As an independent website, we don’t promote one brand over another, however today we’re making a slight exception. Not due to the fact that one brand is better, but there only appears to be one brand. In fact, it appears the tool I want to talk about today seems to be very niche; however, I think they’re one of the best things any cross stitcher can get.
Without beating around the bush anymore, I want to talk about Canary mini snips. These little things are super tiny scissors, which you use with the tips of your fingers, instead of pushing your fingers through the hoop handles of a standard pair of scissors.
You may know that I’m a big fan of getting the perfect scissors for you however these little scissors might just be my all-time favorites. As small snips, they are perfect for thread cutting, they don’t take up much space, you don’t have to fiddle with finding the hoops and getting the proper control. You can pick these up and make a snip and put them back before even getting a normal pair of scissors ready. However, their excellence doesn’t end there. They’re round-tipped, meaning you won’t stab yourself, they can be attached to keychains or put into a travel cross stitch kit, and as the blades are super tiny, they’re fully safe scissors to fly with.
It also helps that you can pick them up for under $10.
You can pick up a pair on Etsy.com in a variety of styles
A lot of people like to keep track of cross stitch patterns on their computers, ipads, tablets or phones, but what are the best ways to mark up your cross stitch patterns? We’ve reviewed the biggest solutions on the market to help you pick.
Based on 185 reviews
Free, and therefore right up there with favourability, XODO is a good alternative to ezPDF. It’s not as easy to use, and that’s why it gets a worse score, but there is one advantage XODO has over ezPDF; it can be used across devices. All you need to do is set up an account and you can use the android app or go online (through your computer, iPad, phone or any internet-enabled device (including your smart TV)) and you can pick up where you left off. Great for those who want multiple devices.
Based on 82 reviews
Foxit is a great app for editing pdfs on the go, however, it’s built with that purpose, and therefore doesn’t easily control cross stitch markups. It still works, its free, and its great at opening any PDF, however, the app is considerably larger than the alternatives, and it’s just not as good on our tests.
Based on 374 reviews
Frankly, ezPDF has everything you want from a markup app. It’s lightweight (doesn’t take up too much space on your tablet/phone), can open any pdf with ease, and its mark up tools appear to be designed especially for cross stitch. You can undo incorrect markups, even if they were from weeks previous, and the app saves as you go, meaning no mistake app closing losing your work. However with more and more bugs being reported, with no customer service, and a VERY questionable set of permissions required to use, it’s no longer as good as it once was.
Based on 1091 reviews
iBooks probably wasn’t what you were thinking when you read this list, but as a built in-app, it does everything you need a cross stitch mark up app to do. Not only is it built-in, therefore free, but it is lightweight, has an easy to use format, and saves as you go. It’s not fantastic at loading times but will open anything you throw at it.
Based on 78 reviews
The new app from Ursa software (the makers of WinStitch and MacStitch) is a dream to us and is the ONLY app on this list specifically made for the purpose. It’s frankly, brilliant. But there is one big issue, and that’s its dependency on .chart files, a file format specifically made for the app. One day I’m sure they’ll be everywhere, but at the moment, finding a .chart is actually kinda hard.
Based on 27 reviews
Goodnotes is a brilliant app, it’s on its 4th generation, its been made to do pretty much anything you can think of to a pdf with ease, and its a dream to use. But its also the most expensive app on the list. If you’re aching for a great app that’ll be supported for decades to come, Goodnotes is it, but with many free alternatives, I wouldn’t go with it for my first choice.
Based on 18 reviews
GoodReader is pretty much a carbon copy of Goodnotes, so the same applies from a review perspective, but with the lower cost comes less innovation. They’re always playing second fiddle to Goodnotes.
Based on 312 reviews
ezPDF reviewed with our android users as the best app by far, but with the iOS app, everything is different. Hard to install, barely works, late updates, large install file, and not as easy to use as the android version. I’m afraid ezPDF just lets the side down on iOS.
WinStitch is expensive for a markup app, but its not a markup app. In fact, its a fantastic bit of software for making your own cross stitch patterns, it even reviewed as the best windows cross stitch pattern software. What makes it helpful however, is its also able to mark up cross stitch patterns. Unlike its iOS app brother, it can do it on all pdfs too. The issue; they should be made from within WinStitch to start.
