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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Color Matching Different Types of Embroidery Thread


Amazon Books

I mentioned last week, when announcing this give-away for Trish Burr’s new book, Miniature Needle Painting Embroidery, that there is a discrepancy between the color numbers for Gütermann’s threads available in the US and those available in other countries.

I don’t know why that is. But alas, it is! And so, armed with a list of DMC thread numbers that correspond with the Gütermann threads Trish uses in her projects, I went on a little hunt to try to match up thread colors and put together a workable list of Gütermann thread numbers for US stitchers working on Trish’s projects.

My search took me not too far afield – I just needed a store that stocked all of Gütermann’s Sew-All polyester threads and the full line of DMC.

Oh, I suppose I could have taken the DMC colors with me, or purchased them elsewhere and then found the Gütermann’s, but I figured it would be easier to have all the threads under one roof. And I found them, at JoAnn Fabrics. Indeed, I am told that they have the full line of Gütermann Sew-All thread colors that are available in the States.

Here are some hints on color matching and the results of my search.

Gütermann and DMC Thread Color Matches

The photo above is actually taken in my workroom, because I bought the threads I color matched. I didn’t want to fiddle around with the DMC skeins (pulling out lengths of them) and put them back! And I wanted to take the Gütermann threads home, too, and see what they’re all about.

They are, incidentally, polyester sewing threads. Trish splits them and uses them for tiny details, because they are strong even when split and they are more widely and affordably available than other threads.

If you’d rather use a natural fiber – silk, for example – I’m guessing you could probably color match threads like Soie de Paris (though the color palette is limited) or floss from The Silk Mill (very similar to the now-defunct Eterna silk floss, though of much better overall quality than Eterna ever was). Because they’re both filament silk, they can be broken down further into tiny strands, if you had to. Just a thought…

Anyway, back to color matching!

Gütermann and DMC Thread Color Matches

One of the advantages of going to a JoAnn’s, which is a sewing and craft store that’s stocked with fabrics, threads, needle craft supplies, and other stuff, is that they do have a large range of Other Stuff. Among that Other Stuff are lights for crafting. They sell them, and in the larger stores, they often have them on display and working, so you can test them.

This comes in very handy when color matching. If you’re hesitating between two shades that look similar but aren’t quite It, take them to the lighting department and check under the craft lights. You may get a better reading on the colors.

And don’t feel awkward toting threads around, matching them, putting some back, carrying some to the lighting department, replacing those, getting new ones, and all that. Sure, people might look at you like you’re growing three heads, but the reality is, no one really cares! As long as you’re not making a mess in the store or upsetting customers and getting in people’s way, do what you must do!

Gütermann and DMC Thread Color Matches

For the most part, I had pretty good success matching up the ten DMC colors to corresponding colors of Gütermann’s. There are a couple colors that are not absolutely perfect matches, but I believe they are close enough.

And there was one color of Gütermann’s that isn’t available in the smaller spools, but is available in the larger spools. That was rather irksome. So if you don’t find small spools of the color you’re looking for, check the large spools – it might be there!

Thread List – Printable

Here’s the thread list as a PDF, so you can print it and take it with you. If you are unsure of the colors or don’t like the shades, check the DMC colors – maybe you’ll find a shade you prefer to the one I picked. I chose the closest possible match among the shades, when the match wasn’t perfectly obvious. But there were a few that I hesitated on, so you might find a shade you like better. I made notes on the printable, so you can see the threads that are not perfect matches.

DMC / Gütermann USA Color Equivalents for Miniature Needle Painting Embroidery (PDF)

I’ve sent the list along to Trish, so I’m sure she’ll make it available, too, and probably in a better format! But for those who are eager to get the list, now you have it!

Tomorrow, a little seasonal pattern for you, and Thursday, I make a confession!

You’re welcome to leave any questions, comments, suggestions and so forth below, if you have any.

See you on the morrow!


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(37) Comments

  1. …AND if you are on the JoAnn’s mailing or emailing list, you can receive notice of their frequent sales and many coupon discounts. You should never have to pay full price for those threads unless you are in desperate need and there just isn’t a discount in sight at the time!

    1. JoAnn’s also accepts competitor coupons, and if you purchase something during a sale but don’t have your coupon or smart phone with you, you can take your receipt and coupon back in, and they will refund the difference.


