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  • Kat Waskett

How to pull embroidery thread out of skeins and separate strands for cross stitch

If you are brand new to cross stitch then going from a full skein of thread to something you can actually cross stitch with might be a bit of a mystery to you.

I am going to share the easiest way to prepare your thread ready for cross stitching by first pulling out the thread from the skein and then separating out individual strands.

I always use DMC embroidery threads so that's what I'm going to be talking about today and I can't say for sure it would be the same with other brands.

If you'd prefer to watch this in action then I cover all the same information in this video...

Pulling thread out of the skein

There is just one simple rule here…don’t EVER touch the thread end closest to the paper band with the DMC logo...unless you find untangling thread therapeutic, and I'm not judging!

Instead, always look for the loose end closest to the paper band with the number on it; sometimes you have to dig around a little in the loops of thread to find it.

Skein of DMC embroidery thread held in one hand with finger pointing at loose end closest to the paper band with a number on, with other skeins of thread and scissors in the background

Hold the other end of the skein tightly, start to pull the loose end and the thread should start coming out easily. Pull out as much as you'd like and snip it off. How long a piece of thread to use is a topic for another day but I generally recommend around 60cm for a beginner.

Pulling individual strands out

As with pulling the thread from the skein there are definitely easier and harder ways to do this!

Let's start with the way I recommend to avoid, which is to take the bundle of 6 strands, grab 1 strand and pull it directly away from the rest. This is very likely to result in a tangled mess.

Instead, take the end of the bundle of threads, separate the strands slightly so you can pick a single strand out. Hold the bundle of threads fairly tightly close to one end with one hand and pull the single strand out with the other hand, pulling it in the same direction as the threads are lying.

A hand holding the end of a length of 6 stranded cotton  embroidery thread with one strand being pulled out by the other hand

The thread will very often bunch up a little as you do this but is very unlikely to knot, and it will easily smooth back out.

Now you have a single strand, and if you need another strand you can repeat the process. I don't recommend pulling out 2 strands at the same time because they will stay twisted around each other and you will likely find your stitches don't look as neat.

If you'd like to know more about thread storage and organisation check out my article How I Store my Embroidery Thread.

Until next time, happy stitching!


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