Based on 185 reviews
XODO is a great app, it’s a great online platform, and therefore, its great on PC or Mac. You see, so long as you have a login, you can access your patterns on any computer and pull up its great markup software. It’s easy to use, free, and fast.
One of our most popular posts is about cross stitch gridding techniques and when I wrote the post, I thought it was the only real option. Either you grid or you count. But that isn’t the case. In fact, there is something else; a counting pin.
I had frankly never heard of these before, so not only did I have to look up what they were, but I had to buy some myself to check just how handy they were. And honestly, I was surprised how awesome they are.
In short, counting pins are just blunted pins, but longer and they normally have a cap so you can leave them in the fabric for a while. They solve the problem of recounting. If you don’t grid, you know you’re going to have to count, but thanks to those oops moments in the past, you keep recounting. Counting pins help do that:
The most common way to use them is when moving from one stitched area to another spot where you want to start stitching. For instance, if your next stitching point is 12 stitches left and 15 stitches down from completed stitch “A”, using the counting pin to count 12 stitches to the left of stitched point A. Insert the counting pin into that hole, bring it back up 2 or 3 stitches away and put the nut on the pin to anchor it. Take a second counting pin and count down 15 stitches from where the first pin was inserted. Insert the second pin at that point and anchor it. Then you can thread your needle and start stitching.
In addition you can use them to count out a long line of stitches. Instead of having to go back and count out how many you’ve stitched every-so-often.
But are they any good? Well, yes, I think they are. I start most of my stitching in the middle, as is the norm, and as a result, I tend not to need to grid things, but if I’m stitching a long line, or a phrase, placement of the next stitch, if its apart from the main body of the work, is always a worry-some moment. I count and count and count again. But with counting pins, I feel safe in the knowledge that I counted right. Considering you can pick them up for a few dollars, its worth having one on stand by.
Everyone loves a subscription box, that feeling when it comes through your door and makes you feel like its Christmas every month, but with more and more subscription boxes out there, it’s hard to find the best. So we brought 3-month subscriptions to cross stitch subscription boxes to review, and tell you which is the best to get! Updated March 2019.
$5 per month: Digital pattern download only $10 per month: 1 counted cross stitch pattern (6×6 inches), 1 counted cross stitch pattern (6×6 inches), 1 counted cross stitch pattern (2×2 inches), Aida, DMC Threads, Needle, Sweets, 15% shop discount, access to all previous patterns $15 per month: All of above + 1 counted cross stitch pattern & kit (6×6 inches), Pom Pom Kit
The Geeky Stitching Club is our preferred cross stitch subscription box for a simple reason; stuff. You get a lot of stuff. Not content with just one pattern, you get 2 full 6×6 inch patterns, and a sweet mini pattern to stitch up too. You get enough stuff to make one of the larger patterns, and some sweets (always a nice touch). The real gem with the subscription though isn’t the number of patterns you get, and not even the price, which is really low, or even that you can add ANOTHER kit for only $5 more. No, the gem, is that you get access to the full back catalog of patterns (5 years worth) for your subscription.
The patterns are well made, interesting, and vary enough to keep you at them month after month. I would say however that there is a definite theme to Geeky Stitching Club patterns; girly. That might not be much of a problem, but don’t expect pop-culture references or snarky comments.
$5 per month: Digital pattern download only $16 per month (USA); $22 per month (Canada): 1 counted cross stitch pattern (6×6 inches), Aida, Wooden Hoop, DMC Threads, Needle, Link to other pattern options
The Rag Tag Box is what you would expect from a cross stitch subscription box. It has a pattern, all the tools needed, a hoop and even different versions of the pattern supplied to mix it up a bit. The brilliance of the Rag Tag Box, however, is the patterns themselves. They vary. They vary like crazy. One month you might be getting a snarky phrase, the next a sweet collection of miniatures, the next month a cute animal, the month after a time-specific pattern. What makes these even better, however, is how detailed, and well made they are. You’d genuinely want to go out and buy these patterns.
The only downsides we could come up with however were both the price, and that you can’t get the kits outside of North America. But, with a $5 download-only option, its a nice option (if a little less special). Their patterns can be a little pop-culture and sci-fi related sometimes, but I see that as a positive.
