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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Thread Talk: Variegated for the Laundry


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I’ve had some inquiries lately about variegated floss that can be used for embroidered items that will be regularly laundered.

DMC has a line of variegated threads that I like, called Variations. They meld with the DMC standard floss colors, and they are fairly easy to come by.

But other thread companies also have their variegated lines, and today, we’ll chat a bit about Cosmo’s Seasons.

Cosmo embroidery floss - variegated Seasons

A long time ago, I wrote about Cosmo embroidery floss.

I like it! It’s a good cotton embroidery floss. It’s reliable, it handles well, it doesn’t go natty and knotty. It’s a good, solid choice for 6-stranded cotton embroidery floss.

A Note on Laundering & Running

When you’re talking about variegated floss that can go through the laundry, keep in mind that most branded cotton flosses (DMC, Anchor, Madeira, Cosmo are the good quality, better known lines) will hold up to laundering up to certain temperatures without any problem.

However, there are instances – unfortunate instances – where people recount a color running occasionally, so no matter what kind of floss you use, it doesn’t hurt to pre-test the thread if you’re worried.

Embroider something small with it and put it through the same laundering paces that you plan to use on your finished whatnot. Or soak a small portion of the thread in hot water (perhaps with a bit of the soap you plan to use?) and see what happens to it. Hot water (or even water that’s too warm, but not hot-hot) or steam or both are usually the running culprits.

That said, I’ve never had a cotton floss run in the laundry. Perhaps I’ve just been lucky.

Some stitchers recommend soaking floss in vinegar or in other fixatives that will keep loose dye from running, but when I’m getting ready to embroider something, I don’t like to go through extra steps to prepare the thread. If I’m embroidering something I know is going to go in the laundry, then I use threads that I know will hold up to laundering. It’s not the place to use hand-dyed threads, to use delicate silks, and so forth. A decent quality stranded cotton should hold up to laundering without having to go through extra preparation.

Cosmo embroidery floss - variegated Seasons

Cosmo’s variegated floss is called Seasons, and they have quite a nice line of them.

Some of the variegated threads feature more subtle color changes between close shades of the same color, while others feature much bolder color switches within the thread.

Cosmo embroidery floss - variegated Seasons

The reason I recently contemplated Cosmo’s Seasons was the Jacobean project in cotton. They have some good sea-ish blues and greens that caught my eye, so I took a look at them.

I didn’t include any of them in the cotton version of the project, though, for two reasons:

1. They are not as widely available as DMC. They are certainly more widely available than they used to be – they’ve found a home in the quilting market, along with a few needlework shops in the US – but they are not nearly as ubiquitous as DMC; and

2. They are not as affordable as DMC. In the US, they average around $1.10 for their solid floss and $1.70 to $2.00+ for their variegated, depending on where you find it. (More information on that, below.)

Cosmo embroidery floss - variegated Seasons

They have all kinds of shades of Seasons – from subtle and soft to bright and brilliant and bold!

Cosmo embroidery floss - variegated Seasons

Many include a variety of colors in one skein. For some reason, this reminds me of birthday cake. (I like cake.)

Cosmo embroidery floss - variegated Seasons

Every line of variegated or overdyed floss needs this combination. It reminds me of high, hot summer. I love it!

Cosmo embroidery floss - variegated Seasons

This, you can guess, is the original skein that caught my eye for the Jacobean project in cottons – it’s very sandy-beachy.

Some Thoughts

Cosmo is a good stranded cotton floss. It’s good quality cotton, it is mercerized and has a very nice sheen. It is smooth to stitch with. It’s consistently good.

One of the drawbacks of stepping over to a completely different floss line entirely, of course, is the fact that so much design work in the needlework field is done with DMC. And while there are conversion charts, DMC is simply more available and more affordable – and it is a quality floss, too. So keep that in mind, when you’re considering different stranded cottons. There is a level of inconvenience involved, when you move from DMC to another brand.

DMC is also a great line for “comparisons” in the needlework world – for thread, fabric, and beads. If you know the DMC color, it’s very easy to find fabrics, other threads, and embellishments in that color without actually having to see it. You can consult a supplier and say “I need it to match DMC 703,” and they can help you out. That’s a good thing.

All that said, if you’re not constrained by other designers’ color recommendations, if you just stitch your own stuff with whatever you want to from your thread drawers, then there’s no reason why Cosmo couldn’t figure into your stitching stash, if you have access to it and you can afford it. (The solid colors are almost twice the price of DMC.)

