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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A Glance at Silk Embroidery Threads


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Today I wanted to show you in up-close, personal detail, the new palette of threads for my next embroidery project, which I am itching to start stitching on! Unfortunately, right in the midst of their photo session, a little emergency creeped up, preventing me from getting a good range of quality shots. For now, I’ll just give you the overview and tell you where I’m headed. We’ll look a bit closer later!

Silk Hand Embroidery Thread

Here you see them! Aaaaah. There’s nothing I like better than sitting down with a group of silk thread and having a good look-over. What you see here is a combination of various weights of silk thread, with a few spools of Londonderry Linen threads mixed in here and there. The project will also incorporate Soie d’Algier, which is a stranded silk (on skeins), and they didn’t quite make it into the photo.

All of the silks are imported into the US by Access Commodities. They include Trebizond, but the majority are Au Ver a Soie silks from France, which I am convinced are really the finest embroidery silks, with the best range of types, on the market. There are other silks out there that are fun to stitch with, and that are pretty, but when it comes to thread quality and range, I do think that these silks top the charts. (Can you tell I like them?!) I’ll show you the different types and weights involved in this project as I go.

So those are the silks that I’m using – but there are more ingredients going into the project: real metals of different types (though the project is not a “goldwork” project – it’s a silk project), and a bead or two…. or three.

I’m calling this particular project “Jacobean Jumble,” and it will involve a completely filled embroidered area, with the foundation design a conglomeration of two Jacobean motifs that kind of swirl together and lose their identity. I know it sounds weird – and it may very well end up being weird! – but the exercise will be in working with various silk threads (and some metal), with an overall “exposure” of the texture created by the different types of silk threads and the stitches. Confused? Having a hard time picturing it? That’s ok! I’ll show you updates as I go along.

I’ll be working another project with some of these colors, though with a more limited range of types of threads, but first, I’m concentrating on getting the Jumble out of the way!

My plan for today: I’ll finish up a new slew of photos, and get the design transferred, the project framed up, and maybe even some stitches onto the fabric! Wish me luck!

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? I’m all ears!


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(27) Comments

  1. I love the picture of the threads. I’ve always loved seeing threads either in their own color groups,or simply willy nilly – and have often found lovely color combination’s that way. I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of the pictures and the piece you’re working on.

  2. Your photo of your threads on spools makes me wonder if these are silk sewing threads and, if so, the brand. Embroiderying with sewing thread…wow.

    Though maybe you wind your embroidery threads onto spools–as I sometimes do. It works well for me in keeping them under control

    1. Hi, all! Glad you’re looking forward to the Jumble project and that you like seeing the threads! I LOVE playing with threads, but at some point, I suppose I need to settle down and actually start “working” (which I consider to be playing, too!)

      Ruth, the threads are all embroidery threads – made specifically for hand embroidery. They come on spools, so no winding involved, there. The Au Ver a Soie line of silk all come on spools, with the exception of Soie d’Alger, which is their stranded silk (seven individual strands for each thread). Everything else in their line – Soie Gobelins, Soie Ovale, Soie Perlee, Soie de Paris, Soie 100/3, Soie Surfine – comes on spools, as does Trebizond (a thicker-thread, z-twisted filament silk). I love working off spools!

      Off to the work table!


  3. Heavens to Murgatroyd! She’s on vacation! Everybody DUCK! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    That photo made me drool and want to just curl up and play with the spools, making different color combinations. Heck with stitching, I’d just sit and play! 🙂

    Looking forward to seeing Jumbledom…!

  4. Soon, I will need au ver a soie embroidery threads. Do I need to have a company to get them or will access commodities provide them to anyone, so to speak?! I couldn’t agree more about them being the most beautiful silks! I admit I used to just buy a few here and there in England just ’cause they looked so beautiful! Thanks

    1. Thanks, Linda – I hope to have a first “progress” post up for you this week!

      Audrey – If you’re in the UK, you’ll probably have to get the threads from a supplier there, or straight from France. I’m not sure how that works in the UK. In the US, Access Commodities is the importer, but to actually buy the goods they import, you have to go through a retail shop. Some shops that carry their threads (online) in the US: Hedgehog Handworks, Needle in a Haystack, Fireside Stitchery. Hope that helps!


  5. I can’t wait for more info on silk. My experience using silk is limited. So I am anxious for every bit of your expert advise. I hope you can share the project soon, as it sounds like a fun thing to work on. Thanks for making every day brighter with your daily stitching thoughts.