As the only UK only subscription box, the market for the Cotton & Twine subscription box might be a little limited, however, its really hitting off that side of the pond, thanks to its parent company, Historical Sampler Company, being at the helm. Well known in the UK cross stitch market for over 18 years, it’s no surprise that they supply quality items each month. The patterns tend to be in the middle ground, a little bit contemporary, but also a little bit historical. In my mind, this lowers the overall interest in the box.
One of the best things about the box though is its extras. Every month you get a free item, which can range from a pillow to cross stitch on, to an Easter wall hanging, stickers or a book. And then there is the sweet treats. Unlike other boxes on this list, the sweets are a massive part, with a heavy dose of English treats, like fudge to endulge in.
$33/£26 per month: 38 DMC Threads & free gifts on month 3, 6, 9 & 12
Unlike the other entries on this list, Lakeside Needlecraft aim to help you complete the full set of 500 DMC threads, including the 35 new DMC threads and 18 variegated threads. They do this by supplying 38 random threads each month for 13 months, ensuring they only send you one thread of each color. Whilst getting all the DMC threads is a fantastic thing to do, its a little clostly upfront. This monthly subscription is a fantastic way to slowly build them up.
From the same makers of the Geeky Stitch Club, the Mini Little Stitchers club follows roughly the same model, but instead of small intricate designs, offers simple designs, stitched on wooden boards, with big threads and needles. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a suprise that its aimed at 6 to 12 year olds. Whilst this definately isn’t the best subscription box for adult stitchers, its a fantastic way of getting kids into the hobby.
$30 per month: US – 19 cross stitch patterns (25×33 stitches), 11 ‘gifts’ $47.50 per month: International – 19 cross stitch patterns (25×33 stitches), 11 ‘gifts’
Working more like a traditional advent calender, but for every month of the year, the Stitchybox monthly cross stitch subscribption box has a gift for each day of the month. This always contains at least 19 very small patterns, but you do have to supply needle, thread and cross stitch fabric for all of the patterns.
Our recent post on needle threaders has been a bit of a runaway success, however, I’ve had a few people ask a simple question; what about self-threading needles?
I must admit, that despite owning a pack, I never actually tried them out, so I threw caution to the wind and threaded a few needles.
What are self threading needles?
To start, let’s talk about the elephant in the room; self-threading needles are needles that say they can make threading super easy. Most often they’re marketed for people with arthritis or poor eyesight, however, anyone who hates the game of ‘poke the thread through the hole’ can stand to benefit.
It should also be said that there are multiple types of self-threading needle, however, they mostly come into two camps; V-shaped and spiral. We picked up a few packs of self threading needles from Etsy to give a good diversity.
V-Shaped Self Threading Needles
These V-shaped needles have actually been around for a really long time, and as a result have a whole raft of names including “self-threading”, “French Spring eye” or “Calyx eye”, however, they all have the same design. Simply put, you pull the thread down, through the two ‘clips’ which hold the thread in place. I had to try a few times before I got the system, as whilst it seems simple, doing it in real life isn’t as easy. I found that having a block to place the needle in so you could pull the thread through helped.
However, I wasn’t impressed. There are three reasons I just couldn’t get on board with these needles. The first was how annoying they were to thread. It honestly took me about 5 tries to thread the needle each time. Those 5 times weren’t all sunny times either, as they kept breaking the thread. I mean, these things break thread better than my scissors. However, I can foresee myself getting better as time goes on.
The biggest issue for me though, was how painful it was to push the needle through the aida. Whilst needles are far from soft, the rounded edges make it slightly easier on the fingers, but these needles are like two little prongs stabbing me every time I pushed down. Not fun. I found the only solution was a thimble, which really gets in the way of cross stitching…
Spiral Self Threading Needles
Despite the V-shaped needles being far older, more often than not the only self-threading tapestry needles you can find are the spiral type. This is down to how bulky the self-threading mechanism is, however in our size tests they were no larger than ordinary needles. Unlike their V-shaped counterparts, you thread them on the side, which is MUCH easier, and frankly, lives up to the idea of being suitable for those with bad eyesight and arthritis. However, there are downsides too.
Specifically, we found two issues. The first was how often the needles caught on the aida, thanks to the side design the needle effectively has a hook, which caught on every 3 to 4 stitches, however with a slight change in how you stitch this can be avoided; but is practically worthless to those with reduced mobility. The second issue relates to the first in the sense that the eye of the needle breaks far faster, which isn’t too bad of a problem on its own, but these needles are expensive.
