Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Needlework Stash – Some New Embroidery Threads


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When I stop in at a needlework shop, the most difficult thing to do is to leave without buying anything! While on vacation this summer, I visited a few shops and added to my embroidery stash. When I buy new threads, fabrics, kits, or patterns – anything, actually – I try to make certain I’m buying stuff I actually WILL use. So I’d like to share a few finds with you. Perhaps they aren’t too extraordinary, but they’re beautiful threads!

Since the shops I visited in the Southeast focused mainly on needlepoint or counted thread techniques, the threads I picked up are highly suited to those techniques. For the first time, I got to feeeeel some threads that I’ve read about but have never come across in shops.

Here’s a rather disorganized pile of all the embroidery goods I bought: Silk ‘n Ivory, Vineyard Silk, Soie d’Alger, good ole cotton perle, ribbon floss, Rachelette by Caron, a couple little kits, and some stretcher bar, which aren’t pictured!

Vineyard Silk is a Chinese silk that’s produced in thicknesses suitable for needlepoint, but its use is not limited to needlepoint! It’s an excellent, lustrous substitute for the traditional wools used in Jacobean or crewel embroidery, and would do well, I think, in any surface embroidery where you want a thicker thread. If you want to read about Vineyard Silk and see what’s available in their line, check out the Vineyard Silk website. The classic colors are fantastic, and the subtle shades are perfect for long and short stitch flowers, etc.

Silk ‘n Ivory is one of those threads I’ve longed to see up close and feel, but haven’t had the opportunity to do so until now. Again, another thread good for needlepoint, but not limited to needlepoint. Silk ‘n Ivory is a 50% wool, 50% silk thread, non-divisible and twisted. It has a nice sheen (not as much as the 100% silk threads, but very close), and it comes in a fantastic color range. It’s distributed by a company called Brown Paper Packages, and is Swiss in origin. They also distribute the thread Trio, which is similar to Silk ‘n Ivory, but it is divisible.

I probably don’t need to explain Soie d’Alger by Au Ver a Soie, as I write about it quite often. But for those of you who are not familiar with this fine silk thread, it is French in origin, and possibly the best silk on the market. It comes in 5 meter skeins of 7-ply thread, one strand being about the same size as one strand of DMC stranded cotton. The difference between the silk and the cotton is the beautiful natural sheen of the silk, which will last for generations and generations. Soie d’Alger is a very strong silk; it doesn’t fray easily and is great for any embroidery project. It’s produced in well over 600 colors, so you can imagine the variety of color and the subtle shades you can achieve in your needlework with this thread! I just love the stuff.

Here’s a jumbled little pile of DMC #5 perle cotton. I guess it’s not something that you’d go “WOW” over, since it’s pretty commonly available everywhere. But I liked these colors, and I use the #5 perle in my summer embroidery classes for kids, so… I bought a bunch of it in colors I knew they’d like. Their first project this summer is embroidery notebook covers worked on wool felt, so these threads will be great for that.

You may be wondering what ribbon floss is, and I will tell you truthfully that I’m wondering the same thing. I gather it’s a floss that looks like ribbon, or a ribbon that behaves like floss, or something along those lines! I’ve never used it before, and, as you can see, I haven’t even unwrapped the packages yet, but it intrigues me, so I’ll have fun trying it on something. It’s rayon, which could be a big drawback, as rayon threads can be a pain to work with. But given the general width of the floss (or ribbon?), I don’t think it will boing up the way other rayon does. It apparently is comparable to one full (6 strands) of DMC, size-wise, and it works like ribbon, with the flexibility of floss. We shall see! I imagine it makes a pretty good accent thread for any kind of project.

I thought the Rachelette by Caron looked like a cross between funky and gorgeous. It’s a nylon thread, with an outer net-like thread over it, and it’s got a metallic sparkle to it. Another item which will make neat accents in the right place on the right kind of piece.

And finally, I bought two little kits – The Sweetheart Tree makes some really pretty counted thread kits. They aren’t all cross stitch; many incorporate specialty stitches as well. I had such plans for these little gems! I didn’t take any needlework along with me, so I bought these at the beginning of my trip. The only thing the kits lack is scissors. So I bought a pair of those, too. Anyway, I left the kits behind me in Florida when I left, so as I was sitting on my balcony in Charleston, overlooking the water and enjoying the evening views, I couldn’t do one stitch of anything! My sister kindly mailed them home to me. Ah well – that’s life!

