Unlike other storage methods, like chucking skeins in a draw, bobbins take time to wind, and if you have all 500 DMC threads it’s going to take you forever. So today, we’re running down all the ways to put embroidery threads on bobbins, so you can skip the pain, and take the easy route 😀
We start with the standard in bobbin winding, and the one technique that you’ll do regardless of the situation. Sure, later options are faster, but if you only have one or two threads to put on skeins, you’ll do it by hand.
You start by pulling out one end of the skein without it knotting and simply wind around the bobbin.
Bonus: Use A Tin Can
Hand-winding however, really isn’t a foolproof system. Somehow, those threads just always manage to find a way to knot themselves, and believe us when I say its 100x worse when it’s a whole 8m skein knotted up. So we suggest removing your skein’s wraps and putting it over something like a tin can. You can start by either end this way, and it keeps the thread from knotting.
Use A Winding Tool
Hand-winding takes ages though; let’s face it, if you have a load of threads to do, you want something faster. So like many, you look towards tools to do the job. You’ve probably all found one of these things before, and brought one, they’re cheap enough after all, but seriously; THESE THINGS SUCK.
If I could give a single bit advise to anyone, it would avoid these like the plague. However, if you’re so inclined, and have the knack for it that I don’t, they can save you time, and a lot of hand ache.
Use A Sewing Machine
However, now we’re done with the slow and painful methods, let’s talk about speed. This next technique requires you to have a sewing machine, however, we know a lot of cross stitchers also sew so you might have one. On every sewing machine is a bobbin winder! Sure, it’s not the type of bobbin we use for cross stitch, but with this handy guide on the LoveStitch Blog, you can cannibalize one of those hand winders to help out!
Use A Drill
But if you don’t own a sewing machine (and hope to farm the job out to someone else), try a drill. Without a doubt, this is the fastest and easiest way we’ve found to bobbin threads. Simply grab the bobbin in the drill chuck and spin away. What’s better is that you could probably bully the nearest male into doing it if you’re not bothered (let’s face it, all men are big kids, and we love drills); double win.
That’s our list of how to bobbin your embroidery threads, however, there is one thing everyone asks; how do you label them?
Write The Number
Simple, right? Not so much. If you have paper bobbins writing the number is easy, but those plastic bobbins (which we would suggest you use) just don’t take pen. You can use a permanent marker, but you need to use a fine tip and write small.
Use The Official Number Stickers
There are official stickers you can get, direct from DMC (although they don’t include the newer 35 threads), but these things are worth ignoring, to be honest. You can get them to stick with some work, I find taping them down works well, but they can fall off.
Place The Label Under The Thread
However, the best way I’ve heard is to place the number label under the thread. You can slip it in there before or after you’ve wound the threads, and the number sticks out, reducing on both the high aount of waste in cross stitch and the effort of trying to write or stick something down.
Putting your cross stitch threads on bobbins always feels like a massive and daunting task, so its no surprise people try to avoid doing it. But I’m of the belief that you should always put your threads on bobbins. I know, some of you are in horror at this statement, but proper thread storage is one of the most important things a cross stitcher can do. And hopefully, I’m going to convince you of the benefits of bobbinating your threads.
I’m going to start with the issues, or rather, the issues people believe that aren’t true.
It Takes Forever!
And we start with a big one. This is the number one reason people use to not bobbin their threads. They might not be forthcoming about it, but let’s face it, we’d all prefer to be stitching than sorting threads (although there is a weird sense of accomplishment after you’ve done it). And I’m not going to argue with you either, it does take time. Especially if you have a full set of DMC threads.
But you only have to do it once.
OK, that was a lie, you have to do it every time you get a new/replacement thread too. But when you do one or two at a time, its no issue, so the big bobbin-athon when you start is the big turn off. But honestly, once done, it’s barely any work at all, and you get all the benefits from nicely ordered, stored threads.
It Creases The Threads!
This is a divisive point. I’ve personally never had issues with threads creasing, however, I loosely wind them, they aren’t forced into a box tightly, and I tend to use every thread once a year so they don’t last too long.
But I’ve seen creasing. It was on a second-hand embroidery thread which is already suggestive of something, but it does happen. That said, once cross stitched, it’s no longer an issue.
Bobbins Cost A Lot!
No! They don’t! You can pick up 500 plastic ones for about $15, or paper/card ones for $5. In fact, you can print some yourself, or I’ve even seen 3D printed ones.
If you’re struggling to find them at a good price, I suggest checking out Etsy.
The Tools Suck!
Uh…yeh. I’m in agreement here; the tools suck. I, like most people, got one of those stupid bobbin thread tools that sit on the side of the boxes. Yeh, they suck.
