Shop update – threads

Just flying through to announce a shop update 7pm today (GMT) for UK people ONLY – sorry – there is still a problem with Royal Mail’s international service. There will be more threads later when the problems have been resolved.

They’re not all green 😎

Available here from 7pm today.

On Work

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:

Thread dyeing in progress

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:

Textured threads
Cotton threads (they’re not all green!)

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.

Unpatented Heath Robinson skein winder

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.

And on that note, it’s back to work for me.

On storing thread

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.

Blue threads

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.

Skeins of thread

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.

Drinking straw bobbins

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.

Squares of copy paper ready to roll

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.

Purples. That horribly tangled black thing (top left) is coton a broder and needs winding

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.

Green threads. Some of these are commercial threads; most are hand-dyed cotton and silk

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.

DMC stranded embroidery thread

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.

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