Needle Exchange – DMC History Part II

Needle Exchange with Penny Nickels

Hi everybody! Last time we started with the history of DMC, today we continue!
We left off in the 1850’s when imitations of DMC products were becoming more prevalent, and the first prosecutions of trademark infringement commenced. As it happens, I ran across one of these cases.


The trademarks themselves are quite interesting. Here’s a collection I found from The Austrian Trademark Gazette, published in 1892 (Click to enlarge)

After the Franco-Prussian war, DMC continued to expand and acquired twelve block printing machines. They produced calicos and block printed wool fabrics, and also launched new sewing, crochet and embroidery threads. DMC was again awarded the Hor Concours at the Exhibition of 1879 at Paris. The following year, the Belfort works were created. These exclusively produced cotton thread and braids. They also began to produce gold and silver thread which was extremely sought after for ecclesiastical work.

They also set up an onsite printing press to handle all printing, from paper to packaging. As the company thrived, Jean Doullfus also sought to improve his employees living conditions. Due to the lack of housing near the factory to meet the needs of an increasing workforce, In 1850 he initiated the settlements called “Cities Ouvrieres” at Mulhouse. Napoleon III was so impressed with the endeavor, he ordered a subsidy of 300,000 francs to be paid to the community. Each house had a small garden and was sold to the worker at cost, giving them 14 to 16 years to pay off the property. By June 1885, 775 of the 1060 houses had been fully paid by their residents.
Jean Doulfus died in 1887, leaving DMC a worldwide recognized and respected company. His family, especially his grandsons Alfred Engel and F. engel-Gros and the later’s son-in-law E. Duvillar, continued Jean’s work and further expanded the company. By the early 1900’s DMC’s thread production had grown so successfully, in 1904 they shut down the mills that produced the printed fabric that had garnered DMC’s early recognition.

Now this is where my super sleuthing comes in. Until this point, I’ve been essentially paraphrasing the history  that’s available on the DMC website. But the late 1800’s and early 1900’s is where I’ve found some real treasures. This is the period that you start seeing DMC absolutely everywhere. (Click images to enlarge) From magazines-

Article from 1917

Article from 1905

Advertisements from 1904-1910

To young ladies’ instructional books-

Complete course of  Needlework and Cutting Out 1901

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Young Women’s Mutual Improvement Association, 1900

Even in physical therapy books for the care of the elderly and infirm.

A Manual for Nurses and Attendants 1910

I would be remiss to not speak about Therese de Dillmont here. Her book, Encyclopedia of Needlework, 1884 is not only classic for needleworkers, but was also born out of a partnership with DMC. Her love of their thread is evident on every page.
The choice of colours and material-a difficult matter to many-my readers will find rendered comparatively easy to them by the notes affixed to the illustrations; and I may point out, that most of the patterns were worked with D.M.C cottons, which enjoy the well-earned reputation of being, the very best of their kind, in the market of the world. Experience has convinced me that, in many instances, these cottons may with advantage take the place of wool, linen thread, and even silk.
If this work meet with indulgent judges, and prove really useful, I shall find ample reward in that fact for the trouble and difficulties that have unavoidably attended its completion. -Therese de Dillmont
Her book is available for free at Project Gutenberg.
Let’s stop here for today and pick up on July 15th for the final part in the history of DMC! And I’ll be sharing some extremely vintage patterns at the conclusion of the article!
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Penny Nickels is a printmaker that started playing with needles with tremendous effect. She and her husband, Johnny Murder, have been described as the “Bonnie and Clyde of Contemporary Embroidery” and you can discover the power of her creativity at her blog.
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Photos featured are property of DMC, book and magazine excerpts are copyright free.

Nearly all of the information in this article was taken from the DMC website, with their permission.

Visit http://dmc-threads.com/ and http://www.dmc-usa.com/ for more information.

Penny Nickels
Penny Nickels is a print maker, a former book binder, currently a fiber artist and fledgling writer.
Penny Nickels

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6 thoughts on “Needle Exchange – DMC History Part II

  • Is it July 15th yet? I love the DMC history, it is so neat!

  • Are the DMC Thread Numbers that Therese de Dillmont refers to in her wonderful book the same as the numbers used today? I’ve always wondered.
    I’d like to do several of her projects.

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