Ask Jo: All about Floss

Hello, and welcome to another edition of “Ask Jo”.  I get many comments and questions from all sorts of places, the comment section here, Youtube, email, and from our Facebook group.  Sometimes I think others of you might want to know the answers as well so I answer them here on the blog.   Today I’m tackling a question about embroidery floss.

Sally asked this question after I talked about floss bobbins:
“What are the floss ” bobbins” called and where can I get them?”

I had shown this picture.  I had floss and was putting it on “bobbins” while traveling in the car.  It’s a great car project.  We’re going to Buck’s for Easter and I’m hoping Karl will drive so I can bombinate some more.


There are MANY ways to store floss.  MANY.

I’ve tried many of them over the years.  The problem is there is no “right” way.  So many people do different things.

A blog reader sent me a set of floss that was in a storage container like this.


It’s a very popular way to store floss.  I did that for years.  The problem is, a little kid bumps it, the container flips over and you are left resorting LOTS of floss.

Another problem with this method, the numbers can fall off.  If you write on them with a pen or pencil, I’ve had the ink rub off.  Yet another is to try to find the exact same bobbin cards so that they look good together.  There are dozens of different bobbin cards.  Some are plastic, some cardboard.  Some colored, some with a design, some heavy cardboard, some light, some with rounded corners, some squared.  So, if you lose or need more bobbin cards unless you buy them all at once with plenty of extras, it can be frustrating to find the original ones back.
There are even thread winders for those putting their thread on the bobbins.  You can find them HERE on Amazon.

Lori Holt designed these cute flower-shaped floss bobbins.  These are super cute, but honestly, too expensive for me.

Floss Flower Thread Bobbins and Label Set | Lori Holt of Bee in my Bonnet #ISE-730

Another popular way to store thread is…
on thread drops.  Since floss tube started, these are all of the rage.


They look like this in use…


Floss tubers like them as they can easily show off the colors they are using for their project.  Me, I don’t like this method as I have yet to master a good way to get an individual string off without taking it all off and that’s a pain.  I’ve seen flosstubers show how to get one thread off at a time without undoing it all. I’ve tried but to date, I’ve had no luck of consistently doing that.

Another way to store floss is in these Floss Away bags.  I do this with my fancy variegated floss.  I actually don’t mind this system.  If you hate wrapping floss, this is a good way to store it.

I was really excited after I recently purchased this set of floss at the thrift store.


You might remember that I was wondering if I had spent too much money on it.  I had two binders full of floss along with a file box with cross stitch charts.

Well…I’ve figured out that I did great. The floss alone there were 267….the binders are $12 each.   Yep, I did okay.

Well after closer inspection of the bobbinated floss, I saw that this was a new style of bobbin that I had never seen.

They work like this…


Take the number off the floss.  Slide it onto the tab on the bobbin.

Wrap the floss.

I loved these.

I had to hunt to find these bobbins.  I’ve decided that I am going to put together a set of floss using these bobbins and will gradually phase out my Floss Away bags for DMC floss.  You can find the new bobbins I’m using HERE.

Happily, there is no “right” way to store floss.  People can pick whatever works for them.  I love that.

You can check out Lori Holt’s floss tube where she explains her floss storage HERE.  Kimberly of Fat Quarter Shop shows her storage method HERE.

So, the short answer to your question Sally is:  You can find the new bobbins I’m using HERE.

I’m curious, those of you who cross-stitch or embroider and use floss, what storage method do you use.

24 thoughts on “Ask Jo: All about Floss

  1. Gail

    I use a method similar to Floss-away, only I just use snack-size zipper/plastic bags on a ring. I tape the number from the skein on the outside. It has worked so far, but the bags don’t age well…
    I like those new bobbins you’re using; the binder sheets that hold them look a lot like the ones we used to put photography slides in.
    Thanks for sharing – it is much appreciated!

    Reply
    1. Joanna Visger

      I’ve been using Floss Away bags for 30+ years. Currently, I keep them in a small wooden drawer unit from IKEA on a shelf. I think it was designed as a CD storage box, because IKEA no longer makes them. I have also stored them in a drawer, kept in order in plastic bra storage box/inserts designed for drawers.

      Reply
  2. Karen Hough

    Jo,
    I have a storage system similar to Kimbeley’s in that is arranged according to DMC number. I bought 4 small sets of drawers a few years ago that some people may put nails or screws in (like a hardware store), I have laid out my floss in these little drawers and labeled the drawers on the ends with the DMC #’s so that I know exactly what # DMC is in each drawer. I have a DMC small index card with all the small #’s that I have put the #’s on the end of the drawers for easy access reference. I have these stored in a cabinet so that when I open the cabinet I can see right away what threads I am searching for very easily.
    I don’t like the bodkins because I prefer to have my threads to be straighter when I am using them for stitching & I find that the bodkins somehow keep them more kinked. When I am stitching I use a floss organizer for the floss that is needed for the project.