Are they worth it?
So, we finally get to the answer to the original question, of are self thread needles worth it. In my opinion; no. That isn’t to say they don’t have a purpose, I truly think that for some its a great idea, but with so many great needle threaders out there, that I just don’t think it’s worth it.
The first thing to discuss is the possible types of pattern maker you can get: Free – Made using a simple pattern maker without customisation Patterns As A Service – You pay for one pattern at a time Fully Capable – Lots of customisation options, but a big learning curve
So with that in mind, let’s get into when you should pay, and which ones I suggest.
When you want a super realistic outcome
After a few cross stitch kits and patterns from others, its a fairly regular thing to want to stitch a photo you own, however, free pattern makers just aren’t capable of making a realistic pattern in most cases (see the discussion on dithering on last weeks post). As a result, in order to get something realistic, you have to pay. But that doesn’t mean you need to shell out wads of cash. The patters-as-a-service model is perfect here, offering you the chance to get a pattern made with really good tools, without much effort, for only $10.
A word of warning though, if you want more than 5 patterns a year, we suggest you keep reading!
Our suggestion:thread-bare.com ($10) or patterncreator.com ($7.50)
Whilst pattern creator is cheaper and reviews slightly better overall in our tests, we find thread-bare has some fantastically realistic outputs so long as you’re willing to experiment with the settings.
When you want something custom
There are a whole load of cross stitch patterns on places like Etsy, but what happens if you want something custom? The only choice is a paid pattern maker. This might take the form of something small or something massive like the pattern below, but whatever changes you want, you need a robust pattern maker that can handle it.
When you intend to make more than 5 patterns a year
When you want to make more than 5 patterns a year, I would invest in a really good pattern maker. The advantage here is that not only do you get patterns cheaper, but you have ALL the control, meaning you can make anything from a tiny change to a massive custom piece. If you just want a plug and play pattern, you can do that, but as you progress, or you want to make more changes, all the functionality is built-in. The cherry on top? Once you purchase the software, you never had to pay for a pattern again, meaning you save on the first year by $10, and then the following years by $50+.
Our suggestion:WinStitch (for Windows) or MacStitch (for Mac)$48
Once again Ursa software offers the best option here, no only as it’s just under $50 (the price of 5 patterns on a pattern-as-a-service model) but also allows for a more realistic output and gives you access to tools you’ll need as you progress in pattern making.
As a result, it often scares people away from purchasing a pattern or downloading software to make patterns. Further to this the confusion about what makes a good pattern maker is rife, and so I regularly get people asking me if a free pattern maker is better than a paid one. The answer is usually no; paid is better, however, the reasons why are quite important; it can mean the difference between a brilliant pattern, and a terrible one.
Color selection in a pattern is super important, and as you progress as a stitcher you’ll find yourself handpicking colors. The reason handpicking colors is so important is that no one actually knows what the colors are. Here me out there; thanks to the new DMC threads there are 500 DMC threads in the standard range to choose from, and whilst you can find these colors represented in a lot of places with color blocks, the threads aren’t made up with computer screens in mind. As a result, when someone wants to look at an image on a computer they have to guess what the color is. Yes, you heard that right, they guess.
To give you an example, below are two cross stitch program interpretations of the colors in the DMC range. The important thing here is to see how different they are. Even though they’re meant to be the same color.
Free programs use a list they found somewhere online, they haven’t sat down with each color and investigated what the accurate color might be. Paid programs do. In fact, many paid programs make similar graphs to the above just to check their working against others, as a result, they have a higher likelihood of getting more accurate color selections.
Dithering is a rather complicated thing, and I’m not going to describe it in detail, but in short, its how boundaries of colors are represented. Actually making dithering work is a VERY complicated thing and In a lot of free cross stitch programs, it’s simply too complicated to bother and as a result, there is no dithering. This sounds OK at first, but if you look at the example below (you can click it to enlarge it) you can see the difference dithering makes to every part of the pattern. Simply put, dithering makes it look more real.
You might not think that any cross stitch pattern has ‘extras’ however things like per page thread usage, a preview image, page ‘cross over’ marks, amount of thread needed, and other things all come with patterns from paid pattern creators, however, they don’t with free ones. In fact, with most, you’ll only get the bare bones of a pattern.
