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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Ode to Orts


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They’re little scraps of colorful thread.

All over my table they tend to spread.

They’re blue, they’re yellow, they’re white, they’re red.

Orts Embroidery Thread Scraps

I could pitch ’em, but I save ’em instead.

And I don’t know why.

All my orts this year so far

Fill up a jar.

The fact that I keep them is quite bizarre.

Ahhhhh, orts. What to do with them? I’ve heard of folks using them to stuff pincushions and other stuffable things. I’ve heard of decorating bushes and trees with them in the Spring, so that the birds can add them to their nests. (I’m advised this should be done with some cautions: the threads should be cut up in small lengths, and metallics should be avoided).

So, what do you do with your orts? Keep ’em? Or pitch ’em? Or something ingenious? I’m all ears! Tell me, tell me!


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(255) Comments

  1. Mary: I like to put orts from stitching Christmas stockings (lots of colorful and glittery orts!) into clear plastic fillable Christmas ornaments. Tie a little bow at the top and give them with the Christmas stocking to the recipient. The ornaments match the stocking. Janet.

  2. Hi Mary,
    I make biscornu. Lots of them. They are a tiny pincushion and need to be stuffed with something soft. I have been known to use my orts for this wonderful purpose. I usually combine them with my poly stuffing. But Shhh…..you and I are the only ones that know what is inside a biscornu!

    1. Karen, I hope you will excuse me for resurrecting this comment from 2013. Thank you for introducing me to biscornu. I had never heard of it before and was overjoyed to learn about this craft after I looked it up when I read your comment. I’m excited now to make one, and putting orts inside seems very meaningful to me.

  3. Absolutely ideal for a machine embroidery project. I use them either for couching over or just spread haphazardly over the piece.

  4. Tails! That’s what I call them. They go right onto a piece of scrap felt as I work a piece, into a Baggie as we progress, and finally they stuff a little pincushion embroidered with the date when the project is done. Poke in a needle and a few sizes of safety pins and enclose it with the gift.

  5. I don’t usually keep my orts – I tend to throw them on the fire at the end of each evening’s stitching.

    But once I bought a vintage sewing box, that dated from the 1920’s. As I lifted the lid, I found the box was still full of the stitcher’s half-finished projects, etc, as well as some crochet patterns, tatting shuttles, etc. And a cigarette tin. When I opened the lid of the tin, I found it was full of orts – silk threads, cotton, perle thread – all kinds. And they must have dated from almost 100 years ago. I was so touched that this woman had kept the reminders of everything she had stitched, that I burst into tears in the antique shop.

    The shop owner was quite bemused!!

    1. They likely came from the Great Depression, they saved EVERYTHING back then. We do not know what that needleworker did with them, but I doubt she would have thrown them away. I had (only one is left, in her 90’s, three of them lived to be in thier 90’s) 5 great-great aunts that were children during the depression. It was almost annoying how frugal they were.

    2. LOVE the sentimental thought. I would have been right there with you with teary eyes…..

    3. What a wonderful treasure to have acquired. I would have been in awe with tears in my eyes, seeing all that was inside what was bound to be a beautiful sewing box full of inspiration and history. I love things like that and am lucky enough to have a little suitcase (about an A4 in size and a spreadout handwidth deep… love my measuring tools!) with similar keepsakes and projects inside. Its something I will treasure for the rest of my life. The original owner would be very happy to hear her sewing box has gone to a loving home.

    4. What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing it. I’m picturing this woman and what kind of life was surrounding her as she worked on her needlework. I would have puddled up too!

  6. P.S. I also had a friend whose elderly aunt kept a box labeled, “STRING TOO SHORT TO USE”

    Karen from Minnesota

    1. This cracked me up! I can’t stop giggling! I throw mine away, but that may change – they sure look pretty in Mary’s jar.

    2. Hilarious… I would have loved to have the conversation, “Then why are you keeping them?” because I know exactly the feeling of bafflement that would overcome that aunt!

  7. I’m a spinner so these get added to my yarns, or used to make colourful tufts in weaving. I have even tied them together and crocheted with them, or couched them down. One persons orts are a highly prized treasure to another craftsperson!

    1. I am also a spinner and would be interested to learn when and how to add orts. As you spin or when you ply.

    2. I spin too–and clicked in here after my shameful months-long absence to point out the fun of bits and pieces in spinning! 🙂

      Generally, I add them when I card or when I spin–when plying, they just don’t seem to hold well, and the yarn will shed. 🙁 I know there’s a way–thinking ‘tailspinning’? But not that great a spinner, still a novice, so….

      Might ask Abby Franquemont, if anyone would know it would be her.

  8. Dear Mary

    One I keep a pillow inner which I have made and all my scraps of fluff (batting, fabric thread go into it). Once full I sew it up, make a cover with durable fabric, then donate to the Humane society for the dogs as beds. It also gets used to stuff door/draftstoppers. I try to recycle as much as I can, use what I have, my way of reducing my carbon footprint in the world.


    1. Very cool!! Think I might do that with all the feedsack string I have around here…whack it up and stuff something with it.

  9. I think I began saving orts in the 80’s, when I was part of a girlfriends’ stitching group; I was attending Spirit of Cross Stitch festivals; was in EGA, ANG, and a sampler guild; and stitched at home every spare moment I had. I was visiting Cape Cod and in a shop there, found a clear lamp base. I brought this lamp home, and took my couple QUARTS of orts and put them in the glass base. It is my favorite lamp in the entire house! I’ve slowed down in my stitching productivity, but still have a fabric basket with me at all times to collect my orts. I need to buy another lamp base!!!

  10. If you or someone you knew did quilting…I would use it for the embroidery stitches on a crazy quilt. I used up some little pieces of material and threads to make center pieces for a log cabin block. A small crazy quilt square could make an ornament or pincushion.

  11. Does the term orts derive from shorts? I should add that before I stuff the little felt pincushion I cut them up so there won’t be lumps.

  12. Hi Mary,
    I keep mine and use them in creating an ort pic. Browns and yellow for tree trunks, varied colors for flowers, varied greens for pasture or lawn, greys and blues for buildings/sea/mountains and so on. They are stuck on with fabric glue which is painted on canvas or thickish linen which you have made a sketch of what you want and lightly pressed by finger tips. Left to dry and it ends up as an almost 3D pic. Very arty and people cannot believe it is all just bits of thread. I do not have a pic of one that I have done. I shall have to ask the person I gave it to, to take a pic. Great fun, even for kiddies to do! Glad to hear I am not the only one that keeps her odds and sods for a rainy day! 🙂

  13. I pitch mine. But, I have a friend who puts hers into clear Christmas ornaments and then gives them as gifts. I’m just not that organized.

  14. Each Christmas I purchase a clear ball, write next year’s numbers on it and fill it up with my orts for the year. I can identify the layers of threads that belonged to a certasin project. It is a fun way to remember the year in sttiching and looks colorfu on a tree.
    One EGA chapter created a raffle piece by purchsing a lamp base tht was meant to be filled and had members bering intheir orts to fill it.

  15. Birds don’t like to use bright, colourful thread to make their nests because then the nests aren’t as hidden from their predators.
    Some people use Orts to make scarves and fabric with solvy and I’ve used them in ATC backgrounds under a layer of organza.

  16. I use all my leftover pets to make Barrerts and ponytail holders. Wish I had one right now to show. But if you can imagine making a clear plastic bow and filling with colorful threads. I wonder too if a person has enough for an easter basket.

  17. I roll Appleton any any other wool thread leftovers into little balls and felt them, making them into colourful felted beads for necklaces. I suspect silks can be incorporated into such beads for extra texture/shine.

  18. Use the orts in free-form embroidery. Arrange them in loose clumps on fabric, then couch them down. Sew the resulting piece into a pillow cover. I haven’t actually done this yet, but I keep thinking it would be fun to do.