    Reply
  3. Bonnie F.

    Hi Jo, I am a floss away bag girl. Years, actually decades, ago I bought a lovely wooden storage chest from Sudberry house designed to hold the bags. It has a glass oval in the top and I stitched my monogram for it. What a treasure it still is to me . Colors make me happy and everytime I open it my mood is lifted. Also, the fact that I got it from the factory outlet at a discoount was a thrill as I am a bargain hunter, too! Just another one of life’s little blessings. Happy stitching!

    Reply
  4. sew happy

    My friend told me this afternoon she sent you a small gift of “fancy” floss. It should be there on Tuesday. “Fancy” means Sulky 12 wt, another that is used by 1 strand . All I can remember. Enjoy the little gift.

    Reply
  5. Lisa

    I confess I’m a lazy cross-stitcher. I used to use the floss bobbins, kept them in a similar plastic box as Jo’s, now I just keep my floss in the original skein and store with other numbers in a baggie. For example, I have all my 300 level floss together, etc. When I want to do a project I just put all the required floss in a bag along with the pattern. It works for me. I don’t take pictures of my floss for Instagram or FB so I don’t really care if it looks “cute”. Maybe I’m just cheap!

    Reply
    1. Marsha

      That’s exactly what I do! I use gallon sized bags because I have a lot of floss and so there is space in the bag for the skeins to breathe. It works great for me.

      Reply
  6. Carmen N

    I started using bobbins 30+ years ago and find that is still best for my DMC and Anchor floss. For my fancy floss and silk I use the Floss-away bags but I added a cut down index card inside the bag. This allows me to file them in a box . Also I can store the floss in front of the card and put leftovers behind the card. When I’m using the floss in a project I add the chart symbol to the front of the bag writing on painters tape then remove the symbol when I’m finished. Happy stitching!

    Reply
    1. Carla

      You have some really great ideas, Carmen, that I’m going to try. In saw some really pretty beechwood winders that I thought would be nice for fancy floss but they were so pricey. But I found cute ones very reasonably priced at Hobby Lobby. Just balsa wood I think. The rest of my floss is on this regular plastic bobbins in the divided boxes. I like those new bobbins. What a clever idea to display the number.

      Reply
  7. Susie

    I did embroidery and cross stitch as a young kid. Would use a “shirt cardboard” from my Daddy’s shirt from the laundry. Cut it in half and cut v shape notches along the longer side. Wrap the thread around. Paid no attention to color numbers. Just red, green,yellow, blue, purple and things my grandmother shared with me. Happy campers! Never concerned about running out of a color. My mother did the parts that were too hard for me.

    Reply
  8. Christine

    Hi, Jo. Your blog is always fun, and informative as well. Thank you for that.
    I use Floss Away bags for my embroidery/cross stitch floss. They work well for me but everybody gets to make their own decision about what to use,

    Christine in Ontario

    Reply
  9. Joann Cassidy

    I use Manila coin envelopes. I didn’t like wrapping the thread around bobbins because the thread would get “bent”.

    Reply
  10. DebMac

    I got lucky almost 40 years ago and was able to purchase Floss Away bags and binders on sale. I found tiny binders for index cards about 15 years ago to give me additional storage for DMC. This holds my collection of DMC floss and fits into a flat storage tote. I have all but the very last group of floss DMC has came out with. Hobby Lobby brand floss bags and binders are very similar to my original ones so I am using those for my over dyed floss. I have most of Classic Colorworks, most of Gentle Arts and about half of Weeks in 2 of the large, deep Art Bin satchels. Will eventually have to get a third one to hold the entire collection. I have been very pleased with the bag system. It keeps floss clean and protected from dust and moisture. It is durable, doesn’t take up much room and is portable. Some of my DMC floss is over 30 years old and has no color change. (I’m neurotic so I do check once in a while.) I pull the bags as needed, can keep all the short bits of thread in the baggies if needed, and never have to wind anything. I’m in my 4th house with this system and don’t have to worry about storage furniture fitting into a room. A closet or under the bed works. I don’t design very often so DMC is stored in number order and over dyes are alpha by brand. Cost wise bobbins are probably less expensive but don’t feel my system has been overly expensive either. I am in the process of organizing my fabrics by count. So far I am writing the pertinent info onto muslin scraps and using a quilt basting gun to attach the label to the fabric. (Adhesives, pins, and staples can all cause reactions. Remember, I am neurotic.) Quick press, loosely roll with other similar colors and place the roll into a “Quilt Safe” zipped storage box. I use muslin to separate colors and over dyed fabric. I have one bag full so far but have a lot of fabric to process yet. I may modify the system some. Older charts are organized into “Bucket List” projects and new charts are in alphabetical order by designer in binders. My favorite designers have their own binder(s). I do keep a list of my charts on computer as I had bought a few duplicates from the stash selling sites. I have started a computer list of my linens so I know what I have and if they are dedicated for a project or unassigned. It takes some time to get organized but I don’t find keeping up with my system a burden at all. I do have a place for items that need to be processed and that is very helpful.