It should also be noted that with every free pattern, there are limits. This is normal size and how many colors a pattern can have, most are limited to 200×200 and 30 colors, but there can also be other limits, such as only exporting in an image, or forced to have a web link on the pdf.
Why They’re Free
Finally, there is one thing that everyone needs to realize; nothing is free. By offering a free program, what they mean, is they don’t think they can charge, as they know their program isn’t good enough to charge.
But that doesn’t mean you should never use free cross stitch pattern makers. In fact, there is definitely a time and place for them. We’ll discuss when you should pay for a pattern maker next week.
Although online programs like StitchFiddle make free programs super accessible, the ability of paid programs, such as the online Thread-Bare and the downloadable WinStitch make the paid alternatives much better.
We’ve been focusing on cross stitch tools a lot lately, however, there’s one in particular that I personally don’t use; the needle threader. The reason I don’t use them? They break. A lot.
This is actually an accepted reason to shun needle threaders, even though they’re helpful, and the first thing that came to your head, if you use them or not, was breakages. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, there is a whole slew of needle threader types out there, and there’s only one that breaks.
The one that breaks
It would be remiss of me to start this list without mentioning the elephant in the room; the threader that everyone knows, and loathes. Let’s start with the positives, as afterall, they do work well as needle threaders. They’re also dirt cheap, and easy to find. More often than not you can get them free in a hotel sewing kit or by 100 of them for a few dollars.
But that’s kinda where it ends. You see, these things are effectively a small wire, and as a result, break often. Way too often. The wire might break, bend, or come free from the handle part. They’re also super hard to hold (especially the cheaper metal handle ones)
Clover Needle Threader
But fear not! Someone has improved the design. Clover was the first, so we’ve shown them here, but essentially they’ve taken the flimsy wire and made it a thin flat bit of metal. They work exactly the same other than that, however, thanks to their thickness are only really useful for cross stitch (which let’s face it, you love). But this all comes at a price which is kinda over the top for what it is. Considering the other options on our list (like the one below) are often cheaper, it feels like these are better, but still not great.
LoRan Needle Threader
So now we look at the better alternatives. The LoRan needle threader as it has come to be known is a new take on a needle threader, which is loaded on the side, and hooked through the eye. They’re a simple sheet of metal, so still super cheap (it’s worth getting them online where they’re a few cents each, rather than the store where they can be a shocking $5 or more), but they’re also better in every way.
The hooks on both sides give you options for smaller and larger needles (or eyes) and are super sturdy. They can also be combined into needle minders like the one above by NeedleKeep Emporium. And finally, its the easiest one on our list to actually thread.
But there are things to be careful about. The hooks are kinda large, so if you use really small needles, such as petites you might not be able to fit them, and you need to be careful not to bend the hooks when they’re in your kit, or threading the needles will become SUPER hard.
I personally really rate these needle minders, I now use them myself. I rate them so much that we’re even offering one in our free giveaway this month!
Dritz Looped Needle Threaders
Whilst the LoRan needle threader is my go to, that doesn’t mean it’ll work for everyone. We already discussed above how petite needle users will struggle, and the possibility of hook bending might ruin your day, and so Dritz (who also came up with the LoRan needle threader) came up with something that might help; the looped needle threader.
You need to think of this as a ring of wire, however, they make it in such a way that there is no join, and the wire has been pressed into a long spike. You feed the thread into the ring and then you use the wire to thread the needle. In my mind, this kinda defeats the point as the wire is just as hard to thread, but it can be a lifesaver on sewing machines.
That doesn’t mean they’re all bad though, as these are cheap, super hardy, come in a multipack and we couldn’t break them; and we tried really hard.
Hummingbird Needle Threader
And now we come to the final, the true ‘best’ of the list. The hummingbird. Ignoring the fun shape for a second, its a hooked wire which you thread the needle onto, and then the thread. It’s been created to fit everyone’s needs. It has a cover so it doesn’t break, its cheap, its small so will go through any needle, it has a hook system so you don’t need to look too closely to hook it on, and it’s user-friendly. However, the fact that it tried to fix all these problems at once, for me, means it doesn’t really fix any. There are cheaper ones out there, there are ones that break less often, there are ones more suited to smaller needles, there are easier ones to work, and there are simpler forms. Sadly, for me, it falls short.