But there are different ways to put thread on a bobbin. I personally love the ‘tin can’ method, but people swear by the drill technique on facebook groups and cross stitch forums too. And if you’re getting the drill out there is a good chance you could get the owner to do all the winding for you (double win!).
OK, enough of the bad things, what about the good?
Easy To Store
Storing cross stitch thread has always been a big problem, especially as you might have upwards of 600 threads (or at least I do), but by putting them on bobbins you’re giving yourself the most space-efficient way of storing threads.
Easy To Find The Thread You Need
In addition to making storage easier, it also makes finding threads easier. You can pull open a box, draw or even bag, and find your thread much quicker. If you’ve chosen to order them by number, even more so.
And trust me, there is nothing worse than having to dig through a bag trying to find a thread that turns out not to be there, so you order a new one and then you find a stash of 5 skeins hiding in a different bag as soon as the new ones come. Talking from experience here.
Looks Super Pretty
I mean, look at those things:
Doesn’t Get Damaged
Storing threads, however pretty, has one really big selling point; it stops the threads being damaged. I won’t go into too much detail here as you can find more on my post about embroidery thread storage, but light damaged threads. Not just sunlight either, even indoor bulbs (daylight bulbs in particular), and storing them correctly will help keep your threads tip top.
Doesn’t Knot As Much
However, the biggest reason to bobbin your threads (specifically bobbin, not just store correctly) is that they don’t knot. I’ve covered how to pull a skein of thread without it knotting before, but it stands to reason that threads just love tying themselves in knots. But when you put them on bobbins, your cross stitch threads will never knot. Yes, you heard me, I promised they would NEVER knot.
Are There Alternatives?
If you’ve read this far you’re either super convinced, or still think I’m crazy, and you know what? That’s OK. Because bobbinating isn’t the only way to store threads. In fact, despite what I said at the start of this post; you don’t have to put your threads on a bobbin.
But you do need to do something.
You might want to put threads on a bow, store them in color specific bags, or put them on display. Do whatever works for you; so long as its not a mixed gallon bag full of threads *shudders*.
Working out how many skeins you need for your next project can be hard, and whilst I do see more and more pattern generators adding this feature, pattern designers are rarely using it. So in order to help everyone out, we’ve created a brand new calculator that does all the hard work for you! It uses the data we developed a year ago with our post on how many stitches you can get out of an 8m skein, but with a nice, easy user interface.
Just add in your fabric count, threads per stitch, and the number of cross stitches. Hit calculate and it’ll tell you how much if a skein it will use, and how many you need to buy.
We’re going to tackle a topic that invites a lot of discussion today; storing cross stitch and embroidery threads.
This, in itself, doesn’t, seem that crazy, but a lot of people struggle to find a good way to store their cross stitch threads. Much like storage of cross stitch needles, it’s great to put something away, but there are two things to keep in mind. Firstly is appropriate storage, like finished cross stitch storage you need to make sure your threads won’t get damaged, but you also want to get at them easily. In addition, you might want to show them off (especially if you have a full set of DMC threads).
So we’re going to look through your options, but to start, we’re going through the reasons its important to think carefully about your options.
Why Is It Important?
In our post asking if DMC thread dye lots are an issue, we spoke at length about the rumors surrounding threads. In short, dye lot issues don’t exist. Instead, aging does. Or more specifically poor storage does. You see when storing finished cross stitch, and threads, the biggest killer is sunlight. It bleaches some dyes of out threads meaning you have odd colors forming, and it makes the threads far more fragile. In fact, we even posed the questions if its worth buying second hand threads or not.
Sun kills threads. It’s as simple as that. So we need to make sure whatever we use, that our threads are safe.
How To Store
So, with that in mind, what options are there out there to keep your threads at hand, but also nice and safe? Well, there are none. Yes, that’s correct, there are no ways that are both at hand, and going to keep your threads safe. Instead, you need to pick one a few options that are either less handy, or less caring for your needles.
The first up is the display method. With all those pretty threads, the instant thought is to display them. And you know what, they always look good on display. But just because they’re out, doesn’t mean they’ll be damaged by the sun in seconds. In fact, so long as you think carefully about placement, you can avoid direct sunlight. This will allow you to keep the threads up there longer, but you do need to keep in mind that your threads will get dusty, and should be used quickly, and not chucked up on the wall for years on end.
Loose In A Drawer
With that in mind, most people think about chucking threads in a drawer. In fact, this is how most people store threads until they look for a better alternative. But it might not have to be. The draw is protected from sunlight (and indoor lights), dust and dirt. It’s a great way to keep your threads all protected.
And just because they’re in a draw, doesn’t mean they have to be a mess; you can keep them in smaller draws (so long as they aren’t clear) in order or in color groups. Just make sure you don’t keep buying the same threads over and over (although we have a DMC thread inventory spreadsheet to help with that). But threads can get tangled.
