I admit it freely, most of my life I have been a thread junkie. I love thread — the more unusual, the better. If I hear about a new thread, I buy it. I want to try every thread I can. I quit knitting because my yarn stash was growing out of bounds.
For many years I have kept a section of my thread stash called “Odds Bodkins.” It has weird threads: threads no longer made that I love, the odd package or two of threads I don’t use much, and sample packages I’ve gotten. The majority of threads here are from small producers that you don’t often find at shops. I love them because I can go there and find a new look for a project. I can play with colors. I can create different effects.
It’s worthwhile for you to create your own Odds Bodkins area so that you can try new threads. Not only will these threads give your projects a new look, you may find fibers, colors, or thread types you want to use more often.
Today we’ll talk about how to find these threads, what colors to buy, and how to incorporate them into your work.
Finding Unusual Threads
By far the best source for these threads is Easy (http://www.etsy.com). You’ll find lots of small makes there. Unhappily, the search engine on Easy is not great. Because of this, search when you have time and be sure to mark your favorite sellers and products so you can find them again.
Start your search by entering a broad term. While writing this post, I used “hand-dyed embroidery thread.” There were almost 7500 results! Narrow this down by choosing “craft supplies & tools.” This will still give you thousands of hits. Clicking on one of the sub-categories narrows it down slightly.
Now you need to start skimming the thumbnail summary pages. Scroll through the listings, ignoring ads. If you see something you like, click on it, but also note the shop name.
Clicking will take you to a detail page for the item. Above the item’s picture on the left is the shop name. You can make the shop a favorite here. On the right near the top are some thumbnails of other products and a count of how may listings the shop has. You can click on that number to aee what’s in the shop. Don’t do that yet.
Look at the item and buy it or move on. Under the price on the right are some suggested products from this shop; this also takes you into the shop.
Don’t forget to favorite before you’ve away!
Since there are thousands of listings, you need a strategy for skimming. You can safely assume that dyes have several listings so they show up randomly. By skipping pages you search faster but probably won’t miss much. Use this strategy to page through to find more threads. Favorite or buy as you go through.
This gets you started when you don’t know what type of threads you want. If you do know, add those terms into your search box, for example “hand-dyed silk embroidery thread. You could also add a color, or use both. My search for yielded 422 results!
Another part of Easy I like to use for finding threads is the knitting area. Knitters often have mini-skeins of 10 or so yards. For a knitter this is very small. For a needlepointed — it’s a treasure. Search for “hand-dyed lace weight mini skeins” if you like `18mesh or “hand-dyed sock weight mini-skeins” for 13 mesh.
Even if you don’t buy threads today, you have places to look the next time you want unusual thread!
What Colors to Buy
When you are looking for colors in threads when you don’t have a project ion mind, buy colors in one of these groups:
- Essential Colors: These colors are greens (for plants(, browns (for fur and hair), flesh colors, light blue (skies), and brownish-greys (tree trunks). You will always use threads in these colors, making them perfect for these explorations
- Favorite Colors: If you have a favorite color, chances are you use it often for projects. New and unusual threads in these colors always work because you can use them in those same projects.
- Backgrounds: If I plan on buying, or can only find, larger quantities of a thread, I’ll buy a background color. Since by their nature I cannot duplicate this color, I always make sure to buy plenty.
Using your Threads
If the threads are a familiar construction, for example floss or pearl cotton, then use them as you normally would.
If the thread are unfamiliar you need to assess them. First, think about canvas side. Begin by comparing them to threads you know well. Are they similar in size to #5 pear? Then they are probably great for 18 mesh. Are they lofty and thick, like Vineyard Silk? Try these on 13 mesh. Are they really thick, like Tapestry Wool? Try these on 10 or 12 mesh.
Once you know the size, consider if they can be stitched. Needlepoint canvas is hard on thread. Threads that are too fragile or uneven will need to be couched. If your thread has great variation in width, couch. If you can easily break it with your hands, couch. For everything else you’ll need to test by stitching. Cut a regular stitch9ing length and stitch Tent on a scrap of canvas. If it doesn’t break or fray, you can stitch with it.
If it breaks or frays see where this happened. If it happened near the beginning or middle, couch this thread. if it happened near the end, use shorter stitching lengths.
Now you’re ready to go out and use these odd threads in your projects.