Automatic Needle Threaders
What about automatic needle threaders I hear you say! Well, there are some out there that do a good job. I’m not going to pretend otherwise either, as some work on magic I swear. However, there is one big thing that gets me about automatic needle threaders. They’ve been around for about 50 years and in that time have been tried by countless thousands of embroidery fans, however, I don’t know a single one that uses theirs. Instead, they use a manual one. I don’t know why, and maybe that will be a future blog, but for now, I’ll still with the experts and choose the manual ones.
If you’re interested in how to use any of the above needle threaders, our friend Peacock & Fig have a super video.
I’ve done a few cross stitch book reviews in the past, however, I tend to stay away from them, and there is a very simple reason for this; they’re all the same. Cross stitch books stitch to a hard and fast formula. The reason is that for the vast majority; it works.
There are exceptions though, such as the Mr X Stitch Guide to Cross Stitch which put cross stitch in a new light. However, for the first time ever (as far as I could tell), Fiona Sinclair and Sally-Anne Hayes have created a cross stitch book that goes totally off the ‘golden rules’ of cross stitch books and they’ve made something truly amazing.
We’ll start with what the book does have; the normal instructions which are slightly more in-depth than normal featuring things that aren’t in the book but help embellish, such as the dreaded French knot or beads, a fantastic selection of stitched up patterns, a guide on making things out of your finished cross stitch and a whole raft of standard thread lists and methods to accompany each pattern. That’s where things start getting special. The first thing you see when opening the book is an introduction to the authors, something that I normally flip past, however, if you read on it gives you hints on how this book came to be, and where the ideas came from.
Pulling across the page you see Paris in all its stitched glory, or a map of it anyway. See, the special thing about this book is that is about Paris, and stitching the sights Paris is famous for. I don’t mean the Eiffel Tower and other iconic sights; I mean the real Paris. Pictures include art being sold on the street, adorned windows above a shop, a fancy Parisian door, and other unusual sights that make up Paris. This in itself is a great idea for a book, to take something slightly less well known, but still truly Parisian and making a cross stitch about it.
They really could have stopped there. But they didn’t. Instead, they took a step I’ve never seen before in a cross stitch book; a loose pattern. OK, it’s still a pattern at the end of the day, but they have fun with it and want you to as well. The grid sits over an image of cross stitches of random sizes and placements, allowing you to pick your own destiny in stitching it. You can follow the blocks, you can freehand it, you can even drop some points all together; this book is about cross stitch creativity. They then take this idea and show you just what you can do with it. I’ve attached images of their Eiffel Tower stitch, their most typically Parisian, and they’ve shown how you can chop the pattern up, stitch only a section, stitch it freehand or copy the pattern stitch for stitch.
In more geometric designs, the charts are easy to follow as the grids are carefully aligned with the illustrations. For designs with more organic elements – curves, foliage, sky – the design doesn’t adhere to a grid line. This is where you need to become creative.
Everything about this cross stitch book screams creativity; the choice you the stitcher make when stitching, and how every time you pick this book up and stitch a pattern, regardless of how many times you’ve stitched it before, it will always be different. Is it for the beginner? Well, I don’t see why not; this is a book for people who want to create, to make something truly unique, and Fiona and Sally-Anne give you a helping hand to get there.
You can pick up a copy from amazon or your local book store.
A pdf copy of the book was supplied free of charge by the authors for this review. The opinions are totally my own and no effort was made to appease or appeal to the authors or publishers of this book.
We’ve all heard the horror stories over threads about melting threads and bleeds, and as a result, settled with DMC threads. Now, I’m a DMC fan, so I was thinking I’d try a few threads out, complain about how they sucked and go on my jolly way. Well, I was wrong. Turns out that all those horror stories are pretty much exactly that; stories. Whilst most do have some truth to them, cheaper Chinese copy threads aren’t all that bad.
I took a new DMC thread, a DMC thread from 1998, a DMC thread from 2016 that had been on a shop floor, an Anchor thread, a CXC thread (known as a Chinese DMC copy), and a Royal Broderie thread (a Chinese DMC copy that mostly goes without a brand name online). I then stitched some test squares, projects and a few party favors to test them all against some of the complaints people had.
Below are my findings which show that those Chinese threads aren’t that bad after all. I will state for the record, that I still use DMC threads though.
