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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Here’s a Treat: Embroidery Thread Skein Tips


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I tried to come up with something particularly Halloweeny to share with you today. But the fact is, aside from this tutorial on embroidering a wee pumpkin (which isn’t necessarily “Halloweeny”), and this pillow case that sports (among other things) an embroidered jack-o-lantern, and this basket of pumpkins (again, fall-ish, but not particular to Halloween), I really don’t have any creepy stitching for you.

But if you squizz about online searching for Halloween stitchery, I guarantee you, you’ll find plenty out there!

What I do have for you today is a little treat in the form of some tips for handling your skeins of threads, whatever types they happen to be.

Thread skeins, as I’m sure you know, can be a source of aggravation, irritation, and downright consternation! They can be the beginning of the end of an embroidery project, if you let them get to you.

I’ve written a few articles over the years about handling different types of skeins of embroidery threads, and if consider them all generally (rather than specifically meant for This Particular Brand of Thread or That Particular Brand of Thread), you’re bound to find a solution for practically any type of skein of embroidery thread.

I’m also going to debunk a popular tip that’s spreading around on social media right now, just for the sake of preventing confusion.

Thread Tips: Taming Hanks & Skeins of Thread

So, here’s my list of thread skein tips that should help you manage your skeins of embroidery thread before they decide to get unruly and drive you nuts:

1. Unraveling the Secrets of the Pull Skein – this tackles the tangling of the common pull skein (ie the skein configuration for DMC stranded cotton)

2. Coton a broder (the old loop put-ups) – this same method applies to tackling a twist of perle cotton and other loop put-ups.

3. How to Tame a Big Hank of Floche (another loop put-up)

4. Appleton wool – There’s a pull-skein tip buried in this article, for when you’re working with Appleton. It’s a hit or miss thing. But it generally works!

Debunking a Currently Popular Tip

Out there in Social Media World, a tip is going around concerning the pull skein.

This is not in any way meant to be rude or argumentative – it’s just to help keep people from being confused! I’m certain that whoever generated the tip meant well. After all, what stitcher wouldn’t appreciate a tip that alleviates all the bother of a messy skein of floss?

But still, the tip, taken as it is (based on the photo circulating with it) is not quite correct, and it can lead to confusion if it is taken at face value.

Recycling Symbol on Skein of Floss

The photo above shows the symbol in question (circled in red) on a skein of DMC floss. This symbol is located on the long sleeve on every skein of DMC stranded cotton.

In the photo circulating on social media, the whole symbol is not necessarily as clear as it could be. When you look at the picture circulating on social media, you get the impression of an arrow pointing to the long-sleeve end of the floss. The tip being circulated is that the symbol is an arrow pointing to the end of the skein where you’re supposed to pull the floss.

But if you look at the whole symbol above, in a close up photo of the symbol, which way does the arrow actually point? Well, it depends on which arrow you’re looking at! There are two on the symbol, and they point in opposite directions.

The symbol shown is a recycling symbol. Sometimes, you see it in black and white, in this case black and gold to match the packaging, sometimes you see it in green and white or green and lighter green. It means that the paper used on the sleeves is either recycled or can be recycled.

It is not meant in any way to indicate the end from which to pull the floss.

It just so happens that the symbol is on the long sleeve on DMC skeins, because that’s where it fits. And it just so happens that, on DMC skeins, normally you pull the thread from the long-sleeve end.

But, as you can see, the symbol above doesn’t necessarily point to the long-sleeve end. It points to both ends, and different people will see it differently, depending on which arrow stands out to them when they look at it.

The other reason the tip can cause confusion is that this symbol could, in fact, show up on any kind of floss that has paper sleeves where recycling is involved or encouraged. So, if a manufacturer puts it on a sleeve on the wrong end for pulling, what happens? If people associate that symbol with floss pulling, they’re going to end up with a mess.

My point is this: take that symbol for what it is. Don’t try to assign another meaning to it. It has nothing to do with which end to pull on a skein of embroidery floss.

The End of October – Coming Up in November!

Well, it’s been a very busy month at Needle ‘n Thread! And there’s a lot coming up in November, including (if all goes as planned) the release of a “limited edition” (testing the waters) materials kit for a new project that I’ll be showing you soon. I’m stitching my last samples this week. I’m very excited about it!

With time slipping quickly away this year, I’ve also been trying desperately to finish up the Floral Corners collection, for those waiting the patterns & stitch guides. They’re coming! And I’ll also be releasing a short run of another little product to go with them that will make your stitching life much more convenient. I’m working my hardest to get this out for you some time in November, too.

