Threads, Threads, Everywhere…
1st July 2022
For many needleworkers, a favourite aspect of the hobby is collecting threads. We never seem to have enough threads and whenever we find a new project that we simply must do, there’s a good chance we will probably need a few new threads for it too! Any excuse, we say! Having a healthy stash of threads is one thing, but then we are faced with the question of how do we store them? What is the most effective way to keep our threads to make them easy to find and, when it comes to it, easy to use?
There are many different ways of storing threads, and not every method works for every thread type. We’ll talk about a few possibilities here but as usual, we are writing this in anticipation of all of the other wonderful ideas we might receive from our engaged and clever readers.
Working with Skeins
One of the most common types of thread in our needlework world is stranded cotton. Most come as 6-stranded skeins, which have two labels or cuffs on them when you purchase them. Usually, the thread colour number is printed on one of the cuffs.
Some people simply keep their threads in their original skein. You can, of course, simply cut your lengths from the skein, although make sure you pull it from the correct end!
For DMC, Anchor or other standard brands, if you pull it from the bottom end – that is the end nearest the longer cuff – it won’t tangle.
If you pull the other end, you’re almost guaranteed to end up with a knot!
However, if you’re only using one or two strands, the question is then, what do you do with the leftover piece? If you cut the strands you need, leaving the rest still attached to the main skein, how do you keep the length you’ve pulled out tidy? These are dilemmas to deal with as you go, but you also have to consider that, as you get towards the end of the skein, the cuffs no longer fit snugly and are liable to fall off.
A lot of needleworkers like their materials to be tidy. There’s pleasure in order, so having scrappy skeins with cuffs falling off and cut lengths hanging doesn’t suit everyone. Fortunately, there are other options.
One of the most popular options is to wind your threads onto bobbins. You can purchase bobbins that are cut to fit neatly into thread boxes, and comfortably take a full skein of thread. By writing the thread number on the end of the bobbin, you can then box them up in numerical order, which makes for easy, efficient stitching.
If you don’t want to buy bobbins, you can always cut your own from cardboard. There are plenty of templates available on the internet. You can also buy beautifully tooled wooden bobbins, or bobbins made from other materials and in other shapes.
Whatever shape or size you use, there’s many a stitcher who finds enormous pleasure in wiling away several meditative hours winding their threads onto bobbins.
We’ve discovered several variations on the theme of bobbins. We’ve seen people wind their threads onto pegs or empty cotton reels among other things. Your creativity is your only limit.
A second popular option is to use a thread holder. This is a flat holder with holes around the edge and can be as simple as a piece of cardboard with holes punched out using a hole punch, all the way through to a gorgeous, custom-made wooden thread holder in various shapes. You loop each thread into the hole, and then, as long as you have cut one end to create lengths, you can easily remove a single strand by picking it up at the looped end and gently pulling.
The only problem with a thread holder is that you have a limited number of holes, so this is a perfect option for a project that only has a small number of different threads. It might not be the best solution if you have tens or even hundreds of different threads. However, it is also ideal for crewel wools, skeins of perlé cotton, broder or many other fibres.
Plaiting or Braiding your Threads
A further solution that works for stranded cotton but is also ideal for crewel wool or skeins of perlé cotton is to plait or braid your threads. This allows you to pull out a single thread with ease from the top without affecting the braid.
It may seem difficult to believe, but just try it! As long as you pull gently, working the single thread out, your braid stays intact and tidy.
To create the braid, carefully undo the skein, then decide how long you want your lengths to be. Wrap the skein around a piece of appropriately sized card as if you were making a tassel, then cut it at the bottom. Holding the top carefully, divide the rest of the skein into three and braid it. You can tie the braid at the bottom with a piece of scrap cotton.
To ensure you keep the thread number with your skein, you can either thread the cuff up to the top before you braid, or you can tie a tag on to the scrap cotton with the colour number.
These solutions are ideal for working threads, but what about storing your stash whilst it waits for the perfect project? Once again, there are many different ways of doing this.
Some people have multiple boxes and as soon as they get new threads, they wind them immediately onto bobbins and file them away. Others keep colours in separate ziplock bags, labelling each bag with the brand and colour number. This allows them to store multiple skeins of the same colour together.
Thread storage in jars from Time With Thea
Still others use some of the specialist systems devised by thread manufacturers. For instance, DMC makes thread ‘bows’, which fit a skein perfectly. Called their ‘Gold Concept’, the bows then fit into plastic sheets that come in a ring binder. You can purchase more plastic inserts as required.
These are just a few of the many possible ways to keep your threads. We’re sure there are hundreds more.
File folder storage from Horse Country Chic
Do you have a specific way you store your threads? Do you have different ways to hold the threads you are using as opposed to the ones in your stash? Do you use different methods for different types of threads? We’d love to hear how you keep your threads tidy and organised. We love learning new things so please write in and tell us!