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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The New Sparkle: DMC Étoile


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If you spend much time in the needlework world part of social media, or you receive regular advertising from various needlework outlets, you probably already know that DMC has recently come out with a sparkly embroidery thread called Étoile (French for “star”).

I just now have the chance to take a look at the thread, thanks to the folks at DMC who recently sent some of it along to try.

If you haven’t seen it up close yet, I’m going to give you a close look at it, too. I have not yet stitched extensively with it, beyond a simple line of stem stitch. But I have plans to, shortly. In the meantime, we’ll look at it, talk a little about initial impressions, toy with some ideas for stitching with it, and open the conversation so we can share thoughts on the thread with the wider community.

DMC Etoile: embroidery thread with sparkle

This sparkly thread called Étoile – what is it, exactly?

DMC Étoile is a 6 stranded embroidery thread that comes in a skein just like their regular stranded cotton. It’s composed of strands made up of 3 separate “plies” – two of which are cotton thread and one of which is a sparkly synthetic (viscose) filament.

DMC Etoile: embroidery thread with sparkle

In the photo above, you can see the Étoile laid out on the left side (the darker blue) and regular stranded cotton on the right side of the photo.

The plies do not twist together tightly to form a smooth thread like they do with stranded cotton. Instead, they are loosely twisted and quite open, making for a very light, airy thread. It looks like it would be bouncy – in fact, once tension is placed on it, it’s more of a soft, slightly fluffy thread.

DMC Etoile: embroidery thread with sparkle

The sparkle throughout the thread is very subtle, but definitely visible.

In fact, “star” is the perfect name for this thread. The deeper blues remind me of the night sky here in Kansas, twinkling with starlight. And that’s how this thread works. It’s not overly metallic. There are small, consistent sparkles throughout, but don’t expect the same type of sparkle that you’d get out of a full metallic thread.

DMC Etoile: embroidery thread with sparkle

The tin that my threads came in was not one of the broad and flat collector’s tins – and I’m actually glad of that! This one is a smaller, deeper tin, and it’ll be great for tools and whatnot.

But I’m only bringing up the tin because I think it had a lot to do with my initial impressions.

The spread and layout of the threads in the collector’s tin (you can see photos of it on the DMC website, here) help to convey a specific first impression of the threads.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have that impression when I opened my tin. The threads were all packed into a cellophane bag, thus:

DMC Etoile: embroidery thread with sparkle

I have to admit, this was not the best impression to start with!

I was somewhat taken a-back and a little worried. If I had to go on absolute first impressions, I would probably have closed the tin and set it aside, to explore (or not!) another day.

DMC Etoile: embroidery thread with sparkle

When all grouped together like this, these threads don’t shine. And I don’t mean in a sparkly sense!

The first idea that popped into my head upon opening the tin was, “Ugly Sweater Contest.”

Oh, we are not off to a good start, my friends! I said to them. And they agreed!

DMC Etoile: embroidery thread with sparkle

It actually takes laying the threads out, to appreciate them.

This first phase of Étoile (I’m assuming there will be more, but I don’t know for sure) began with 35 of their more popular colors, along with some good neutrals. I’m pretty sure there was some color marketing theory going on here, especially when considering the way the threads are laid out in the collector’s tin. They’re quite appealing when laid out in a specific order.

The color numbers on the threads correspond, to a degree, with the color numbers of their floss, but are preceded by the letter C. For example, C321 is essentially regular 321 (Christmas red) with a bit of sparkle.

Blanc is not quite white, though – it looks a bit like a pale, almost dingy, gray. If you want a really bright white, take one strand of the Blanc in this line, and one strand of B5200, and stitch with both in the needle at once. You’ll end up with a bright white with a bit of sparkle that mimics snow beautifully.

Over in the Needle ‘n Thread Community on Facebook, one of the members embroidered the edge of a snowy roof with this combination, and the result was really pretty and, when it comes to mimicking snow, quite impressive!

DMC Etoile: embroidery thread with sparkle

The more I considered the Étoile line-up of 35 colors, the more convinced I became that these sparkly threads would be especially favored for stitching three particular subject areas: night skies, snow scenes, and Things Christmas.

And then I started thinking that I might test these threads out specifically on a snowflake. It just so happens that I have a snowflake embroidery pattern available right here on the website – not to mention several patterns for snowflakes in counted work that would work well, too. (You can find those right here on my free patterns page.)

As soon as I can dabble with it, I think that’s how I’ll go about playing with Étoile and getting a better feel for how it performs.