  19. Maybe not very original but I use my orts to stuff the raised sections in stumpwork. They squeeze easily into tiny spaces. If the raised bits are in needlelace, the orts add a nice haze of colour thru the stitches.

    1. Hi PatsyAnn,
      I love this Idea! I’m new to stumpwork and I need all the help I can get. Never thought to use my little leftovers. Thank you so much.

  20. I use my rots to add color and texture to my felting projects. I also use them for stuffing projects. I tried pleasing the birds for their nest Devore, but I don’t know if the wind lew them away.

  21. Mary, 1st of all – you should never throw them outside, leaving on trees or anything like that! I’m sorry, but you really scare me by this “advice” from someone else. Threads get entangled in bird’s feet and fingers very easily and cause serious injury! Even hair represents danger for them, so as a bird lover, I felt alarmed. We should always think before disposing of anything (even seemingly harmless) in this way. It’s plain littering.

    About orts. Is that a term? 🙂 I don’t think I’ve heard it before. I simply can’t bring myself to throw away any scrap longer than 5cm 😀 And although I do use even such short ones at times, I have accumulated so many that it worries me. Of course, I have much longer ones too and I keep them in a little sachet. They do come in handy when you remember you have them… There’s really lots of ways to use them if you think about it. Not in embroidery perhaps, but in many crafty projects.

    1. Easy fix! Run them through a drum carder, or use a couple of the file-cleaning brushes they sell at hardware stores to split the threads, cut to about a quarter inch long, into fluffly clouds of fiber. Then take a dollar-store scrubbie thing and un-ball it–it’s a tubular net. Stuff the fiber loosely in there with the holes large enough for birds to pull fiber through and they get little puffs and tufts instead of strings, and you don’t have multicolored confetti everywhere.

      Dog slicker brushes work pretty well too–don’t be kind or gentle, but use it as an outlet for all the frustrations of Getting The Darn Sewing Right. The idea is to totally de-spin the strings into short fuzzy bits.

  22. If you do any machine enbroidery, you can stitch over them. They can also be stabilized by ironing them on to fusible webbing, then used in art quilts. –jackie

  23. You could spread them out on top of Sulky wash away stabilizer and mix them up real good…then sew with your machine all over to create a net. Then wash away the stabilizer and you would have a scarf or shawl to wear! These are very pretty!

  24. Oh – lol! I thought I was the only one who did this.
    I gather them, and gather them. Until they are in a big pile. Then I throw them into the recycling.

  25. Hello Mary,

    I keep mine for stuffing things. My orts are not only thread but also ends of wool as I also knit.


  26. I have odd skeins of thread, manufacturers that I don’t use, floss that have lost their labels etc., in a quart jar, with a gadget you can buy on top, it has a light bulb fixture, voila a lamp like no other! Pat in SNJ

  27. I love Joyce’s idea of using a clear based lamp to store orts. I keep my thread tails as well….occasionally they come in handy when just a bit of thread is needed. I have also made tassels with my threads and often the more diverse the threads the prettier the tassels are.I have also hung them in trees hoping the birds would use them, but they seem to be ignored. I have found my dog’s fur used in birds nests after I have given her a much needed haircut.

  28. I pitch mine.. along with the snippets of wool from my hooking. Used to collect for pincushions and realized that wasn’t going to happen often enough.. LOL

  29. you cant dump it. you take iron-on-vilene spread it over eventley take thin seethrow material like organza, iron it, you can work lovely stiches over it to strenthen it. jou can make a collar and pockets for a jacket or lovely placemates ect

  30. Spread them out in between two pieces of greaseproof paper, iron, and you have instant original gift wrapping paper! Great with rose petals too.

    1. Oh I really like this idea Janet must remember this for birthdays and Christmas.

      Regards Anita Simmance

  31. I draw a flower with a narrow sharpie onto washable stabilizer. i layer another piece of stabilizer on top of it and stitch one side of the stem plus one side of each petal. Next, I lay all the greens I can into the stem area and push them between the drawn lines and stitch around them. After that. I pack the flower. If I have plenty of yellow, I put the darkest ones in the flower center, then lighten as I stuff each petal and stitch around it to capture it. Repeat as needed.
    Once all is stuffed, I thread my machine with pretty thread and stitch over all the threads until it looks good and can hold together well following the washing away of the stabilizer.
    Wash, allow to dry, stitch it to the center of a small quilt and donate it to my grand child’s school auction, a cancer group or a small museum which is trying to raise money. The flowers are beautiful. The last one I completed was an iris.

  32. I keep them and wee ends of ribbon and put them between sheer fabric or fine tulle and crazy stitch it all together like a sandwich. I then use the “fabric” I’ve made in my doll making…for wings etc:)

  33. Mary,

    I love your little ode.
    I keep my orts and use them for stuffing little presents (pincushions etc).
    They also look very pretty displayed in a suitable glass pot or jar. My daughter, who has 5 children and is into needle crafting in a big way, uses them in a similar way.


  34. You keep them and make “fabric scarfs” with them – sew with washable stablizer and invisible thread – wash away the stablizer and you have a new “fabric” – seen on an Episode of Fons and Porter

  35. I recommend not giving the orts to the birds for nests. The threads are in colors that would not exist naturally for these birds and may attract predators to the nest of baby birds. I just throw them out – I save enough stuff as it is!
    Judy C

  36. ORTS! what does it stand for; anybody know? Until a few months ago, I’d never even heard of ORTS collecting but it seems to be a very popular phenomenom. I’ve been working on getting together an inventory for a craft show I’m doing this weekend and made these nifty little jars and when I showed them to a friend of mine who owns a cross stitch LNS she got excited and said….ooooohhhh ORT jars. Well, i was kinda taken aback, because I’d thought of them as holding little snacks like kisses or jelly beans or something to put on one’s desk at work. Anyway, she really like them so I gave her a few to try to sell in her shop. If you’re intrested in seeing them, check out my blog: http://cibsplace.blogspot.com/


  37. Marta Green, a crazy quilt artist from Oklahoma City, uses these snippets to stuff clear plastic dolls. I made one of these dolls in a class with Martha, and I loved how it turned out. I added some sequin stars in the stuffing, and made her hair of longer snips of thread. I put a cocktail glass in her hand and she was quite festive.


  38. Machine embroidery uses them for a type of free standing lace project. They are sandwiched between two layers of wash away stabilizer and than an ornament/bookmark is stitched out over top. The design uses multiple layers of open stitches in the same directions as an asterisk and than uses a satin/column stitch around the perimeter to catch/secure the edges. When complete we wash out the stabilizer. Hand embroidery could use organza layers and decorative stitching to keep the threads from shifting…

  39. I have a small basket on my table I collect them in. From time to time my boyfriend hides love notes in them. When it becomes full and I empty it, I find these notes. It’s also fun to see the different layers of fibers and colors. It reminds me and brings back to life the projects I’ve stitched.

  40. For me, I keep them in a repurposed mint tin in my grab and go box. You know, the metal tins that come in a couple of sizes. I use a little one for space in my box considerations. I don’t care for the mints, but the tins are great! You can also use plastic flip top (tic-tac) containers, I used to use one before I discovered the metal tins. I also have a tin with a few “spot” bandages and an alcohol wipe as a first aid kit in my box. Then, when the ort tin is full, I stick the orts into (similar to Janet)into a plastic christmas ornament, and it takes the entire year to fill (100% full) one of the larger ones, and then I hot glue the lid onto the top. Then I use it on the christmas tree, at the bottom, so that if my cats knock them off while goofing off under the tree (like they always do) It won’t break and they can play kitty-kick-it all night and I can pick it up and put it back later. The kitties love them for some reason. I have two of them already, and a third partially full. I believe the ornaments I fill are 4 inchers, though the labels don’t have the size on them, and I have no idea whether it is circumference or diameter that they measure it by. I just used to throw the orts away when the tin got full, but when I saw the plastic ornaments on sale after christmas,a couple of years ago, I bought a few, and have been filling them ever since. Killing the need for lovely unbreakable ornaments and ort control (two birds) with one stone. I don’t do anything fancy, it is just DMC 6 strand inside.

