Friday, October 18, 2013

My Day in Mulhouse, France: Part 1, Touring the DMC Factory

DMC-USA, the maker of the embroidery threads we have loved all our lives, arranged for me and my fellow contest winners to take the train to Mulhouse, France, for an in depth and personal tour of their factory, as well as of their archives which are housed by the City of Mulhouse.

Truly, it has taken me a month to digest all we saw and I hope I can convey some of our great experiences there.  I must say from the onset, I would very much love to return to Mulhouse for at least a week to properly investigate those archives.  With a good camera!

But this post is about the venerable factory.  At the very beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, DMC was the first in Europe to buy steam operated machinery for the purposes of manufacture...from the City of Manchester, England.  The company has of course had to adapt to many changes over the centuries, going from employing 5,000 in the 1920's to the 250 employees working there today.  But they've stayed on the cutting edge of efficiency, environmental responsibility, and most of all, quality.

This is the company's founding document, from 1746, from the archives.  But more of this in the next post.  Let's go see our thread being made!

Patti and Laura, on the left, are the shop owners invited by fellow contest winner Louise, center.  They are located in Lancaster, Pa, at Threads Needlework. (That's Louise's wonderful husband, Jerry, also in the center.)  Here we have just arrived after being picked up at the train station by our hosts, Michel Biechlin (current head of Research and Development, but retiring) and Jean-Luc Barbier, Michel's next-in-line.

Jean-Luc and Michel.

We went into a lab where we were shown how threads are meticulously "stress tested" to ascertain exactly if their tensile strength is up to standard.  (DMC invented all these machines, by the way.)

They keep records of every dye lot of every color they make, to ensure that colors are exactly the same.  They make over 400 colors, so this is some amazing documentation.

 
Never will I take a skein of DMC thread for granted again!  This thought went through my mind often during the day...

Once the individual threads were spun, they are here being plied into the 6 strand floss we know so well. (The cotton is from Egypt.)

Another shot of the thread being plied.

It had then to be put into hanks, large ones, so the thread could be mercerized.

(This might be a different thread, like perle.)  But you can see it being wound from the cones into hanks.

Mercerizing is a chemical process that makes the thread smoother with a subtle sheen, and able to accept dye better.  The hanks get dipped into a solution for a short period of time.

Michel probably knows more about thread than just about anyone in the world!

All the different weights and types of threads were there.  I was thrilled!

 Have some perle....

You can see, I was starting to get overwhelmed!

And so was Louise....

And this was before we got to the dyeing room!

The hanks have been transformed...

Once they were dyed, three hanks went into a unit.  Each unit gives over 5,000 skeins of the thread we buy at our local needlework shop.  But if it seems like a lot, remember that DMC sells their thread to over 120 countries around the world.

We are talking a zillion miles of thread here.

Every color, every thread, tested and true....and ready for our needles.

The dyed hanks go back onto the cones so they can be measured, cut and packaged into the 8 meter skeins we all know. (We didn't see the other threads being packaged, just the floss.)
Due to reasons of industrial privacy, we were asked not to photograph the machinery where the skeins are made, but here are some labels!

There was so much pride amongst all the employees, and it was well deserved.  They didn't like being photographed, so we left them in peace, hard at work.

Before Michel and Jean-Luc dropped us off at the train station to return to Paris (and after we all had a celebratory glass of wine at the station), we were given bags of goodies.

The tour was treat enough, but we all came home with lots of beautiful thread.

And while the factory was fascinating, the Archives absolutely blew me away, maybe permanently!
That will be in my next post...

I will always treasure the memory of my day at the factory!

















42 comments :

deanna7trees said...

thank you. loved seeing the process.

Susan Elliott said...

Wonderful! That pic of you on the thread is dreamy...

Willa said...

I LOL'ed at the sight of you laying on the thread. It's just soooo Allie. (Still LOL'ing which I need right now! Thanks!)

Grovenore said...

I'm totally envious. That has to be an embroiderer's dream tour! Grovenore

Mary Anne Griffin said...

Allie, you truly deserved this trip! What a wonderful experience you had, and I am thankful that you shared it with us!

Magpie's Mumblings said...

What fun to see this process through your eyes! Almost as good as being there in person. It must have been a truly amazing trip!

Mosaic Magpie said...

What a fascinating post! To see all that thread bundled up...you make the point about the many countries where it is sold....and think about all the shops in all those countries. You are right, I won't think the same about that skein of floss. The rolls of labels were even neat to see. What a memory!

Connie said...

What a special day!

christine said...

Je suis française et j'ai beaucoup aimé votre reportage sur un des trésor de notre savoir-faire . Merci et bonne journée

Suztats said...

I think I would have been drooling over all that luscious thread! And you got goodies, too!

Marsha said...

So, so cool!

desertskyquilts said...

Thanks for sharing, Allie. That really is interesting, because I'm one of those people who love to know "how it is made."

Pamela Kellogg said...

Oh Allie, I will never get there so to see the DMC factory through your eyes and your blog, is a real treat for me! You know, I worked with DMC for many, many years and I was always proud of that. Thank you sweetie! I can't wait for your next post!

Hugs, Pam

Leeann said...

What a dream to go and visit the factory! I hope the staff have seen your work, as I'm sure they would be blown away by what you do with their thread.

Did you make a small piece for their office like you did for the silk flower shop?

Elaine said...

Wow! What a fantastic experience. Thank you for sharing :)

thewellhunt said...

Thank you for sharing. The pictures brought back memories of the cotton factory that used to be in my hometown.

susan nieuwoudt said...

Wow Thanks for sharing. I will never get to experience this in person, but thanks now I also know how much we need to appreciate all that DMC is doing to insure we get just the best.

Annette-California said...

My heart be still. WOW WOW WOW! I love that you got to go to DMC! thank you so much for sharing your trip with us. Great photos!

etbrodelepapillon said...

I wonder how many people have the chance of visiting DMC factory? You are one of them. And we have to thank you so so much for all the photos and explanations.

secondhandrose said...

Wow thank you for such a thorough display of the factory and explanation of the processes. It must have been a wonderful trip.
I am just a bit jealous!

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Abby / Linda said...

Very interesting post! Thanks for the tour!

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Anonymous said...

I hope the embroidery craft lives on forever, or at least until the last skein is manufactured. Lovely pictures, thanks for sharing the tour. I live in Europe so I might one day take a drive to Mulhouse.

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Cam S. said...

Thanks for sharing. Loved seeing the history (archives) as well the manufacturing process!

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