So those are some fun new supplies I’ve picked up. If anyone’s used any of these threads, I’d love to hear whether or not you like them, how you use them, and if there’s anything out there you prefer to them!


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(10) Comments

  1. Ribbon floss is quite versatile and also comes in several types (a heathered, plain, plain with a touch of gold woven in they call Shimmer, and mostly metallic). It looks best in long lengths although I have used it in tent stitches when I needed a certain color. You will need to use a laying tool to keep it untwisted as you stitch (I use a nut pick from my nutcracker set, the hook is perfect to keep it straight) but it makes very pretty French knots, nice woven stitches, etc. You can see more about it on the YLI website. They just bought the company and are repackaging the spools as threads wrapped around a plastic rectangle frame.


    You can buy little mesh bags to put over the cardboard tubes to keep the thread from unwinding itself.

    Jane/Chilly Hollow

  2. Hi Mary I know you did this review in June of 2007. My question to you is how do you feel about these threads you have bought after testing them out? Do you Recommend them today in 2011?

    Thank you,
    Jennifer G.

    1. Hi, Jennifer! Thanks for asking – and a very good question! The Soie d’Alger is a definite favorite and I think will always be the highest quality silk thread available. It is wonderful to stitch with, and it has definitely “withstood the test of time.” DMC perle cotton is a standard, good quality perle cotton. You can’t really go wrong with it, when you need perle cotton. The ribbon floss – well, it works ok in interesting applications, for variety. For example, it works well on needlepoint canvas, to add contrast. It also couches well on surface things, and you can also do some interesting little ribbon-embroidery-type-things with it. That being said, it’s not a standard thread, and I haven’t used it much for anything except playing with. I’d think crazy quilters and needlepointers would like it. Rachelette by Caron is a tubular thread made out of nylon. It’s quite stretchy. It works well as an accent on needlepoint canvases. It could also be couched on surface things, for mixed-media type embroidery, or for crazy quilting. Again, an accent thread – not something that would ever be a “go to” thread for any serious embroidery, but fun for accent work. About silk ‘n ivory and vineyard silk…. They’re ok for needlepoint. They don’t hold up to surface embroidery, so as far as crewel work or anything with them, I’d give them a miss. But they do fine on the open mesh of a needlepoint canvas.

      Thanks again for asking!


  3. Mary; Would you please direct me as how to know how many threads to used on different stitches?
    I really love your videos, because I am a “hands-on” person; a lot better with the “visual”.
    Looking forward to getting into the crewel, but I don’t know when to use more than one thread.
    Please help. Thank you-CJ-Shreveport, LA

    1. Hi, Carla – Thanks for your comment!

      How many strands of thread you use depends on the type of embroidery you’re doing. If you’re doing crewel embroidery with wool threads, normally you just use one strand of wool. If you’re using stranded cotton (embroidery floss), then you’ve probably noticed that the floss can be broken down into 6 different strands. How many of those strands you decide to use depends on how bold or delicate you want your embroidery to be. There isn’t a “set rule” of numbers of strands per type of stitch – it just depends on the look you’re trying to achieve.

      Hope that helps!

  4. Hello there,

    Could you send me a catalogue with the colors:silk threads?

    How much does it cost per meter?

    How much does it cost to send?

    Thanks in beforehand,

    Respectfully yours,

    Annie Fischler

  5. I would like to use Silk ‘n Ivory for a crewel embroidery project. Have you used it for crewel and if so would you recommend it for crewel embroidery. I have used Silk ‘n Ivory for needlepoint only and love it.

    Many thanks

    1. Hi, Elizabeth, I think it would shred a bit with crewel work. It is definitely more of a needlepoint yard. When you pass through needlepoint canvas, there’s not as much friction, because the hole is open. When you pass through fabric, there’s a lot more friction on the thread, and I don’t think silk ‘n ivory is really made for that type of work. Just my two cents’ worth – you can always try it and see how it goes!

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