  41. It is true about birds getting the thread caught in their feet. I had a bluejay in my yard with a piece of string caught arounds his leg and the string somehow got wrapped about my bush. The bird was frantic. I went out with my scissors and talked gently to the bird and cut him free from the bush. I have hear to cut the threads really small so they don’t get caught. I have never tried that. I love all the uses here for orts so many I never would’ve thought of. Mary I look forward to your articles and seeing all your beautiful work. You are such an inspiration to me! Thank you. Theresa

  42. We would have to ask a bird expert, but do birds even like metallic or silk thread? Hm, maybe cotton or wool makes them happier. Who knows.

    1. Read above! Birds are perfectly fine without such sort of “human help”, just like any other animals.

      If only people had a little less of “good intentions” & didn’t interfere…

    2. Lily,
      Read my original post (#42), I do not leave my orts for the birds at all….. My cats get my orts, so to speak.

      This was just a response to the many that do many that do mention birds.

    3. See my above suggestions on whacking orts into little pieces and then shredding down to fluffly fiber instead. You can also give them a quick dunk in a strong tea bath to mute the colors (works on most). I would avoid the metallics simply because they are so very attractive to the young birds and can cause digestive issues.

  43. Mary:

    I thought that I was one of the worlds best savers, but I believe you have me beat. Never in my life have I saved embroidery threads. For one thing they are never long enought to be used on another embroidery item. So I am truly behind in this area. Now I wil save the smallest scrap of fabric (and find llittle scraps in all of my boxes by color) and have never used not one little scrap from those boxes. What is wrong with me and/or all of us who do such a thing?
    I lived during the great depression of the early 1900’s so maybe what I heard to not throw anything away has stayed with me.

    1. Try needle felting! Start with a nice thick sock and a felting thimble or whatever they’re calling it–I do single-needle felting to line my socks with angora :). You can do a lot of different stuff that way, and it’s fun.

      Felting, couching, gluing on a tennis ball for the cat to play with…all kinds of fun Things To Do with the darn scraps. 🙂

  44. lay them down on a pretty piece of fabric like a pastel or light batik….then place a sheer fabric on top….machine stitch them all down using a metallic thread…..then it is ready to become applique or embellishment for a crazy quilt (I do this so I know) and love your site!! thanks

  45. Dear Mary

    Well what to do with ORTS I have to admit I just recycle them but reading all the comments I shall have to reconsider and from now on I shall recycle my Orts and use them in a more fruitful ortembroidery way. What wonderful ideas so many artistic people and so many diverse uses for Orts.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  46. Orts — I save them all year and then put them in the clear plastic Christmas tree balls. I especially like to include metallics as well as dmc, silk, wool, etc. Can’t say I layer them because I’m usually working on at least two projects at a time.

  47. I have been known to save them and then arrange them, when I have a reasonable bunch, on a watersoluble stabilizer, sticky side up, sandwich another layer on top, and then machine stitch through the works. It makes a colourful ground for beaded embellishments. The resulting piece can then be applied to all sorts of situations — think purses, jackets etc.

  48. Sorry, when I posted my ort-ament suggestion I had only read the first two posts, apparently plastic fillable ornaments are more popular than I would have imagined. Personally, I thought that people would think it was ridiculous. However, now that I think about it, we are discussing people with extra creativity squirting from thier ears, and not video-game zombies. 🙂

  49. Mary…

    I really enjoyed your poetry! Giggle giggle…you are so creative!

    And, I am so embarrassed because I have never saved my ORTS! I did not know that was part of the embroidery experience! After reading the comments with so many ideas, I think I will rush out and get some clear plastic Christmas ornaments and begin to save and “stuff” them!


  50. I had a friend who made fabric by putting all her threads between sheets of soluble stabilizer, then stitched grids using heavy decorative threads. she made enough fabric one time to make herself a jacket. truly a coat of a different color(s)!

  51. I have an old milk bottle from my childhood. Glass, delivered to the milkbox on the side door stoop. Yes, that old! So I put my orts in there and it becomes an object d’art. And a reminder of my stress-relieving stitching.

  52. I have heard of some people who buy those clear glass bodied lamps and fill them with their orts… but I just pitch ’em.

  53. Hi – what an interesting question – and sometimes I just throw them away but I have used them, along with the fray from washing quilting fabrics and silk fabric fray – to create little landscapes for postcards etc. They can also be used for embellishing fibre art quilts. They need a tiny bit of netting over top to hold them in place unless you use a lot of machine stitching.
    Thanks for posing the question

  54. Orts! I’ve often wondered what to call this colorful bits of thread – thank you! LOL! I had a friend to send me a clear Christmas ornament half-filled with bits of thread and tiny fabric snips with a charm or two tossed in and it is gorgeous! It hangs proudly on my tree every year and reminds me of our friendship fondly. Ever since then, I have been saving them myself in a pretty glass jar – very colorful!
    Thanks –
    Barbara in TN

  55. First of all, the true definition of ort is a leftover scrap of food. Anyone who has done crossword puzzles has probably run across this word. It’s one of those odd little words they use to fill in small spaces.

    I heard one person explain stitching orts as “old ratty tails.”

    As for birds, I hear that advice all over, leave out bits of string or yarn for the birds. I cringe when I hear it. As a wildlife rehabber for over 21 years, string is not a good choice. If a bird uses it, it can tangle around a tiny baby bird leg, cut into the skin and cause serious injury, even death. One of the worst cases was a nest in a traffic light. The bird had used some type of string, one of the young birds got tangled in it and couldn’t leave the nest. Was left dangling from the light. Horrible. If you must offer something, use dryer lint with preferably no fabric softener.

    And yes, I have seen nests with bright bits and shiny bits included.

    1. Along with the horse hair from my barn I also leave out the fibers caught in the dryer filter.

    2. Might want to introduce folks to the joys of hand cards (or the cheater version from the hardware store, used to clean files). Chop the string into pieces about a quarter inch long and go to it. Rip em apart, all the way down to the mother fiber, which will then be fluffy and insulating–and safe!

      I routinely have to check my chickens for tangled feet, they just looove to get into my string jars, the idiots! Gotta find a better way…

  56. I save my Orts. I wanted to use them twisted together and shaped into circles and couched down kind of like pontilism in embroidery. This technique is not yet perfected, to say the least. The first time I tried it I made a mess, but I haven’t given up yet. Imagine a tree with the “leaves” made up of circles like this.

    Then, I thought of using the wool ones to add color to felting and see that others have thought of this and I am definitely going to do this.

    I’ve always wanted to try one of those stabilizer things, so maybe I will try that too.

  57. Hi Mary,

    I am a crazy quilter and I save fiber and thread scraps. They are quite useful when wkng on small areas of a crazy quilted block. I have come up with some great color/texture combinations just by picking up a different thread and deciding to use it.

    I have learned so much from you and I love looking at your beautiful work. I purchased your cast on flower tutorial. It is great and I have found it very useful. Thank you. Linda Dean in SC

  58. Orts are a wonderful addition to wet felting projects i use them all the time just sprinkle them over the work in progress and you get some wonderful effects Lx

  59. I do the same thing!I toss my bits and pieces in a clear little container by my work area to use later on. I enjoy looking at the different colors and textures and being inspired by combinations I wouldn’t have thought to put together. I use these little bits when making my own paper. Sometimes I strip them quite thin – so they are just wisps – and add them to the pulp or lay them on top as the pulp settles in the frame. I’ve been known to add a smidge of a colorful batch of dryer lint as well! Get the look of expensive boutique paper and recycle at the same time!

    1. Benedetta, thanks for posting this. I’ve been saving mine to try when I make paper and wondered if it works. I think I’ll try laying on the pulp in the frame.

  60. If they are natural fibre orts I put them in the garden for the birds to weave into their nests. They are indeed picked up and maybe the wool ones add some warmth along with the colour.

