DMC · How to · Stash · The Grey Tail

the How To series – Chapter one: an introduction and kitting up with solids – THREADS

for a really long time I’ve been a solitary stitcher. I didn’t know anybody around me who liked doing it, or even knew how to, so I sticked pretty much to myself. I taught myself how to do most of it, I found my way of kitting up stuff, of storing it, dealing with multiple WIPs, etc. and because this was all pre-internet and blogs boom, I never got anyone’s input or suggestions, which frequently lead to a trial-and-error learning process, which results I then started sharing with the stitching friends I made in the last few years. blessed be the blogosphere! 😀

through the years I met all sorts of stitchers, and one thing is certain: nothing that works for me is guaranteed to work for you; actually nothing that works for me is guaranteed to still work for me in the future, as I learnt from my own personal experience. 😬 for instance, for many years I enjoyed stitching on an old armchair using a floor stand and Q-snaps; I really liked them and went through a couple of brands before finding one that suited my taste (lightweight, sturdy, and adjustable to different sizes).

as time went by I found it became a. very uncomfortable for my back and b. very annoying when it was time to re-position the clamps, which no matter what I used always ended up flattening a bit my stitching and with me being me, that wasn’t a suitable option (bear in mind that I live with OCD). another very tedious aspect for me with Q-Snaps was the straightening of the fabric after the clamps went in: in order to keep it even and regular I had to adjust the tension while leaving it symmetric, otherwise the stitching would have been distorted, or would distort the evenness of the fabric, which is a road I would rather not walk (mind there are ways to fix this, but they involve having your piece soak wet and pinned voodoo-style: time consuming but most importantly dangerous if your threads are not colourfast, and who knows with kits, right?).

there are a couple of my oldest WIPs which either suffer from this problem, or would have, had I kept on working on them the way I was – so after a long, very rewarding relationship, Q-Snaps and I broke up in 2010. 😉

I still have them, and might even give my input on the brands I have tried. I just don’t know if that would make for an interesting read so I’ll just wait for someone to ask about my older ways and epic fails. 😛

now that we’re clear on there’s no right or wrong in stitching, there’s what works for me and what works for you, which sometimes match, and sometimes go very separate ways and there’s nothing wrong with this, I can start with today’s topic: kitting up a project with solid threads.

my modus operandi (which is latin for “the way I do something”, I’m no needlework serial killer 😀 ) in this case is very different from kitting up something with hand dyed threads, in fact even the stitching process changes completely, but this will become clear once I show you how I work with hand dyed.

  • first of all, when I decide to go with solid threads (either cotton or silks) I take out my chart, look at the model on the cover, compare it with the threads listed in the thread key and make the most important decision: going with the called for colours or not. the answers is 99.9% of the times 👎, which makes the next steps always fun, but sometimes tricky.

in order to compare the called for threads with the ones on the cover, I never take out my actual stash: that is way too much time consuming, not to mention I might not have all the threads, or might need mixed shades, and most importantly my stash sorted by code number doesn’t give me an immediate glimpse of the entire colour palette for let’s say greens for that specific brand. that’s what a colour card is for.

of course one cannot buy a colour card for each thread brand on the market, that would be insane (but then again every stitcher looks a tad insane in the eyes of a non-stitcher, so we ought to keep the sanity issue at a distance 😜), impossible (some brands don’t even produce colour cards), and at any rate expensive. because I have decided in the past that my main cotton solid stash was going to consist of DMC threads, and my main silk solids were going to be NPI (Needle Point Ink), I got those two colour charts – one bought, the other was very luckily gifted to me – and adopted a different method for other thread brands.

DMC colour card

what a colour card offers is a sample of each colour in production at the time that colour card is made, arranged by colour tone. in the case of DMC, there is more than one colour card because they produce A LOT of different types of threads: embroidery threads, tapestry wools, Perlé, cotton Mouliné, linen Mouliné, all sorts of synthetics, light effects, metallics, etc. so according to your needlework interests you might need one or more colour cards.

I bought the one I have in 2010, and as it states on the back it was made in 2009 so all the info about the products featured in it can now be outdated or incomplete, but despite the raging factor, for me it surly means easy and fast colour choices when it comes to Mouliné.

DMC colour card

  • what I do is I focus on a specific colour on the chart, take a note about the code/symbol, look for it on the cover model, search for a shade that I like better on the colour card and start building my conversion. this process is not quick and easy, it makes time and good daylight so I suggest doing it in the morning, after you had coffee 😀 and it won’t be definitive, as you might find that once you start stitching with a shade that looked to well on the skein, it doesn’t stitch up the way you envisioned it would: it’s again trial and error here; some people like it, some don’t.