Where to Get Seasons

Right now, Cosmo Seasons is on sale at Anita’s Little Stitches, for $1.39 / skein, which is a good price. It runs $1.70+ everywhere else. I don’t know if it is something they regularly stock, or if they stocked it for a time and they’re clearing it out, or what. But they’re a great little shop! They have a $25 order minimum, but they also have a fabulous selection of scissors (they’ve got some of the best-priced DOVO scissors here in the States, that I’ve seen), so you wouldn’t have much problem hitting that minimum if you’re anything like me. Anita’s also ships Really Fast.

You can also find Cosmo through many online quilt shops. Just search “Cosmo embroidery floss” and you’ll come up with a slew of them. In the US, I think Crabapple Hill Studio is a good choice for the whole line.

And there are also vendors on Etsy selling Cosmo floss. If you’re outside the US, check Etsy for shop owners in your country – you may find someone selling Cosmo more locally. I know there’s an Australian vendor who sells the whole line, and a UK vendor who sells a selection of Cosmo threads on spools, for Sashiko.

So there you have it! Some variegated floss for the laundry! Hope you find the info helpful!

Have a wonderful weekend!


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(16) Comments

  1. Not a comment, but a question..
    You said that stranded cotton from the well known brands should be color fast. What about floche from DMC? Not stranded, but cotton, and a quality brand. Just acquired some to try out.
    Thanks for all of the wonderful articles, by the way. Always great to find one of your articles in email!

  2. I am SUCH a fan of variegated threads & floss – so much so that I stockpile them any time I find them! I have many just sitting there being stared at ! and recently used a group of them to outline some appliques on luxury table settings. Though I’ve suffered a mild form of stroke a few weeks ago, and plan to cut out much of my former work; hopefully I will manage (with God’s okay) to maintain some attachment to crafting that isn’t limited to admiration from afar! Se la vie!

    1. Laura, I have been battling rheumatoid arthritis for years now and my hands ability to do things has diminished, but I have never lost my love of crafting. However, God has opened many doors to me where the needle arts are still a big part of my life, as I sell sewing patterns and craft supplies online. I have bought so many crafting supplies at my thrift stores in the area. I even got a bag (maybe about a 2 gallon one) stuffed with Watercolour Threads by Caron for $5 and each of the skeins still had their tags on with prices of over $3 per skein clearly marked! Another bunch of threads to stare at and appreciate the loveliness and the equivalent to me of stopping to smell the roses. I trust you will continue to recover from your stroke and can soon pick up with your favorite activities. Sewing is known to reduce blood pressure you know! When these illnesses hit it is tempting to get discouraged and blame God, but in reality if you open your eyes you will see so many opportunities that you had never realized were possible! I know I did.

  3. I was just talking to my daughter about what Miss Mary would discuss in her very interesting blog. I like to open my email and read something interesting and educational. Thank you for your website. And I learned about Seasonings. Here’s a digital piece of

  4. You mentioned soaking threads in vinegar to prevent running. Of course, I have heard that myself many times, but a while ago now I read something that makes more sense to me. When threads are manufactured, they are subjected to a process called retting to soften the fibers and I believe that an acid may be used. I believe that is where the vinegar idea originated but I don’t think retting has anything to do with color. The person asked, “If you are going to stitch something and go to the trouble and expense of using acid-free materials for the finishing, why on earth would you soak your threads in vinegar?” That has stuck with me! I believe she also said that the vinegar trick doesn’t even really work, though I have not ever tried it for the reason above!

    1. I think the idea is to soak it in vinegar to set color, and then to rinse it thoroughly – even wash it with soap and water afterwards and then rinse the heck out of it, so that there’s no vinegar remaining. I’ve used vinegar to soak fabric before, to fix color and prevent fading, and it works. So there is some truth to it. They also sell liquid dye fixatives that you can use for the same purpose.

  5. If you want those DOVO scissors, you better act fast! Someone I follow on Instagram posted just a few days ago that the company has filed for bankruptcy. Seems they just can’t compete with the modern “Amazon” economy. So sad.

    1. Hi, Heidi – Many companies like DOVO (which actually already belong to a parent company) end up being bought up by yet larger companies, so I’m hoping that will be the case here. I’ve got some inquiries out to distributors to see what’s in the wind on that.

