How-To: Embroidery Floss Stripping & Conditioning
by Jenny Hart
EDIT: Since this article was written, Thread Heaven (after 20 years in business) ceased manufacture of their thread conditioner due to patent expiry. There is no existing product on the market that matches its quality and you can still find boxes of Thread Heaven on ebay. It's worth the price to have the real thing!
The purpose of stripping your floss is to even out your strands. Some embroiderers find that it works more smoothly, separates more easily, and prevents snagging and knots. Me? I confess, I almost never strip or condition my floss first. But, that's not necessarily a good thing (I just like to get stitching right away). But you should try it and see if stripping and conditioning is for you!
Conditioning does two things: it provides a protective coating to your thread, and makes it smoother to work with. It reduces what's called "thread drag". It used to be that bee's wax was used as a conditioner, but this is no longer recommended. Why? It can turn opaque (cloudy) over time, and because it's organic, it's not chemically stable (it decays). Guess what? That can make your threads decay along with it.
Thread Heaven is considered the archival standard thread conditioner. (Here's a link to their website if you want to know everything about Thread Heaven and how it works.)
This is how you use it...
That's it. Your floss is now conditioned. What about stripping?
When you pull your length of floss across the rough side of Velcro, it combs your floss, and separates the strands. See the difference in the photo? The strand on the left has been stripped, and the strand on the right is untouched. Stripping helps if you want to pull away strands to work with say, only three or four, for finer detail. They will pull out nicely instead of tangling. Stripping might also make your stitches work more evenly and consistently. But again: this is all a matter of personal preference. You may prefer to preserve the original twist of the floss.
None of this is anything that you must do. But I encourage you to try it so you understand the results and can decide which you prefer!
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Man, I hate having to say that.