On Bobbins In A Draw
So the draw might be a little problematic but let’s not throw it out yet. If you choose to bobbinate your threads (I know some people don’t like to), you can store the bobbins in a draw. I know you’re thinking they might be a mess too, but 1dogwoof has a great guide on storage using old cereal boxes which allow you to segment the threads up and keep them in order. They might be stuck in that drawer until you can get to them, but they’ll always be neat, tidy, protected from the sun, and dust-free.
On Bobbins In Boxes
The advantage of this style of storage is that you can put the boxes out and on display, if you want, or you can put them in a draw. You can pull out boxes at your pleasure and they’ll never be tangled. They’ll be in order so you can find them easily, and they pair great with a DMC color chart.
To me, this is the superior way to store threads and its how I’ve stored them since I got a full set of threads back in 2009.
So what way do you prefer to store your threads?
In Ziplock Bags
This one actually came in thanks to a reader; ziplock bags, or if you prefer the branded thread-specific versions; Floss-A-Way bags. These bags are airtight plastic bags that no only hold the thread, but are great at holding the long ends of threads you have that are worth keeping. There are two big problems with this approach though; finding a place to store them away from light, but also being able to pick the color you want easily.
Title: Namaste Paper Fortune Origami
Date Completed: August 2019
Design: Lord Libidan
Pop Culture: Origami
You may know, but I often supply patterns for the XStitch magazine. In the past I’ve supplied a pattern for every issue, but not only did that mean I didn’t have much time to make the patterns truly awesome, but I also write for it, meaning I was in everyone multiple times. So recently, I’ve been in fewer and fewer. But that means I can be a little more… adventurous.
My last pattern for the magazine was New Moon on Tokyo Tower cross stitch and it had a lot of blue. In fact, it had a whole lot of stitching. So I knew I wanted something a little lighter on actual cross stitch, but something that was still awesome. So I looked at ‘my book’. Yes, that’s right, I record every idea I have down in a little journal. It has WAY too many bad ideas, but there are some gems in there that just don’t work out.
One of those gems was an origami crane. I have always loved Japan and put it in my cross stitch whenever possible, but there has always been one Japanese thing I’ve wanted to try out, but failed at. Origami. I’ve always loved 3D cross stitch, and like to push boundaries a bit, but there is one thing that always gets in the way when making cross stitch 3D, and its something I worked out when I was making my first transforming cross stitch; angles. Thanks to the structure of aida, 90 degrees is a breeze. In fact, 45 is OK too, but anything else just gets hard. I tried to work around this when I did my 3D Pokemon cave cross stitch, which is at 67.5 degrees, but it made the joint huge. Therefore an origami crane with hundreds of different angles was out.
But as always, I couldn’t quite shake the idea. I looked up as many origami animals as I could, trying to come up with a shape that would only use 90 or 45 degrees but couldn’t find any. Until my niece brought home a paper fortune. It wasn’t a type of origami I was thinking about, but actually, its probably most people’s first foray into origami. I had only just written my post on the best cross stitch toys and loved the idea of something people could actually use. And wouldn’t you know it, it has 90 and 45-degree angles.
After I mocked something up I realized that the design was only just going to work; aida doesn’t fold well multiple times and in different directions, but it worked! In order to theme it better to the magazine issue ‘namaste’, I added different greetings into the insides in multiple languages.
When it comes to epic cross stitch patterns, we have you covered. From the slightly smaller, but still epic Pokemon cross stitch pattern to the insanely huge Epic All Generations Pokemon cross stitch pattern. It should, therefore, be no surprise that we are often asked about how to tackle these behemoths. Be that how to prepare, how long they take, or just keeping up the energy to keep stitching. So we’ve decided to help you out, and guide you through the trials and tribulations of tackling an epic cross stitch pattern.
Lets hit this guide with a hammer early on. Everyone has seen an epic pattern and thought “yes, I NEED to stitch that”, but actually taking the plunge is a tough thing to do. There are three main reasons its so hard.
Epic cross stitch patterns will take time. There is no question in that. Some of the ones on my site can be stitched in 9 months, others take years and years (I know of one that has so far taken 4 years) so time is a big factor. Now if that idea of giving time to a cross stitch pattern seems OK to you, I’d ask you a simple question; did you work out how much time?
In most cases people try to rationalize the pattern in their head, working out that if they want to finish in a year they need to stitch 2 hours a day. Now, that’s great, but can you keep that kind of stitching up? 2 hours, every day, without stitching anything else, come rain or shine, holiday or work? The answer is probably no.
But don’t give up hope. You just need to be realistic. It might take you a year, but if it takes 2 years, that’s OK. Don’t feel like its a race against yourself to get it finished, or you’ll take all the fun out of it.