  6. Dear Mary

    These threads look really interesting and I certainly like the birthday cake and the hot summers colours, but equally I like the other colours as well. It’s a shame that they are not widely available as DMC but perhaps they will become available as more people hear about them. It’s great to know that they are like DMC threads and can be washed in the machine. Thanks for reviewing Cosmo Threads and for sharing your views with us.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  7. I have mentioned before that my husband and I are 18th reenactors. (A hobby which goes well with embroidery as I get to sit and embroider while talking to the public about same at events.) We used to make our Valentine’s Day gifts for each other. (No longer bother with Valentine’s Day for a long while.)

    One year I decided to buy handkerchiefs and embroider his initials on them for him to have at reenactments (mostly for show, but also available for blow). I bought a package of men’s white handkerchiefs. The standard/common color to use to embroider them was red. I made sure to soak a bit of the red floss in a white paper cup for a a couple of days, moving it in the water every now then, to make sure the thread would not run on the handkerchiefs. It did not run in the water and has not run on the handkerchiefs which are probably over about 10 years old.

    In the period one would stitch initials on handkerchiefs, (men’s) shirts, women’s shifts and stitch numbers on sheets and pillowcases. This was a way of keeping track of them for the laundry. Shirts and shifts would be numbered by embroidery to keep track of them. Since shirts (very long and served as undergarment as well as shirt and was also worn for sleeping) all looked the same among the men of the household this was the way to tell whose shirts were shirts. Similarly ladies shifts (a sort of longish A-line dress to describe it simply) served as the basic undergarment also and would look the same among all the ladies. The numbers on shifts, shirts, bed linens, and such would allow for the items to be rotated in use as one would be able to tell one garment from another.

    1. Sulky is a brand, not a type of thread, and they mostly produce machine thread. This is hand embroidery thread I’m talking about. You couldn’t put it in a machine. That said, Sukly petites can be used for handwork – but they are machine thread.

  8. Anita from Anita’s Little Stitches passed away a couple of years ago. Her husband has kept the online store open to sell all of the remaining stock. The prices haven’t been updated in a long time making it a great place to pick up floss, fabric and scissors. Anita was a sweetheart and quite passionate about stitching. I feel fortunate to have known her.

  9. How beautiful those skeins are. I love variegated embroidery thread and I distinctly remember liking it back over 50 years ago. However I was so disappointed that all that were being made then went from the main color to white and then back to the dark main color. Back then I never saw a single article where someone showed the thread being cut in lengths to have mostly the white/light thread, then the light through the medium color and bumping into the dark and then the mostly dark colors. The first time I saw an article on how to do that, I could have kicked myself and wondered why I hadn’t thought of doing that. Then they came out with REAL variegated thread and I was overjoyed. I have bought as many as I could afford and will probably never touch many of them, but to look at them is almost as wonderful as looking at a Monet painting. I love the colors. I’m afraid I do the same thing with quilt fabric. I just love looking at it all. I guess I am grown up enough now to not feel the need to apologize for not using what I have. 🙂 But these Cosmo Threads are gorgeous and I know if I ran into them at Jo-Ann Fabrics, etc. I would feel compelled to buy one of each whether I could afford them or not! So gorgeous. Thank you for bringing them to our attention!

  10. I have not purchased variegated floss for several years. I make my own from color safe floss. I normally use 3 strands of floss when I do embroidery. So to make a variegated floss, I simply take one strand from 3 different colors and then lay these together to make my variegated floss.

    For example, I might use 2 shades of green and one of white or sometimes black if my greens are not quite dark enough for my project. The only thread I purchase is J&P Coats and DMC. They are what I grew up using with Mother.

    Recently I was given over 1000 skeins of floss. I have only received about 15 skeins of truly variegated floss so I decided trying to come up with a solution and this is how I discovered by putting the 3 strands together works. Now I will not need to spend extra money to purchase one skein of floss when I only need a short amount of floss and leave the extra sit for several years.

    I cut one color and then measure the other 2 colors to that first strand. I also only have 1 variegated length at a time as the rest can be used for other projects either plain colors or the variegated.

    This also gives me the ability to have variegated floss strands that are not made by the major floss companies.

    Hope this helps and that you have fun coming up with some interesting variegated floss combinations that say these are mine. Using this option can give your work the signature of “Only by (your name inserted here)”.

    Have a great day and LOTS of fun coming up with your next color combination.

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