from the set. Though it’s an investment on the front end, in the long run, it saves me from ordering threads that might not be quite the right color. It took a long time to get to this point – but I think it will pay off in reducing frustration and ordering mistakes in the long run!

  11. Dear Mary

    Gee willikers what a stash what a store what a selection of threads, ribbons etc I’m so envious like Elza I’d work for you free of charge just to go through your wonderful work place and look and glaze over all your embroidery stock you could tuck me into a Bisley although I might be a bit big, in fact extra large (do you think Bisley make that size)ha! ha!. Wonderful.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  12. Mary, you’re so funny! As if we NEEDED encouragement to buy more supplies. Shoot! I walk into my LNS and it’s all, “Oooo, pretty!”. Maybe I shouldn’t walk into my LNS….hmmmm.

  13. Those cabinets are perfect! I do have a question tho – I see that you have stored what appears to be fairly full skeins of floss. What do you do with the leftover bits? For instance, if you only use two strands and there’s four more left unused. Curious minds want to know (at least this curious mind does!).

    1. Mary Anne,
      I don’t know what Mary C. does but here is what I do. All my stranded cotton is wound around these cardboard bobbins. When I need a strand, instead of cutting all 6 strands at once, I only cut one strand the required length and that way there is never loose strands to worry about. Elza Bester

    2. I’m with Elza on the floss usage. I too just cut the strands as I need them. Then I put the needle with whatever floss is left back into the same bobbin. I used to use size 24 tap needles and have hundreds of them. in the last year or sew…lol….i have changed to size 26 and so am in the process of continually buying needles….lol. i looked into the drawers last year when Mary told us about them and fell in love but alas! cannot afford them. when i started my new Kimekomi hobby i did invest in those wonderfuly scrapbook racks of drawers at the git go and that has helped me tremendously on keeping the stash for Kimekomi under control.


  14. I dearly wish we *did* have a Container Store nearby, but the US is a long way to go to get some storage things.=) Someone suggested Muji as a (sometimes) UK available alternative, but I think they’re too expensive, esp. if one needed quite a few.

    I really enjoyed looking through your drawers! I wish I could do so in person…=) I should do an updated thread collection/storage post soon too.

    As I still do cross stitch and some things that require me to fish out threads by colour number, I have my complete Anchor stranded cottons organised in bags according to colour number. I like the idea of colour families though and I organise other threads like that – only there aren’t really enough of them to need a drawer per colour.=) With rayons and Pipers silks I have them in two ‘halves’ – warm and cool. Maybe that might work for your perle #5?

    BTW, What’s your silk ribbon brand?

  15. G’day Mary,
    The mind boggles and the eyes oggle and the hands itch…actually not a good choice of words as having problems with a rash. I’d like to even just pat your wonderful drawers. What’s in the air tonight ?! (3 am here) Pat your ‘drawers’. Hahahaha (blush). Oh dear, here comes another ‘that reminds me of’. Old Miss Prudence Prim had just sat, very cosy in her mind, as she was a righteous and old fashioned soul, through a sermon on modesty. She would enjoy her Sunday roast with a clear conscious today. Not even her ankles were visible. At the door, Father Footinit greeted her very amiably (they played together as children), “Winter draws on Miss Prude.” Poor Miss Prudence blushed confusedly, then whispered “Ooh Father, I didn’t think you could see through this dress”!

    Very helpful to see and read of your organisation of threads. I’m really happy for you to be getting such special homes for them.
    Cheers, Kath.

  16. Que hermoso sitio para guardar,claro que cuando se ama el trabajo todo es pequeño y siempre falta espacio porque cada dia hay que guardar mas,gracias,la admiro mucho.

  17. WOW!!! I want to live at your house!!! Will you PLEASE adopt me?? LOL. I am disabled but you can put me to work by putting your floss in color order or anything else I can do sitting down lol. I love and want your storage and all your floss!!

    I have my stash in my cedar chest in baggies by colors and then I have all the bags in one big storage bag (like the ones you use for blankets) which makes it very easy to grab when I need my floss out of my cedar chest. I feel like I can never have enough floss and when I come across a great deal I will buy more even if I don’t need it because just like you I live out in the country and I just can’t go buy floss when I need it so I try to keep it on hand.

    Thanks for sharing with us. You made my day and you make me want to work on my current cross stitch project 😀

  18. The one bit of information I have been dying to know!!! How do others organized floss!!! …and here is the answer! I knew there must be another way than the common plastic bobbin thingies…..that’s what I do.
    So with that said my question:
    For those that are not full-time embroiders, don’t need to house every color, WHAT is a good method then?

  19. On picture 3 what are you winding your floss in? I’m trying to do that, just don’t know what your using…

  20. I was given a bunch a bunch of coron embroidery floss. Do you know if there is a conversion chart to DMC.

  21. Thank you Mary for your wonderful tutorials, advice and inspiration. I am getting back into hand embroidery after doing several other crafts as it’s a great portable and relaxing thing to do.
    I have quite a lot of embroudery threads, all of which are wound around cardboard which is made specifically for storing thread. I’m sure you know what I mean. My threads have then been packed into the plastic boxes purchased to hold those cardboard ‘spools’ very neatly but also tightly.
    My question is: Do I start over with new threads and store them as you do which I’m now convinced is much better. (Wish I was aware of that 30 years ago!). I do consider the cost of thread is small when I look at the time I will spend completing an embroidery project.

    1. Hi, Lois – well, I wouldn’t pitch the threads you have! You can always use them if they’re still in good shape, or at least use them to practice or experiment with. If you build a new collection, you might store them differently now. I like keeping mine in drawers according to color, but it does require some digging when I’m looking for a particular color number. Still, it keeps the threads in good shape.

  22. Holy. Freaking. Crap. The threads… the beautiful threads… so many threads….

    I’m gonna go in a corner and weep for awhile. Won’t take long.

  23. I’m looking at these drawers. My mother and I had a store years ago, and I’ve inherited multiple skeins of each color of DMC. I currently have them (almost) in 4 drawers in ‘snack bags’ hanging in order. I don’t think I’m going to have enough room to get them all in since I just discovered another (!) box of DMC in my mother’s stash. Long story short, how much does each of these drawers hold? Could I lay the snack bags in order in them maybe so I can keep the multiples all together? Thinking of starting with one set of drawers and adding, but not sure if one set would get me very far. I have ‘boxes’ of thread elsewhere in a drawer system, so this batch is just the stuff that doesn’t have a box but is more than one skein. Thanks! I’m constantly looking for better ways to organize this stuff. I’ve tried three different ways so far, and none works really well for me.

  24. Just stumbled across your post here and your collection of embroidery floss does speak to my inner organized child.

    I’m curious to know just what you did to display the threads as above in the open drawer photo. Removed the threads from their skein, wound them on to . . . ? cardboard fitted to the drawer? You don’t mention (in the 3rd photo from the top) how you fitted them to whatever it is you are using to organize them . . . care to share? Thanks.

    1. I keep all my threads in their original configuration that I buy them in. I just can’t take the time to re-wind threads onto bobbins and the like. When I have leftover threads, I might take that trouble, but generally, I just run the leftovers through the thread tag and hitch them around it, so I know what color it is when I use it the next time. I keep my “skimpy skeins” where there’s hardly anything left in a separate box, to use for demos and so forth.

      The stuff you’re seeing on the cards is silk ribbon, and that’s the way it comes.

      Hope that helps!

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