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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Mesmerized by Thread


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I am, I think, addicted to embroidery threads.

There. I said it. The first step on the road to recovery is admitting there’s a problem. So I’ve admitted it.

But this raises a question: is this an addiction I really want to recover from? Not really. It’s not as if it’s harmful, after all.

But the truth is, I sometimes do the Silas Marner thing. You know him, don’t you? He was a miser. And he liked to count his gold.

And sometimes, I like to count my threads. I like to take stock of the threads I have, especially if I’m starting another project, and especially if the threads I plan to use are metal threads.

And when I take stock of my embroidery threads, sometimes, the most delightful thing happens!

Spiral Twisted Metal Embroidery Thread

And it happened just the other day!

I was poring over a collection of embroidery threads, including some real metal threads, when I re-discovered a thread that I forgot I had.

And in the discovery of that thread, I lost a good 30 minutes of my day, mesmerized by it.

Spiral Twisted Metal Embroidery Thread

Here it is, up close.

Spiral Twisted Metal Embroidery Thread

It’s a thick metal thread, made of two coiled wire threads twisted together.

The coils on the wire threads are open coils, unlike the coils on metal purls or bullions, the coils of which are close together.

Spiral Twisted Metal Embroidery Thread

The open coils give the thread a definite sparkle.

It’s quite a festive-looking thread, isn’t it?

Spiral Twisted Metal Embroidery Thread

Here’s the end of the thread – the gold and reddish-copper alternate up the twist, creating a tube. So the individual wires that make the smaller threads are twisted into coils, and then the two smaller coiled threads are twisted together into yet a bigger coil.

The whole thread (and the two coiled wires that make up the whole thread) can be stretched like a spring, but once stretched, it won’t return to its original shape.

The reason I was digging through my threads was specifically to find some more interesting threads that I can incorporate into a made-from-stash Christmas ornament. And this thread definitely caught my eye – and held it! So many possibilities with it! For example, I can see substituting this metal cording for regular soft twisted cording, to trim out an ornament, can’t you?

The thread is a colored spiral from Golden Hinde in the UK, if you want to try it. They’re reasonably priced for the length you get!

So, ‘fess up! Do you ever find yourself completely mesmerized by embroidery threads? Do you think is something we should fight against, or should we just embrace it, as part of the fiber of our whole being? Feel free to chat about your infatuation with embroidery threads below!


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(72) Comments

  1. Well, Mary, you got the first giggle of the morning from me with your article. I must say I do not have the variety of threads that you do – but i really, really have a copius supply of what I use – that being the 6 strand embroidery floss and silk ribbon.
    I, too, am mesmeried by thread – all kinds – because I also do machine embroidery and quilting – which require stocks of rayons and cotton threads – and, yes, in a copius amount. So, Mary, – go with it – enjoy it – and count your blessings instead of your thread.

    1. Hi, Patricia – No worries! LNS = Local Needlework Shop. CCS = Counted Cross Stitch. I don’t always know what the latest initials for things stand for, but those two, I do know, because I had to ask once upon a time, too. Most internet jargon initials are totally beyond me. For example, I often come across blog posts that refer to “my DD, my DH” and the like. I’ve decided that they must be talking about dog breeds or something….

    2. Ha, I can tell you exactly where the DD and my DH came from. There is a lady on the internet at Flylady.net that gives practical information on housekeeping and more importantly how to fight your perfectionistic tendencies. She has a wonderful community of followers to her blogs. It was this community that came up with the initials for Dear Daughter or my Dear Husband or my Dear Son, etc.

    3. (couldn’t reply to Mary’s reply directly)

      Mary commented on abbreviations in online chatter. In several groups, the D seems to stand for “Dear”. So “DH” and “DD” stand for “Dear Husband” and “Dear Daughter”; “DMIL” for “Dear Mother-in-law”, etc.

      At least it’s polite 🙂

    4. Ahhhh! Now I know, thanks Joanne! It is polite. I’ve heard people refer to mothers-in-law in different terms (wouldn’t know from experience, myself!) – so I’m glad the “d” stands for “dear.” So much for my dog breed theory. Well, that’s good to know!

    5. And if the the Dear Husband/son/daughter grab your best mostest prized tiny pointy sharp needlework scissors to cut things they aren’t intended to cut and destroy them, the “D” can stand for many other terms as well 🙂

  2. Amazing collection and that thread is nifty. I’m so old school, mostly do CCS and am devoted to DMC 🙂 I have my odds and ends of skeins in plastic floss bags on rings. Years ago I had the opportunity to buy 3 long, narrow DMC drawer cabinets when my LNS changed to square cabinets. They look so great in my bedroom/stash room, on top of 2 bureaus. Every once in a while I go through them, drawer by drawer, to see what color I might be missing. I am always astonished when I go for a thread and can’t find any of that number and have to run to my LNS. Presently doing a Nativity,all one color, like a silhouette, in 838. Using 3 threads, had to buy some more yesterday. I do enjoy using Kreinik threads to add touches that pop in my CCS. This Nativity is getting gold halos and star rays 🙂 Pat in SNJ

  3. I recently stated following your blog, but have used your site for several year as a resource.. Not sure why I wasn’t following the blog but I am glad I am now.

