Tutorial: Organizing Embroidery Floss

I struggled for a long time with finding an easy but effective (and not too expensive!) way to store my embroidery floss. I never liked the plastic bobbin system, although I know some people swear by it. I think that it takes too long to wind floss onto the bobbins; the floss gets creases in it, which makes it harder for me to work with; and it is hard to store bits of leftover floss without tangles or using a lot of extra bobbins.

But, I think I have finally settled on the floss storage that works best for me. It is cheap, efficient, and easily customizable, and today I will show you what you need to organize your floss this way, too.

embroidery floss neatly put away in a box

I settled on this system after seeing several other ways that people have organized their floss, including this post by Bird Nest on the Ground and this Instructable. I also put together several Google Doc spreadsheets for different floss manufacturers so I can keep track of the colors I have and the ones I need.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • embroidery floss (it doesn’t matter if it is still neatly wrapped in a skein or if it is in a bit of a jumble)
  • snack-sized plastic bags (I used these Ziploc bags)
  • metal key chain rings (I used these)
  • small write-on labels (or these DMC number stickers)
  • pen
  • scissors
  • paper cutter (or other method for cutting paper in straight lines)
  • cardstock or index cards or other slightly stiff paper (acid-free if you plan to store the floss for a long time) — I re-used some old manila folders
  • storage boxes, approximately 8 inches wide and 4 inches tall (and however deep you can fit on your shelf) — I bought Iris brand stackable boxes at Joann, they are 13 inches deep and I can fit 50-60 floss packets in each
  • grippy drawer liners
  • one of these spreadsheets, if you want to keep track of your thread inventory electronically

supplies for organizing embroidery floss

Find a cat-free workplace & gather your supplies

First, cut the cardstock or index cards down to fit into the snack bags. I cut mine to be 3 inches tall and 4.25 inches wide. The cardstock helps keep the bags stiff so that they stand upright, and it makes it easier to put the floss in the bags.

Then, write the number of the floss on a corner of the cardstock, and slip it and the floss into the bag. I also labelled the outside of the bag with a numbered sticker. I could only find these colored labels at the store, and I tried to use them to color-code the bags. It didn’t work well because the labels only come in three colors. But they are pretty to look at.

floss neatly put away in a plastic bag

I don’t do anything to the whole, unused skeins except seal them in the bag, but I have lots of partial skeins left from various projects. To keep these neat, I unwind the floss from the skein, cut it all to workable lengths (18 to 22 inches), and loop the floss around a metal keyring. It is easy to label the ring (at least for DMC floss); cut off the number from the plastic band the floss came in and slip it onto the keyring.

close-up of partially used skein kept on metal ring

If you are worried about rust, you could use plastic or wooden rings. I like the metal because 1) I don’t keep my floss on the rings for a very long time, and 2) I have a magnetic scissor fob, so the metal rings can stick to it and always be close by when I am working. Use what you think will make you happy.

When all your floss is safely nestled in its own numbered bag, it is time to organize them in boxes. I found these stacking plastic bins for $4 each at Joann Fabrics, but IKEA’s small Kassett boxes also work (and are very cheap, if you have an IKEA nearby). I organized mine by DMC number, but you could also sort by color, or however else you want to arrange them. Lining the box with a piece of grippy drawer liner keeps the bags standing neatly.

a grippy drawer liner keeps the bags of floss from sliding around

Finally, you can use one of these Google spreadsheets to keep track of all the DMC floss colors you have and need. The spreadsheet includes different pages for the different kinds of DMC floss (including the variegated, satin, and metallic lines), is color coded to keep track of what floss you have and need, and includes a space for project notes.

a screenshot of the DMC thread spreadsheet

Just enter in the number of skeins of each color you have/need, and the cell will turn green (for skeins owned) or red (for skeins needed).

I have also used Cross Stitch Thread Companion, which is a free Android app that has thread colors/codes for 31 different brands. It also allows you to keep track of what you own and what you need, and can generate a list for easy reference at the craft store. I almost exclusively use DMC threads, however, and I just like my spreadsheet more (and I can access it from my computer & my phone, while the Thread Companion app is phone-only).

So, now that your floss is nicely organized, what will you make with it?


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