Blackcabbit's World

Blackcabbit (aka. Dionnie Takahashi) is an illustrator living in Japan. She loves drawing whimsical animal characters, as well as doing handmade crafts to beautify the world she lives in.

My Pre-washed Embroidery Threads

DMC Cosmo

Embroidery threads (or floss) are such eye-candies to me. Whenever I buy new ones, I’m into the habit of pre-washing them and obsessively wind them onto my plastic floss bobbins. Seeing a box of neatly wounded bobbins in rainbow color assortment is so satisfying to my soul.

Wow, You wash embroidery thread/floss! Why?

Most stitching books will strongly advise us to pre-wash the FABRIC before embroidering on it. Otherwise, if the fabric shrunk or color bled through, then the masterpiece will be ruined after the first wash, and all efforts will go to waste. Strangely, the emphasis to prepare the floss likewise is not as strong, or not even mentioned at all. Hence, many stitchers will not bother to pre-wash them despite of the same possible tragic ending. I guess many trusted the leading brands of embroidery threads and their claims of colorfastness.

Well, even from a self-proclaimed OCD’s point of view, pre-washing floss is definitely NOT for everyone. Especially NOT for the hasty and fluttering ones. I don’t want you go tearing your hair out when you end up with mesh of floss ball. However, if we share the same motto in life with “Always to be safe than sorry”, then hear me out.

Out of curiosity, I went to wash the first lots of colors I bought (Cosmo, DMC & Olympus threads). The lot included dark-colored embroidery threads (notorious for bleeding) as well as light colored ones. The result, 6 out of 16 had mild degree of color run. Embroidery Thread Color Run

And what bother me most was that some floss, which include the pastel colored threads, unexpectedly dropped significant amount of tiny lints that “colored” the water. I had to rinse them several time until the water returned clear.Embroidery Floss

Okay, here is my fraidy cat’s five cents worth on this. Especially for the hasty and fluttering ones who actually read this far, pre-washing only the strong colored floss is the least you can do. I do think that it is a necessary step to safeguard your embroidery. Since the experiment, I decided that a little diligence will go a long way. So, I proceed to wash every colors I’d bought (except white). It gives me a sense of peace as well as comfort to know that now NONE of my threads will ruin my needlework. Furthermore, even with the washing, the colors remain pretty and bright when the floss dry up.

Finally, I thought I’ll end this post by sharing the methods I used to pre-wash the threads with almost no entanglement. There is no shortcut or special trick to it, and it does require vast amount of patience. Just remember, at the end of the day, when you look at your completed embroidery, it will worth it all.

The Act of Pre-washing Floss

Pre-wash Embroidery Threads

  • It is important to identify or reference down the tag number for the embroidery threads, so that you’ll know exactly which brand and color to avoid or replenish.
  • To prevent any mix up, I washed them one at a time, removed its label only prior to washing, and made a note near it.
  • Before washing, I tied white threads on three areas (see picture). This is to check for further color bleed as well as the key to prevent massive tangle.
  • Wash embroidery threads one at a time in a container which allows you to see clearly if the water is stained.
  • I stirred the floss rapidly in mild soapy water. Then rinsed several times.
  • Hang dry in cool windy area for couples of day. Do not place directly under the sun or the colors may fade.
  • After the embroidery threads are completely dry, I snipped off the white threads and sort it into a loop. Personally, I find that using a bottle top or a chair’s corner is really useful.
  • Finally, I happily wind them onto plastic floss bobbins and organized them nicely in my treasure box. Important reminder: Never wind floss onto bobbins unless they are completely dry.
Embroidery Floss


Blackcabbit’s Handmade Adventures
Sewing Kit Pouch


26 comments on “My Pre-washed Embroidery Threads

  1. patti
    October 9, 2017

    many thanks for the info regarding pre soaking the threads! new to the embroidery world, i wasn’t aware. looking forward to pre -soaking and getting those bobbins! :+)

  2. Barbara
    December 1, 2015

    I want to share the rest of my experience now. I did have one skein of floss bleed into the water, a teal. I picked it out and poured straight vinegar on it and it quit bleeding. It is a bit bi-colored now but I figure I may have saved a project I would have spent many hours on. The coloring may be fun in actuality so no loss to me.

    • blackcabbit
      December 1, 2015

      Thanks for sharing, Barbara. Yes, I agree with you that it’s no loss at all cos I think the bi-colored teal floss may come in handy in other cool project, especially with other gradient-color threads! Love to hear from you again when you have more great craft adventures. Happy crafting! ^_^Y

  3. Barbara
    November 30, 2015

    I am in the midst of washing my new threads right now after reading this. I have yet to have any of the threads bleed but I am now concerned that had I not there may have been severe shrinkage. My threads were Indian cotton processed in Mexico. It was something I had never thought of before. Thank you all for your input.

    • blackcabbit
      November 30, 2015

      Thank you Barbara, You are most welcome. Have a joyful crafting season! ^_^Y

  4. Jana
    September 3, 2014

    Thank you for posting the info about pre-washing floss. I was about to embark on a rather large project on rather expensive linen when I started noticing that people were posting about floss bleeding. I generally don’t use bright colors but this next project, a Swedish Dala horse, is full of bright reds and oranges. I don’t want to mess it up. I prewashed all of the floss I have, no matter what the color, and layed it flat to dry on a white towel. Sort of double insurance. Luckily no bleeding, but I’d do it again, and I plan to always prewash my floss. Better safe than sorry.

