Falling (Back) in Love with Your Stash | Part 1 – Threads
13th November 2020
By Nancy Williams
It is time for us to be honest with each other. How many of us have a craft stash so large we’d need to live until we were 250 years old to have any hope of making a dent in it?! I am waving my hand madly here and I know I am not alone. I suspect I am also not alone in feeling that I really want to use it up, but sometimes I just don’t get inspired by it. I’m also very aware that constantly buying more just increases the number of years I’d need to live to do it justice!
Rather than living with that vague feeling of guilt, I started doing some research on different ways to reuse, reinvigorate and reinspire. With a stash including threads, yarn, fabrics, patterns, UFOs and countless books, magazines and kits, it felt like high time to look at it all with fresh eyes.
I have a box – actually, it is a crate – filled with random bits of stranded cotton. These include leftovers from kits, unbranded skeins, donated collections and various other bits and pieces I’ve gathered over the years.
All of them are usable sizes but, short of sitting down for days and carefully comparing each colour with my DMC collection, none of them correspond to exact DMC or Anchor numbers. There are several suggestions for reinvigorating this (let’s be honest) ‘rat’s nest’.
‘Rat’s Nest’ by Nancy Williams
Firstly, who is to say that we have to use the exact thread numbers for that 30-year-old sampler pattern we’ve wanted to stitch for ages? Rather than buy more threads, dive into your stash and choose colours which are near enough. Or better still, choose new colours. About the only pitfall is ensuring you have enough of that particular colour to complete the pattern, but you can get some wonderful, individual effects by using different tones.
If you are concerned about whether the colours will work, do a ‘floss toss’. This is where you get all of the threads you want to use together, then pile them on the fabric you’re going to be stitching on. Now, step back from it. If there is a colour that jars or looks out of place, take it out and try another.
Just remember what Trish Burr told us in her book Colour Confidence in Embroidery: there is no such thing as a wrong colour combination.
Another suggestion is to dispense with the pattern altogether. If you’ve ever wanted to try your own design, what better way to start exercising your creativity than with a wonderful crate of random threads. If you don’t think you can draw a design, there are so many fabulous ideas on the internet, from children’s colouring pages to free embroidery designs. Download one, trace it on to your fabric, grab a thread and start stitching.
Not sure what stitch to use? Just choose one. Don’t make it too complicated. If you want to stitch the whole thing in stem stitch, that’s great. Or satin stitch. Or French knots. Sometimes, the best way to begin is to not think about it and just see what happens.
If the randomness of the box of threads worries you, then it might be time to spend a few days with it and sort it out. Wind the pieces onto bobbins or thread cards. Then sort them, and any unbranded or old skeins, into colour groups. There are few things more inspiring than a tidy box of threads all sorted into colours, with different shades and tones and hues all beautifully aligned. This might be all you need to do in order to fall back in love with your old threads.
Over the years, I’ve not just collected stranded cotton. I have silks, speciality threads and boxes and boxes of perlé cottons, crochet cottons and sewing thread. Some of them are so lovely I’m almost afraid to use them. But a lot of them are very old, or simply in colours I just don’t like.
We all see colour differently and all of us feel passionate about different types of colour. I adore bright, bold colours, so in order to revitalise my stash, I tried dying some of my threads.
Different threads require different dyes and dying can go from the ultra-sophisticated to the absolutely basic. There are plenty of resources to explain how to dye different fibres, but I just bought a simple tie dye kit and had a go at dying cotton threads.
It was a bit messy, but oh so much fun, and the unique results were worth the clean up!
Whether you want to try natural dyes, vegetable dyes, commercial dyes or even just experimenting with tea, coffee or turmeric, you can turn those bland, dull or unwanted threads into something utterly inspiring.
I hope that this will encourage you to revisit your thread stash and start to think differently about it. Next time, we’re going to look at fabrics and yarns, but in the meantime, if you’ve found ways to fall back in love with your stash, and to reuse, reinvigorate and reinspire, we’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m sure I am merely scratching the surface and I can’t wait to get more ideas from the community.