  61. saved thread and other left over pieces. take a strip of wash away stabilizer the size you want then put the tread and other pieces on stabilizer the way you want.put a another pieces of stabilizer on top .sew all pieces down . when you are done then just wash away the stabilizer in water and you have a table runner or want ever you made.know two are the same. have fun brenda.

  62. Mary: I use my Orts as Doll hair. At least here I did. I do Brazilian embroidery. The doll “Flossy Orts” Went to seminar with me in 2011’She was a big hit. She also won a Blue ribbon and Grand Champion ribbon at the Alaska State fair. I have sent you her picture to your e-mail. Love your news letter Linda

  63. Mary, when I have enough orts, whether the same colour or a mixture of ribbons, wool, threads – anything, I sandwich them between sheets of Solvy after I’ve arranged them the way I’d like the finished product to look, then machine stitch them all together by random stitching over the Solvy. Wash out the Solvy and I get “lace” to use in art quilts, or use to try out on something I’m working on to see if lace is appropriate. I’m afraid the lace breeds, though. I don’t like throwing it away any more than I like throwing orts away. I like the randomness and seeing what I end up with. I think a lot of people do this.

  64. There’s some really creative ideas here. I’m also wondering about the word “orts”. I’ve never heard it before even though I’ve been doing needlework for more years than I care to admit.

  65. I keep mine in a little bag. My daughter uses them to make paper for her scrapbooking . They look really neat.

  66. Hi, I collect them and when I want to embroider a small pot pouri sachet I use those threads for flowers, leaves etc.

  67. I save ORTS in small clear (baby food size) jars or old jelly jars or whatever. When the jar is full I embroider a piece of wool or another scrap with a simple design or an initial and put it on top of the jar to make a pin cushion. Very colorful and a cute gift for friends.

  68. These would be wonderful to donate to some retirement homes along with a few appropriate patterns. I’m sure that various individuals would still enjoy sewing and to have a gift of beautiful threads and some patterns would be wonderful for them.

  69. “their feasting caused a multiplication of orts, which are the heirlooms of the poor.” Silas Marner by George Eliot.
    Found this quote on the Merriam-Webster website when looking up the definition of “orts”.

  70. I put my orts between two circles of Super Solvy, stitched them down to secure them making it into a sandwich. Then rinsed out most of the solvy and molded it around a bowl. Used it during the holidays to put a candle in, could be used as a candy dish, or if nothing else, an ort bowl made out of orts.

  71. I noticed that they seem to give an indication of the color palette you prefer. The picture of your ort jar tells me you have been working with a lot of pink lately, and the red from your Hungarian project. But other than one loan dark thread, the predominant theme is spring pastels! (I also save the snippings from my machine sewing threads, in a paper bag taped to my sewing table–these tell me I prefer greens and turquoises lately.)

  72. I use them to make cloth.Sandwich them between a water soluble stabilizer then machine stitch using a grid pattern or free machine design. Wash out the stabilizer and you have a fun cloth to play with. You can leave a bit of the stabilizer in and mold it over a bowl to create a vessel or make it into a scarf. Let your imagination run wild!

  73. I’ve used wool thread orts to stuff pincushions. I’ve used random orts to fuse onto fabric-under a layer of tulle-to make fabric for postcards and needlebook covers. My mom would stuff clear Christmas balls with hers (someone else mentioned that one, too). And my Japanese embroidery teacher saves hers and gathers silk and metallic orts from her students. She’s already filled one large clear lamp base and is working on a second one. Oh, and remember when as a kid you’d iron fall leaves between two sheets of wax paper and hang them in the windows? (perhaps that was before your time) I did that once with random orts. I made little piles and left a margin around each to seal the paper. I didn’t try for leaf or other shapes but I’m sure it would work. I don’t save my genearal orts these days like I used to–this post made me think I’ll start again.

  74. I pass my orts and fabric scraps on to a fellow quilter. She will give them to the local animal shelter to be used in dog beds.

  75. Hi Mary. I keep them in a jar, and sooner or later there seems to be just enough to stuff something really useful. Fuuny how there’s none left! I also keep the threads from straightening fabric Gwendoline

  76. Birds love orts – they use them for making their nests, I’ve seen it! I keep mine in a big jar, add rosemary and used needles – it’s an old protection charm for one’s home. I do always share with the birds and squirrels though.

  77. I have an antique jar that stands 2 feet tall where my Orts live. I have seen them used to create a bird nest on a stitching project & to make Christmas ornaments in clear glass balls. It is somehow comforting to me to appreciate the ‘retro stitching’ results that reside in that jar!

  78. Among my crafty loves is fabric art and papermaking. That’s where I use my orts. They add texture, colour, and,with the metallics, a bit of glitz.
    Cheers — Phyllis

  79. I make “fabric” with orts. BTW, how did thread scraps get that name? I put my thread scraps and tiny fabric scraps between two sheets of then wash-away stabilizer, sew randomly (using random stitches and threads)over all to connect everything, then wash away the stabilizer. I use the “fabric” as an embellishment for art or crazy quilting.

  80. I’ve seen people make home-made paper from them. Just recently, I’ve seen people use small wine decanters for each year’s orts. I was putting them all in my large ort bag which is attached to an arm chair pin cusion/scissors holder/ort bag combo I’d made and had no clue how much was in there until I spilled coffee all over it. Probably 5 or more years of orts!
    Now I put them in origami wing boxes I’ve made that fold flat and can travel anywhere. I’m going to use your ideas of Christmas ornaments to go with the project they came from! Thanks for the ideas!

  81. Hi Mary,

    Here’s another use: orts may be added to the pulp mix when making paper.

    I read once that orts are “remnants of the spirit of the artist who used them, and having a higher significance, should be saved for special use. They are considered to be lucky and full of positive energy.” I cannot find the citation for that. Sorry!

    For several years, I have been saving my orts in pretty antique porcelain hair receivers. Hair receivers are jars with lids with holes, just right for stuffing in the orts, (Hair receivers were originally used to save hair to be made into hair pieces or “rats.” Those Gibson Girl ‘do’s had to be stuffed with something, I suppose.)

    I have strategically placed my ort ports in the several places where I like to sit and stitch. I have placed embroidery scissors and a needle threader inside. Now I can stitch wherever my butt plants itself.


  82. I am a cross stitcher so my orts are little balls of floss. Last April I put the 2011 orts in a clear plastic Easter egg. The 2012 will be in a plastic ornament. Very colorful!
    Longer threads I plan to make into a cross stitch crazy quilt bookmark.

  83. Mary,

    I took a mixed media class where we learned how to make ORT fabric! Yes, ORT fabric. It’s easy and fun. Take two pieces of soluble fabric, which looks like clear plastic and that you can buy at most fabric stores and some craft stores where they carry sewing supplies. You spread your ORTS out on one piece of the soluble fabric and cover it with another piece of soluble fabric. You can use fabric tape to help hold the two pieces together or not depending on how big your piece is. Then, thread your sewing machine with whatever thread you like (I’ve used metallics, variegated and regular sewing threads). Remove your sewing machine’s presser foot and lower your feed dog to allow you to do some free form stitching. Now comes the fun part! Just sew randomly all over the ORTS. Make sure to cross your path regularly so that the stitching “locks” in the ORTS. You can use a more organized design, but it really doesn’t matter in the end so long as the machine stitching crosses over itself regularly. Of course, you can also use multiple colors. Whatever color(s) you use to overstitch your ORTS with will be the primary color you’ll notice in your ORT fabric when done. Once you are satisfied and you’ve generously stitched all over the ORT fabric, remove it from the machine and trim away some of the excess soluble fabric. Then, soak the fabric in water and use your fingers to work away the soluble fabric from the threads. It doesn’t take long or much effort. You don’t have to wash away all of the soluble fabric either – you can leave some of it in to give the ORT fabric some stiffness. Then, lay it out to let it dry. You don’t have to dry it on a flat surface either. You can drape it over a bowl or any other water-resistant object and it will maintain its shape. I’ve seen ORT fabric used to make a bird’s nest, fabric bowls, jewelry and more. You can also add embellishment to your dry ORT fabric by stitching on it, adding beads or anything else you can imagine. It’s very light weight, so it lends itself to lots of uses. It can be trimmed into shapes or left the way it comes off the machine to look more “natural”. Either way, it’s fun to play with it.

