Thread Management

Learning how to manage the various threads makes it easier and less frustrating to stitch. In this lesson we’ll learn how to use a pull skein, strand the floss, open a reel of metallic and prepare metallic thread for stitching. We’ll also discuss keeping threads neat while stitching.

Most stranded cotton flosses come in a pull skein (DMC, Presencia, Anchor). A pull skein has two bands on it, a short band at the top with the manufacturer’s name, and a longer band at the other end with a bar code and specific color number. There should be a free end of thread close to the longer band. If you gently pull this thread, you should be able to remove the length of thread you want to stitch with, leaving both bands on the skein to keep the skein neatly together. Sometimes the skein has a knot in it that must be worked through, but generally this works well.

After you’ve cut your floss, see how many strands are required for the stitch. Most instructions will specify the number of strands needed. Gently tap the cut end of the length you’ve removed. The strands should separate a bit. Grasp one strand with the forefinger and thumb of one hand, and with the other hand slide the rest of the skein down the strand you’re holding. Remove strands one at a time, then put them back together for threading the needle and stitching. Don’t try to hold two or three strands at once to pull them from the skein; the skein will knot and tangle. It’s much easier and quicker to remove one strand at a time using the method described.

For pearl cotton, most balls are wrapped with a small loop and a free end close to the center wrapped threads. Gently pull the free end and you should be able to unwind the thread needed. If you don’t see a free end, you can try to find it by seeing where it goes under the threads wrapped around the center of the ball, or just snip ONE thread that’s wrapped around the ball to get started. Don’t cut through all of the threads wrapped around the ball or you’ll lose several yards of thread. Just snip one to get started.

For threads on a reel (Kreinik metallics), you should be able to see the ends of thread wrapped around one end of the reel. Gently pop the end of the reel to release the ends of the threads. You should be able to unwind the thread needed, then push the end of the reel back in place.

After cutting a length of metallic, gently stretch it to release the reel curls before threading the needle for stitching. I don’t use any thread conditioner or dampen the thread, just gently stretch it and then stitch with it.

I find it useful to use zip top bags for storing the threads in a project, one thread per bag. I can see through the bags to see the color numbers and quickly grab the next thread I need. I can also put any unused strands in the bag with the skein/reel for the next time I need that thread. You can get specialized bags (Floss Away) that have a hole in top edge, to put on a metal ring, but I usually don’t. I also don’t write on the bags so I can use them for other projects. I don’t wind my threads on bobbins either – that’s time spent not stitching, and I’d rather be stitching.