How to pull a skein of thread without it knotting

The vast majority of threads for embroidery come in skeins, or more accurately, ‘pull-skeins’. However, not many people know that, as a result, people often ask me how to make sure they can get the thread out, without it knotting. Now, I know Christmas is a time when a lot of people gift and receive threads, in fact, we even mentioned it in our Christmas gift guide, and so now is a great time to finally put this to bed.
The thing is, there IS a way to remove the thread without it knotting.

The clue is in the name; Pull Skeins

Every skein and thread you pick up for embroidery has two labels. These labels are there to hold each loose end of the thread down. Normally, you’ll see one thread is covered by the brand label (DMC and Anchor threads are like this) meaning one end is ‘loose’ down at the other end, by the number and barcode label.

DMC 743 thread with labels marked
DMC 743 thread with labels marked

Well, as the name ‘pull skein’ suggests, pull your thread from that side. Skeins come off the packing machine in a set order, meaning if you pull from one end, you’ll unravel the thread, which is what you want, but if you pull from the other side it’ll knot!
DMC thread 3820 with ends of the threads marked (Source: reddit)
DMC thread 3820 with ends of the threads marked (Source: Reddit)

Is it really that simple?

Well, sadly not. You see, DMC threads have the long end by their number and barcode label, but this isn’t the case for other brands. Both Anchor and Cosmo have the “perfect end” on the brand label side.
Thankfully though, CXC and Sublime stitching following DMC’s way.

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Catherine Isobel Colquhoun

    Well maybe people will think I’m dumb when I say this, though I’m not. I had no idea about this & thank you!

  2. Stephen Ornadel

    This is a mix of the dumbest and most useful post in a long time.
    Dumb – well isn’t it absolutley obvious which end to pull?
    Useful – despite it being blindly obvious I still seem to encounter problems, especially after the very first pull!!
    After this, there is then the seemingly trivial task of separating out the 6 threads. Another simple task that one can easily result in a nice and tight knot!!!!

    1. LordLibidan

      I know, right? I wasn’t sure if I should make a post about it at all, but I somehow manage to knot it every time anyway. 😛
      You can actually buy a tool called a “thread separator” which is basically a weight with a clip on the end that is meant to help with seperating the floss out. Not tried them, but based on how many knots I’m making at the moment, it might be worth trying. 😛

    2. Basa

      My life changed when I learned to use a clothes pin as a thread separator! Since I use clothes pins as bobbins anyway, there usually is one within reach, so I was absolutely delighted when I learned this. 🙂

      1. LordLibidan

        As a nearly bald bloke, I tend not to have any around, but I hear they work well! 😀