Friday, September 23, 2016

Celebrating 270 Years - DMC

The Golden Skein – Celebrating 270 Years – DMC

TENUI FILO MAGNUM TEXITUR OPUS – “From one fine thread a work of art is born”

Familiar to every needle-worker are the initials DMC, which stands for Dollfus-Mieg and Company, manufacturers of fine threads and yarns.

The company began as a fabric printing company run by Jean-Henri  (1742-1802) and his brother Jean Dollfus (1729-1800), selling their hand-painted Indian cotton prints throughout Europe.  They expanded and sold their fabrics internationally.  In the late 1700’s Jean-Henri’s nephew, Daniel (1769-1818)  ran the company and married Anne-Marie Mieg, adding her surname to the company’s logo.  D.M.C.   Jean Dollfus-Meig (1800- 1887)   while studying at Leeds became acquainted with John Mercer’s process of thread manufacturing, “mercerization”  Mercer, a calico printer and self-taught chemist, patented his process (1850) which changed the texture of cotton thread, strengthening it and giving it a silk-like luster.   Jean Dollfus-Meig introduced this process in 1898 to the factory in Mulhouse, France.  Since thread quality depends on the purity of the water used in its bleaching and dyeing, the properties of the water (Vorges River)  in Mulhouse made this an ideal location for the factory.

The story of the manufacturing of fine threads and yarns  includes the meeting of  Jean Dollfud-Meig and the famous embroiderer, Therese de Dillmont.  When Jean  encountered her work in an exhibition in Paris, he invited her to Mulhouse to tour his factory.  She subsequently moved to Dornach , a nearby town and established  school of needlework in close cooperation with DMC.   Her famous “Encyclopediie des ouvrages des dames” (“Encyclopedia of Ladies Handicrafts) has been translated and distributed to more than seventeen countries.

In 1961 DMC merged with Thiriez & Cartier Bresson, a French Textile firm of over 250 years.  The company name remained DMC but the logo was changed , replacing the DMC bell with the now famous Thiriez’s horse head.

Manufactured threads include: Embroidery floss, six stranded cotton. *Twisted separable, shiny thread, suitable for surface stitchery, counted-, pulled-and drawn-thread work.  Available in 454 colors.
                                                  Pearl cotton. * Twisted, shiny thread, available in two thicknesses.  Used for stranded cotton where you require a heavier effect.
                                                  Tapestry wool.* Thicker, four ply wool.  Use as for crewel work.
                                                   Crochet thread
                                                   Metallic and fluorescent thread 
                                                   Machine embroidery thread

*The Complete International Book of Embroidery, Mary Gostelow, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1977

Advertisement - Home Arts Needlecraft, November, 1936

Early packaging for DMC thread

In addition to threads and yarns, today, DMC subsidiaries also produce fabric and sportswear

embroidery floss

pearl cotton

metalllic thrreads

To celebrate the anniversary, DMC is producing The Golden Skein. "a soft, flexiible six strand floss that incorporates a 24 karat gold wash.  A beautiful collectible, the Golden Skein is a fitting symbol of DMC heritage and also the product esteemed by stitchers: DMC Embroidery Floss.  This precious skein can be preserved or carefully stitched to add incomparable richness to a treasured embroidery.  It comes in a special deluxe box, with a bound book of DMC history and antique cross stitch charts."
For more information contact

Saturday, September 3, 2016


It has been said  that “clothes maketh the man”.  Mark Twain is quoted as saying” Clothes make the man-Naked people have little or no power”. Hans Christian Anderson wrote of the Emperor’s New Clothes (to which we will return momentarily).  Polonius advised Laertes (Hamlet- William Shakespeare) “for apparel oft proclaims the man”
So there appears to be a theme here.

Cloth is a basic human creation.  This experience is so commonplace that we rarely think about the multiple layers (no pun intended) of meaning our choice of clothing convey.  Intentionally, or not, we use our dress as an identifier to others.  This, I firmly believe, is an individual choice,, one based upon social, ethnic, religious issues.  

Throughout history there have been certain regulations enacted regarding this freedom of choice.  The common Roman was not allowed to wear the color purple.  There were laws forbidding the use of gold threads to accent clothing in China.  Now it is rare that laws proscribing dress codes become an international discussion.  Certainly, there is a case for dress that is worn to purposely antagonize or offend, although it could be argued that it is the right of people to be obnoxious.