Yes. It will cost you. Epics are, considerably most expensive than normal cross stitch. However, if you’re clever, they can be far more cost-efficient than smaller projects. We’ll get into it later on, but just because you’re starting a new project, doesn’t mean you need to buy everything upfront. With a project that will take you a year, you can split the cost periodically over the whole year, meaning its much more manageable.
Is It Worth It?
The final thing to work out, is a hard one. Is it worth it? Now, as someone that loves cross stitch, yes, its probably a great project, and you’ll have fun, no doubt. But epics take time, a LONG time, and as a result you need to work out if it’s worth it to you to keep on stitching with one project for what seems like forever.
Later in this guide we talk about keeping up enthusiasm whilst stitching, and one of those things is stitching smaller projects, but if the epic you want to stitch isn’t perfect in your eyes, is it worth the effort?
Gather Your Materials
If you’re willing to take the plunge, bravo! You’re onto a great project. But you need to get some supplies. As I eluded to above, you don’t need to get all of these things at once, you can split them up across the whole year, especially threads, but be ready to get yourself a serious stash over that year.
You’re going to need something to stitch on. This is by far, the biggest initial outlay for any epic cross stitch pattern, and sometimes can be hard to find. We even made a separate guide on how to find super-sized aida, but the long and short, is that you can get some. And if you can’t you can make one out of smaller pieces.
But as the single thing that will hold together your project, we really suggest investing in a good brand of aida.
It’s no surprise that most epic patterns use a lot of thread. Most use almost the whole range of DMC threads too, with a lot, and we mean a lot, of 310 black. Therefore, we have two suggestions on picking up threads.
The first is a simple one; cheap threads. We asked recently if cheap cross stitch threads are worth it and to our amazement they were. Sure, they aren’t as good as DMC threads in our eyes, but considering they’re a tiny fraction of the cost, they are a great way to save money on a big cross stitch pattern with lots of color changes.
Secondly, we suggest DMC thread cones. Or more specifically, a black cone. They cost about $12, but with over 1000 to 2100 meters of thread that’s a fantastic saving for just one color. Thankfully black and white are the most commonly used colors, so you can use them with this project, and beyond.
Finally, we suggest working out how many skeins you might need on this journey. We’ve detailed how many stitches you can get out of an 8m skein on the site before, which does need a little practice to work out, but can give you a super accurate idea of how much thread you’re going to need.
Yeh, needles. Not something you initially think about when tackling an epic, but there are a lot of stitches there, and it will play havoc with your needle. We recently went over why it might be time to time to ditch that old cross stitch needle, and in it, we talk about how damaging the needle can be to your cross stitch project after a while, so you need to take it easy on that guy. Instead, look at picking up a nice set of needles, which you change through the project. If you’re interested we’ve rounded up the best cross stitch needle brands for you to pick from.
Grid, Grid, Grid
This one is simple; grid. Counting on a small project can be a pain, but when you’re talking epics, it’s all too easy to screw something up and really ruin your project. The last thing you want is to find out after a year of stitching that you missed a few stitches months ago and now you can’t complete it. Considering there are many ways to grid for cross stitch its just worth doing so much. It might take a day just to grid, but it’s worth investing the time in. Trust us.
So now you have your materials is there anything else? Well, yes. You need to prepare the pattern, and work out what frame you’re going to use.
Get a Good Frame
The frame will hold your cross stitch for the whole time you’re stitching. You can go with something like a hoop, but using cross stitch hoops leaves marks, so we would go with a Q snap frame or something similar. However, there are loads of options we’ve rounded up in our post about which cross stitch frame is best.
You’re going to actually need the pattern. And you need to understand it. Take some time to get to grips with the pattern, and plan how you want to tackle it. I would suggest printing off the pattern, especially if you have the best printer for cross stitch. You might also want a markup app, or digital pattern, but sometimes using a paper pattern safeguards you against accidents.
How To Stitch
Finally, we get to stitching. You have everything ready, you have needle in hand, and… uh… how do you go about this?
Yes, there are lots of different ways to stitch cross stitch, and we aren’t going to tell you how to stitch, but when it comes to epics, there are only three ways to do it. Now, before I get onto the ways to do it, let me warn you off one day. Block stitching. This is where you stitch block by block, sometimes 10×10, using a parking method. Now, parking is actually a good idea, but try to avoid block stitching for anything less than a page. Once you finish you might see block lines all over the work, which can be hard to wash out.
I’ve never really got on with parking, but some people swear by it. In short, you have lots of active threads on the go at once. It means that instead of block stitching you slowly work your way across the whole pattern bit by bit, completing as you go. Its a great boost as you can see the whole thing coming together under your very eyes, but needs you to keep track of lots of threads at once.
