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During the past two weeks I’ve been taking you on a Tuesday Tour of the DMC Factory in Mulhouse, France. We’ve taken a look at the location and its history, and have toured the steps taken to get from raw cotton to thread.
You can click on the links in the paragraph above if you missed the first two sections.
It’s been such an interesting journey, and today we’re going to see what happens next. It involves a spa-like bath and COLOR!
To get you caught-up in a nutshell, we have followed raw cotton through the spinning process through to the gassing, which removes unwanted fuzzies, and on through to twisting plies and making a huge hank of thread.
Mercerizing increases the yarn’s mechanical strength, improves its dyeing affinity, and gives the yarn brightness.
The large hanks are placed under tension and dipped in a concentrated solution of caustic soda and maintained at cold temperatures. It is then rinsed with hot water and then again in cold water.
If you look closely at the image above left, you can see that the hanks on the left are under tension, while the hank closest to you on the right has not yet been placed under tension and is still loose.
The yarns are then bleached using oxygenated water (not chlorine) before being placed in the huge dye vats. Vat dyes or naphthol dyes are used for colorfastness.
After dyeing, a special softening process is used that will help ensure easy rewinding of the skein, and gives the thread a slippery finish, allowing it to pass through the needlework fabric without any hangups or tugging.
The hanks are also expressed to make sure they have as little moisture in them as possible before being put through the drying tunnel. It’s a bit like the spin cycle of your home washing machine, only on a much larger scale.
After expressing, the hanks are hung on a rack to prepare them for drying.
Drying is accomplished using a large air drying tunnel. It takes several days to dry a single rack of thread, and is must be completely dry before it can be wound into hanks and skeins and packaged for shipment.
Next week we’ll explore the processes used to create the hanks, skeins and balls of DMC Needlework Thread, packaging and shipping to all corners of the globe!
We’ll continue the tour by following a bale of clean, raw cotton, through the manufacturing process until it is ready for mercerizing and dyeing before being transformed into beautiful, ready to use needlework thread. You can read Part 1 of this series here.
DMC uses the “Giza 88“ variety of Egyptian cotton, due to its long fibers. The cotton is spun into a plied yarn and loaded onto large cones in Egyptian mills. The cones are then transported to our mill in France.
At this point, the thread is still very rough and a long way from being ready to use in your stitching! The next step in the process is called gassing, which removes all the fine hairs and impurities on the thread, helping to make the thread smooth and eliminate the dreaded fuzzies.
In the image to the left, you can see the thread being passed through a flame, burning off the hairy fuzz. It happens so quickly that the process is nearly invisible to the eye – and so quickly that it does not singe or burn the thread.
I must admit, watching this process was mesmerizing (as opposed to mercerizing, which we’ll discuss next week, LOL!)
The the cone on the right has been run through the gassing process, and is slightly smaller – it has lost a bit of it’s bulk because all of the those unwanted hairy, fuzzy fibers have been singed off. This is a very important step in manufacturing fine hand embroidery threads.
After gassing, the cones are loaded into another machine where 6 strands of plied yarn are twisted – usually in the opposite direction of the twist of the plied, gassed yarn.
The yarn is then wound from the large spool into a huge, 1 kg hank. The circumference of these hanks is 2.26 meters or about 7.41 feet in circumference (about 3 feet in length, based on my height and holding one of the hanks).
They’re big hanks, and at this point they are starting to look like thread instead of yarn.
Next week, we’ll explore the mercerizing, dyeing and packaging process for your favorite DMC Embroidery Threads, so stay tuned!
Hi Stitchers! I’m back from France and my tour of the DMC factory and Archives in Mulhouse. I had a great time, and have much to share with you.
Today I’m posting Part 1 of the factory tour, as well as a bit of information about the history of DMC and the city where the factory and archives are located. I hope you will join me for the entire series, and that you find it as informative as I did.
Mulhouse, located in Alsace near the German and Swiss borders, was not always part of France. For a period in its history, Mulhouse (which means mill house in the local dialect) was actually part a free and independent association of ten Imperial Cities in Alsace. joined the Swiss Confederation in 1515. On 4 January 1798, its citizens voted to become part of France in the Treaty of Mulhouse. As time went on, it once again became part of Germany as Alsace-Lorraine, and then become part of France again in 1945. You can read more about the city’s amazing history here.
Traveling through the area, you’ll notice that many of the local place names, gourmet specialties and other local products attest to its unique history, with names in the local Alsation dialect that are more German than French.
DMC didn’t start as a thread company, but instead got its start in the business of block-printing, which were later replaced by engraved copper cylinders. In the 19th century, DMC began producing fine threads, enhanced and strengthened by a new process called mercerization. Soon after, DMC dropped its fabric printing operation, focusing solely on producing fine threads for sewing and needlework.