In the meantime, though, just for kicks, I stitched up a double line of stem stitch very quickly to see how it would go…

DMC Etoile: embroidery thread with sparkle

…and I wasn’t too impressed with my effort. I used two strands in the needle. The thread tends to be soft and almost fuzzy, and it “buckled,” in a sense, as I stitched with it. That is, individual plies made their way out of the strands, and stood out alone, more or less buckling from the main thread.

This could very well be my fault – it was just a hasty trial. So I’m going to give the thread a better chance by stitching more carefully with it and trying other stitches, too.

On Combining with Regular Stranded Cotton

I’ve heard some folks say that the thread works best when it is combined with regular stranded cotton.

So, for example, the NnT Community member of Facebook who combined Blanc Étoile with B5200 got better results using one strand of each. I’ve also seen some examples of two strands of regular stranded cotton mixed with one strand of Étoile, for heavier lines with a bit of sparkle to them.

But I really want to test whether or not it’s necessary to combine Étoile with stranded cotton for the best results. If this is the case, then it seems to me that the Étoile would be redundant, that it’s just being used as a blending filament, of which there are already plenty available on the market that can be blended with any thread.

I think the whole point of Étoile – and the fascination with the thread – will be the convenience it offers of having cotton threads that correspond with the DMC color line, that are already twisted with a blending filament and that are ready to stitch right off the skein.

This is what I’m hoping to find when I can devote some solid time to experimenting with thread.

What About You?

I’d love to hear your impressions if you’ve tried Étoile! If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, ideas, feel free to join in the conversation below!

Where to Find It

You can find individual skeins of Étoile (for US and Canada only) available here through 123Stitch.

The DMC collector’s tin is still available on the DMC website, here. It’s a great way to get all 35 skeins laid out in one neat tin.


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(43) Comments

  1. I bought the set of etoile threads when they came out a month ago. My first impressions when I opened them was not good but I have now used them on their own, sometimes one strand and sometimes two strands and I love them. I tried snow with the white but found it looked rather grey so combining it with one strand of B5200 sounds a great idea. I often use the rayon S5200 for snow, might try combining with that.

  2. Mine came laid out beautifully in the tin. Isn’t that weird? No plastic wrap and there was a thick piece of foam holding it all in place.

    To be honest, I wanted it for the tin. I really like the Cosmo sparkly floss the best. I haven’t tried this yet, but it seems awfully soft.

    1. Yes, the softness is very noticeable! I think it has to do with the staple of the cotton used and the much softer twist in the construction of the thread. I wonder if the thread would be a bit annoying to use with a tiny crochet hook? I could see the hook getting caught in the twists pretty easily…

    1. Hi, Anne – I never run embroidery threads used for surface embroidery through beeswax (exception: goldwork, where the thread is used to hold metal threads in place, or certain types of bead embroidery). It dulls the colors and makes the thread behave completely differently. So I probably wouldn’t do that with this thread, either. In fact, it would change the whole way this particular thread is meant to work – and it would most likely dull the sparkle, too.

  3. Thanks for the information about DMCs new Etoile thread – I am a needlepointer and wondered if you have comments about using it on 18 count canvas? I use ~4 plies of cotton floss and wondered if that would be the same for the Etoile? Would it hold up well to the roughness of the n’point canvas? Thanks!

    1. I’ve not tried it on canvas, Leslie, but I imagine it would work ok. There’s a comment here in the same string from Darcy Walker, who mentioned she used 4 strands on 18 count canvas and liked it.

  4. The first thought I had when I saw the first picture of the threads (in your newsletter) was van Gogh’s “Starry, Starry Night”! And that impression didn’t go away with the rest of the pictures. Would be a neat mini! Thanks for sharing!

  5. I love this thread. I used it first on 18 count canvas. All 6 threads cover the canvas but was a little heavy. I separated and used 4 threads. On linen I think it is tough for a really tight weave. I used a larger needle size to make a bigger hole so the thread went through smoothly.

    I love these effects of just a light well blended sparkle. I will try mixing 1 strand each of floss and Étoile .