Stitch one color, across the whole piece. And then do the next color. This is a great idea to start a cross stitch, using black as the first color. It will outline almost everything for you, give you stitching across the whole cross stitch pattern and will mean you no longer need grid lines/need to count. I would even suggest using this method to start, regardless of how you want to finish the other colors.
Mix And Match
This is how I stitch. It’s kind of like both parking and cross country, but I stitch large blocks of one color. I might do a quarter of it in black, then do blue for a bit, then do red, then go back to black, etc. It breaks up using one color forever, and is a good middle ground way to stitch. But there is a problem with this; tracking. You need to make sure that you keep an eye on where you’ve stitched, and what’s yet to stitch. Try using a cross stitch mark up app.
Keep Up The Enthusiasm
This, is by far, the hardest part of any epic cross stitch pattern. Keeping up motivation when cross stitching can be hard at the best of times, but with a project that takes years, it’s going to be much worse. But there are things you can do.
Let’s get this straight right away; you don’t need to stitch and stitch and stitch. Take breaks. We said earlier about working out how long you’d have to stitch a day, and things like that are always going to fail. You just can’t stitch for 2 hours every single day. Take a break once in a while. Play a game, read a book, go out or:
Stitch Something Else
You don’t have to be chained to this thing. An epic cross stitch pattern is great and all, but you can stitch something else whenever you like!
Celebrate Small Victories
Epics are huge. And that means there is only one completion. But that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the small stuff. Celebrate every time you’ve finished a page, or with a color, or maybe just every X hours you’ve spent stitching.
Break Up The Boring Bits
Finally, let’s talk about boring bits. In every cross stitch project, there is that bit. The bit that has one color and is a massive section. You just can’t avoid it sometimes. And we’re not going to tell you to. Instead, we’re going to help you avoid it. The first way is thinking about the background. If the “boring bit” is the background, have you considered using a colored aida, or dying it?
Now, if you can’t avoid it altogether, you can avoid it being boring. By breaking it up. Stitch it first, or stitch it in sections. The urge is to leave it right till the end, just when its the most boring, but by stitching it bit by bit, you can stop the boring parts becoming the bane of your life.
You’ve heard the horror stories, everyone has, and you wish upon wish that it just won’t happen to you as you grab a handful of threads from the store. You hope and pray they there aren’t any of those dreaded dye lot issues…
But is that actually an issue?
Today, we look into the rumors of dye lot issues that effect threads and find out once and for all if it’s true or not.
To start, we should say that we spoke with both store owners, thread manufacturers, and cross stitchers who have found threads afflicted with the issue. However, we even went out of our way to try to find these threads, and actually, once you know why it happens, you can find them everywhere!
Are the stories true?
Kind of. You see, the stories of different colored threads despite being the same color, does exist. But that doesn’t mean that dye lots are the issue.
The common thought behind the issue is a fair one; its the same thread, same color code, it should be the same color. However, people do find threads that don’t match up. But in all the examples I could find after I scoured the internet, every single one had a caveat. In most cases, they were old threads. Some were decades old, like the one in the image below that has a paper wrapper, some were only a year or so.
In addition to the age thing, there were also some with dubious origins. And by that, we mean they were fake threads. The wrappings didn’t match, they were part of an odd set, or they were clearly suspect.
But in every single case, there was something that was said before they mentioned dye lots. Having spoken to the store owners and manufacturers, they hardly ever see issues in the threads themselves. But they do see it happening…
So why does it happen?
Well, in short, age is the issue, combined with storage. We’ve mentioned how to store finished cross stitch before, and we even mentioned one of the major issues is light damage. However, most people don’t think about the fact that light damage happens to the threads all the time, and not just after you’ve finished stitching something.
Light, especially sunlight, bleaches the colors in threads and changes the colors over time. In most cases, this tends to make it lighter, but in some cases, the lighter colors go first, making threads look darker. In really old threads, it’s somewhat expected, but even newer threads, ones that are maybe only a year old, can still have the issue. This is due to big stores having them on display under bright lights all day (and in some cases nights too).
Of course, there are also fakes out there. With eBay and Alibaba becoming larger in the cross stitch world, you do find fakes. These are poor quality threads though, so there’s no guarantee on their quality.
What can you do about it?
So now you know that dye lots aren’t the issue, but color changes do happen, how do you avoid picking up an incorrect color?
Buy them from a reputable source
First off, buy them from a source you know what you’re getting is actually a branded thread. If you choose to buy them from eBay, or Alibaba, the chances are they aren’t genuine. Those sweet deals like to seem like a great way to get a complete set of DMC threads, but they’re too good to be true.
However, just because you can see the threads in store, doesn’t mean they are the best bet either:
Don’t buy them from the big brick and mortar stores
Now, we don’t want to have a go at all stores here, but larger ‘big box’ stores that don’t specialize in crafts are the real issue. They don’t sell as many threads, meaning the threads that are out, and probably been there a long time. These threads are bombarded all day, and usually all night, with bright bulbs, sapping the color out of the threads. Don’t bother going to those stores.
