Organizing embroidery floss can bring many benefits and is well worth the time and money spent. I’m sharing how I tamed my tangled floss for a big improvement.
My Embroidery Floss – A Tangled, Disorganized Snarl
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Over the past decade or so, I have dabbled in a few projects using embroidery floss and I love working with it.
A few years ago, I began making MmmCrafts’ Twelve Days of Christmas ornaments series made from felt and floss. I bought a very limited colour palette of felt for those ornaments. Then I colour matched the floss and used cardboard bobbins which I carefully wound and labelled. For the first few ornaments I was very organized and it worked well.
As I worked on more ornaments, I bought more skeins of floss in multiples. When MmmCrafts expanded into other ornaments lines such as her ‘Twas the Night and Ebenezer Scrooge, I bought several different colours of felt and matching floss. Then I bought yet more felt and floss colours for blog projects and for the patterns I’m working on.
I had run out of cardboard bobbins early on though and didn’t buy any more. To store it, I tossed all the floss in a Ziplock bag, both new skeins and cardboard bobbins. But this was starting to create a lot of problems.
I do like to be organized, but often when I get busy, I get a bit lazy and things get out of hand. Finally, when I’ve had enough, I tackle a problem and organize it really well. I was definitely at that point with my embroidery floss!
Problems to Solve By Organizing Embroidery Floss
By now, I was starting to feel frustrated by my embroidery floss storage solution and it was causing several issues:
- I really had no idea which colours I had and which I was running low on
- Because of that, I kept buying many duplicates of the same colours unnecessarily
- The bag was overflowing already and I had just bought some more floss
- In order to find a colour, I had to take everything out of the bag
- The labels would fall off the skeins, meaning I had no idea what the colour number was to buy more
- Any lengths I’d cut and used only a couple of strands from were loose in the bag, as well as unidentified and tangled, which made them hard to use
- Pulling floss straight from the skein often resulted in tangles which were annoying and time consuming to untangle
- It was more difficult to find and select the best colour than it needed to be
Possible Embroidery Floss Storage Solutions
Since I have some important embroidery projects coming up, such as my first patterns to sell, I felt it was important to start organizing my embroidery floss and solving some of those problems. That way I’d waste less time (and floss) and could get my stitching done faster.
I set about researching solutions. Tatjana of Easy to Make Designs has a great blog post walking you through all the different things to think about when deciding how to organize your floss, and giving different examples.
While I now have a fair bit of floss, my collection is not as large as many people who are highly specialized at embroidery. As well, I have only bought DMC brand floss as that is what I have easily found locally, so I only need to organize one brand and type of floss.
I liked winding my floss on cardboard bobbins because it was less likely to tangle, and I could write the numbers on the bobbins for easy reference. And I also knew I wanted them all easily accessible and that a bag wasn’t working anymore.
Others like to keep their floss in skeins, or wrap around wooden pegs or clothespins. Bobbins can be stored in drawers, pocket organizers in binders, organizer boxes, on rings, or in glass jars as just a few options.
There are seemingly endless options available in different combinations, especially on Amazon. Here are some solutions I like:
You can get plastic floss bobbins in large packages, but I prefer the cardboard ones because they’re just easier to write on.
DMC also makes StitchBow plastic floss holders that hold the skein in its original long shape. I think these would be harder to store though personally.
This ArtBin storage box is larger and I really like that it has removable dividers so you can make a few longer compartments if you wish.
An alternative is storing bobbins in the plastic sleeves that old photo slides fit in, and placing them in a binder.
I’m curious whether using a bobbin winder is actually faster, such as this DMC Bobbin Winder. I just wound them by hand and it worked fine.
If you like being super neat, you can even get DMC stickers with all the colour numbers on them. Though it’s also easy to write them on yourself with a Sharpie or a pen.
The Solution I Chose For Organizing Embroidery Floss
I decided that I wanted to store my embroidery floss in a way where I could see my whole collection at a time. I also wanted to be able to remove bobbins and replace them quickly.
Since I needed to go to Michaels to get more floss to match my new felt purchases, I got a few items while I was there. Because I already had cardboard bobbins, I got more of the same thing. I could not find them on the Canadian Michaels website, so here’s an American link for DMC cardboard bobbins, or from Amazon.
Then I chose a very affordable floss organizer from Michaels that was $7 and came with plastic bobbins which I’ve just saved for later for the time being.
Since I had such fun organizing my thread in a rainbow on my thread holder, I was pretty excited about seeing the final result in my new floss organizer. Time to get started!
Organizing Embroidery Floss – One Skein at a Time
I’m not going to lie – this all took a bit longer than I imagined. In total, it took me two solid hours to get the contents of my floss bag sorted and wound on bobbins and organized in the plastic organizer.
Here’s how I did it. I dumped all the floss out on my work surface. Then I grabbed every single skein, bobbin, and loose strand of floss from a colour family, working one colour family at a time. Here I’m working with blue-greens.
Then I quickly looked at the numbers on the skeins (if the labels hadn’t fallen off) and grouped the same ones together, as well as any loose strands that looked like they were a match.
