How to use Floss Drops for Cross Stitch Thread Storage and Projects
Do you have a system for organising your embroidery threads? It’s pretty inevitable that the longer you cross stitch the more thread stash you will build up. So it’s helpful to have a system to keep them all organised. Of course, there are a LOT of potential options so I’m not going to dive into them all today, but you can check out my previous article How I store my embroidery thread, where I share some different ways to store threads.
In this article I am only going to be discussing the method that I use in more detail…and that’s floss drops! I'm going to share what they are, how I organise them and how I use them for projects.
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You can also find all the same information covered in a video if you prefer to watch rather than read >>>
But first…I’m going to have to address something; because I’m British I would usually say embroidery thread, but I think thread drops just sounds kind of weird, so I’m sticking with floss drops!
Ok, now that’s out of the way, let’s start at the start...
What are floss drops?
Floss drops are card or plastic tabs that you can put your embroidery threads onto. They usually have 2 holes, one for the thread and one for storage.
You can buy them in all different sizes and shapes or you can even make your own!
The ones I mainly use are called Annie’s Keepers (in the photo above) and I buy them from Lakeside Needlecraft in the UK. They do ship worldwide or you may be able to find somewhere in your country to buy them but as I said, there are lots of other options too.
I recently bought some from Kate Blandford because I really wanted to try them out as I thought they looked awesome. I love pretty AND practical, and these definitely fit the bill. They have a big hole for the main threads and a smaller hole for any working thread, AND they have a nifty little slot for you to put your thread label! Just so well designed.
Not all floss drops have a label slot like these ones, but there is usually space for you to add a sticker so you can label them with the thread brand and colour code.
I have some awesome labels from Sirious Stitches, and there are lots more pretty labels out there but you can also just use a blank sticker and write the brand/number on. That’s what I did before I treated myself to these lovely labels and I’m still in the process of switching over!
Why are floss drops so good?
I find them very practical to work with both for storage purposes and for using in projects, they don’t make my thread all kinky like bobbins do, and I just like how they look!
How do you use floss drops?
Firstly, you need to cut your thread into lengths and secure them through the large hole.
This is a good little time saver because you can cut your threads to your preferred length all in one go and then they are ready to use.
If you want some tips on what is a good length of thread to use then take a look at How long should my cross stitch thread be?
I cut my threads to 1 metre lengths so I’ll get 8 from a single skein. I do this by unravelling the entire skein, folding it in half, then in half again, and then in half a third time. I snip the loops at each end and I have my 1m lengths.
If you want to see this in action I suggest popping over to the video and using the timestamp to get to that section.
Once I have my 8 lengths, I secure these on the floss drop..
*click on the picture to see a larger version
Now that’s ready to use. If I am going to start using that thread immediately then I only put 7 of the threads through as a bundle and put the last one on separately so it’s ready to use as my working thread.
My working thread is on one side of the main bundle and I then put any shorter lengths of partially used threads on the other side.
Of course, with the Kate Blandford floss drops there's already an extra hole for a working thread or shorter pieces!
Now, there is an extra stage you can do here, which is to plait the main bundle of threads. I have tried this and I'm not sure I'm a fan but you might like it.
If you are going to plait the threads, simply hang the floss drop up somewhere by the top hole, or tape it down on a flat surface such as a desk, divide the bundle of strands into 3 roughly equal sections, and plait them.
Make sure you plait quite loosely because otherwise it could be quite hard to separate out a thread when you need it. You'll have to experiment to find what works best for you.
You can tie the bottom of the plait with a short piece of thread…use your scraps!
There are now 2 options for getting down to single strands that you can cross stitch with, either to work directly from the bundle of threads or to remove a single thread and have that as your working thread.
Separating a working thread
If you are going to have a working thread, for the non-plaited version you can take off all the threads, separate one, place the bundle back on the floss drop and place the single thread next to it, like in the photos above.
Alternatively, you can actually pull a thread directly from the bundle without taking them all off the floss drop, just get hold of a single one and pull...ta da!
