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  Stitching with Stranded Floss  

        The vast majority of temari crafting is done with pearl cotton, silk, Kyo, or bunka thread. However, there are a number of them made with stranded flosses (as opposed to a corded thread, such as pearl cotton) and are found in the Japanese books. It is probably easier to learn how to make temari by using pearl cotton, but that does not mean floss cannot be used. Some crafters use floss on a more frequent basis because it is generally more economical and easier to obtain than the other mentioned fibers. Using floss takes a bit more effort and patience in thread handling compared to a corded fiber, but it is certainly a usable thread and the outcomes can be stunning.  1 or 2 strands of floss can also be a good alternative to pearl cotton when you need a finer thread for smaller temari, or desire a higher resolution in clarity.

        Flosses (common ones like DMC or Anchor) come in skeins, and the yardage is composed of 6 strands, each being 2 ply (specialty fibers may differ). Unless composed of rayon or other synthetic, flosses usually have a more matte finish to them than pearl cotton. On the other hand, rayon floss colors are exceptionally bright and have high sheen. Anywhere from 1 to all 6 strands may be used, but the more common is 2 or 3 for general work. The trick to smooth and sleek outcomes using floss is "railroading" (when using 2 strands) or stripping & laying (when using more than 2)  while stitching; that is, being sure that all of the strands are laying smooth and flat next to each other. Occasionally an artistic expression may require a "rougher" look, but usually the goal is smooth, even threads.

        A common mistake is that a length of floss is cut from the skein, and treated as a "usable length", even if it is going to be separated down to 2 or 3 strands for stitching. One may think that it can be used as is, but doing so results in a  rough outcome, since the strands are not laid together with the same tension. Some will pull through more quickly and completely than others, leaving loose threads and loops in their trail. In order to obtain smooth laying, all strands should be separated out from the cut length, and then the required number laid back together side by side, and smoothed. This process is called "stripping & laying" and is the absolute key to smooth floss work. The prepared strands are then threaded into the needle as one. For example, if 3 strands are going to be used, don't just pull out 3 strands as a group from the skein. Cut a length from the skein and separate all 6 strands; lay 3 back together, smooth them neatly, and thread into the needle.

        Prior to mercerization of thread, it used to be that floss had a grain. This may still be true to a degree for hand-processed fibers, but for commercially produced threads mercerizing removes the tiny slubs of fiber that used to create garbling and knotting if the thread was pulled through "against the grain".  Therefore, one need no longer keep track of which end of the cut length you are threading into the needle relative to it being removed from the skein, or any other "tricks" about working with or against the grain.  If you see a little indicator on the label (an arrow or hand), while it used to mean "this is the direction of the grain", in today's world it means "pull in this direction to remove from skein", and has nothing to do with grain.

        As with all threads, being careful to keep it from twisting as you stitch is very important, but even more so with multiple strands worked as one. Let the working thread untwist frequently by letting your needle and working thread dangle freely. Some find it helpful to give the needle a quarter-turn when beginning each, or every few, stitch(es). If the working length twists, it will show up very clearly in otherwise smooth work. Using a laying tool or teko-bari can also be a big help.

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