Other stores that sell just cross stitch stuff, or just craft stuff, tend to have a similar issue, but they do have a better turn over, which means you’re more likely to get a better color. Also, avoid any store that puts the thread near a window.
Store them well
So now you have the threads, is there anything you can do to avoid the color seeping out? Well, yes. Store them well, or more specifically, out of direct light (be that sunlight or indoor lighting). So long as you keep your threads in a drawer, box or cabinet, this should be fine, however, be aware that if you keep threads out on display you need to be careful of light sources.
Know they don’t last forever
But even if you do store them well, just be aware that they might not last forever. The older the threads get, the more chance there is for color to seep out of them. Even if you store them well, it’s worth checking some colors (especially greys) against a color card or a newer thread to check before you use them on a big project.
Buy cheaper threads
Yeh, that doesn’t seem like an obvious thing, does it? But one brand of cheap threads, CXC, make threads with polyester in them. Similar to a t-shirt, these tend to keep their color much longer, meaning they’re more likely to keep.
So there you have it, our investigation, and solutions to not getting the dreaded incorrect color thread.
TL;DR No, dye lots really aren’t an issue, but lights from stores and old threads do change color over time.
Since I started stitching I’ve only really used two brands of aida. A no-name brand that came free with a magazine (and was TERRIBLE quality) and a well-known brand. However thanks to my local sewing store being shut, I picked up someone else’s aida. The problem was the aida was completely different. In the past, we rounded up the best cross stitch needle brands and we decided its time to round up the best aida brands too thanks to me having to try them all out!
Over the last 4 months, we tried 180 aida sheets from a variety of brands, with a selection of colors to see who has the best! We chose a series of factors to test including how starched they are, the uniformity of batches, the range, price, and overall quality. We also ignored things like the uniformity of color and possible bleed; if we found any of these things (and we did) we’ve chosen to not even review them here.
Finally, the next brand we have on our list is the big box store. What do we mean by that? Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Hobbycraft, Joann’s, Michael’s, etc. These are the own brand aida that lots of stores sell. We actually know they all come from the same factory and we do know the brand name, but it’d just confuse things, so far now, we’ll call them “big box store” aida.
I’ll start with the positives here; the price is great. Its dirt cheap, and frankly for the price, you get a good product, even if the quality itself it’s super. In addition, the range is basically white or black, meaning so long as you don’t want anything fancy, they have you covered. In addition, the volume they produce aida means that you’re likely to get the same aida for a good 6 months which all comes from the same batch; however, the black does differ wildly from batch to batch. That, it’s all there is to say about this aida. It’s cheap, and it’s OK. Sure, it’s not the best (by far), but it’s a great place to start, and by no means worthless. Just maybe not the nicest.
Starch – 3/5
Quality – 2/5
Batch consistency – 2/5
Price – 5/5
Range – 1/5 Total – 2.5/5
DMC aida is generally a brand most have used at least once. It’s a good aida, and I won’t try to convince you otherwise, however, there are some downsides. The first is that DMC aida is stiff; which isn’t too big of an issue, but makes it less pleasant to use. They also suffer from issues with batch consistency (specifically with their pale blue and cream aida). But they are good! However, as one of the most expensive options on this list, I’m not sure they’re the best choice.
Starch – 2/5
Quality – 4/5
Batch consistency – 3/5
Price – 3/5
Range – 3/5 Total – 3/5
Permin aida is fantastic, let’s get that’s straight from the outset. However, there are two important things to know. The first is that Permin aida is very soft; which can be great, but for those who freehand stitch (without a hoop) it can be a pain. The second is that whilst Permin used to have a massive selection of aida, they’ve reduced their colors drastically in the last few years with their range mostly being made up of pale colors.
Starch – 1/5
Quality – 5/5
Batch consistency – 4/5
Price – 2/5
Range – 3/5 Total – 3/5
Zweigart is the brand of choice for me. It’s a medium amount stiff, which for most is good, it’s extremely consistent with its batch colors and its a good price. It might not be as nice to use as brands such as Permin, but its consistency, its range and the fact that it’s everywhere make it the best to pick up. They also include a red stripe along the border, meaning you always know when you get Zweigart aida.
Starch – 4/5
Quality – 4/5
Batch consistency – 4/5
Price – 4/5
Range – 5/5 Total – 4.5/5
Charles Craft Gold Standard aida is a brand most people tend to ignore. I think they’re hard to get hold of most of the time, however, if you ever get a chance to use some; give it a go. Without a doubt, they are the best quality aida on this list. Its starch level is stiff but smooth, they have fantastically bold colors, a great range, and a nice price tag. The price is on the expensive side, but its far from prohibitive. They also take a lot more risks with their colors than other brands, giving you a great choice like grasshopper (which is just gorgeous)!