If you have plaited threads then this 'direct pull method' is really the only viable way to remove a thread otherwise you’d have to unplait and re-plait each time!
Removing single strands to work with
Again there are a few options to get to a single strand to work with and that depends on how you like to work.
From a working thread you can take that off the floss drop, separate a single strand and then place the rest of the working thread back on the floss drop. If I know I’m going to need quite a few strands of that particular colour then I’ll separate 2 or 3 strands and put them back on individually so they are ready to go.
But, you can also use the direct pull method here too, so instead of having a working thread, you can pull a single strand out right from the main bundle of threads. Hold the floss drop so you can see the loops of threads, then use a needle to gently tease out one strand and pull it all the way out.
Now, because I have 1m long threads…it can get quite tricky to pull it because the thread sometimes gets stuck half way and jams up the whole bunch of threads. If this happens, you can pull the bunched section away slightly, and then pull just one end of the strand out at a time.
The other problem is that it often comes out really curly; it’s like running a ribbon through a pair of scissors! I don’t imagine this will affect your stitching but I do not love this. And maybe it could make it more prone to knots and tangles?!
If you have shorter threads then this works a lot better so you could try it out and see what you think.
You can also do a variation on this and have a working thread, and pull individual strands directly from that.
This all works exactly the same if you have plaited threads; you can use a working thread or pull directly from the full bundle of threads.
Storing floss drops
Now of course, if you put all your threads on floss drops then you’ll need a way to store those, and I have mine on a pegboard on the wall. Very importantly, it’s somewhere that doesn’t ever get any sunlight on it as this would not be good for my threads!
But there are other ways you could store these; I’ve seen some people store them in filing cabinet drawers or on hangers or in plastic bags. Annie’s Keeper’s make slides that you can use with their floss drops. I have the project slides but they also make storage slides that have hooks on each end so they can be hung in a file cabinet or box.
Using floss drops for projects
You could use these slides I just showed you, but these are not easily portable so I prefer to put my floss drops on a binder ring. I take all the colours I need for a project and pop them on the ring using the small holes at the top of each floss drop.
You can get different sizes of ring depending on how many threads you need to put on there.
If you hang them in the order that they are on your pattern key that can make it easier to find the right one as you are stitching.
You might also like to add another label to the other side of your floss drop with the symbols from your pattern. I would do this with either a very easily removable label so you can change it between projects or just write the symbol in pencil so you can rub it out.
I already have a sticker on the back of mine that shows the location of the thread on my pegboard so can add the symbol above that.
Now, if you are a multi-WIP (Work-In-Progress!) stitcher, so you have multiple projects on the go, then you might find you need the same colour in more than one project. In this case I have a stash of blank floss drops and I’ll just decant some thread from one to the other and add a temporary label for it.
Does the thread get tangled on floss drops?
I have been asked if the threads get really tangly when working with them like this and only a tiny bit on the odd occasion but it’s quite easy to keep them fairly neat. I try to make sure when I flip to the colour I want to use that I keep them untangled, and if necessary I comb them with my fingers for a quick tidy and straighten.
You can also find that the ends get a wee bit tatty but that’s the bit that will be buried under stitching or cut off at the end so not a problem. And they’ve never got tatty enough to cause me a problem with threading my needle.
It's very possible that plaiting the threads may reduce tangling and tattiness but I haven't used this method enough yet to see if this is the case.
Watch out for pets!
One problem you might have is if you have a cat (or other pet!) that thinks floss drops are a fun toy! We don’t have any pets but do get visits from our neighbours' cat quite often and I can see her eyeing them up on occasion, so I try not to wave them around too wildly in front of her. If you have pets then keeping threads and projects safe is probably something you've already got good at!
At the end of a project
Once the project is completed, you can pop the floss drops back into your main organisation system ready for next time. This is the bit I’m really bad at and sometimes I get as far as putting the binder ring on/near the pegboard, but don't actually put the threads all back where they belong, and then wonder why I can’t find the thread I need the next time round!
I hope that’s been fun for you to see how I work with floss drops and if there’s something I haven’t answered then ask away in the comments.
Until next time... happy stitching!