The Colors Don’t Match
This was the number one complaint I came across during my research, and I was expecting to see some serious color mismatches. My first initial stitches showed a slight difference in color, but nothing great enough to phone home about. But then I got to some of the other DMC threads. I said above I used three DMC threads, new ones, ones from 1998, and some from 2016 that were stored on a shop floor under halogen lights. The difference in these threads was astonishing. Far greater than the difference in the Chinese copies, the older DMC threads lost there luster and most looked a little greyed out.
This is an issue I’ve seen before. In fact, batches of the same color from DNC come out differently too. In the below picture you can see a significant difference between dye lots.
This rumor centers around the CXC threads in particular. They’re made from a composite of polyester and cotton (much like a dress shirt is). Despite some online retailers stating they are 100% cotton, which is where this rumor comes from. Now from a tradition standpoint, the threads of cross stitch should be cotton. However, does that mean you shouldn’t use the composite ones? I think not.
Now being plastic composite does have some impact on the threads, which we talk about below, but being part plastic isn’t a terrible thing.
In addition to this, its only CXC threads that are like this. The slightly cheaper, often no-brand, threads by Royal Broderie are 100% cotton.
Yes, some threads include plastic. But melting? No.
Polyester is a high-temperature fiber, and it does melt at some point, however, the melting temperature is 50 degrees higher than the ignition point of cotton. Yes, you heard that right. The cotton threads would have had to burst into flames before the polyester threads started melting. This story has to be completely made up. I know a few people who know people who have melted threads, but no one could give me proof, and there is always a chance that it was some super cheap thread that might melt.
They Don’t Fit Needles!
For some reason I’m yet to work out, the strands of thread in the Chinese variants are slightly thicker. This goes for both the CXC and generic threads. However, they are only slightly bigger. Increase the needle size by one, and you’re sorted!
They Destroy Needles!
As per above, the needles used with these Chinese threads need to be slightly bigger. If they’re bigger, then there is no problem. However smaller needles will catch at the fibers, destroying your needle eye.
They Break And Knot!
JURY IS OUT
I tested 17 colors of each thread, and with it, I got breakages and knots. However, they were all fairly spread over each brand. The cheapest Royal Broderie threads broke most, without a doubt, but the CXC threads didn’t break at all; instead, they knotted a lot. In fact, CXC threads knotted a lot when being taken off the skein, however, I have heard removing them a different way helps with this.
I know from experience that breaks and knots happen, and most can be avoided by good technique, but I didn’t find anything that suggested more problems with the cheaper threads.
I don’t want to get too technical here, but both of the tested Chinese threads had less of a shine. Was it noticeable? Yes. Is it a problem? Well, no. Combining the threads would look bad, you could see it as clear as day, however, when only using the single brand it was hard to see any real difference.
In addition, I feel Anchor threads have less of a shine than DMC, and they are one of the most expensive threads to buy.
The Colors Run!
FALSE & TRUE
Cotton can be dyed in two ways, a colorfast way, or a ‘quick dye’ which bleeds and runs. The Royal Broderie threads are a quick dye, so they bleed. It wasn’t obvious at first, however, you can simulate wear on threads by washing with higher heats, which shows a very clear bleed.
CXC threads, on the other hand, don’t. This is probably due to their polyester cotton blend, which needs the colorfast dye method to dye them in the first place.
They’re Hard To Get!
You can get either CXC threads or Royal Broiderie from eBay, Amazon or Alibaba. Getting them to your house quickly; that’s harder. Getting exact colors; also hard.
Now, in recent times picking up specific colors has got a lot easier, however, in general, you pick up packs of 50 threads, random colors. This can work out really well (you can get a full set quickly and cheaply), however picking a single skein of a specific color is still a pain to do. Most of the time they come from China (being Chinese and all), so postage is a few weeks.
So long as you prepare ahead of time, it’s not a big deal.
If its a no-brand Chinese thread, its terrible quality, don’t touch them.
DMC is superior to CXC, but consider the downsides to cost, as it may be a viable thread, especially for people starting in the hobby.
CXC threads tend to knot, they are duller than DMC, they aren’t 100% cotton, you needle to use a larger needle and they can be fiddly to get hold of sometimes. I know a lot of people that will be turned off by this list, myself included, however the price difference between DMC (£0.89 at the time of this test) compared with an average CXC skein (£0.22 at the time of this test) is a massive difference. Using a slightly inferior thread for less might be a viable option for many. They really aren’t as bad as some of the rumors suggest…