I wanted to have a single bobbin of each colour. Sometimes I already had a bobbin from my original organizational efforts. But for most of the colours I had to start a new bobbin. I used a pen to write the colour number in the corner and wound the bobbin. I also wound any loose strands of a colour on top afterward so I’d be sure to use them up first.
Occasionally I’d come across a colour that was completely unknown with no number whatsoever. I just left those bobbins blank and one day I can take them to the store with me and try to identify them.
Once I had one bobbin of each colour and all loose strands wound, I placed any extra full skeins back in the Ziplock bag. The full bobbins of each colour were placed in the organizer box. Then I pulled out a new colour family and continued on.
Partway through the process it sort of felt like it would take forever. I sent this progress shot to my mom when winding bobbins was making me feel crazy.
But I loved seeing the results come together, and pretty soon I had a beautiful rainbow for my efforts!
Benefits of My Reorganization Efforts
Two hours might seem like a lot of time to put into organizing embroidery floss. And maybe your collection would take even longer. But I feel like I’ve set myself up for success while working on my patterns. As well, I can already see several benefits of investing the time and money to get sorted.
Here are some of the benefits from getting organized:
- I now can quickly see what colours I have and what I’m running low on
- When I get close to the end of a bobbin, I can check to see if I have a back-up skein
- I can easily see which colours I’ve bought far too many of, and stop buying them every time I go to the store
- It is much faster to grab a particular colour quickly
- It will be much faster to choose the right shade from a few that are similar
- Each bobbin is now labelled with the colour number which makes it easier to identify them and make a list to buy more at the store – no more skeins with labels falling off!
- Partial strands are no longer tangled and will be more likely to be used up, saving money
- No more tangled skeins loose in a bag and time wasted untangling
- It’s easier to cut a length from the bobbin without tangling up what’s left of the skein
- I feel inspired by this organization to get creating, and can get straight to stitching!
Coordinating Floss Colours With Felt
Since most of my embroidery also uses felt, I’ve colour matched the floss to each colour of felt that I buy. I get my felt from canadianfeltshop.com, who you can also find on Etsy. On my most recent order, I finally decided to splurge on a set of swatches to help make my choices easier. Also, judging colours on a screen is tricky.
I love these swatches! All the colours are so beautiful. Sometimes I’m bad at making decisions, and I’m really not sure yet whether having the swatches will make it easier or even harder to choose!
Anyway, after I got my embroidery floss all sorted and organized, I decided to take it one step further. I figured out which floss colour coordinated with each colour of felt. Then I penciled in the numbers underneath the colour names on the swatches for easy reference. This is another easy way to stay organized, or to generate a shopping list quickly if I know I’m going to be working with particular colours of felt soon.
Organizing Embroidery Floss
Now I’m so excited to begin my new felt projects. Organizing leaves me all inspired to create and be productive, as well as wanting to organize other things. And there’s just something about a really good rainbow order that makes me happy!
I want to hear from you. If you have embroidery floss, do you organize it? If you do, how do you organize it? Let me know in the comments below!
All the best,
Thanks for this article. It was timely for me. I just reorganized floss this week. I used plastic coin binder pouch sheets purchased on Amazon and placed them in a binder. They are numerically organized and the ones I have multiples of are in the plastic box like you show here. I think this will be better for me because I leave the bobbins in the project box, forget about them and buy new. Once organized I could not be more surprised at the amount of doubles, triples and quads I had . To answer the question about the bobbin winder, I feel it is not worth it. I can do just a good a job by hand.
You’re welcome Hawkrn. You sound very organized with your coin binder pouch sheets and numerically organized! And yes – it’s so easy to forget and keep buying the same colours over and over! Oops! That’s good to know about the bobbin winder. It feels like it takes forever doing it by hand, but once they’re organized, you just have to do the new skeins. Thanks for sharing!
This brings back childhood memories! I had the same little cardboard panels and the plastic box… I feel so nostalgic right now! Such great advice!!
I would have loved having floss like this in my childhood. I’m happy I made you nostalgic Emma!
I’d love to start embroidering! It’s been on my bucket list. You’re post is inspiring me to start!
I’m glad I’m inspiring you, Susan! I find it very relaxing and hope you like it too!
I just got all the stuff to start embroidery last weekend. I probably should do this now before my collection gets bigger, because I want all the pretty colors already 😂
Oh, the colours are definitely addicting! And it would be much easier to start organizing when you’re starting and you don’t have to untangle anything.
Inspiring post! Currently all of my embroidery floss is placed in a small plastic tote along with one ziplock bag and it is a tangled mess (a little 3 year old may have gotten into it and pulled at a few of the threads). Love how everything looks once threaded using the cardboard bobbins and stored away in the plastic tote! It takes time to set up, but I would be way more opt to use them if they are organized and accessible.
Well I’m happy to have inspired you Julie!
Ruth Lytle says
Yes! This is similar to how my mom organizes her EF and it works great. I need to tackle mine especially since I have a slew of little girls who are starting to want to make friendship bracelets!
BTW I just found your blog and I am in love with your blog, your style….I subscribed and look forward to reading everything here!
Thank you so much Ruth! Aww, I can imagine that little girls would love an organized box of rainbow floss for friendship bracelets. I remember those days:) Such fun!
And welcome! It’s so nice to hear such nice feedback – you’ve made by day!