I personally love the process of having something very clear in my mind and then trying to translate it onto fabric, but it can be very stressful at times. as a matter of fact, I decided to stitch some of the SODA patterns as a break from colour-madness thinking they would be easy breezy: get the threads on the list + stitch = get the piece on the cover. nope. colour madness sticks to me like super glue. 😀

  • after choosing my set of colours I use the list and compare it to my DMC thread list. I got this table as a PDF from DMC in 2009, it’s called “DMC Corresponding Colours” and it suits multiple purposes as it lists all the DMC Mouliné shades produced up until then + gives the closest shade of that particular colour in Perlé, wool, etc.

this comes very handy when it comes to finish-finish a project because I often use Perlé or wool (Laine Colbert) in this process, and knowing that the colour I used will match almost perfectly the finishing material is very time & money saving (win win) and I only get the Perlé or wools colours I actually need – which saves a lot of storage space too. 🙂

DMC thread list

  •  I highlighted every new DMC code when I got it, so I can tell you I’m missing 79 colours and then I will have the entire range of DMC Mouliné threads – not that I’m working towards that, on the contrary I’m trying to use up the ones that I have! 🙂 in fact I’m running out of some tones, have only half skeins of others, and possess an insane amount of #666 skeins that I fear I’ll never find use for
  • at this point I actually take out of my stash the listed colours that I have and purchase the ones I don’t; when I finally gather all that I need, I decide to either start stitching directly or make a small doodle cloth test, this depends on how big the project is.

if the piece I’ll work on is not that big and I feel quite confident about my colour choices I don’t go through the doodle process, if on the other hand I need to test how specific shades will work (the skin tones can be especially tricky) I stitch a few square blocks one next to the other to see how they work together. this can save you a lot of unhappy frogging and thread waste, so according to the size and magnitude of the project it might be worth taking the time to make this step or not.

  • finally I start working on the project, and if I happen to have to frog a section because I made a mistake or picked a colour I would like to substitute, I use the handy tools I showed you together with the colour card: sharp, pointed scissors and a textile tweezer.

everyone has his/her favourite cutting scissors: I have a pair that I use only for fabrics, one for Hardanger, one that I use to cut entire 6 strands lengths, one for clipping ends when doing regular stitching and for cutting stitches I have to frog.

  • when I have to frog a certain section I make sure I cut as many stitches as possible, both on the front and back, without damaging the areas around them or the fabric of course. I use one tip of the scissors to raise the thread only slightly, making sure I’m not picking up a fabric thread, and then I clip. I make many many many many many many many many many cuts like this one. I don’t unravel the stitches until I’m almost next to the point where I’ll actually need that thread length to secure the stitches that are going to stay (if there are any, if there aren’t I just cut it all). next I pick up the debris with the tweezers rather than undoing every stitch with my needle: first otherwise you can actually bend you needle, but most importantly this leaves the holes in the fabric as close as possible, so once you get back to them, if they won’t be covered by anything they will close nicely with a gentle push of your needle and the frogged area will be as invisible as possible, if they’ll get covered by other stitches you won’t get giant holes between those stitches because the fabric underneath remained as intact as it could be.
  • another trick I use is adhesive tape to remove the hairy fuzz that is left on the fabric after frogging. it’s quick, works really well and it only takes a few straps. on the other hand this type of frogging is tedious and more time consuming than going Rambo with your needle 😀

– – –

ok, I think this is enough rambling for today. if you have further questions just add them in the comments. see you soon!



5 thoughts on “the How To series – Chapter one: an introduction and kitting up with solids – THREADS

  1. I envy you with your DMC color card – I wish they would bring back the ones with the actual samples, instead of the printed ones. They were supposed to, according to the DMC Rep that posted on TSV for a short time – but I have yet to see one, on this side of the pond, at any rate. But you do a lot more changing than I do – you’ve seen the ones I convert to Carrie’s…

    I use tape to pull fuzzies off after frogging, too, or a sticky lint roller.


    1. wow, I had no idea they were so hard to find – and they made printed ones?! how is THAT supposed to work?!
      I’ll get my hands on the Laine Colbert one then, just in case.
      I know you change a lot colour-wise too, HDF, Carrie’s, silks, all sorts of threads I’ve never tried and look so good – I reckon the envy-meter is fairly balanced.
      oh, the Calendula Mixture showed up today. soon I’ll have enough green babies to write a proper gardening post! 😉


  2. Oh, cool! I liked reading about your process. I’m usually really faithful to the colors listed, unless it’s a brand I don’t like, which then involves lots of tedious conversion. There’ve been a couple of times when I wasn’t at all happy with the conversion charts available online and have decided to just wing it based on the model picture. DMC is lovely, isn’t it? So easy.


Leave a reply..

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s