    Threads…. My passion has been quilting, an lately incorporating wool and embellishments. That sent me back to basics…Embroidery Stitches..and fun threads. I am a novice here, my stash fav of the moment are Thread Gathers Shepard/sheeps silk. Awesome for turkey work and crouching. Another fav is chenille, also great for couching. I am always looking for texture. Great blog! Can’t wait to see what you do with that coil

  4. Hi Mary
    Yes I’m addicted to threads and yes I like to get them all out and just look at them and I can’t go past a pretty thread, even if I don’t know what I’m ever going to do with it.
    Sadly it’s not just thread either, I needed a piece of ribbon to finish a project and the one I wanted was in a pack of 40 so I bought 40 metre long rolls of ribbon for about 6 inches for my project and because each pack was different and so pretty I almost got another one. Do I need help? Probably not, though if I go back and get another pack….maybe!

  5. Yes I would like to be included in any comments. My love of embroidery threads consists of admiring all the beautiful DMC colors I have. I am getting back into my love of embroidery since a child. I have Mary to thank for my happy days in my new retirement. She’s great!

  6. I love thread! Embroidery thread, rayon thread, tatting thread, hand-dyed thread. All colours, sizes, types and textures! There’s nothing better than spending a few hours playing/sorting/searching through my thread stash! I am a thread junkie, but, please, no 12-step program for me. I love my addiction.

  7. I do find myself mesmerized by embroidery thread, yes. YOUR thread. When you do a post like this. Mary, you are that friend that everyone wants and needs — the friend that has one of everything in….. whatever interest you have. You don’t want it yourself, but you can’t help sighing longingly over your friend’s selection and enjoying it vicariously. Thank you for sharing.

  8. I HAVE A QUESTION–I purchased “Lavender Honey….” this week and received it. But I have an iPad and do not know if I can save it on that or only on my computer. Do you know?

    1. You can save it both places! If you save it on your computer in a separate file where you keep documents you want to keep, you’ll always have it there. If you prefer to use it on your iPad, just open it in iBooks, and that will save it in your library. You can also load it to your library by putting a copy in your iTunes account under books. But definitely keep a copy on your computer, too, so that you have a back-up, in case you lose stuff on your iPad accidentally, or whatever. If, of course, you do lose it for some reason, you can always email me and I can re-send it to you. But there’s lots of flexibility there – anywhere you can view a PDF, you can use the e-books.

  9. I have that same infatuation with threads and fibers. It started about 20 years ago while taking a class on Brazilian embroidery. The rayon threads were so shiny and some were sleek and others weren’t but the overall effect was mesmerizing. I looped them on little plastic rings which I then hung on a large binder ring. I hung them around my work room like a piece of wall art and I still do that today and have to go by and stroke them. Now my stash has grown considerably to encompass a large collection of DMC floss, Pearl Cotton sizes 5,8,12, DMC Rayon threads, DMC light effect threads, hand dyed silk and hand dyed pearl cotton, a very large number of silk ribbons some hand dyed, yarns, and specialty yarn fibers. They are stored in translucent drawers so the colors show through. Then add to that my collection of buttons and beads sorted in clear containers by color and I get to work in a sort of rainbow is always inspiring. Sorry for such a lengthy response but I am very passionate about these these I surround myself with. Thank you for sharing and allowing me to share. Carole Dyer

  10. Oh, Mary, what a beautiful thread! Pure eye candy! Do you couch it? I can’t imagine it through the eye of a needle!

    I just followed your link to Golden Hinde and was … mesmerized! “Mesmerize” surely means to become lost in the pleasure of something, the fine details, the possibilities, the memories it conjures. So you “lost” 30 minutes? Methinks you added something wonderful to your day.

  11. I have that thread from Golden Hinde! I bought it because I liked it, but haven’t found anything sensible to do with it yet. I just look at it and commune with it from time to time.

    1. LOL! Yes, I tend to commune with my threads now and then. Maybe, after all, they’ll tell me what to do with them! I think this would be really pretty as the edging on a Christmas ornament. Unfortunately, I don’t have a whole length – just a piece about 6″ long….

  12. I completely understand your passion for fibers. Even the metallic variety. I try to sort my various skeins of floss, spools of metallics but it never seems quite right. So I go through them again. I’m very bad at my LNS where the walls are covered with various threads and there are spinning racks of metallics and fuzzy floss. Nothing nicer than a pattern that incorporates a bit of everything. 🙂

    The coils you shared today, if you stretch them out, do they separate into 2 different colored coils or are they fused somehow?

