Today, let’s delve into the differences between two somewhat similar embroidery threads. In the States, these two threads are called “coton a broder” and “floche.” Elsewhere, they may be called “broder special” and perhaps “floche a broder” or “coton floche a broder.”
In any case, there is confusion between the types of threads, from country to country, because they’re called different things. So I’m going to refer to the threads as I know them and explain their properties here, so that you can tell the difference between them and perhaps find them in your own country. You can at least know what I’m talking about when I use the names of the threads.
The ultimate point I want to make here is that coton a broder and floche are two distinctly different threads. Let’s look at them.
Coton a Broder
We’ll start with a skein of coton a broder, or broder special.
Properties: cotton; non-divisible (you use the thread just as it comes off the skein; it can not be broken down into smaller usable threads); 4-ply (that is, each strand is made up of four smaller plies of thread twisted together to make the one usable strand); mercerized (has a sheen); comes in various sizes or thicknesses and these are delineated by a number assigned to the thread size; only some sizes come in colors beyond white and ecru; it is also called “cutwork thread” or “whitework thread” because it is used (usually in white or ecru) in cutwork and whitework.
Size 25, shown here, comes in some 180+ colors in the States. The thread is not carried by DMC USA per se (you won’t find it listed in the products on their website), but retailers can buy it through certain DMC distributors.
Size 25 is normally coded as product 107 (or Art. 107) in DMC catalogs, color cards, and so forth.
Above, size 25 (in blue) is lined up next to size 16 in white.
The size number is indicated on the longer label.
Size 16 is significantly heavier or thicker than size 25.
So, when it comes to sizes within the same line of thread, the lower the number, the thicker the thread.
Now let’s add some floche into the mix.
Properties: cotton; non-divisible (just like coton a broder, as explained above); 5-ply; mercerized; comes in one thickness, which is assigned a number, but which does not correspond with the same number in other lines of thread.
On the label, floche is called “coton floche a broder” and it has a size number, which is 16. And this can cause confusion, so we’re going to clear that up below.
When coming directly from the distributor, floche comes in large 10 gram hanks. Some shops may break these down into smaller put-ups to sell.
Here in the States in DMC catalogs, color cards, and the like, Floche (or Floche a Broder) is usually given the product code 5238.
In the photo above, starting at the top, we have a hank of floche (the size number on the label is 16), followed by a silver coton a broder 25, a white coton a broder 16, and a blue coton a broder 25.
And here’s the rub:
The top green thread is floche, which has the size number 16 on the label.
The two lower threads are coton a broder. The middle thread is size 25. The lower one is size 16.
You can see that size 25 coton a broder corresponds more closely in size to floche.
You can see that size 16 coton a broder is quite heavy compared to the other two threads, and does not at all correspond to floche marked with size #16.
And now let’s look at their structure. Remember that both of these threads we’re talking about – coton a broder and floche – are non-divisible. You don’t take them apart to stitch with them. But we can separate the plies a little bit, to see how they are constructed.
Coton a broder 16 is made up of four plies twisted together to make one non-divisible thread.
Coton a broder 25 is made up of four plies twisted together to make one non-divisible thread.
They are both the same construction, just different sizes.
Floche is made up of five plies twisted together to make one non-divisible thread.
Floche is not as tightly twisted together as coton a broder, so it is a slightly softer thread when you stitch with it, and it has a bit more “spread” to it.
Here they are: coton a broder 25 on top, with the green floche right below it. You can see that the twists on the green floche look longer than the twists on the coton a broder, because the floche is not as tightly twisted.
At the base of the photo is coton a broder 16, which is significantly heavier than both of the threads above it.
If you are looking for a thread to substitute for floche because you can’t find floche, please don’t try to substitute coton a broder (broder special) in size 16. Instead, substitute coton a broder (or broder special) in size 25. The actual thickness of the threads will correspond better, and you’ll have a much better color selection.
We’ll look at some stitched comparisons later this week!
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Have your say below!