  6. Hi Mary
    I love these silks …. especially the reds. I’ve noticed that some threads seem to have much more beautiful sheen that others … Take the reds & greys for example … then look at the greens … Is it the weight or what, that makes the sheen different?
    I’ve really been in love with blue/reds for the last 18 mths or so … so of course the first colour that jumped out at me, were the reds! I can imagine the reds & greys together, the reds & gold/yellows together, as well as the deep purples.
    I am however, looking forward to seeing what you do with all those dark greens & browns amongst all those other beautiful colours. Are there tree trunks or branches, as well as foliage in the pattern?
    You are correct that I don’t appear to be too thrilled with greens & browns, which is why I’m looking forward to seeing how you combine the colours. However, if there are any greens with the same sheen as the reds, well … that may make a difference to them. 🙂
    Looking forward to seeing your design & your handling of the threads …

    1. Hi, Carol – this particular project will develop a bit “organically” – a natural development as I stitch it. I have ideas where I want heavier weights and finer weights of thread, and where I want shadows and highlights, but much of this particular project will be a sort of “journey” of discovery.

      Hi, Wendy – most of the threads do have a sheen to them (the exception would be the occasional linen thread in there). The height of sheen depends on the type of silk (filament vs. spun) as well as the twist of silk. It also, alas, depends a bit on my poor photography skills!

      I should probably note that not every thread shown in the photo will necessarily be used in the project! I’ll be tracking carefully which threads I use and how much of them…


  7. Good Luck, Mary! These colors are lovely. Looking forward to seeing and reading about how your new project progresses. Also wishing you the very best of this upcoming year.

  8. Lovely photo Mary! Are you using Au Ver a Soie 100/3 or Soie Surfine? I’m using the 100/3 for a needelace project. The Soie Surfine is beautiful but it’s really very fine, and much more difficult to work with. I’ll be interested to hear how the Trezibond works out – I haven’t used that before.

  9. You know, I always feel that my rather plentiful thread collection is a bit sparse whenever you show off a small fraction of yours!! Maybe you should do it more often, then I’ll just never feel guilty about the quantity I own!

    I agree that threads, esp shiny ones, are a real feast for the eyes. Just looking at them can make someone feel inspired and ready to grab a needle. I should go through mine again soon then…..

  10. Mary: I can’t wait to see a photo of this design – my mind boggles at your description! Happy stitching in the New Year! Janet.

  11. Dear Mary
    Wonderful array of threads and it so reminded me of my drawer of machine embroidery threads and I wondered if it was the same thing then I went on to the Access website and spent ages looking at all the different things and felt that I really did not know any of the threads that they carry at all so this was a very steep learning curve for me. I liked the fact that they were on reels like machine thread. Finding these sorts of sites for the UK is the next problem I think but I so look forward to see what you are actually going to stitch. So look forward to the daily news! All the best El.

  12. Hi Mary
    I have only recently found your website, but you have already touched upon two of my “must have a go” projects. embroidered faces and ecclesiasticle embroidery (I can not spell it never mind embroider it!). I have found your info very helpful. Do you have any other web sites I can look at and do you know if there is a face in one of Trish Burrs’ books.
    Many Thanks and keep the email coming

  13. Mary, your project sounds so interesting and the threads are scrumptious! I wish it was a stitch along, so we could enjoy the challenge with you! Happy New Year!

  14. very interested in starting a new project. something simple and using silk thread. any recommendations? i haven’t done embroidery in many years. any kits/patterns?

  15. I’m new to hand embroidery and would like to know:
    What is the difference between silk stranded skeins of floss and spools? I realize there are more strands in the skein…but could I substitute using spooled floss for my hand embroidery projects?

    1. Hi, Donna –

      There are several brands of silk embroidery floss that come on spools. The silk that comes in skeins is usually stranded (say, 7 strands to the whole, like Soie d’Alger) and it is usually spun silk – that is, it’s made from the broken silk cocoons and cocoon left-overs, after the filament silk is removed. Filament silk usually comes on spools, though Eterna Chinese silk is an exception – it comes in a skein. So it really depends more on what type of silk you want to stitch with. Filament silk has a higher sheen and is a stronger thread, but spun silk has a nice subtle sheen and is excellent for general purpose silk embroidery – needlepainting and so forth. If you have a particular silk that you’re talking about, you can drop me an e-mail (using the contact link in the footer of the website) and I’ll let you know if I know anything about the particular type of thread you are interested in, or the brand, etc.

      Hope that helps!


  16. I grew up using Coats & Clark’s silk embroidery thread. My Mother taught me to split the thread down to three strands and I have always used this. But now I have looked at a split stitch and would like to know what you recommend. It would seem practical to use a natural length of thread but I would like your opinion please. thank you.

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