The 411 on Bleeding Thread

I always assume embroidery thread will bleed until proven otherwise. Especially red thread. The threads with the least bleeding are DMC and Sajou. Sajou is guaranteed not to bleed. You can order it online. I use DMC even through some colors sometimes bleed. Unlike Sajou, DMC makes perle thread, which is usually used for crochet, and is used for Palestinian embroidery. I like using perle for cross stitch, because it is a single unplyable strand, good for use on adia cloth, and where one wants the cross stitches to look like a thick squarish bump, rather than a distinguishable cross.

DMC red perle sometimes bleeds in the wash. So if it is used on something that is going to be washed, or a really nice piece that you will want to care for properly, the piece will require post stitching, prefinishing treatment.


This is a piece I just finished stitching. It still needs to be finished. Its a Ramallah style veil. It’s huge and took me 4.5 years to stitch. Its mostly red DMC on white. Cleaning this during the finishing process has the potential to be hazardous to the piece. This is how I dealt with it.

  1. Spot clean with dish soap any apparent stains.

  2. Soak in bath of 1 part white vinegar to 1 part water until dye stops coming off the textile.


  3. Wash in dish soap and cold water. This might release more dye.


  4. Rinse in the warmest water you might use to wash the piece, or temperature of the warmest humid weather to which it might be exposed. I use luke warm water. This might release more dye.

  5. If dye continues to be released, repeat 2-4 only changing the vinegar solution if it becomes substantially discolored. If no more dye is released, soak in the vinegar solution for a couple more hours, rinse out thoroughly, and dry.

Here, I was fortunate. I had next to no bleeding from this piece. However, I was careful and went through all the loose color removal steps because I have had incidents with red DMC in the past, and because I do not want to mess up this piece.

WARNING: Do not hang up a piece to dry until all the loose dye is out. If you do, the dye will migrate down the piece leaving permanent streaks. The red ‘removable’ iron-on pencil will sometimes run as well. If you have streaks on a dried piece, as a last resort, you can spray on Windex, wait 5 minuets, then do the vinegar wash thing again, in an attempt to remove the streaks. Windex is a miracle worker.

Also, what ever you do, do not put the piece in the dryer if you have a bleeding problem, or if there are still stains on it. The dryer will bake in the color and you will have ruined your piece. You should not be putting anything embroidered except dishtowels in the dryer anyway.

Alternatively, you can wash the thread before you stitch, but that is a serious pain.


The Three Kings of Skog

Charted design from 12 c Norse Skog Church tapestry depicting three king saints or alternatively Odin, Thor, and Freyr. One of the few surviving Norse representations of the Aseir and Vanir. Interesting stylistic similarity to the Finnish and Slavic Goddess embroidery motifs.  For an interesting real life interpretation of this design, check out the costumes for Odin, Thor, and Freyr in the 2012 Lepage production (Met Opera) of Das Rheingold.

Three Kings 2016-07-27 at 17.55.47.png

Leeds Tapestry 2000


(applique panel depicting downtown Leeds)

Leeds Tapestry 2000 was a tapestry project undertaken by stitchers in Leeds, aiming to depict their community.  It consists of a series of panels, widely varying in composition, theme, technique, and skill. Techniques used include applique, needlepoint, cross stitch, silk shading, blackwork, and others.  The panels are currently on display in the Leeds Library, a magnificent building well worth a visit in its own right.


(above: library hallway and the tapestry displays)

Multicultural Parade Panel


(above: panel showing a multicultural parade. The people are individually embroidered, and then appliqued on the panel)


(above: detail from the multicultural parade)


(above: detail from the multicultural parade)

Leeds Waterfront Panel


(above: panel showing the Leeds waterfront using punch needle and applique squares of embroidery)


(above: detail of waterfront panel)

Vintage Advertisements Panel


(above: panel of vintage advertisements) This panel evidenced the greatest skill in needlework.


(detail from vintage advertisements) I love how the stitch sampler doubles as the samples of the different wires.


(above: detail of vintage advertisement panel) Here embroidery is done over a printed photograph on the cloth.


(above: detail from vintage advertisement panel) Embroidery over printed image

Others  (an assortment of details from a variety of panels)


Look at the stitches the create the illusion of lace. Wow!



Coronation of the Virgin


At the Accademia gallery in Florence, I stumbled across one of the most awesome pieces of couching, metal work, and silk shading I have ever seen: the Coronation of the Virgin, stitched in 14th century Florence, signed by Jacopo Cambi. The piece is massive, at least six feet long; it was used as an altar frontal in the Maria Novella church. The tapestry depicts Christ crowning the Virgin Mary upon her arrival in Heaven.  The central figures are flanked by saints and angles.


(above: central part of the tapestry showing Christ crowning the Virgin)


(above: a row of saints are on each side of the central figures)


(above: angles and a saint watching the coronation)

Not only is the composition well done, the stitching is extremely technically proficient. I can’t get over how well the couched threads were laid down. All the treads are perfectly spaced creating beautiful parallels. Look at how the colors blend in the silk shading, creating the illusion of shadows.


While the metal work does not display a great variety of techniques, what does appear evidences comfort with a difficult class of needlework.


The top panels that show scenes from the Bible are much less impressive:


Here, the stitching is crude, evidencing a different hand.  Even though the museum credits a single embroider, I suspect that the credited hand was the master of the workshop. With 25 years of embroidery experience, stitching a piece such as this would take me 10 years of 40 to 60 hour work weeks. In creating this tapestry, measures were not taken to economize stitching time.  Tiny threads were used for couching and shading, making the work far more laborious than necessary, either as an act of devotion, a chance to flaunt skill, or an effort to make the production more costly.