  84. I haven’t heard them called orts before but i like it! I have twisted them together ans sewn over them using a machine to make cord. It is very effective! They are good for couching too.
    I might try hanging a few on trees in my garden. Never thought of that!

  85. I love your blog, sooo much interesting information. As for bits of yarn and threads, I have seen them woven into wall hangings. A small hand loom was used and pick yarn and or thread at random and weave. The size and color varied, but the end was very pleasing. I have a stash of scrap thread and bits of thread I have been saving with this project in mind.

  86. I put my yarn orts, both wool and acrylic, outside for the birds. I don’t know if they use them or if they just blow away. My thread orts go inside a clear Christmas ornament. A filled star or oval looks so pretty on a tree.

  87. I put them in a little gourd basket and look at them. Sometimes i use them fir little bitty soft doll hair.

  88. I save them for my quilting friends who make trading cards, some are very beautiful. I discovered long ago that birds do not favor the orts.

  89. My 4 year old daughter loves making things and my orts are
    a favourite crafty item for her. Yesterday she made a ‘ring’ from an ort,
    two red stickers and some sticky tape. Today she tied an ort to a
    tiny bell which was then added on to something else.

  90. Mine tend to go on my slippers and clothes. They then get spread artistically all over the house. I then hoover them up. The hoover then gets emptied. But not all succumb … there are always a few stubborn ones lurking. Gosh. Aren’t the rest of you very organised and focused.

  91. Wow – this generated a lot of conversation, didn’t it? I’ve saved my orts for the last year or so, and plan to make a scarf by machine stitching them to solvy. But I’ll need some more round tuits before I get to that project!
    Nancy in Newport

  92. Hi Mary – I too keep my orts. I keep the green ones in a separate container. I have recently made little leaves with them. I sprinkle some orts – lightly – onto a piece of solvy. I draw the outline of the leaves onto another piece of solvy and make an ort sandwich. I then free machine stitch the outline with machine set on zigzag, then change that to straight stitching to make veins. After dissolving the solvy – one lovely, lacy leaf! It will be couched along with an ort flower, onto sheer fabrics for my current project. I use a machine embroidery hoop to hold everything tightly while maching.

  93. I save mine in an old “hair receiver” (those old dresser top containers with a hole in the lid) which takes care of the immediate problem of what to do with the clippings. Now I have so many more ideas!!! (Love the one about clogging up the vacuum hose!) In crossword puzzles, orts is usually a “small leftover” or a “little bit”.

  94. I had to chuckle at this one. We once had a little dog we called ‘the ort snatcher’. When a crumb fell from the table she was there to get it. As for threads…I’ve used many ‘thread orts’in projects. I like your idea of putting them in a glass containter. Pretty and visable. Thanks. Really enjoy your newsletter. Charlotte

  95. Hi Mary – Ode to Orts – easy! I save mine and quilt them between a layer of homespun (base) and organza (top) and quilt randomly over the lot. It looks very much like shadow quilting/trapunto. Very effective on cushions.



  96. Hi Mary,
    Love your title. Anyhow, I usually save them with hopes to incorporate them in my free motion embroidery – covering them with solvy stabilizer and then free motion embroidering on them and then wash away the stabilizer. They would embellish a tote or vest . . . I guess we all have our little hopefuls.
    In the meantime – they sure are pretty to look at!!

  97. They begin in a place of honor in a small embroidered ort port beside my sewing table. I tried putting them out for the birds, but they just end up in the trash any way. I do love some of the creative ideas of fellow stitchers.

  98. I have a pretty little wooden bowl, quite shallow, that is part of my work area set up. My orts go into that and at the end of my needlework sessions I swope it out and throw the orts away. Otherwise my needlework companion (Moe the cat) would have them strewn all over the house. For the birds I bring home horse hair that has been groomed from my horse’s coats. In the fall I love to find the nests that are interlaced (needle weaving?) with the horse hair I provided.

  99. Like you, I keep mine in several pretty glass potpourri jars around my stitching spots, and eventually collect them into a glass jar. What do I do when the jar is full? Buy a bigger jar, of course!

  100. Wow! So many great ideas. I save mine, along with any broken needles, in small glass jars, then give them to friends as “Dream Catchers”. The idea is that bad dreams get caught in the threads and the needles drive them away.

  101. I use them to stuff pincushions. I quit putting them outside for the birds when our local arboretum explained that most birds hide their nests from preditors. Making them with brightly colored threads makes them easier to see. Yikes! They did say you could put hair from your hair brush outside for them as long as your hair is a neutral color. LOL

  102. Hi Mary, give them to young friends or kindies – I use them with children to decorate paper plates – simply use a PVA or homemade glue and then decorate. So light and pretty they can then be strung anywhere – cheers Lee

  103. ORTS can be added to a number of Fabric Art projects. I am working on one now, and I would love to have an array of ORTS to be inspired by and use in my work. I do lots of machine sewing and hand sewing; and it in my machine sewing art that I can use the ORTS. Mix then with threads to create a visiual appealing wall hanging or quilt square.

  104. I save threads, beads anything really. Lay it all out like a mat on solvy sew all over it to trap the bits and pieces and make wonderful original ‘fabric’ out of it. Great for FAPs and the like.

  105. With Easter coming up, they would be great to use to make string Easter eggs. Just blow up a small balloon until it’s shaped like an egg and cover it with string that has been dipped in watered-down glue. Let it dry overnight (hanging from a string), then pop the balloon. You’ve got a beautiful, artsy Easter egg. Fill a basket with them for a fantastic Easter display.

    Here’s a link to a video showing how: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iShgTth8ZWg

    1. Mary do this too, have for years. I have made balloon eggs big enough to become a table centerpiece basket. Once the orts dry cut a hole in the center(think decorated sugar eggs) fill with artificial grass and other Easter googles. They are beautiful

  106. Add me to the list of stitchers that stuff their orts into clear glass ornaments and hang them on the tree. I always label mine with the year, using a gold metallic pen. I have about 10 of them now.

    My first needlework task every January 1 is to run around the house, collecting all the orts from the various places I’ve stashed them, and putting them into the ball. NO STITCHING until I’ve done this.

    It’s fun to look back at the orts and remember what I stitched. Sometimes I have a “what was THAT from” moment, but usually I remember all the projects.

  107. I use mine in my fiber art. An example are the leaves on trees. You can spread the colors you need, cover the threads with netting and sew over the netting. I have done the same type of thing for a sea postcard that I made. They can be used to make things like birds’s nest in a fiber art piece. You are only limited by your imagination.

  108. Mary I have used up my orts by stitching squiggly lines all over the fabric, just using the next piece that came to hand, then made up oven mitts, fabric trivets (lined appropriately and backed)or you could use the stitched pieces as a bread basket liner etc, it is such fun and there is no pressure. Generally I just used back stitch, good while watching TV no concentration required.

    I can’t throw mine out either, they look so pretty in the jar. Love the Ode to Orts!

    Sandra Southern Highlands NSW Australia

  109. Welly, since I’m a tatter, if they’re long enough I usually save them for my Scrappy doily =)I have a litter jar thingy that I stuff em in haha ^_^

  110. Aloha Mary!

    What a good idea to release your orts to the wind! Here in windy Honolulu, I think I could do the same thing. I believe the mynah birds would love to add the orphaned threads to their nests, especially any shiny metallic bits. I learned from my birding buddies that these birds have a thing for shiny items; I personally witnessed a mynah chase down a clear cellophane bag. So, maybe I will give it a try; I just might see shiny nests here and there!
    Mahalo for the great idea!