Also on the Very Exciting End of Things, I have some new threads and fabrics that I’ll be playing with during November. I can’t wait to tell you all about them! I’ve been doodling about with a new project towards that end. So we’ll have some thread talk and some fabric talk soon.

Beginning after Thanksgiving, I’ll be running my pre-Christmas give-away series called A Stitcher’s Christmas. This is a series of marvelous and beautiful items relating to embroidery that could end up under your Christmas tree. I love running the series every year. I think it’s a lot of fun, and the businesses that provide the gifts are always very generous with their enticing wares!

Finally, today’s the last day of October, so it’s your last chance to pick up Twelve Trees for Christmas while it’s on sale!

Tonight, I’ll be stitching like a fiend, answering the occasional doorbell… and diligently avoiding the Halloween candy. If you’re doing the Halloween Thing, have a wonderful time! And if you’re not, have a wonderful time, too!


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(15) Comments

  1. Happy Hallowe’en Mary! Very exciting to see the new projects you’re working on and so happy you’ll be doing another Stitcher’s Christmas this year I hadn’t seen the “tip” about the pull skein but thank you for clearing that up – I always wondered what that symbol meant!

  2. Dear Mary, I sincerely hope you will try out the new DMC Etoile stranded cotton in November. I would like to know how strong it is compared to ordinary stranded cotton and how visible the ” sparkle” is.
    Happy Halloween ๐Ÿ™‚ xxx
    Kind regards Elza from Cape Town.

  3. Hi Mary
    Great post, but with regards the symbol, it doesnโ€™t actually mean it is recycled or recyclable, but it means that the company pays into a compliance scheme based on the amount of packaging they buy.

    1. Thanks, Clare. A compliance scheme essentially binds the company to certain obligations or responsibilities re: packaging, waste, recycling regulations, and so forth, correct? That’s what I understand it to mean.

    2. No Mary, a company can just pay towards recycling schemes (not necessarily their waste or their products) and get this symbol. Basically, it’s greenwashing – making the company seem environmentally friendly based on absolutely no proof.

    3. Well, that’s good to know! Thanks, Wendy! But it isn’t what my article’s about, really. I’m not really pointing out the meaning behind the symbol or how it’s used (correctly or incorrectly, ethically or unethically) by companies. The symbol is associated somehow with the environmental / recycling, etc. industry. It doesn’t mean anything in relation to the end of thread to pull on when considering a pull skein, which is the point of my article.

  4. Mary,

    Happy Halloween stitching. Why can’t DMC put a simple comment on the wrapper for all their different types of floss? “Pull from this end” should put a stop to the confusion. I’m going to write them a letter.

    1. They used to have a little pointing finger to the end of the pull skein that you’re supposed to pull from. If you come across OLD DMC skeins, you’ll see it. It looks like one of those Victorian hands with a pointing finger on it.

    1. More of a good reason to be aware of what the arrow means, if it isn’t going to be around. Still, the “green dot” (the “Moebius ring”) means that the packaging is recyclable (or if a percentage is included inside, that it is made with recycled material): “Un autre logo que l’on voit parfois sur les emballages est l’anneau de Moebius, qui existe depuis 1970. Sans chiffre, cela signifie que l’emballage est recyclable.”

  5. You always have such great tips! One thing I had been wondering, if you were in search of “spooky” things to put up around Halloween is if you’d ever looked into the Catacomb Saints? They’re a fair bit more macabre than your usual ecclesial embroideries that you feature, but the work put into them is incredible! Thanks, and happy belated Halloween!

    1. Hi, J – Thanks for your comment! Yes, I’m familiar the adornment associated with the sacred remains of the catacomb saints. I know what you mean by spooky, even a little “creepy” by our standards, but at the same time, the amount of work and so forth put into them is incredible – and there’s a reason for that work (a non-secular, spiritual reason). I would not use them (or representations of them) to decorate for Halloween, though. They’re considered sacred – they’re not party decor. I would consider such use disrespectful to the traditions associated with them and completely inappropriate to use them in a secular setting for Halloween decorations. Just my two cents!

  6. I have a huge, flawless, I believe, needlepoint of the Lady and the Unicorn. It is in storage in my closet, she is not very appropriate for a trailer in Mississippi. I will unearth her to see how she is faring. Are you interested?

    1. Hi, Kathleen – thanks for your comment! Well, I’d love to see photos. I might be interested… one never knows! ๐Ÿ™‚ You’re welcome to email photos if you ever get it out!

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