All this brings this discussion to the recent controversy in France over the wearing of “burkinis”.  Muslim women have a modesty dress code, which ranges from hair coverings to full body garments, depending upon their customs and religious beliefs.  One fashion designer, Vanessa Lourenco, felt Muslim women should be able to conform with their religious codes and, at the same time, enjoy the pleasures of the seaside with their families.  Thereby, the “burkini” was born.  This is obviously a Muslim item of apparel, although, with all the uproar it has created, I would suspect many non-Muslim women might wear it in protest. 

This action follows the terrorist attacks in France.  There have been more than 30 bans
 (the first in Cannes) on so called inappropriate clothing for women.  That they are targeting Muslim women is obvious.  This ethnic profiling will not stop terrorist activities.  There must be more effective measures that can be taken.  On Friday, the highest court in France The Council of State struck down the ban in one town.

Back to Anderson’s The Emperor’s New Clothes.  The tale goes that there was a very  officious Emperor, who ruled with the notion that all who disagreed with him were worthless and stupid.  This bully was approached by two tailors, who claimed they would make the ruler a fabulous set of clothes, very comfortable and very prestigious-looking.  Of course, they said, only those who were wise and deserving of high honors could actually see the clothing, it would be invisible to all others.  You can already guess the outcome.  The naked Emperor paraded before his citizens, confident of his attire.  As Twain said ”naked people have little or. no power”

So, to those in charge of such things in France, I say “enough, already.  Let it go”.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Olympic Attire

What to Wear When You Play

I happen to have a free week.  Believe me, that doesn’t happen often.  No meetings, no classes, no lunches with friends.  To my joy, this coincides with the first week of Olympic competition.  In our house, every TV (yes, we have more than one) is channeled onto sport.  While my husband will enthusiastically watch nearly everything, his favorites reflect his own athletic routine of cycling and swimming and all types of sailing,  although sailing in the desert has been  relegated to observing and not participating.

While I enjoy watching many events, I admit tennis is always my favorite.  Which brings me to comment on the various styles of sports apparel worn by the athletes.  Most contests demand certain “costumes”.  For instance, swimmers have high tech suits to enhance their performance in the pool.  Equestrians and fencers wear traditional garb, safety is also a feature here.  Cyclists wear Spandex and helmets.  All this I understand.

But have you watched tennis lately?  Conditions on the court can vary greatly: wind, heat can change the efforts needed by the players to succeed.  They must be able to move quickly and safely around the court.  They must be able to focus their attention  on the oncoming ball, while planning their return strategy.  It seems to me that tennis ( and other sports) has become a fashion extravaganza among the women athletes.  Surely, one wants to look good before the fans and TV cameras, but have some of them even looked at themselves in a mirror?  Unflattering colors and styles abound.  There are few that can wear layers of pleats and  ruffles in bold colors.  Skin tight tops paired with shorts so short they cannot accommodate an extra tennis ball, if a second service becomes necessary.  It would not matter if these outfits were comfortable.   I have seen players tug and readjust their clothing after each point.  This has brought to mind an article in the WSJ Style and Fashion section, Sat./Sun, July 2, 2016, which  lauded, what they called the Wimbledon Whites Advantage.  According to the attire requirement for the Championships Wimbledon “suitable tennis attire that is almost entirely white” is to be worn.  Refreshing and professional.

Now, some will say that is an infringement upon the athletes ability to show themselves as individuals  If one wants to look frumpy,so be it.  Personally, I would rather appear as one very lovely competitor who wore a simple white slip dress over her bloomers.  She did not fuss with her neckline, but appeared focused on the matter at hand.  Athletic wear should be advantageous, not outrageous.

Speaking of which, beach volleyball women have no where further to go.  Although they are awesome athletes and their winnings are uber impressive I remember vividly sitting on a sandy beach in a swimsuit.  Not a pleasant experience.  

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Fashion Victims - Poisonous Pigments : Arsenical Greens

A Killer Green Gown

These represent green shades popular in fashion.  They are not toxic pigments
This is the second excerpt from  Alison Matthews Davis” book, Fashion Victims.  The first excerpt, 5/28/16, recounted the health risks posed by the long skirts worn by fashionable women. The skirts dragged on the ground, through the filthy streets of large cities and, of course, were then worn within the household, bringing with them all manner of pathogenic ( or at least, undesirable ) elements.

Fashion Vistims - The Dangers of Dress Past and Present, Aloson Matthes David, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015 

The topic I present now is of a pigment popular in the 1800’s which, while perceived as very attractive, was also very, very toxic.  The first dyes were made from natural materials: madder root, cochineal exoskeletons, mollusk shells.  While many colors could be produced from recipes using natural elements, there were some that were less than satisfactory.  One of these colors was green.  Green was produced as a compound color, that is the combination of two colors, yellow and blue.  Perhaps you have seen old textiles where the blue component has faded and the “green” has become a
poor example of its former self.  Chemists were constantly trying to introduce new hues for the new technology of aniline dye production. Better Living Through Chemistry as one future chemical company would motto a century later.