    1. PLEASE remember to cut the threads quite short if you plan to ‘help’ the birds. Horsehair is one thing, it doesn’t knot or wrap as well as it might; but the more limber the string, the more deadly it can be for the average bird.

      Hit the hardware store for a couple of the wire brushes used to clean files (like really coarse dog slickers, which you can also use), whack your orts short and start fluffing! You want them down to the mother fiber, nice and fluffy.

  111. Hi Mary,
    My ort jar is beside the chair I usually sit in to stitch. Ort is a Middle English (or Middle Low German)word for scrap of food left over at the end of a meal.The first know use was in the 15th century. The word Oort is also from science. The Oort cloud is named after Jan Oort. It’s a cloud of chunks of rock and ice floating about one light year from the sun. So any way you slice it, ort means leftovers.
    My ort jar is a rather decorative one, but I have never quite decided what to do with them. I just keep stuffing more in the jar.

  112. I save all of my threads in a vase which makes them look pretty and then when I have enough I spread them out on a piece of fabric and put a piece of tulle over them and then quilt over the three layers to make a really beautiful piece of fabric. It can be used for all kinds of projects.

  113. I had forgotten where the word ‘orts’ came from so thanks to the person who provided that info.

    I save mine in a tall narrow jar so that each time it is filled the threads all co-ordinate as they all came from the same project. I then use them as lots of people have suggested, with soluble stabiliser and/or sheer fabric.

    The other way I use them is in needlefelting. Just scatter away and felt them into the base; some simply will not felt whatever you do but most are fine and they add a little spark of colour.

  114. Orts… love the name! Why do you call them that? I keep mine too, especially when they’re pretty colours or a groovy texture that I’m sure will become useful sometime. I don’t seem to collect the regular cotton threads, just the wools and silks. That said, in some of my embroidery thread bags there are very short lengths of thread… just in case I need it I think!!! So you’re not alone Mary 🙂 We’re all a little eccentric at times!

    I’d reuse them to make paper (I love homemade paper with silk threads and bits squeezed in during the pressing process), glued onto ATCs and other papercraft creations (they make great tendrils for plants and background swirls), plus they’re fantastic to couch as well, for plant tendrils and background swirls…

    FYI, as an allrounder crafter (embroidery, painting, drawing, papercraft, general art, crochet and felting, just to name a few!!! lol) I tend to also keep scraps of paper as well. Not that I’m a hoarder at all…!

    1. Me again! And felting!!! Leftover threads are fantastic in felting, especially when the texture is different to the main medium used!

      Thanks to all of you who have mentioned not to give them to the birds. I thought it was a good idea too, because our local feathered friends are always taking pieces out of our hanging baskets and threads can be lovely and soft for their nests.

  115. Hi Mary – When I go to an EGA regional seminar each summer, there is always a clear ginger jar lamp filled with orts in the silent auction. I’ve never been tempted to bid on it but apparently the item is wildly popular as one comes every year and gets lots of bids!

  116. Mine just look pretty in a jar. After all, I wouldn’t br using the floss if I didn’t think it was beautiful in the first place.

  117. I keep any that are 6+ inches long sorted by color. I have made lots of stitched projects that need bazillion greens, etc. I usually draw my own designs so am not trying to match colors. They are a good take along bag. Also handy for smalls, tassels, crazy quilts, etc.
    Smaller pieces I keep until I get a container full, dump it out and either do something with them RIGHT THEN or throw them out. Have been known to use them for stuffing.

  118. There has been a few comments about leaving things out for birds and should we/shouldn’t we. I don’t really have an opinion but I was curious to see if there was any evidence of the “by products of human culture” making its way into birds nests.




    And we Australians are fortunate enough to have Satin Bower Birds native to our country. Try doing a google image search on a Bower Bird Nest – you’ll thank yourself for the few minutes you’ll spend there.

  119. I make bowls out of my leftover thread. I learned how from my local sewing machine shop. I take 2 pieces of soluble stabilizer & place the threads between them. You can either machine quilt the pieces and wash out the stabilizer or be sure all the thread is over lapping then place the wet thread over a glass bowl and letting it dry. There are a number of types of spray you can choose to “seal” in bowl if you like. I often give the glass & thread bowls with the quilt to the recipient. I also give them the glass bowl so they can serve food in the thread bowl if they like. Each of my girls have a bowl and I’m thrilled to see them on the family dinner table when we gather for meals on Shabbat.

  120. I entrap my orts behind netting or organza and use them for cards. I also have an ort stuffed transparent heart that hangs in my work area. Your jar looks so pretty, maybe I should start a jar. Such a lot of great ideas I especially like the ideas of Hannetjie and Janet.

  121. When I first started sewing threads felt incredibly expensive so I saved everything but the tiniest ends to reuse. As part of learning to declutter I am now, the new bold me, tossing the ends gaily into the bin. Having read this I’m sorely tempted to start a jar though, the ideas sound lovely 🙂

  122. I also keep them scrupously, then when I have enough I either use them in felting, over which I embroider or use them to make complex cloth backgrounds for landscape or abstract embroideries. To do this, I first use silk paints on silk or satin fabrix, then sprinkle the orts across, then sandwich them in with either scraps of coloured organzas or strips or whole pieces, to cover and trap the orts, then embroider (machine and hand) over top to hold everything in place. Occasionally I add a layer of Bondaweb under the orts to secure them in place, but that can sometimes interfere or remove the shine of the silk or satin background, or stiffen the hand of the piece, which I don’t like…In any case, I recommend not to throw them away! Btw, love your website – loads of inspiration…

  123. I call them thread snips. Every spring, I cut them all small with a rotary cutter and leave them out for the birds to make nests.

    I recently read a tutorial (I forget where) about making fabric from your thread tails. Place all the threads between two sheets of water soluable stabilizer, stitch it together closely and then dissolve the stabilizer. Voila! Fabric. I’m going to try it at the end of the year with all my snips, yarn bits, ribbon ends and see what I come up with.

  124. My needlework has slowed down greatly, but when I did get more stitching done, I’d save only ones that were at least 5-6 inches long until the project was done. Sometimes they come in handy if you have only a few stitches to do and don’t want to start another new length for thread. Then I toss them when the project is done. However after reading some of the other uses, I may have to reconsider.

    And regarding birds – if you do put orts out, please snip them into SHORT bits (2 inches or less). Also some fibers stay wet longer than others. If a nest is made of lots of these, it can also be a problem for baby birds to stay warm and dry.

  125. Royal palm chapter ANG collects orts all yr. the board puts them in glass ornaments purchased from Michael’s at Xmas time. Stuff the ornaments with orts add a red ribbon and present to our members at our holiday party. We have been able to get styles of glass ornaments such as hearts shaped, round and oval. Our members look forward each yr to add to their collection. Here.s to the lowly ort!

  126. I use my thread scraps to make “fabric” by sandwiching the mix of threads between two sheets of water soluble material, such a s Solvy. I stitch it free motion or in a grid, then soak away the water soluble, let it dry, and then have a colorful sheet of interesting fabric for embellishment on garments, art projects, greeting cards, etc.

  127. I make lots of cards and use the orts for tiny bows. Sometimes I just glue a bunch to a card for extra texture.

  128. You’ve probably gotten this a thousand times already but a semi-clear, water soluble stabilizer can turn those orts into fabric. Lay a piece of stabilizer down, spread your orts all over the stabilizer, then lay another piece of stabilizer on top of your little orts. Go to your sewing machine and start free motion sewing all over the stabilizer until you’ve covered all orts, place it in some water, the stabilizer will melt away and you’ll have thread fabric.

  129. I have stuffed clear christmas balls to hang on the tree or decorate other areas. Can use them year round. Get the plastic ones to hang in the trees outside for color. Daniece

  130. I save my orts until I have a nice bowl filled. Then I roll them into little balls and place them into a glass jar. I am able to have several years rolled into one jar that way.

