Deciding which thread to use
Most people that cross stitch are likely familiar with the DMC brand of floss. DMC is a highly successful and established manufacturer that has pretty much cornered the market for embroidery floss over the years but there are lots of other options which are worth looking at.
This is becoming increasingly important as prices go up, so a lot of people are looking for more affordable options. Here I am going to review and compare 5 brands of floss, DMC, Anchor, CXC, Sullivans & J&P Coats and show some stitched examples of each using their color equivalents of each brand side by side.
When stitching the samples below I started with a 10 x 10 square of DMC in the center and surrounded it with the other brands. Top left is CXC, top right is Anchor, bottom left is Sullivans & bottom right is J&P Coats.
Stitching sample showing boundary of brands
Stitching sample with boundary removed
Close up of DMC 321 with equivalents
Pretty consistant color, I think the J&P Coats is a little brighter.
Close up of DMC 310 with equivalents
Coverage seems best on CXC (top left) and DMC (centre)
Close up of DMC 800 with equivalents
Sullivans (bottom left) seems to have a pretty big color difference. This shade seems to have the most variance between brands. Stitching also seems messier on the Sullivans area with this color.
Close up of DMC 943 with equivalents
DMC (centre) & CXC (top left) seem pretty much identical. J&P Coats (bottom right) seems quite a bit darker than the other brands.
DMC is manufactured in France and are a tried and trusted brand and they are still my personal thread of choice. They have 482 colors in their standard solid color palette although confusingly, they advertise it as 489 (the discrepancy is because 7 of the threads have 2 numbers assigned)
Average Price range:
Made from 100% Egyptian cotton, produced using double mercerization. Double mercerization is a process applied to fibers to increase their luster and makes them appear more silky, the process also improves the dye uptake and protects against shrinkage as well as increasing the strength of the thread.
Stitching experience with DMC is great and you cannot really go wrong with it. It does occasionally knot and tangle when stitching but I think this can be said of most threads!
It is also nice to see more colors being added to their palette with the 35 new colors added in 2017 which were especially good at filling in gaps in the palette when it comes to charting images. They have also just released a new range of new sparkly thread which we will be reviewing in a future article - I’m looking forward to giving them a try. So even though their prices have increased lately, DMC is an excellent quality brand and it is nice their products are being expanded and giving us all more thread to horde !
CXC is manufactured in China and strangely, given how many other things are manufactured there, this seems to be an automatic red flag for many people - there is a lot of scaremongering on many Facebook groups around CXC but it is mostly unjustified in my opinion and is often by people that have never tried it and / or have a vested interest (they sell DMC). In spite of this CXC seems to be becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to DMC as people are becoming more aware of it and realizing the savings it can provide.
They currently have 447 colors in their palette (the same as DMC minus the 35 new colors released in 2017) . They use the same numbering convention as DMC so no conversion is required.
CXC is a poly cotton blend but don’t let the fact it is not 100% cotton put you off. The skeins are very soft to touch, in fact I would say that the CXC skeins were the softest to touch of all five brands and they have a nice sheen to them.
Aliexpress - roughly 0.08 cents per skein, you can buy a complete set for around $40 USD with free shipping, when ordering be sure to specify CXC only when your order and there are some other generic brands that are not as good as CXC and the color matching is not quite as accurate. The shipping will likely also take quite a while (around a month seems to be average) but it is usually free, so as long as you’re not in a rush it’s a great deal.
Detailed ordering information can be found in the Cross Stitch Unlimited group, there is usually a pinned post at the top of the group with all the information
If you are not sure about using AliExpress there are a number of people on Facebook groups selling CXC also:
Mandy Bailey based in the UK, sells through paypal and can be contacted through her facebook group Pretty things for Needles and Pins she will also sell you a small trial pack of 10 random skeins for around £3 GBP - It is not a big investment to give it a try.
One thing to note when removing CXC from the skein is that the end that you need to pull from is buried inside, under the big label - do not pull the loose end that is clearly visible as this will likely bunch and knot-up the skein.
CXC tends to fluff up a little bit in the eye of the needle more than other brands while stitching but this is easily avoided by using slightly shorter lengths. The coverage with CXC is fantastic and I would say it provides the best coverage of all 5 brands I have tried here.
It’s very very affordable and compares well to DMC in color matching and stitching experience. There are some variances between colors but no more than there can be between various dye lots with DMC and other brands.
We have previously done a more in depth review of CXC Review of CXC
The Anchor brand has actually been around nearly as long as DMC (around 250 years). They are a quality established brand that is manufactured in Germany. I used Anchor floss a lot when I first started stitching as it seemed to be more readily available in the UK than DMC back then.
Anchor currently have 460 colors in palette, they use their own numbering convention so if you are converting from DMC to Anchor you will need a conversion chart.
They don’t seem to be as readily available in Canada though i.e. not available in big box stores, I had to buy samples from a local needlework store which makes it a bit more expensive
Anchor thread is 100% Egyptian cotton and is produced using the double mercerization process.
Very nice to stitch with but I felt that the coverage was a bit thinner with Anchor, but it is a very nice soft thread. The color matching to DMC is very good also.
Sullivan’s thread is also manufactured in China. They have 454 colors in their palette and are made from 100% Egyptian cotton
Sullivan’s have their own numbering system but each skein has the DMC conversion number actually printed on the label
This thread doesn’t seem to be stocked everywhere I couldn’t buy at my local needlework store as they said it would be special order and would be in a pack of 6.
Sullivans seemed to have kept their prices consistently low, so make a good alternative. When pulling from the skein you should pull from the top smaller label.
I find the feel of Sullivans is a little bit coarser than the other brands when handling it. I also found it tangled more while stitching and separating the threads, there seemed to be a bit more friction when pulling the thread through the fabric. I felt my stitches do not look as neat as they do with the other brands (see images above). I also found the Sullivans color comparison was not as close to DMC as the other brands it was not as saturated as the others and looked duller and not as rich.
Sullivans is a very reasonable price and it is nice that they list the DMC equivalent number on the label of the skein.
J&P Coats is manufactured in Hungry by Coats and Clark, it is 100% Mercerized Pima Cotton.
Even looking over a few websites it doesn’t seem to be readily available and most places only stock a very limited number of colors
This was a nice floss and I was surprised how well it stitched up. I didn’t have tangling issues and the colors are a pretty good match on the whole, although the green was a noticeably different on the pictures above.
I decided to do a colorfast test on all of the brands using a capillary effect. Capillary effect is a bit like how a tree sucks up water. As the water evaporates more water is pulled up like using a straw. So I setup a bowl of water with the fabric draped over the edge - this would allow the water to be pulled up along the fabric through the stitching over time. I left this for 24 hours so the thread had plenty of time to run if it was going to ! I picked red for this test as anecdotally it’s seen as the mostly likely color to run.
You’re really not helping cat she has two giant water bowls on the floor but this was obviously better !
You can see near the cat’s back foot the water line of where the water had been pulled upto at that point.
No running ! All of these threads appear to be completely colorfast.
Overall I feel all of these brands compare well to each other - there are subtle differences in the colors between a few of the brands but as along as you were brand consistent while actually stitching I don’t think it would make a huge difference. The stitching experience is pretty consistent although I wasn’t a huge fan of the Sullivans but that is just my experience with these few sample threads I tried.
Hopefully you found this interesting, if you have any feedback we would welcome it - feel free to contact us or post through our Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org