  2. One other thing to be careful of when buying Gütermann’s Sew-It-All thread. in the UK it changed from a three-ply thread that was too weak to use split, to a two-ply which is strong enough to use split. So if you have old reels lying about, or buy from a shop with very old stock, you might not be able to use those as Trish Burr does. I wrote about this on my blog in July 2013:

  3. You are a God given gift and an inspiration. At 61 and recently retired, I so want to spend my time embroidering. Thank you so much for all your hard work in creating “how to videos” for me to learn in the comforts of home.

  4. That Gutermann’s thread looks so much thicker than what I buy for quilting. It reminds me Kreinik braid all chubby and woven looking. I’ve never noticed that particular type at Joann’s. Now I want to go look for it. It’s nice to know this particular type can be split.

    1. Never mind. I think I figured it out. It’s a strand of DMC wrapped over the Gutermann’s spool. I shouldn’t be messing with the computer at 5:30 in the morning. 🙂

  5. I admit, I prefer cotton to polyester in almost everything, so I have ignored those spools forever. I thought that they were for sewing machines to be honest. Mostly because that is where they are located in my Joanns, near the other spools next to the sewing machines for sale. Go figure. About color matching. I often hang around in the DMC embroidery aisle with a book or photo for matching colors. 🙂 I am stared at by humans for that all the time. My last session of color matching was simpler, I was looking for “ginger kitty” color so I “hired” a model. 🙂 He just sat there patiently while I spent half an hour flopping skeins from my small stash (and the ginger-ish ones that I purchased) for color matches on his back and head. That was a chunk of chicken well spent, though he ate it that evening. 🙂 Sadly, Joanns would not let him in, or I would have taken him. (snicker) As for lights, if a person has a mining-style “headlight” that they use while stitching, they can take that to help them find matches. 🙂 Just my two cents. 🙂

  6. Mrs. Corbet! The things you do for us! I hope we didn’t put you through too much trouble doing all that thread business (though I’m sure you did it partially for yourself, also ) 😉
    We thank you for colour matching for us! It will be of great help to me if I get around to working any projects from Trish Burr’s book.


  7. Thanks Mary,

    Having color matches for different brands is always helpful. Mary, do you ever use Sullivan floss? All of Sullivan’s floss has the DMC equivalent printed on the skein. I have only used it for crafty things like teddy bear noses or cats whiskers, but it seems to work quite nicely. I need to compare the two and see if one is more linty. The reason I ask is because Sullivan’s is available at Hancock Fabrics and they do not carry DMC only is specialty threads.

    And for those who may not know, Jo-Ann’s and Hancock’s both offer a guild, sewing club discount. If you haven’t asked for it you may be missing out on another 10-15% off your bill. I’ve worked at both stores and discovered that you need to ask and carry your cards with you for proof, but it is worth the effort financially.

  8. Thank you so very much for the thread list – was hoping it would become available before the new book arrives from Amazon. I am anxious to begin my first try at Thread Painting.

  9. Dear Mary,
    Thank you SOOO much for generously sharing your knowledge. I have been embroidering for over 40 years, and have often made up my own way of stitching many times, & supplemented my knowledge by buying books, borrowing from the library, etc. However, your site has taught me, and encouraged me, more than anything! You are so clear, enthusiastic, and humbly encouraging…and, KNOWLEDGABLE! You’ve opened up doors & windows…and fostered a new burst of interest.
    Again, MANY thanks!

  10. Thank you for the color comparison!!!! Doing one is always tricky and time consuming and I (and I’m sure everyone else) really appreciates it

  11. Hello, all.

    I hadn’t thought about using Gutermann threads for hand embroidery–but they re, after all, threads. If I end up buying a larger spool, I’ll use it for quilting. (Used up two full small ones on a recent baby quilt. Guess that means I should start aiming for larger spools–after the thread stash goes down.)

    I wish my area had a JoAnn’s, but they closed their store here some 7 or more years ago. I make do with Hancocks and Hobby Lobby and mail order.

  12. I used to love JoAnn’s until I applied to work for them. By the way they told me that I had to start at minimum wage, limit my weekly hours because they didn’t want to have to pay for benefits (said it to my face), I had to purchase my own specific uniform, and would take at least two years before I could get “up to” $12 an hour… This was after they said I was “more than qualified with my years of experience working in a retail fabric store, teaching sewing, quilting, my vast art background, etc. I felt beaten down and humiliated and left with my tail between my legs. If only they’d treat their employees with respect, I might think more of the company.