  131. Adding them to a mixed medium collage comes to my mind. They could be added at the end before a final coat of medium is applied for added texture and color. Have never tried it but that is what occured to me. Maybe????

    1. Have you thought of embedding them in ‘meltable’ foil on a collage? I haven’t done it, but it sounds as if it could be fun. The foil I am thinking of is called ‘Foil Melts’.

      Sorry Mary, this is totally OT.

  132. Hi Mary and all,
    I save mine, and use it in a variety of things, though one day when I was with my mum, my son used my machine and thought he was helping by throwing away my half filled box of orts, I came home and found it empty, I nearly cried. Some of the threads used had been used for my mum, who has since passed, it was like a bit of her was gone also, I was over emotional during that time, and I know he didn’t mean it, and as I have said to him and the rest of the family DO NOT THROW ANYTHING OUT THAT IS IN MY SEWING ROOM, smiling, am slowly buidling up again.

  133. I save all the shiney and silky orts and sew them under a piece of tulle to make a pretty patch to decorate (anything).

  134. I use them for the tiniest of flowers to decorate an initial or anything I fancy. You just need a scrap and it’s much easier than unwinding a bobin and measuring a length then cutting and winding up the rest.

  135. Sorry, my slash key is not working.

    I use my orts for my Fiber Art. You can see them in my large Fiber Art piece in my Etsy shop Fearless Fiberworks. So I am saving them up too for my next art piece that I will use them in.

  136. There is a bit of old folk magic where the orts were stuffed into a glass vessel and then used as protection against the evil eye. The idea was that the evil eye would be so entranced by the colors and paths, that it would get trapped by the threads and not fall on you.

  137. Mary, I put all of my orts in clear Christmas ornaments just before I put up my tree. If there are more than that, I make an ornament for a stitching friend.

  138. I give them to a friend who gives them to her daughter-in-law who uses the orts to make paper and then does sculptering.

  139. I keep my orts… I use them to stuff things, but now that I also create cards, I use some to decorate cards with bows on buttons etc. where else can you find such bright beautiful fiber bits?

  140. I saved my orts one year. Near December 1st, I went to Michael’s and bought clear glass Christmas ornaments. I took them home and filled them with my orts. Gave them to my stitching friends for a Christmas gift. They all really liked them!!!

  141. There was a gal in the Mid-Atlantic region of EGA who bought clear class lamps and filled them with orts. She used to donate a lamp to their seminar for an opportunity drawing.

  142. Regarding ORT’s:

    The Audubon Society requests that you do not put your orts out for the birds. While they do use them to build their nests they also attract predators that are very harmful to the birds you are trying to help.

  143. At Christmas time I go to Michaels and buy clear glass ornaments, then fill them with my ORT’S and give them to my stitcher friends. They love them!!

  144. I would use orts on a project such as fabric post cards as decorative pieces. You have some lovely pieces in your jar and would be pretty on one of the post cards.

  145. My orts go into an empty large candle jar.I call it Betty’s art and set them on a stand, shelf or on the back of the toilet. Once jar is filled, very pretty. Too good to just throw away. The larger candle jars have a lid, makes it look finished.

  146. Well, I save them too…for 2 uses. I use some for my soft cloth dolls (sometimes for hair if they are small) AND to stuff clear glass (or plastic) ornaments for a stitching tree! Then there is the third reason, they are just so pretty I love to look at them. I always keep a little gourd container full of them to look at!

  147. I collect my orts and give them to a friend who snips them into little pieces and adds them to the pulp from which she makes paper. They really add color and interest to the paper.

  148. Ha…never knew they had a name! Sometimes I save them..not always…I use thrm on cards as a thread Flower or bow or just as a string…ya never know. Or I use them to make beads with. Or Wrap them Together with some tiny material and wrsp that with wire till I get a long wide piece to use where ever even enough ti make a coaster or as ribbon on a package..like I said ya never know

  149. I used to put them out for the birds until one day I found a little robin with thread wrapped around his leg, but also attached to a bush. After setting him free and realizing that he would have died or amputated his leg, I now never put them out for the birds.
    I cut them into smaller pieces (about an inch) and then use them for stuffing teddy bears and pincushions.

  150. I have used the leftover threads a thin ribbons in my hand made paper. It is quite pretty and they can go into the Hollander beater ( that is the machine for pulling fabric and fibers used in paper making into very small bits. The results is something close to pulp if not pulp). They still manage to remain as threads where my old towels and worn denim disappear.

    1. Orts are scraps or leftovers. They usually referred to food, and I believe it comes from Old English or Middle English, having something to do with eating.

  151. WOW, you mean I can actually contribute something that is useful to you?
    Great, here’s two things you can do with them. I picked one of the “how-to” leaflets at Hobby lobby and this one uses them to make sculptural bowls and to decorate the front of canvas totes.
    For the sculpturaled bowls are a wonderfull tex- tured mix of ribbon and embroidery floss,arranged in a circular manner between layers of tissue paper, and machine-stitched with asterisk-style lines through it to hold it together, Then place it over an upturned bowl, paint it with fabric stiffener and let it dry overnight. I first put some longer pieces in a circular pattern down first. Then I scatter all my little bits and pieces over that and then lay down some more longer pieces over top in a circular pattern. Then I sew the lines over it, remove the tissue paper, and paint it over the upturned bowl with the fabric stiffener. The thicker the threads are, the more sturdy the bowl is. It’s a neat piece to display on a coffee table. People are always taken with it and many want me to make one for them. They’re great gifts to a person who sews.
    The second thing you can do with the “orts” is to place them in a pattern on the side of a canvas tote and stitch over them in the same manner.
    I hope I have , in some small way, given something back to you as you have given so very much knowledge to me.
    Yours and His, Deonia
    little bits and pieces

  152. Ode to Orts – I am late, No 174! I would glue them down on a canvas to a mixed media painting for adding texture. Thousends of possibilities. Gesso them and color them new or use them in their own beautiful color.
    Happy creating!

    1. Obviously I was in a hurry and neglected to read other’s answers to your query. I have just finished reading all the comments and had no idea of the talent on this board. I love the idea of using the Solvy and will be making my bowls with it in future.
      I loved all the ideas submitted but now I am so looking forward to making myself a scarf using them! Deonia in Florida

  153. I save mine during a project, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s kind of a “see how much thread I used” but honestly, it’s a mystery. I just check the little pile once the project’s finished. Mind you, since I read that you keep yours in a glass jar, I’ve been doing that too, It’s a handy place to put them so they don’t get scattered over the rug or wherever. I still don’t know what I’ll do with them, although I do like the idea of filling clear Christmas ornaments with them. They would be so colourful.

  154. I stuff as much as I can into a clear Christmas ornament and put a tag on it with the year. I can look at all of the beautiful, colorful threads and remember the projects that were stitched with them. A few of them hang in my stitching room <3

  155. I use clear round tree ornaments and fill them with my leftovers, either color-coordinated or all jumbled up. They make pretty ornaments and remind me of (mostly) happy stitching times.

  156. I use mine in puff quilts. They are a Depression Era creation where nothing was thrown away – a cheap way to make a thick quilt with no batting.
    A quilt is made up of individual “puffs” which are like bags or pockets, a smaller square at the bottom and a larger square on top, pleated to meet around the edges. You leave one side open and lightly stuff it with whatever leftovers you have. (I knit, quilt and sew all kinds of things as well as stitching, so I always have wool and fabric scraps as well as orts.) Then you sew it up and eventually you join them all together.
    I collect my various orts/scraps in a jar that I know is big enough to fill one puff.

  157. I snip them fairly small and then lay them out on fabric. Stick a piece of Applique Paper the same size as the fabric over the threads and iron it on. Then cover the whole piece with organza if other see through fabric. Quilt or embroider over this to keep fabrics together. Use for pillow covers, coat hanger covers or anything else you can think of.