Starch – 4/5
Quality – 5/5
Batch consistency – 5/5
Price – 4/5
Range – 5/5 Total – 4.5/5
And there you have it, our round-up of the best-known cross stitch aida brands out there which will hopefully help you pick out your next fabric supplier! We should say though that there are lots of smaller brands out there which we haven’t included, but are great. 123stitch.com has a great supply for example.
If you wanted to know, our choice is Zweigart aida. Its great quality, but thanks to its fancy orange border, we’re always 100% sure we’ve got the right brand, and someone isn’t trying to pass a poorer quality aida off to us.
When I first started with cross stitch, Etsy was around, but it just didn’t have anything in the way of cross stitch on it. However, in the last years, there has been an increasing number of people and brands selling cross stitch patterns on Etsy, alongside tools and threads. But is it a force for good?
Let’s start off with the good side of Etsy. At first, Etsy seems like a fantastic thing for both those selling cross stitch patterns online, but also those buying. Sadly, commercial patterns still aren’t creating modern designs, and whilst there are newer magazines like XStitch Magazine, finding a modern cross stitch pattern is nearly impossible without Etsy.
This has a series of benefits, from introducing new, and younger cross stitchers, creating a pool of modern cross stitch patterns, giving cross stitch designers a place to sell, improving overall quality of patterns, but also dropping prices of patterns.
When I started stitching I had to come up with my own pattern ideas, put them down on paper and stitch them on the fly. There was no way that I could get those types of patterns other than making them myself. That worked for a lot of us, but I know cross stitchers who just gave up as they couldn’t stand making patterns. I know this is totally down to the Etsy platform, in fact, affordable cross stitch pattern software has risen at the same time as Etsy has and as a result Etsy was simply the platform of choice, but the fact remains that it’s Etsy that has helped give cross stitch designers a voice, and a place to sell. Without it major brands that win awards yearly like Peacock and Fig and Floss and Mischeif wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for Etsy.
But sadly, there is always another side of the coin. With Etsy, this is two-fold; copyright and quality.
I said previously that Etsy has given rise to a wealth of modern cross stitch patterns, with recognizable characters and themes that appeal to your non-your-grandmas cross stitch. But with this comes the obvious issue of cross stitch and copyright. I know us designers tend to go on about it, but there is a genuine reason why you should care about cross stitch and copyright. For small designers its a case of having a business or not having a business, and for larger brands, it’s simply a case of breaking the law. In fact, when writing this post I had to alert a designer that someone else was selling their patterns on Etsy without their knowledge.
So where does this leave us? Well, on principle I would say Etsy is good for the cross stitch world.
But that is on a few provisos. The first, is that you don’t count the rampant copyright theft that happens. Sadly, the only way that this will stop is buyers need to stop buying cross stitch patterns they know to be copyrighted, and for brands to work with designers to make quality cross stitch pattern books. I’ve made a few now, and I know its a big price on publishers, but there is a market out there that will buy it.
But on principle, thanks to Etsy, there is a thriving cross stitch community that creates, buys and sells modern cross stitch patterns, and proving that cross stitch isn’t dead.
If you look to buy DMC threads, you’ll often find that the price will vary. This isn’t just an inter-country thing either, the prices of threads vary massively depending on where you live in the world. On Facebook recently someone asked why this was, and I jumped in with an answer. It turns out, that answer was wrong. So I want to dedicate this post to those who both set me straight, and led me down the weird path of finding out why prices vary so much.
So, I hear you ask, how much do they vary? Here are a few countries (converted to US dollars) with prices:
$0.49 to $0.56 – USA
$0.74 – Canada
$0.89 – UK
$0.89 – Australia
$1.00 – Portugal
$1.61 – France
$2.00 – Italy
$2.00 – Finland
$2.78 – Switzerland
Or more specifically, what I thought was the case. In the 1990s DMC was going through less than stellar times. The company thought this was in part due to its expansion of factories across the US, Asia, and Africa. They decided that they needed to concentrate on the heritage of the brand more, and rely on the “made in France” tag line. In order to do this, they closed down one of the US factories and brought their main thread manufacturing back to France.
The rumor, however, is that some threads are still made in the US and other factories. This is false. The Asian, African and non-French European factories do produce some of DMC’s stock, their six-strand threads are all made in France. The remaining US factory was shut down, and they are now just a warehouse.
So with that in mind, the standard thought is why is it cheaper in countries other than France? Well, lots of reasons, but the first and most striking when it comes to France is a standard commercial decision. What can we sell them for?
