(formerly TW Designworks)
The most important aspect of stitching a design with many floss colors is the job of keeping those colors organized. There are many ways to accomplish this; they all take some time to implement initially, but any steps taken early on will save time (not to mention your sanity) later. Experiment until you find what works best for you!
For my designs, the most pressing concern is how to keep all the "blended" floss colors organized. This is the system I use:
First, I wind all my floss on bobbins (different types are available); the skeins tangle too easily. I recommend keeping all the floss for one project together. Unless you are very organized, or have a floss inventory system, it is easy to forget that you've taken floss from one project to supplement another, which can lead to confusion down the road. If you have purchased more than one skein from the same dye lot, it is doubly important you don't accidentally use some of this floss for another project.
Next, I usually make (rarely buy) project cards. These are pieces of pasteboard or very heavy paper cut to about 3" X 11", with punched holes spaced about 3/4" apart along one long edge. Next to each hole, I write a floss symbol from the color code, and the floss color(s) for that symbol. (Note: the cards can be re-used if you use pencil instead of pen.) Through the holes I attach, via larks-head knots, the proper floss color(s) cut to the desired length. I do this for all the symbols in the color code. (Now you can see why I'd rather make the project cards than buy them!) Usually I organize the cards by color families, rather than by the order of the color code, which makes it easier for me to find specific colors while stitching. When I use all the floss I've cut for a certain symbol, I simply cut new floss lengths, and re-thread them through the proper hole. All those thread tails can become tangled, but with a little care, things will stay fairly orderly. The cards can easily be stowed when traveling, or if your needlework must be put away between stitching sessions.
There are variations on the above theme: some folks prefer to use small plastic bags or envelopes in which to keep the floss colors for the specific symbols. Some stitchers prefer not to wind floss onto bobbins, and find that the bags or envelopes work the best for holding the floss skeins.
Once my floss is organized, I go one step further, and organize my needles, too. Because I dislike re-threading a single needle with different colors while I stitch, I thread lots of needles with different colors. I find I can stitch much more quickly, and stay more organized. My system is very simple: I cut a piece of evenweave large enough to accommodate several strips of masking tape onto which I've written the symbols from the color code. (The number of symbols determines the size of the fabric swatch.) These I press onto the fabric at approximately 1" intervals, leaving enough room between the tape strips to place needles, threaded with the proper floss color(s), into the fabric directly under the written symbols. I rarely thread all the needles at once; I usually choose an area to stitch and thread all the needles with the colors needed for that area. When I'm ready to move on to another area, I repeat the process.
I find this system of organizing needles to be very handy, especially if I take my stitching with me somewhere, or if I must put it away temporarily. I simply fold the fabric swatch in half: all the threaded needles stay in place, and are hidden away safely... no more lost needles, or forgotten needles stuck in the arm of my favorite stitching chair, because I always replace them in the swatch when I finish with them.
As I mentioned before, the above tips are merely suggestions of methods to keep floss and needles organized; there are as many ways of approaching this challenge as there are stitchers! One of the great things about needlework is the individuality that comes into play. Every stitcher has unique needs...so... Experiment! And, above all, have fun!
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