Whats The True Story Behind The US Only DMC Threads?

I thought pretty much everyone by now would have heard of the notorious “US only DMC threads”, however people do regularly ask about them on cross stitch forums and Facebook groups.
However, alongside these questions come the obligatory rumors. Theories ranging from US factories, to EU laws, to other failed experiments like the linen DMC threads.
But what is the deal with these threads? Why are they US only? When were they officially discontinued? And why are there so many rumors?

The 100% Incorrect Rumor

The DMC company had a US factory and the US team wanted their own threads.

Uh…no. This is actually totally wrong. The rumor that there was a US factory has long permeated DMC’s history, and whilst there was some 1990s closing of offices (including one in the US), there has never been a US factory producing 6 strand embroidery threads (although they had factories producing other things).
In fact, the 6 strand embroidery threads have always been made in France, and the packaging of these US-only threads even state that on them!
Also, if the factory closed in the 90s, why would they release threads in 2013?

The “New” Threads

DMC threads 05, 3893 & 543 side by side
DMC threads 05, 3893 & 543 side by side
So to talk about the US only threads, we actually need to talk about the 2017 35 new DMC threads. Bare with me here, as we know they came out 4 years later!
These threads are the pretty similar. As an example let’s look at 3893. One of the biggest issues with DMC threads in the 1990s was a lack of a realistic Caucasian flesh tone. 3893 tried to fill this space. There were issues, it was a little too brown, but it was a good stab at the color. When the threads started to become hard to find, DMC pointed people in the direction of 543. This was too light. However, in 2017, they released 3 new tones tailor-made for this issue. 05 is the best tonally close to 3893 and shows that not only did they try to once again fill this gap, but they learned from the mistakes of the 2013 threads too, splitting the flesh tones into 3 threads instead.
And this is just an example! In reality, all the 16 2013 threads were used to fill in gaps in the DMC line. These were then finessed with the 2017 launch.
So why is the DMC company seemingly relaunching the same threads? This is where the kind-of correct rumor comes into play.

The Kinda Correct Rumor

The threads are banned in the EU due to dye laws.

Now, this rumor has some truth behind it! The US does have more lax dye laws than the rest of the world, and the EU in particular does have some strong laws about selling products with some dyes in them.
The reason the threads can’t be sold in the EU is due to these laws. But this really is 1/4 of the story of these threads.

When Were They Officially Discontinued?

In short; they weren’t.
The DMC company takes the stance that officially no threads have been discontinued, including those out of production for over 100 years (more on that in a later post). However, we’ve seen emails from 2013, 2 months after the threads ‘launched’ that state the threads were no longer in production.
“What!?” I hear you say!
Here’s the thing about those EU dye rules; they came into effect in February 2013, and the threads went on sale in July 2013. In addition, the EU rules kind of came out of nowhere.

2013 DMC New Threads (Source: Raspberry Lane Crafts)

Why They Were US Only

Once again, they weren’t.
What we can tell from the EU laws situation was that the DMC company likely produced these threads for a worldwide release. But the laws came into effect after production had already started. The DMC company had a whole slew of threads to sell, and only one country to sell them in.

Why Were They Only Sold In Packs?

Another incorrect assumption actually.
Whilst the only way to pick up these threads was originally in a pack, and later in a different pack, in the last few years, you’ve been able to pick them up on their own (if you’ve been able to find them at all).
It’s these packs that actually give credence to the idea that the threads were made for a worldwide release. Both packs have multiple languages in multiple places, and neither refer to them as limited edition. These threads were clearly destined for more than a US release.

2013 DMC New Threads In 2013 Pack [left] and 2015 pack [right] (Source: DMC)

While the packs were the main way to sell the threads initially, we also know that the way production works in DMC is they make one color en masse. It’s likely that they made more of some threads than others, and so towards the end, you could pick up threads singularly.

So What Are They All About?

Long story short; these threads are actually the forerunners of the 2017 “new” threads. They filled in gaps in the DMC thread library and were destined to become a great addition to the DMC set. But thanks to a last-minute change in EU laws, the DMC got stuck with lots of threads they could only sell in limited areas.
A large backlog of threads and a history of never confirming or denying discontinuations led to mass speculation about these threads over the years following.
What we do know, is that these threads are almost completely sold now on the DMC website, even with eBay lots becoming rarer and rarer. The 35 new threads are better in every way, replacing these older ones and destining them to be remembered as those odd threads that never came to anything.
Have you heard any other rumors about these threads? Or did you even wish they’d stayed around longer? Drop us a line below!
Happy stitching!
Lord Libidan

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Andrea

    What do you know about certain colors that may only be sold in Europe and not the US? I follow a Facebook page for people who are fans of the Pip & Chip floss bobbins. Because they are manufactured in England, many of the followers are from Europe. Through this Facebook page, I have learned of the existence of colors 868, E170 and E305. I’ve never seen any of these referenced on the US, DMC website, color cards, or anywhere else.

    1. LordLibidan

      All three did exist.
      868 was a dark brown, and many think it was removed due to the dye lot issues (similar to the above issue), but it was just too close to color 801. As the factories for making DMC thread are in France, there was more thread available in Europe than in America or Australasia, so it ‘hung around’ far longer!
      The others are all part of the light effects range, and were only ever sold in a single pack containing E168, E170, E305, E3821, E3870, E3868. If you weren’t aware, E170, E305, E3870 & E3868 were all new threads at the time and have since become unfindable. We’re still looking into the story with those to be honest! But we’ll have some posts soon about some other threads you might not know about, such as the mysterious 724!

  2. Karen

    I’ve been on a mad hunt to get my hands on 3893 here in NZ. I’ve been working on a massive chart and I agree with your words, 543 is just too light, it looks completely wrong on my picture 🙁 I’m wondering based on your saying that 05 is correct in tone, whether I could do 1 strand 05 and 1 strand 543…

    1. LordLibidan

      You could! I would always give it a shot and have a look after a few stitches. See if it works. Worst case you need to frog a small amount…

  3. Alex

    Do you know where these threads would land while organizing by color? I have some of these
    “New” threads and don’t know where to store them. Thank you!

  4. Jackie B

    Fat Quarter Shop here in the US sells these threads in a pack as well.

  5. Elaine

    Not ‘US-only’ – they were also sold in Australia. Mine bear the words ‘For sale only outside the E.U.’ in very tiny type. So tiny that I would not have noticed it if your article hadn’t made me go and look! I’d bought them all as single skeins but these shade numbers are no longer listed on the website of my favourite LNS.