    • blackcabbit
      September 3, 2014

      Thank you Jana. Hope to see your Swedish Dala horse embroidery soon! Happy sewing! ^_^Y

  5. Judy H.
    April 17, 2014

    I do duplicate stitching on sweaters for clients, and I just tell them to have their sweaters dry-cleaned, after I had a sweater dry-cleaned. None of the colors ran, and the material doesn’t shrink either. Someone once told me to soak the threads in vinegar, and that would hold the color in. Maybe I should have swished the yarns around in the vinegar more. I just let them sit in the vinegar for a few hours and then rinsed them under cold water. I may have to experiment with that again. I also lay an iron (not too hot) on the ironing board, and then pull the threads under the iron, so the threads lay better when stitching.

    • blackcabbit
      April 17, 2014

      Hi Judy. Yup, I heard about using vinegar too. Worth a try I suppose! Oh do let me know the result if you have experiment with vinegar. Hear from you again! ^_^Y

  6. Lucky
    July 8, 2013

    Hi,just came across your site n totally love are so good to help us by these detailed posts,keep the good work going :) i am new in embroidery craft,so I want to ask you if I can use polyester threads (the ones for sewing) to do embroidery?I am planning to do needle paintings,so is it necessary to invest in the flosses?

    • blackcabbit
      July 8, 2013

      Thank you Lucky,
      I’m really no expert. So as a newbie myself, I followed what most embroiderers generally use, and bought the embroidery flosses, which is readily available in craft store, without putting much thought to it. But I suppose that one is free to use any types of thread or floss or even similar materials that they are comfortable with. Personally, I think it is important to freely experiment and learn from each process. Who knows, you may stumble into a great medium and start a exciting trend. See you around, Happy creating! ^_^Y

  7. Anonymous
    October 30, 2012

    I love this. I recently embroidered a very large panel and the floss bled ruining the whole thing. I will be washing all my floss in the future. I wind all of it on bobbins too =)

    • blackcabbit
      October 30, 2012

      OH, don’t we all hate bleeding floss! I hope you manage to salvage your large embroidery somehow. May your future embroidery projects be delightful and amazing! ^_^Y

  8. Lauren aka Giddy99
    August 24, 2012

    I agree that something MUST be done with new floss. Too many times, I pre-wash the fabric, but not the floss, only to find that the FLOSS (100% cotton) shrinks up, marring my embroidery. Even the DMC and Anchor flosses. It’s exasperating! I’m going to try to pre-shrink my flosses, but that might just be giving them a good dunk or two in hot water, and them hanging them up to dry… I wonder if it would work that way?

    • blackcabbit
      August 24, 2012

      Lauren, thank you for your thoughtful input. You got me curious too. :) Currently, I’m out of new floss to experiment. Let’s hope someone will try the floss dunks in hot water and let us in the result. This really make crafting fresh & exciting, don’t you think? ^_^b

  9. Tricia
    March 6, 2012

    My husband uses bandanas all the time as handkerchiefs and for our anniversary I planned on making some for him.

    Those for sure will need to be washed, so I’m glad to know there is a way to pretreat the thread… unless I’m super lazy and make the hankies with black fabric…

    • blackcabbit
      March 6, 2012

      Hi Tricia, thanks for sharing. I actually like your alternative idea of using black fabric. I thinks its cool and the embroidery will definitely stand out. Then again, I love everything black LOL. Have a blessed day, and may it be filled with endless creavity! ^_^b

  10. Joan
    September 7, 2011

    Thank you for the info you gave. I was utterly mystified as to how to even begin!!! Do you you think it necessary to rinse cotton floss threads for a crewel picture???

    • blackcabbit
      September 7, 2011

      Joan, here are my thoughts:
      If you’re never going to wash the crewel picture, then I guess it is not necessary to rinse the threads. If you do wash it, then do pre-wash the fabric as well as any of your dark/strong colored floss. Hope this help. Have fun creating! ^_^Y

  11. Anonymous
    August 31, 2011

    Thanks for posting. This is exactly what I was looking for.

    • blackcabbit
      August 31, 2011

      U are most welcome! Glad you find my sharing useful. ^_^b

  12. Anonymous
    July 9, 2011

    I have always used embroidery threads on fabrics that did not need to be washed. Wall hangings and such. But I am considering embroidering a picture on a blouse and had always wondered if I should wash my threads first to so they will not bleed in the wash. What about shrinking? Are embroidery threads preshrunk?
    Thank you for this article. It helped a lot.

    • blackcabbit
      July 10, 2011

      Glad you drop by. I’m no expert here especially in the area of embroidery craft, but this is what I gathered from most read. If the material (thread or fabric) is made of natural fibers (i.e. cotton or silk etc), chances are that they will shrink in most wash, in various degree.

      I will definitely pre-wash the blouse if I’m going to embroider on it. As for the floss, like I mentioned in the post, pre-washing any of the strong colored floss is the least you can do. Hope this help. Stay creative! ^_^Y

  13. Tea S.
    June 18, 2011

    Your site came up on a search… i made /stitched a little picture for my dad of the 2 of us in a western horse carriage and his red shirt bled! i had to think fast and stitched a half stitch heart right next to his head which covered it pretty nicely and looked like it ws intentional… but at first i freaked!
    you’d think i’d know better as ive been stitching since 1970… but have had red bleed on me only once before and it left a water color look to a poinsetta so it was passable. but i like to have the control of knowing it will be alright.
    so… i wont always wash first — it depends on importance of gift but after reading your news here wow, THANK YOU SO MUCH

    • blackcabbit
      June 20, 2011

      Hi Tea. Thank goodness you were able to redeem your masterpiece. Quick thinking indeed! (When I read “his red shirt bled”, my heart missed a beat! LOL). Thanks for sharing. ^_^b

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This entry was posted on June 7, 2011 by in Craft / DIY Projects and tagged , , .
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