Embroidery 101: The Basics. What is a skein?

What is a skein and what is its purpose?

The Spruce

If you are just learning about needlework in general or cross stitch in general, the first step is learning what a skein of floss is.   You can't do a project without some sort of floss. It can be anything from cotton to plastic. You can use your imagination when it comes to floss. A lot of times you will see the word skein when starting a project. What does skein mean? To find out exactly what a skein is and what to do with it, keep on reading. 

Definition: A skein is a bundle of six-strand embroidery floss about 8 yards long. The skein is held together by small paper tubes on which the brand and color number are printed. DMC and Anchor are the most common embroidery floss companies. 

DMC floss is used the most in the United States. They offer several types of floss. They carry their typical cotton floss but also several specialty styles. It seems that everyone's favorite floss by them is their variegated blends. These are perfect for breaking up the old style of red work. It is also perfect for making shadows for hair. Satin flosses are also available at DMC. This floss can be a bit of a bear to work with. The colors and shine are brilliant but threading the needle and the unravel is frustrating. The same goes for metallic floss. Luckily there are products out there that can tame the wild beast of floss. Thread Heaven is one or if you just want to get some quilting wax, you will have the same effect.They also have memory wire floss that is great for 3-D effects. DMC also just put out a new line of variegated floss and don't forget to check out their newest website CommonThread for indie designers, free patterns and kits. 

Anchor threads is seen more widely in European countries. Their floss is comparable to DMC so much so that the majority of pattern makers will give you both Anchor and DMC numbers. There are many conversion charts out there. This is just one that I like to use. It is on Yarn Tree. Many US companies do carry Anchor floss also. 123 Cross Stitch has a great selection of Anchor Floss  For those who have used both Anchor and DMC, many have said that Anchor is a bit softer than DMC and can sometimes be easier to work with but not as strong. There are others that love the texture of Anchor and find DMC to be more rough around the edges. 

There have been many debates about whether DMC or Anchor is the best. Etsy had a long discussion about the debate. It seems that once a person finds a favorite, they stay with it. Check out the debate on Etsy and you be the judge.  These two floss brands are the heavy hitters in the cross stitch world and can be combined or substituted for each other. Many pattern makers will give you both the anchor and DMC color charts. This comes in handy when you have both in your stash. DMC or Anchor floss it doesn't matter. They both are excellent mainstream floss.

There are also so many indie designers creating and dyeing their own floss. Sublime Stitching has a rainbow, and then some, of beautifully colored floss.Another independent brand is Weeks Floss.They do small batch dyeing of floss. If you are in love with a certain color of theirs, it is a good idea to pick up all that you will need in one purchase due to the fact that hand-dyeing allows for variations in color. 

 All floss just depends on what you are comfortable with and what is available to you. You can order just about any brand online, but be prepared to pay a steep price for higher quality, low run flosses. Also be aware that small batches of individually dyed floss will vary in color so if you are planning a project with hand dyed floss then get enough for the entire pattern otherwise you may have a hard time matching the colors up.