Updated: March 6, 2018
It is a lovely canvas. Someone has given it to you, or you’ve found it at an unbelievable price.
There’s only one problem. It’s partially stitched, but hasn’t got the threads with it. I recently had gthis problem with a Tapestry Tent stocking from the stash of a woman who no longer stitched. Her sister wants the stocking finished, but there were no threads that could be identified.
A reader wrote to me recently with this problem as well and it got me thinking about what to do.
The easiest thing is to find a friend or a shop who knows a lot about threads and get their help identifying what’s there. Most likely you will do this at the end of this process but there are ways you can start the process yourself and make it easier.
You’ll need a pad of paper and a pen or pencil for this task. Use several sheets labeled New Threads (three columns), and Old Thread (five columns).
Begin by doing triage on the canvas.
- Is all of a color or area stitched? Don’t worry about it. You’re done there.
- If there are additional areas in this color, treat these stitched areas as Old Threads.
- Is none of an area or color stitched? Write that down on a piece of paper headed “New Threads.” These you’ll be able to pick yourself.
- Is an area partially stitched? Is one of a pair of something (like shoes) stitched? These are where you will concentrate your time. Put them on the sheet labelled “Old Threads.”
The New Threads will be the ones you buy at the shop or find in your stash. They should be in keeping with the other threads in the piece. So you wouldn’t pick rayon for a new thread in a piece that was all wool and is mostly stitched. But for these threads you’ll be able to pick from what’s available now without a problem. There a very few threads that have no current equivalent (I can only think of a couple).
Spend your time on the old threads. In the second column note if this old thread is in an area that is part of a pair, partially stitched, or not contiguous with other areas in this thread.
If it isn’t contiguous, it’s basically a new thread and you do your best to identify the thread used in the other matching areas. The closer you can get to this thread, the better your canvas will look.You’ll see some of these questions in the next paragraph.
The third column is for characteristics of the old thread. Write down as many as you can figure out. What fiber is it? Is it stranded? Is it metallic or a ribbon? Is it shiny? All these things help identify the thread. For example a shiny, non-metallic ribbon might be Neon Rays, but if it’s kind of translucent, it’s probably Flair or Rachel. All you need to know is the characteristics, not the thread.
Many threads, especially if it’s an older piece are no longer made. But knowing the characteristics of the older thread will help you find the closest match in today’s threads.
The fourth column is for your suspect thread, if you know it. If you’ve been needlepointing for awhile, then you might recognize some threads. If you know the age of the piece, you can ID some threads. For example, a stranded wool is likely to be Medici in an older piece. An overdyed floss from several years ago might be Needle Necessities. Neither of these threads is made. But there are some equivalents and substitutes. For example, that Needle Necessities would now be Threadworx. Bella Lusso is often substituted for Medici.
At this point the canvas has given up its secrets to you. Now you need to find a friend or a shop with a large selection of threads. That’s what the last column is for — the new thread.
To find the new thread you will want to match the thread and color as closely as possible. Once you have found these threads, you can stitch away unless the area is partially stitched.
When an area is partially stitched, you have two choices. You can cut out what has been stitched, or you can treat it as a dyelot problem. In my experience often dyelot solutions will not work and I end up cutting out the old thread.