    Reply
  11. Donna

    I’m a bit old fashioned and still use the storage boxes but it stores better for me this way plus I don’t have to worry about little ones updumping it. I did find some interesting bobbins tho. The number of the floss slips on sideways and I bought a pack out of curiosity. I’ll be going back to the regular plastic ones that you write on tho as the numbers seems to fall off easily. I like yours. I may look into them.
    Love and prayers

    Reply
  12. The Eclectic Abuela

    I wind mine and use the storage boxes. I wind by hand; I found the winder doohickey more trouble than help! I do old-fashioned transfer embroidery, and I choose my own colors, so I don’t keep track of numbers.

    Reply
  13. JustGail

    I have a mix. DMC floss is on bobbins (how I started) and skeins in plastic zip bags (thanks to an estate sale) Anchor is is in baggies. All the other brands and types of flosses and threads are lying loose in the DMC drawers (estate sale & needlework shop shut down sale) and some plastic storage drawers together by type. I don’t have much trouble with the DMC being crimped, as long as it wasn’t wrapped too tightly. The cardboard bobbins will be replaced with plastic as I empty those bobbins. I really need to get it all organized, and the drawers labeled so I can find the right one.

    After getting the DMC drawers, I’ve seen some other storage methods (Vonna at Twisted Stitcher for one) that seem like they might work better, at least for things like overdyed threads that come on their own little hang tags.

    Right now, I use threads as they are – on bobbins if done, or their labels. I do like the idea of thread drops, especially since you can make those yourself if rectangle shapes are OK. But it seems like that’s best for threads that are already cut to length???

    Reply
  14. Ant Robin

    My grandmother gave me her embroidery kit in a green corduroy tote with wooden handles, a zippered pocket in the lining for scissors. She kept her floss sorted by color between the pages of a small magazine.

    Reply
  15. Judith Fairchild

    Years ago i started a project. Bought all the floss i thought I needed. Bought the cardboard bobbins and a large metal ring to hang them on. They’re kept in a drawer in my sewing space. In all these years in the drawer none of the bobbins have let go their threads and when pulled out to use the kinks straighten right out. Call me a happy camper.

    Reply
  16. Jean

    I buy old sewing notions at estate sales and garage sales — I can’t tell you how many bags of jumbled, tangled floss I’ve found, usually all clumped up in a food storage bag. I use old-fashioned cardboard bobbins and a box, since I don’t hoard floss except for the couple of projects I’m working on at the time. I’ve also found coin collector notebook pages and baseball card collector pages that store floss well and fit into a binder. PS Don’t use yard sale red floss. It may look new, but it might be the old kind that’s not color safe, and we all know that “Red spreads.”

    Reply
  17. Karla (threadbndr)

    For silk and fancy overdyed cotton that comes on threads drop type cards – I use the floss away bags. For DMC I use the old type bobbins (I do like those new style ones, clever). What I do for a project is make a floss away bag for each color and for each blend if there are blends. Then put the bobbins into the bags. When I need a color, I pull a 6 strand length off the bobbin, cut it, use whatever number of plys that I need and put the remainder loose back into the bag. For a blend, I cut one length of each color, and use the blend bag to store the rest. At the end of the project, bobbins go back into the boxes. Leftovers that are partially used can be used for surface embroidery or small things. Bobbins never have anything but full 6 strands and no cut lengths (until you get down to the very last length).

    I do have a cookie tin full of unidentified stuff and off brands that I use for surface embroidery or other places where dye lot or exact color number isn’t important.

    Reply
  18. Kathy D

    I like the Floss-away bags. I can put thread back if I’m finished with the color but it is too long to discard. I have numerous rings that I store in plastic shoe boxes. I have them sorted by number not color 100s on a ring 200s on a ring and so on.

    Reply

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