  158. Cut the pieces into different length. Take a piece of fabric Iron on some Applique paper. Scatter the threads over this, then iron on the same size piece if thin see through fabric (Chiffon) Now stitch lightly over the fabric to keep pieces together and there you have a cushion front or what ever.

  159. A fun thing to do with orts is to create new fabric using a sewing machine, water soluble embroidery stabilizer (WSES), and a bucket of water. Take a piece of WSES, twice the size of the piece you’re making — say a scarf. Drizzle your orts, plus fabric scraps, yarn, anything stitchable, over half the WSES surface. When you like the design, fold the WSES over, and pin the resulting sandwich in many places. Stitch all over it (removing pins as you go) with matching or contrasting thread, making a grid that will hold the thing together. When that’s finished, dump it into a bucket or sink of warmish water, and watch the magic happen. Now you’ve got a piece of machine-made lace of sorts, made of orts! I’m teaching a class soon in which we will make scarves using this technique with yarn, fabric scraps, etc. Enjoy!

  160. My orts are combined with thread snips, quilt fabric snips, and long haired fur from my 2 cats. I put them in old suet feeders in the spring and watch the chickadees and other yard birds take what they need to build their nests. It’s fun to watch!

  161. I have been collecting my orts for years. I put them in a clear glass Christmas Ornament. When it is full it will be a colorful ornament for my tree. The little waste knots look particularly nice.

  162. Enjoyed the articles, leisure time to read them. I keep my DMC thread by color family. I have yet to discover how to keep the rest. Especially since I dabble in canvas, Hardanger and various beading activities. This showed me new ways-thanks Mary. I also like to keep project threads together and I at times have 3 or 4 projects going At one time. I get bored really easily doing one stitch.

  163. Upcycle your bits of thread placing between two layers of water soluble stabilizer and machine stitch all over to create an interesting embellishment for a project. Simply swish finished piece in water to remove stabilizer.

  164. I save the scraps from all my projects, whether it be embroidery, needlepoint, knitting or sewing (small only), throughout the year. Each Spring, I put them into a mesh pouch, which I tie to a branch of the big elm tree in my backyard. The birds use them to make their nests. Recycling at its best!

  165. Mary, thank you for Needle ‘n Thread.
    I too love to organise and review my threads. I use my orts as tacking threads for normal machine sewing, as I find it does not slip and move the way machine thread does. This excludes metallic and silk threads.
    I hope you are keeping well.

  166. for leftover threads on the needle i keep a piece of wool..any fabric will do… to create various shapes out of french knots that will one day become something. currently, a row of flowers.

  167. I would like to card and spin them into new yarn, but I am bereft of the carder, spinning wheel and requisite skill… so into stuffable things and collages they go.

  168. I save them in a jar just like you. When the mood strikes, I cut 2 pieces of water soluble stabilizer a little larger than my 7 inch hoop. I hoop the stabilizer with lots of these thread snippets – then I free motion stitch with my sewing machine using other spools of almost used up thread. I remove the hoop and stitch all around the edges – usually in a circle. The resulting “fabric” can be wet until the stabilizer starts to dissolve – then I shape it around a bowl or vase and wait for it to totally dry. A thread bowl!

  169. I save my scrap threads. They are beautiful in a medium sized jar. I put them into the jar right away so that I’m not adding to the fibers of the carpet and nor will they be winding around the vacuum beater brush. They remind me of how far I’ve come with a project (in stead of how much more I need to do!) I love the many colors mixed together and I try to remember when and how I used each color. Such a simple pleasure. Try it!

  170. Well, my husband pulled a foot long “ort” out of my cat’s rear and the vet said it could really do a number on her intestines. She’s a wily one so my “orts” now go quickly in the trash.

  171. Miss Mary, I know exactly what to do with your “orts”. All I need is for you to send them to me and you will have a very nice surprise back to you before Christmas. It will be a surprise I don’t think you will regret. Thanks so much for giving me a chance to give you something in return for all you do for all of us that follow you.

    1. That is very sweet, Ali! Thank you for the offer! I do have a plan for them now, which is why I’ve been diligently saving them (more so than usual, and I don’t even mind a little extra waste). My sister asked for them, so I promised them to her. As soon as I finish my current project, I’ll be handing them off. But thank you, thank you for the kind offer!

  172. Mainly I do Embroidery on my sewing machine and have thread tails that are so pretty. I read about a project that you sandwich the threads between sheer nylon fabric and that sandwich between water soluble sheets, do decorative stitching through all layers and produce a scarf. I am saving my threads for that purpose along with the ones from hand embroidery.

    Enjoying your blog and all the wonderful information you share. Thank you for being so generous with your talent and time.


  173. The thread looks great in a jar,but I see them in a art quilt . Use spray adhesive on the fabric . Throw the thread on top of the adhesive .Stich over the thread or put netting over it to hold it in place . When the thread is on your fabric you can see what it looks like then deciede what you want to make it into. I will now start saving my thread in a jar and try making a project out of them.

  174. Make thread fabric – sandwich them between two layers of wash-away stabiliser and freehand machine stitch them together. I use a meandering wavy stitch making sure to catch all the threads.wash the stabiliser away and you have ortfabric. Same thing can be done but using a backing fabric. The first gives a lacy finish which can be moulded over eg a bowl to make a sculpted firm the second makes a more substantial flat fabric. Oh and all those lovely clippings of silk left over from stitching can be confetti cut and mixed in amongst the threads.
    Too hard – post them to me I’m a thread hoarder!

  175. Love your ode to orts, now I am feeling quite guilty in simply pitching them in the bin. Will have more respect in future.

  176. Hi Mary,
    i LOVE all those little bits of threads!!! There are a few things I’ve used them for but could think of a dozen more! I like them just sitting in jars to think up uses for them…
    Usually, when I’m painting I can put them near the top layer of many layered paintings I work on. They are sealed back and front w a gloss clear gel medium so they can always be protected from paint pigment. But they can be slipped onto the painting in their little clear sealed package!
    But then the longer pieces can be used with a neutral warp? Weft? (The ones that go up & down 🙂 and use a comb or fork tines and tweezers to help weave them into 1”-3” roughly woven pieces to add to freeform embroidery I play with. This is always fun!
    AND for a really easy holiday ornament, I get clear glass balls, bulbs, or star shapes from the big box craft stores. Then pop off the top and using tweezers or fingers push the correct or multicolored threads in and put the top back on. When they settle, just shake it up again. Just be sure to used a ball the size that will be filled completely, but not be smushed in there. You could try some starch on a few of them so they can act as structural pieces, too. Just be sure when they are pressed are in wavy or curved shapes or they’ll have the equivalent look to steel girders!
    Anyone like to donate?

  177. I also weave. When we cut pieces off the loom, there usually is a quantity of thread which cannot be used for a weaving project. We call them thrums. Perhaps some of those thrums could be used for embroidery, but they usually are not the color or size one wants. So, if the thrums are wool, I scrunch them up into a piece of hose (cut up panty-hose works well), throw them in the washing machine and dryer. What comes out are felted balls for use in other crafts or simply for drying clothes to cut down on wrinkles. I also used them for winding thread into balls so that all the thread can be used when unwound.

  178. I clip my Orts so they aren’t too long and in the spring I put them in bushes in my garden for the birds who come to my feeders. They use the short Orts as nesting material, to weave in among the grasses and twigs.

  179. I didn’t know the scraps had a name and learned something new today – thank you. I save my floss scraps to decorate a tree for the birds at Christmas, also.

  180. Hi Mary,

    I put my bits of colored thread outside on a bush. The birds pick them up in the spring, and I get to see them woven into their nests.

  181. Have been tying ones longer than 7 inches or so together, using the weaver’s knot, to make a long multicolored strand suitable for embroidering on some fairly loose weave linen I’ve got around somewhere.

  182. An ort by any other names an ort. Depends whether they’re my Grandma’s. Pretty much looks like all of them were my Grandma’s.

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