Dyeing this week, which means at least another week to ten days of sorting, winding, twisting, grouping, labelling, photographing, describing and listing. I no longer announce shop updates, but I’ll be quietly adding these into the shop in the next week or two, if all goes well.
It’s a lot of work, and it takes a while to sort through. Just as well I enjoy every bit of it. There are some really pretty colours this time.
Lucky me, I get to choose some of the leftovers – all the odd yards that aren’t needed for a full skein. Just right for a line of daily stitching.
Apparently we have hot weather on the way here in the UK so I’ll be in a darkened room somewhere trying to stay cool. Enjoy your weekend if you like it hot 😎
Approaching the end of my first month as a self-employed artist, there is a lot to reflect on. Briefly, I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard, and also I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. ‘Work’ means something different now. Primary goal for next month is to get better at managing my work/life balance, which is difficult when work and life have essentially become the same thing.
‘Work’ means this, among other things:
It also means wearing a variety of different hats from one minute to the next. Some of the jobs I’ve done so far this month are Sales Manager, Marketing Manager, Accountant, Goods Inwards Manager, Customer Service Manager, International Relations Manager, Tech Support Assistant, Logistics Manager, teacher, photographer, copy writer, proof reader, film director, video editor, sound engineer, dyer, content creator, and researcher. Haven’t had time to do any actual art yet.
But it’s a glorious feeling to wake up every morning filled with excitement for the working day ahead.
There will be thread in the shop soon (ish) – when I can get all of these skeins wound and sorted:
Here’s my Heath Robinson style skein twister. It’s a tiny hand drill I used to use years ago when I made miniatures, with a bent paper clip where the drill bit should be. The board is thick foam with a pencil stuck in it, clamped to a stool so it doesn’t move. I should probably patent it.
I think some of the Teachable teething problems have been resolved now, and so far people seem to be enjoying the online course – I’ve been assured by several students that it isn’t only for beginners, which makes me very happy.
I’ll let you know when threads are available – it will take as long as it takes, but probably (I hope) some time this week. The shop will be temporarily closed while I list the threads, but it should only be down for a day or two. I aim to have threads in the shop every month from now on, if I can. The first batch will be UK post only, just until Royal Mail gets through the backlog of delays caused by strike action in December and the cyber attack earlier this month. From next month I hope to return to international shipping.
A few people have asked about how I store my embroidery threads, so I thought a brief tour of my collection might be helpful.
I use a wide variety of threads, from very chunky cotton yarns (mostly for couching) to very fine silks, and pretty much everything in between. I will write a post some time about the various weights of thread that you can get and what you can use them for. For now I’m focusing on how to organise thread. This jumble of blue threads doesn’t look very organised, I know. I guess all things are relative.
When I dye threads, I dye them in skeins. They look really pretty in skeins, but I find them difficult to use like that because they very soon get horribly tangled, especially if you keep them all in the same box. I find the only way I can make them useable is to wind them somehow. I went through a phase a while ago of winding threads from skeins into little balls, but these also get tangled quite quickly.
I used to use sections of plastic drinking straw for winding threads from skeins after dyeing, which works quite well if you cut a little snip in the ends to anchor the thread before you start winding. The straws were left over from the olden days before we knew how damaging they are, and I figured it was better to use (and re-use) them than to let them end up in landfill.
Some of my threads are still on straws, but these days I tend to use little squares of regular 80gsm copy paper, about 3” square, and roll them up.
Again you need to snip the end of the paper tube so that the thread has somewhere to anchor itself to stop it unravelling. I find you don’t need to glue the roll of paper; the thread keeps it rolled quite securely.
I find it quite therapeutic to wind threads from skeins onto tubes, but it can take a long time depending on how fine the thread is.
The only time I use the commercial card bobbins (the kind that you can buy from embroidery shops) is for winding DMC stranded embroidery floss. I don’t like these card bobbins much because when you get to the end of the skein the thread ends up with permanent creases from being wrapped round the flat edges of card. I find there is no other sensible way of storing these though – I can’t see colours clearly enough with them piled up in skeins, and you need to label them in case you need to buy that particular colour again.
So there’s a little tour through my threads. I know lots of people who use sticks and twigs, and the old-fashioned wooden clothes pegs, to store thread. They look lovely, but I imagine would be bulky in large numbers. So – how do you store your threads? Let me know if you have any good tips.
I had a few days off from the day job this week so at last had time to dye some fabric and thread. This has been on the to-do list for months.
Some for me, and some for you, eventually. There will be a shop update when I can get round to sorting these into groups.
While I was waiting for everything to dry, I made a cover for the little notebook I use for dye notes. I made the book many years ago, when I first started having a go at dyeing. I don’t record everything in it, as most of my dyeing is quite intuitive so colours are often not repeatable. There are other dyers out there producing set lines but I prefer the more individual approach.
I really like the colour test card. Accidental abstract art in action, I’m calling it.
Difficult to concentrate on anything at the moment with all the conflict and trouble in Ukraine, so I rounded up everything that needed dyeing. It takes days to wind skeins of thread, dye fabric and thread, wash it, dry it, iron it, and unwind all the skeins, but it’s worth the effort.
Most of this is vintage linen/cotton, and the threads are mostly new and vintage crochet cottons. I find they work well as hand embroidery threads.
I prefer my threads wound into balls like this rather than wrapped onto thread cards. I don’t like the creases you get when you wind onto cardboard bobbins.
There is a lot of fabric here. There always seems to be more than I think there is, and it seems to last forever. This is a Good Thing. Some of it will find its way into the shop eventually.
It rained a lot today. I spent my lunch hour road-testing some of the threads while the frogs hopped around on the patio. I have plans for some new work, which I will start at some point. I still have a couple of ongoing things to finish first. I added this one to the shop this week:
It was originally the sleeve of a coat that I was never going to finish but then it took on a life of its own. It seemed to find its own time, as these things do.
Niddy noddy is such a ridiculous word. I prefer to call it a skein winder. I used to have a lovely wooden one but it was very bulky and took up a lot of storage space. I’ve recently found a lightweight one here that comes apart and can be stored flat.
I’m not on commission, by the way, I’m just really impressed by the design and how easy it is to use – one wrap equals one yard, so it’s easy to measure skeins of thread for dyeing. I usually improvise this part of the process, winding skeins around the back of a chair etc, but I may decide to try selling some hand-dyed threads and in that case I will need to know the yardage of the skein.
I have more textured yarn than I need. These are good for couching onto experimental embroidery or contemporary art quilts. Sometimes I crochet a chain with these yarns and then couch that to a surface if I want a more chunky appearance.
I will get round to doing a shop update at some point, just to see if there is any demand for a mixed pack of textured mini-skeins in these lovely woodsy muted colours. A little of these goes a long way, I find.
I also need to find time to dye some more embroidery threads. I often use crochet cotton as a substitute for perle threads as they are usually slightly more matt than perle and a bit smoother, which I prefer. My mother’s old knitting basket is the current repository for threads and yarns that need winding into skeins. It’s older than I am and has faded from red to pink, but it’s still going strong. It was always full of knitting in progress when I was a child and it’s good to see it still in service. I think these things remember what they were made for and like to stay useful.