What are those dots on DMC thread labels?

In our deep dive into threads, we’ve covered two points, how DMC threads are made and why some DMC threads were discontinued. The reason we’ve covered those two points first, is the answer to this week’s query; what are those dots and marks after thread numbers?
You may have noticed when picking colors, or using them, that there are a variety of dots and marks before and after some cross stitch numbers. These are those marks if you’re unsure what we mean:

DMC threads with dots after numbers

Thanks to the new DMC color chart that came out thanks to the 35 new DMC threads, DMC make more of these dots, and if you have a keen eye, you’ll notice the pre-2018 color card has different dots to the post-2018 color card.
So what are they? Basically, they’re changes in the formula to avoid using nasty chemicals. In the EU dye usage is highly monitored and as a result, they’ve required suppliers of threads to make sure they use only friendly dyes. This has happened in two stages; firstly in 1994 when a lot of greys were changed to fit in with new laws, and again in late 2017 when lots of the reds were affected.

Well that’s interesting, but why do I care?

I’m glad you asked. Dye lots. And it’s actually quite a problem. You see, they couldn’t just change the color formulation and keep the colors perfect, and as a result, we now need to monitor which version of the threads we’re using; old or new. An example of how different they can be is below on some of the 1994 color changes:

DMC thread 3861 color differences (source: Cindi Csraze)

In fact, DMC even carry the warning on their color charts:

Do not mix with the original colours without the dot.

That’s just how serious this problem might be, so from now on, keep your eye out for those dots of colors 304, 321, 498, 815 and 816.
My thanks to DMC and Sidar who supplied information, along with Martha Beth.

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This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. Becky

    Hi, have just come across DMC Linen threads. The numbers start with an ‘L’, are these genuine and if they are would you know how many there are!
    Thanks in anticipation

    1. LordLibidan

      An interesting experiment!
      DMC in 2008 launched an “exclusive naturals of DMC range” of linen threads in the US mainland only (its believed only in specific states). They were sold only in packs of 10 and 12, including a small pattern book. Oddly the packets also had French on them despite not being sold outside of the mainland US.
      For whatever reason, the linen range failed quickly, and they were discontinued within the same year.
      In total, there are 24 colors:
      L159, L162, L223, L225, L310, L415, L435, L437, L452, L648, L677, L739, L760, L778, L779, L822, L833, L902, L967, L3012, L3013, L3790, L3861, LECRU

  2. Tracey Fairclough

    I’m stitching a boarder around a monopoly board, and I’m going to run out of 666 I’ve bought another skein and it’s 666. (With a dot) Do you think I should unpick all I’ve done and start with the new colour 666. ?

    1. LordLibidan

      I think it depends on how large the border is. If its only 1 stitch wide it will be VERY hard to tell any colour differences, but if its 10 stitches wide, it will be very obvious.
      I would start using the new one, and just check after a few stitches to see if you can tell where the skeins change.
      If you can see a difference, I would probably source an alternative “new” 666 without the dot rather than unpick stuff.

  3. Helen Roche

    Some of the numbers have the dot before them, and some have it after. Is there a different meaning?

    1. LordLibidan

      DMC calls it an “internal code”, but it references what part of the process the replaced chemical is in. I’m not 100% sure, but I belive the dot before means its the color sealing process, and the dot after means its a dye.

  4. Adrienne G

    It’s worthwhile to note that the
    greys (317, 318, 320, 413, 414, 415, 503, 504, 762, 959, 977, 991, 3363, 3799) became much more blue in 1995-ish, and the
    reds (600, 601, 602, 603, 604, 605, 956, 3607, 3608, 3804, 3805, 3806) were affected in 2001-ish.
    Also in 2001 several colors were merged [504 (use 3813), 731 (use 732), 776 (use 3326), 781 (use 782), 806 (use 3760), 971 (use 740), 3773 (use 407)] due to the dyes changing and causing to previously slightly different colors to end up the same.

    This can be important to note if anyone gets from friends/family/thrift any older thread, older patterns (which will use the older numbers or expect older shades of the colors), and when using suggested fabrics for older patterns that assume older colors.

    It’s also becoming very difficult to find this information online. 🙁
    I know there were other changes prior to 1995, but they don’t seem to be noted anywhere on the interwebs. In fact I am holding 2 old skeins of DMC 498 where one is noticeably more magenta than the other, but I have no idea when this happened in the DMC universe.

    1. LordLibidan

      Actually, we’re speaking directly to DMC with this and it looks like its actually how the threads have been stored and NOT a dye change. We’re investigating further though.
      We’ll have a more detailed post soon on the topic including ways to make sure the color change doesn’t impact your older patterns.

      1. Kate


        Has your research gone any further? Its recently come up as a topic and I was curious.

  5. Bonnie Adie

    Thank you for all your information on DMC threads. On your description re the dots, I think you are talking about pre-2018 and post-2018. However, it says pre-2018 in both places when you are talking about the colour card.