  13. Thank you! What perfect timing . . . the mailman brought my book today and then I opened my email to find your message with the conversion list. I’ve printed it out and plan to tuck it into the book, so it is right there when I get to start stitching one of Trish’s tiny treasures! Now the hard part – deciding which to stitch first!

    I love finding threads intended for other uses that fill a need in embroidery projects. This serves as a good reminder to me to look in the sewing threads department if I’m searching for a color or size of thread for a particular project and am not having luck finding it in the “embroidery threads department”. 😉

    1. Hi, Sharlotte (and all!) – The PDF I first posted was correct as far as threads go, but it didn’t have the original Gutermann list that’s in the book – it just had the DMC equivalents and the USA Gutermann list. So I’ve updated it. If you printed or downloaded it early this morning, and it has only two columns in it, you might want to get the new one, which is available at the link above! Sorry about that! I forgot the book doesn’t have the DMC equivalents in it….

  14. This is the same all-purpose Gutermann’s that I use on my sewing machine, right? I would never have thought to split it. Thank you, Mary, for the new things and possibilities I learn from you every day!

  15. Thank you for taking this project on, Mary. I never gave splitting the thread on purpose for even finer work. My only experience with splitting it is when I don’t want it too while trying to thread a needle.

  16. Thank you, Mary, for taking the time to sort out the matching threads. My copy of the book has arrived, and it’s fabulous! In the first couple of pages I learnt that there is a nap to threads- had no idea! I’ve a few gardening tasks to do, then I’ll try a chicken, I think!

  17. It’s a tricky task, colour matching, isn’t it?

    Another possible silk option would be the one you recommended to me a couple of years ago – Pipers! They’re regular floss silk is like half of one strand of cotton, but the 4/20 is finer and the 2/20 finer still and would be a great option, esp. as it’s not too expensive.

    Well done on all that matching work. It’s fun, but hard. =)

  18. didnt know you could split threads which. Usually use for quilt making. I learn lots of new things from you Mary for which I am very grateful

  19. Dear Mary

    Very late today I’ve been sight seeing in London with my friend who is training to be a Blue Badge Guide around London, we went to St Paul’s Cathedral so she could practice it was beautiful and so fitting for the start of Lent.
    Anyway Mary you are a treasure I’m not doing Trish’s project, (well I am but another project from her Colour Confidence book which doesn’t include Gutermann thread). Anyway thanks for all your hard work in converting the different colour threads for those out there who are doing the project that require the conversion. Thanks for researching and sharing the thread conversion with us. I’m look forward to your confession.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  20. THANK YOU. I haven’t made a decision about my next project yet, but under consideration was one of Trish Burr’s projects from her book on color. I’ve tucked this information away for future reference (near or far). Thank you for all the work. I love looking at colors and trying to match them up, but it can be time consuming and tiring. Thank you for the work you did.

  21. Thank you so much for all the time and effort you put into helping us as embroider’s. It is much appreciated.

  22. In your discussion of matching Gutterman Thread with DMC colours, you went onto mention silk threads. Gutterman does have a very wide range of silk thread, which I use for lace making and could be used instead of thy polyester thread regards Linda

  23. Dear Mary,
    Thank you for the leg work on the color matching for Trish Burr work. I’m sure we all could have done it, but this way only one person has been stared at. I haven’t been to a JoAnn’s in a while. I tend to spend money when I go. I just got their mailer. I’ll have to see when I can use a coupon and save. Thank you for the advance work!

  24. I confess I had never thought of splitting machine threads although I have used them when I want a fine line. I will have to check all my Gutermann and other (eg, Mettler) to see if the splitting will work. I am also assuming that the numbering system in Australia is going to be the same as the European one or the same as the American one, although there is a better than even chance that it will be different again.

    Have you noticed that not all Gutermann threads are equal, eg, some are made in Mexico and other places.

    1. Yes! I use Gutermann’s hand quilting thread pretty much exclusively for all my hand quilting, and noticed that it’s made in Greece, but the all-purpose sewing thread is made in Mexico!

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