You can learn more about the early history of DMC, its founders, and needlework legend Therese de Dillmont on the DMC History Page. With over 200 years of history, one blog just can’t contain all of the interesting information!
The tour started outside the factory on a beautiful Autumn day with a tour of the exteriors of the historic buildings on the site. Many of the buildings are no longer part of the DMC factory, but are owned by the City of Mulhouse, which has plans to renovate and preserve these beautiful, historic brick 18th century buildings – some of which are over 200 years old.
In Part 2 next week, I’ll be following the manufacture one of DMC’s most cherished product – 6-strand cotton embroidery floss (mouliné) – from clean, raw cotton (shown to the left) to ready-to-ship skein. This will be followed by a visual tour of some of the many treasures in the DMC archives, housed in the Archives of the City of Mulhouse, as their histories are intertwined.
Have you ever run across and antique DMC pattern booklet, or a reproduction of a booklet, written by a famous designer named Therese de Dillmont? This talented stitcher wrote many booklets for DMC.
…but who was she?
Therese was born in Austria and was both an accomplished needleworker and writer.Dillmont’s famous Encyclopedia of Needlework (1886) has been translated into 17 languages. You can view the complete English version of the book here.
In the 19th century DMC established strong links with the famous embroiderer. The friendship between this talented woman and Jean Dollfus-Mieg (both are shown above) led her to move to Dornach, a town close to Mulhouse (where the DMC factory is located), where she founded her own embroidery school in close cooperation with DMC.
A complete biography of this talented woman, along with can be seen on the DMC Archives site. The site is in French, but is easy to navigate and full of inspiration, including the images found on the pages featuring her work. You can also view images from the 2012 Exposition of her work here.
To this day her booklets and the Encyclopedia of Needlework are sought after by needleworkers around the world, as the quality of the education and designs are just as relevant today as they were two centuries ago. I’ll be visiting the factory and archives next week, and will be blogging more of the DMC story soon.
Let’s treat ourselves to a few hand embroidered wardrobe upgrades! Here are some fabulous ideas from creative stitchers that you can use when making a wearable using a sewing pattern, for embellishing a ready-made item or for refreshing an existing item in your wardrobe.
Seamstress Erin, a Ph.D. scientist with a penchant for sewing and bright colors, has transformed a plain bomber jacket pattern by using recycled fabrics and hand embroidery to create a unique, one of a kind piece of outerwear. Erin used Simplicity 3688 to make the jacket but Marfy 2538 would also work well.
Erin hand-embroidered lazy daisies on the sleeves and shoulders of the raglan-style jacket, while feathers and cascading flowers were the inspiration behind the whimsical satin stitch embroidery on the back of the jacket. You can find details of the embroidery here.
Lisa, and Australian stitcher from the Making it in Berry blog uses hand embroidery to customize commercial patterns to create her own wardrobe pieces. In this example she’s used a variety of hand embroidery stitches – including detached chain, French knots and running stitch – to update a simple round yoke.
New Look 6185 and Butterick B5610 are good pattern choices for this type of neck edge.
If you’re working in felted wool or fleece and just want a little accent along the edges, try using a hand-stitched blanket edge, like the one shown here and to the left. It’s might prettier than a machine stitched version!
Use DMC Embroidery Floss or pearl cotton to work your own unique designs, or add a bit of sparkle using DMC Light Effects floss. Or, select one of our other beautiful needlework threads to create your own signature look.
If you’re looking for some fun projects to stitch or craft this summer, check out the assortment of awesome project ideas over at FaveCrafts. You can get 1000’s of craft projects, patterns tips and ideas for FREE at FaveCrafts.com including embroidery, cross stitch, crochet, knitting and sewing patterns along with much more.
The site also offers free tips and tutorials for a wide variety of needlework types, and features an email newsletter, so you’ll always know what’s new on the site.
- Crochet Flower Clutch
- A Beautiful Peace Label
- A T Shirt with Crochet Edge
- Baby Hat with Tassle
- Beautiful Crochet Top
- Black Mesh Shawl
- Bright Blue Denim Scarf
- Buttercup Embroidery Design
- Butterfly Crochet Bag
- Cell Phone Case
- Charming Crochet Pillow
- Cherries Cross Stitch Oven Pad
- Cherries Cross Stitch Recipe Book Cover
- Cherries Cross Stitch Tea Bag
- Chrysanthemum Accessory
- Colorful Block Scarf
- Cow Cross Stitch Pattern
- Crochet Diamond Belt
- Crochet Doily in Pineapple Pattern
- Cute Winter Snow Bear
- Fashion Belt
- Father Christmas Pattern
- Free Crochet Pattern for Round Motif Afghan
- Free Crochet Pattern Tablecloth
- Ladybug Friendship Bracelet
- Loving Bears Cross Stitch Pattern
- Luv Your Cross Stitch
- Purple Satin Medallion
- Satin Butterflies Embroidery Project