  6. Hi Mary, I am looking forward for you to test the threads a bit more. Sometimes I use a bit of sparkle but find metallic thread can be a bit difficult to work with. Now what I would like to know as I usually only use one strand of stranded cotton, how does one strand of Etoile embroider. Etoile is not yet available in South Africa but hopefully it will be in a few months time. Thank you 🙂 xxx

    1. Hi, Elza – it’s a fairly delicate thread, not in the way of a “fine embroidery thread that’s delicate” but more in the way of “structurally delicate,” if that makes sense. It does stitch with one strand, and I’ve seen counted work done with one strand successfully. But there’s a vast difference between how a thread holds up for counted work, versus how it holds up for surface embroidery. There’s usually a lot more friction involved in surface work, so the thread goes through a bit more strain. I’m going to have to play with it further, definitely!

  7. This is an interesting review. I was curious about the DMC Étoile and now you have answered most of my questions (I want to play with it myself to get a feel for it). At any rate now seeing all the colours up close I am not very impressed but again you would have to have a specific project where they would be appropriate. I did wonder if the thread would work with a punch needle as it is soft and a bit fluffy. Hmmmmm, starry nights. By the way, I just ordered your Twelve Trees for Christmas ebook and it’s great. Good instructions, colour pictures, and sweet tree patterns. My trees will be incorporated into greeting cards for Christmas.
    Many thanks.

    1. Thanks, Robin! I’m so glad you like my Twelve Trees – that was such a fun group of projects to put together!

      Yes, it’s “something” about the colors that just doesn’t grab right away. And when the corresponding colors are placed next to the regular DMC, they tend to look somewhat dingy – not quite as vibrant. I think this has to do with the viscose filament running through the threads and the different structure of the thread. It’s definitely a thread worth exploring, though, for project-specific ideas. We’ll see how it goes!

  8. Thank you for your initial comments Mary. I have been looking for the skeins with this twinkle to try, and now that you are going to give it more of a try I will await your comments. I would use it as you do in embroidery and also smocking. Just from your comments I don’t think it will work well for picture smocking specifically. For instance, a castle, sky, Cinderella’s shoes. It doesn’t look like it would lay flat enough. What thread would you recommend to add to the floss for sparkle and would lay flatter? Thank you for all the tips you give on all things embroidery!

    1. Have you tried combining a blending filament with your favorite thread for this purpose, Barbara? That might work! And there are heaps of colors available in blending filaments. My favorite blending filament – and the one that holds up best in embroidery, I think – is Accentuate. You can read about it here: https://needlenthread.wpengine.com/2010/06/accentuate-thread-review.html You can also stitch with it, without blending it with other threads, but it works great blended, and that’s how it is primarily used.

  9. Thank you for testing this new thread.
    Could you possibly post the FB photos here in your blog also? I am not a FB member.
    Thank you.

  10. Thank you so much Mary. I would have been wanting to buy some of this thread and I already have enough for a store.
    Your comment about putting another sparkle thread with my other DMC threads was a mind motor. Varoooom.
    Happy holidays . Hugs

  11. Hi Mary, thanks for your response. Once I get hols of this thread I will try it first with a thicker needle as I do with metallic thread. Have a great productive week xxx

  12. Dear Mary

    Etoile sparkly threads look nice especially on the snowflake on FB but your trial of stitching with it didn’t look very enticing, but as you say perhaps once you work with it for some time it might improve. The box presentation was not impressive but the colours are nice and it does seem to sparkle. Thanks for sharing DMC new Etoile thread with us and for the pictures and links and for your views on the threads.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  13. I have seen advertisements for the Etoile. I’m soooo happy to have you testing it! I appreciate the close ups because it appeared to be a bit ‘fuzzy’ in pictures and you are proving that. I would be interested to see how it looks to have regular stitching done that contains both regular DMC and the Etoile. Please keep us posted on this new thread — I don’t intend to purchase any until I see how you do with it. Thanks much for testing for me!

  14. Hi Mary, It looks very interesting! Looking forward to your testing out this thread with different stitches and such. Thank you for displaying the flosses here for us to look at.

  15. Thank you so much for relating your experiences. I am glad to hear of potential difficulties before I start a project using DMC Etoile especially since I had hoped to get a way for easier stitching if I wanted sparkling effects. (I hope you understand what I mean – I am not English)

  16. Hello Mary, I read your article with interest. I too found the thread very fluffy. I was so desperate to love the thread because I adore a little bit of bling. It doesn’t sit well and it certainly doesn’t like to be stitched in a hurry. Etoile is a lot easier to stitch with than most metallic threads I have encountered. But then it is not a pure metallic. For us bling lovers, I am sure we will persevere.
    Thank you so much for your endless research. You have no idea how much it is appreciated.