In 1778 Carl Wilhelm Scheele published his work on a green pigment he created by mixing potassium and white arsenic with a solution of copper vitriol (a sulfate of copper).
Yes, you read correctly..arsenic. In 1814 a more saturated green hue was synthesized from copper acetarsenite and called by various titles.  It was widely used for fabrics, children’s toys and even candies.  It was also produced as a pigment in oil paints.

Women were tired of the dull-colored clothing that was commonly worn and the introduction of  fresh green hues was most welcome.  The dye was used not only in fabric production but also in accessories such as shoes, and most widely in artificial floral wreaths of fruits and foliage worn as hair adornments and  large broaches. 

It had been noted for some time that workers who produced the artificial foliage suffered from debilitating ulcerations on their faces arms and legs.  Rashes appeared along the necklines of women wearing green gowns and there were  reports of children dying from eating ( or trying to eat) artificial fruits which appeared in baskets set upon tables in Victorian parlors.

Efforts were made to assuage the fears that soon were voiced by consumers.  Apparently, “this is not arsenical green” became a disclaimer, but was it, or was it not?  Eventually by the 1870’s, other green pigments replaced the copper arsenic compounds.

Why would anyone purchase, much less wear, something that was so very dangerous?   It was well known that arsenic was used as a pesticide and that it was toxic if ingested.  Although there were many fallacious  theories concerning disease and cures, surely, there should have been some heed paid to those physicians and chemists who warned of the danger.

Thinking of today’s times, there are still those who ignore the warnings that appear on tobacco products.  The question would be, is it worth being stylish?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

A Reference Book- Not New but Fabulous

Another Reference for My Library

If you are a frequent reader of my blog, you know I have a great fondness for my reference library.  I love textile books almost as much as the textiles themselves.  I know historians are always searching for more reference materials and haunt libraries, bookstores and vintage shops for more information.  I try to keep up with new publications in the field of textile history, but must admit it is a daunting task.  When I first began my studies nearly 3 decades ago there was little available, now there are books available in nearly every category of textiles and textile production.  One volume, published in 2010 I missed and only recently found in the library.  Occasionally, I search the library of the Santa Fe Community College after my biweekly Yoga class and, although their collection is not extensive, it does contain some very interesting and informative volumes.

Classic and Modern Fabrics - The Complete and Illustrated Sourcebook, Janet Wilson, Thames and Hudson, 2010

I own several encyclopedias of textiles but found Classic and Modern Fabrics- The Complete Illustrated Sourcebook to be more inclusive than any others I have.  It is indeed a “complete sourcebook”.  According to the introduction, the aims of this book include: preserving the knowledge of classic fabrics while providing information of new textile developments.  Also, explaining the characteristics of various types of fabrics and their construction is valuable knowledge.

Some other features include: Fabrics in alphabetical order as well any alternative names,  such as HOPSACK (basket cloth).
                                                Principal features of the fabric for identification and details about fibers, construction and history.
                                                 Fabric weights and yarn counts and weave diagrams for a greater knowledge of construction.
                                                  Finally, what I always appreciate in any reference, a detailed glossary of technical terms and a section of sources for any additional study, including a list of trademarks.

But the most remarkable feature is the enlarged photographs of the fabrics (834!) so one can easily tell the difference between Malimo (glass filament and polyester) and Malimo (glass roving and polyester).

I returned the book to the library and immediately ordered a copy of my own.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Summertime in Santa Fe

13th International Folk Art Market

Several times I have written about the International Folk Art Market, which is held in Santa Fe each July.
Today I want to give you a heads up in case you will be in our area the second week of July.
 Voted the Best Art Festival by USA Today 10 Best Reader’s Choice Awards, the Market features artists from all over the world.  This year’s Market features an increase of market space (20%) for the biggest and best Market ever!  Market events run July 8,9,& 10.  For more information contact

Other July events in Santa Fe:

60th   Anniversary Santa Fe Opera  - July 1 – Aug.27
        Santa Fe

65th Annual Traditional Spanish Market – July 30-31

30th Annual Contemporary Hispanic Market – July 30-31

Summer Season – Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

Please check the internet for other New Mexico summer events

Have a special and SAFE holiday. Come see us!