To use an example, let’s take Portugal, selling at $1.00 a skein, and France, selling at $1.61 a skein. Both are in the EU with no import charges, both have the same regulations and sales tax. The difference is the average wage. On average France makes $10,000 more per citizen than Portugal does, meaning they can charge more for the same product in France than they can in Portugal. The Portuguese stores run at a lower profit per skein than France.
The second reason is competition. Once again, let’s look at two European countries, France and the UK. Both once again have the same import tax, sales tax and have the same regulation. They also both have roughly similar average wages (in fact, the UK is higher by $5,000). However, despite all of the similarities, a skein in the UK is $0.82 cheaper than it is in France. The reason is a simple one; Anchor threads.
The biggest rival to DMC is Anchor threads, which was in the UK long before DMC got involved, meaning they have history here. And whilst they are no longer made in the UK (they are made in Germany after they combined with JP Coats) they are big competition. In fact, Anchor threads go for about $0.90 on average in the UK. DMC knew that in order to compete, they had to reduce their cost to just under that. Stores in the UK just run at a lower profit margin.
The previous reasons are fairly striking in themselves, however, if you compare France with a country outside of the EU, like the USA or Canada, you see a MASSIVE difference in price. The above factors do have sway here as well, but there is also a large transport cost you have to add into the price, but despite that, North American threads are cheaper still. We’ll get into the US specifically later on, as there is another factor that impacts their price, so for now, we’ll talk about Canada, which sells at $0.80 less than France.
To many both inside of North America, and outside, there are a set of threads, 3773 to 3895 that are discountinued threads. This isn’t actually the case. Instead, some threads are only to be sold in North America. We go into detail in our post about why those DMC threads are discontinued, but in short, the dyes used in those threads are illegal in the EU, Australia, Switzerland, New Zealand, China, and many more. The US lags behind many countries on regulations. This can be specific dyes used as per the above example, or larger regulations, such as the traceability of products.
In the EU, in particular, there is large accountability on textiles to ensure the supply and manufacture is done in a sustainable way, that doesn’t take advantage of lower economic growth countries, and has no modern slavery involved. Therefore in order to sell textiles in the EU, you need to supply documentation about this and other regulations. These regulations cost money, lots of money. So much, that the cost of sending products to North America is not only cheaper but a lot cheaper, than filling out regulation paperwork.
That said, I hear you asking about Australia, which is cheaper than France. Well, in Australia, there are lots of Anchor threads being sold, they have a lower average wage, and the regulations aren’t as strict. This all means that they can compete on price in the same way the UK does.
Only three more reasons now, and this one can be a big thing, or small thing, depending on the country you’re in.
This time, we go to Switzerland, which pays a whopping $1.26 more than France, almost double the price, despite being in Europe, and in fact, bordering France. However, Switzerland isn’t part of the EU. This means they don’t have the same laws about trade that the rest of Europe does. In short, if you want to import into Switzerland, you have to pay a heavy fine.
Now we get to more US specific pricing. There are two main things, but the first is inter-country pricing, and how you can vary by the price of up to 10c on a skein.
The US works a little like separate countries, in the sense that each state can set its own sales tax. In fact, each city, county, and municipal area can also change their sales tax, which can vary as much as 10% on the original price. In many places, there is one cost for the whole country, but in the US depending on where the store is, you can save a fair amount of threads.
Selling At A Loss
Finally, we come to the biggest cost difference going. This is usually why people ask on Facebook about cost; the US is super cheap. In fact, it can be cheaper to buy US threads and have them sent to a different country. There are two reasons. The first is that the US is a large market. In the same way that the UK has high competition from Anchor, the US has none. This, you would imagine, would hike up the price, but thanks to no competition and a large number of people buying, orders from stores are normally large. In addition, the US has a lot of “big box stores” that buy in supermassive volumes to sell across the country. In other countries, stores are usually smaller and can’t get bulk order discounts that the US stores can.
But the second reason is the biggest. In the US, DMC thread is usually sold at a loss or very close to wholesale prices. Most stores in the US are selling thread so low as they want you to come in and buy other, higher-margin products. This can be coupled with the fact that the US has a discount culture, meaning that whilst they have the lowest prices, unlike other countries, you can get further discounts on threads.
I won’t state who, but I spoke to someone that runs a small store, so does not get bulk discounts, who buys in at 46c a skein. The average sale price in her state was 50c a skein, meaning she gets only 4c of profit, before and extra discounts are applied. I spoke to a British store owner that has a profit margin of 40c after discounts are applied.
So there you have it, all the reasons that prices vary so much from country to country. We’d love to hear the price you pay for threads, and if any of you buy from different countries and import to get lower prices. Leave us a comment and we’ll update the list as we go!
In addition, we’d just like to say that there are cheaper embroidery threads which are a great alternative to DMC. But if you wanted to know, we also have a round up of the best places to get good DMC thread deals and if its worth buying second hand threads.