    With best wishes

    Marion Bedford

  17. Not having seen these in person, or actually stitched with them, my first impression is ‘who the heck chose these tacky, gaudy and loud colors?’ Great for some kiddy crafting maybe? And the fuzzing worries me. Maybe they would be best for large-count canvas work? Not rushing out to buy any.

  18. Thank you Mary for this interesting review about Etoile thread. I am glad my post in Facebook can help you and other members of Needle n’ Thread community to appreciate this beautiful thread. I have used two strands of Blanc Etoile thread alone to stem stitch some snowflakes, but is not enough white to do some contrast. So I decided to combine with mouline B5200. Maybe it will work better with pearl cotton to have a bold snowflake. Now I will try it in a cross stitch project and will tell you later how is working in the Facebook group.

  19. I am excited to see what others do with this thread. I love to thread paint or do couching with my sit down longarm and I think this thread will work wonderfully. Im on a mission to give it a try!!

  20. Mine came laid out in the tin. I’m using it on a Christmas black work project . It frays easily so I recommend using short lengths. It looks nice when used just have to straighten it on the needle often.

  21. I was very excited about the release of these threads and couldn’t wait till they were available in the US so I bought the entire set from an Etsy seller in the UK (sans tin). Including shipping, I paid $61. I was so underwhelmed when they arrived that I have yet to even open the plastic bag. The thread looks like boucle, with each of the 6 strands kinked and clearly separate. And the DMC photos must have had a photoshop star filter because the twinkle just barely registers in real like. So disappointed.

  22. I ordered mine in a tin directly from DMC once they became available in the States. I had seen it on something from another country….can’t remember it at all though. Mine came taped in the tin so they wouldn’t get jumbled up. Not the easiest to get un-taped. My first thought is this looks loosen woven together. I haven’t tried it out yet so I’m glad to see you mention it on your blog. I’ll be waiting to see if you “experiment” with it more. I have several blending threads and have the worse time using them. They barely show up-maybe because I don’t know how to work with properly. I have Krenik metallics and again, not sure if I don’t know how to properly use them because they are a bear to work with. I’ll have to sit down and at least try them this weekend. Have a great Thanksgiving Mary.

  23. I received my box, the Threads were nicely lined up in the box. I decided to try to stitch with 1 ply them on Dupioni silk, not good at all. Then I tried 3 ply on congress cloth, worked much better. I will be using mine on congress cloth or needlepoint canvas. They seem to fight with fabric, might work OK on linen?

  24. I’m surprised at how loosely spun this thread is – it looks more like a novelty knitting yarn than an embroidery thread. Just separating the strands has pulled plies out of place. I suspect using a normal blending filament would be both neater and less aggravating, but I look forward to seeing your future experiments.

  25. Out of curiosity, I have ordered several skeins to try. The thread looks interesting and am looking forward to “playing with it”;))!

  26. I’ll be stitching a design showing water with the sun shining on it. Do you think the blue combo will work for that? Thanks for the informative article.

  27. I bought some Christmas shades of this to work with on some tree decorations, hoping the threads would add some sparkle to my little pieces. Compared with DMC satin and normal floss the Étoile looks dull and as I tried it out the sparkle really didn’t show and I found myself repeatedly favouring the Satin and normal floss because it just looked better .
    On larger pieces I can see that maybe the Étoile could add some good contrasts perhaps but I didn’t find it suitable for what I was making. The fact it seemed to tangle itself up very easily didn’t endear me to it.
    ( Been sewing for 40+ years,holds B.A. in art textiles)

  28. I have tried the new DMC Etoile thread – I was making a hardanger Christmas decoration. I was using 28 count linen – I found that using 2 plies for the kloster blocks was not allowing any ‘glitter’ quality to show; I switched to 3 plies and then I could see the effect of the glitter. This thread worked fine for the kloster blocks and for motifs, however when I tried to do a buttonhole stitch along the outside of the decoration, it was hopeless. The threads are too ‘fluffy’ for buttonhole stitch, in my opinion. I switched to regular DMC #8 thread and carried on that way.
    I think the threads are great for an accent, but I won’t count on them as a good option for all my embroidery.

  29. I got some of this thread to try a cross stitch pattern. Like you, I was disappointed at first glance, but discovered it sparkles beautifully when using 2 threads. I don’t leave it wispy but pull it tight. A laying tool helps. The tread leaves color on the fabric after unpicking, but so far is not noticeable when restitched. Short threads work best as it frays and loses its luster if too long.

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