Have Your Say

3rd September 2021

Of Orts and Men

We’re sure we’re not imagining it, but you are all getting chattier every week! Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves that our jobs involve having fabulous conversations with some of the nicest people imaginable, where we get to talk about our passion from morning till night and still have plenty of things to discuss. Are we fortunate or what?! And that’s all because of you and all the wonderful conversations we get to have together.

We really ought to start with orts. First things first, Jane Branfield asked a question that probably others wondered as well – what does ‘orts’ stand for? We’re so sorry for not explaining! 

The term ‘orts’ is an acronym for ‘old raggedy threads’ and refers to all of the left over bits of thread from finished projects.

Originally of Germanic origin, ‘orts’ is related to the Dutch word oorete; from 00r- remaining and ete– food, and referred to food scraps.

These days it has well and truly become synonymous with any kind of crafty leftovers. We hope that helps!

Susan Cuss uses her orts for all sorts of things, but her most recent orts project was this lovely book cover. Susan had saved all the leftover threads from sewing new table mats, as well as fabric scraps, stray threads, ribbons, yarns and foil candy wrappers. From this collection she created a new fabric using wash-away stabiliser. The book is a gift for a friend who is very fortunate indeed to receive such a beautiful item.

Trish McKie uses her orts to stuff pincushions, and we think this is a very clever use indeed, and Trish even says using ort-filled pincushions helps prevent her needles and pins from rusting.

Stephanie Murphy and the rest of her guild were given glass ornaments that they were encouraged to fill with orts. They then held a ‘Christmas in July’ presentation to see how everyone was doing with them. This meeting is special for her guild, as the group work on a charity project and have a local children’s home come and speak to them. The ort ornaments were on display and, as you can see, they looked fabulous.

From orts to organisation now, and Bunny Goodman shared with us an innovative way of organising her crewel wool. She has a full collection of Appleton’s Yarns and wanted to both see and access them all easily, so had the idea to purchase three shoe caddies with clear plastic pockets. Next, Bunny made labels with colour names for each compartment with non-permanent stickers as, in the future, she’s hoping to stitch each colour name and number on the pocket instead. She even built a PVC rack on wheels to hold up the caddies. What a clever solution!

In All Stitched Up! issue #293 we also wrote an article about ‘Sew Bros’ featuring men who sew their own clothes. This piece caused Ann to muse on a couple of strange facts in the sewing world. She observed that although sewing and yarn shops are mostly populated by women, tailors are mostly men, however you rarely hear about young men or boys sewing.

‘So, where do they come from? Do they just hatch into fully fledged tailors once they reach a certain age?’

She also noted that sewing machines are usually regarded as ‘women’s things’ and yet, when you go into a shop to a buy sewing machine, the salespeople there are usually men. As she rightly says, ‘such a strange world is the world of sewing…’

Roberta Kenney had done some research into the history of needlework and mentioned that when the early guilds were formed, it was an entirely male-oriented business. Men did all the designing and making, whether it was ordinary garments or magnificent ecclesiastical furnishings. Women in convents did embroidery or produced garments in the home for the family, but very little more. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that women became involved in producing fabric and garments, at which time the association with the skill switched almost entirely to women.

The article reminded Heather Cartmel of a book she read recently called ‘The Coat Route’ by Meg Lukens Noonan. This book was an account of the making of a $50,000 coat by John H. Cutler, a fourth-generation tailor in Sydney, Australia. It talks about the cost of many of the elements of the coat and why these items were so expensive, as well as expanding on how the business of bespoke tailoring is dying out. It sounds like a fascinating read.

Coats, orts, books or storage – there is no topic concerning needlework that we won’t cover so we encourage everyone to get involved with our weekly chats. Even if you just send us one line with a single thought, we welcome it, as well as those with personal stories, recommendations or questions… we’re looking forward to hearing from you all!

Join our FREE weekly newsletter All Stitched Up!

Back to top