    1. They’re not fused, Irene – and if you pulled them away from each other, they’d separate. But the twist, even when they’re stretched a little, still holds together. I haven’t stretched a piece very far, though. Maybe I’ll do that today. Any excuse, you know…

  13. I say Embrace It! If you love your threads, love your threads. I don’t have the variety of threads that you do, but I will admit there are some colours of DMC stranded cotton that I just Like. You know what I mean?
    Am I right that Golden Hinde has different colour combinations of your lovely coloured spiral? I think the one you have is called Fireburst.
    Don’t fight it, Mrs. Corbet, and don’t worry: I’ll suffer the addiction with you!
    I love that thread 😉 And thanks for the giggle 🙂


    1. Hi, Sarah – Yep, they have different color combinations… I like this fiery one best, but I haven’t actually see the others in person. I do love my threads – but everything in its place, you know. As far as threads go, I love ’em! But they aren’t an end in themselves! Although, that being said, life would be duller without them! 🙂

  14. Like you I am fascinated by thread, when I see it I have to feel it, admire it and enjoy it. I try not to buy so much of it, but I can’t help it. I sneak it in my house so my kids won’t say oh no, more thread.

  15. Ah yes, I have quite a collection of threads. It would seem any project I start requires new threads, different threads, not in my stash threads. I am sure you get the picture! The treasure hunt begins and oh, what fun!

  16. OMG Mary, I thought I was the only one, I cannot, just cannot resist buying threads even when I don’t really need them or have a project in mind. I sometimes dump them all on my kitchen table and look at them, sort them, admire them, stroke them and just love owning them. I am also slightly obsessed with silk ribbon, just discovered a new brand (to me) called River Silks, just fabulous delicious colors, bought a whole bunch – hmmm, now what to do with them?

  17. Wow!!! Gorgeous, it almost looks like beads. I looked at the website and I’m tempted to buy some even though I have NO plans on what to do with it or even how to use it. I’m sure your website will tell me if I just take the time and search a little. 🙂
    I do love embroidery, but don’t spend much time doing it lately. So I sooo enjoy seeing your work and you so often introduce me to new things I’ve never seen or heard of before. Thank you so much for that! Easy wisdom, I love it! I hope you and your family have a fabulous holiday season.

  18. I have the same fascination with thread and yarn. I keep a written inventory so that I know at a glance what I have and, especially, what I DON’T have. It makes it easy to take advantage of sales when something I am short on comes on sale. A full and complete inventory is taken about once a year although the written inventory is kept daily – thread/yarn in, thread-yarn out. This takes at least half a day and my daughter usually helps. She has thread/yarn of her own to keep track of, too.

  19. Yes, I’m also a member of T.A. (Threads Anonymous), though I definitely don’t want a cure! All those lovely textures, and as for the colours……wow!
    Mary, please can you tell me how wide the coiled thread is? I find it hard to judge on its own. Many thanks for such a superb site.

  20. OMG! I love threads! I have 80% very organized by company and gently placed in a box. THEN I have a basket (12 x 18)that holds my extras from kits and others that I’ve purchased and just don’t want to put away, in the dark, where I can’t look at them every time I walk in the room. Maybe fondle them, maybe design in my head what stitching they’ll go with, or just smile at them…… ahhhhh. They’re all mine! (Yes, it was a successful shopping trip when I come home with a new thread.)

  21. That’s really great looking thread. I have to admit to being a thread adict. It seems in recent years there are just so many more appealing threads being offered. It’s hard to pass them up but they do tend to accumulate.

  22. What a fantastic thread! I didn’t even know they had such things. I’m afraid I’ve got that addiction too. The threads in all their magnificence is where that warm fuzzy feeling comes in on a gut level. All the colors and textures satisfy me to the core. I love their shine. I love how they bend to my will into the most delightful designs. Oh sure, a picture is pretty but when it is real, in thread 3D, it comes to life! And you know it is inherently rare and precious. Someone had to take the time, and put in the energy, and use their creativity to make those threads do their magic. Yes they are magical threads and I am mesmerized.

  23. I too love threads. My current love is the beautiful hand dyed silk threads from Colourstreams. I use a single strand and love the richness of the colours and the way that the single strands snuggle together. I love to have a wide range of colours to run my fingers through and cherish like any other collection. Oh yes! I am addicted to beautiful threads.

  24. I am so pleased to know that I am not alone in my embroidery floss and thread obsession, I get a lot of comfort and inspiration from sorting my boxes and bags of embroidery threads. I spend a lot of time gazing at the choices at the store also, which has lead to some interesting chats with my husband ( he just doesn’t understand )

  25. Mary,

    You aren’t alone. My stash has a wide assortment of types and colors of threads, accumulated over a long span. Not a lot in the goldwork category, but those threads at Golden Hind sure look amazing.

    Consider yourself rich in inspiration and opportunities. I’m reminded of Scrooge McDuck ‘swimming’ in his vault.

    In my local stitching groups, I’m considered to be an ‘enabler’. I think of it as using a large box of crayons, rather than a small box — lots more options.

    Thanks for sharing your collection with us.

  26. Wow! That thread caught my eye immeadiately. Gorgeous! I think I “NEED” some … Love the idea of using it to finish edges.

    Thank you again Mary for introducing me to something else new. Now if only my bank balance would and life span would co-operate…

    1. 🙂 Ut oh! Don’t shoot the messenger! Actually, next time I write about this (because I think I’ll be using it on my ornament in the next week), I’ll have a special offer from Golden Hinde to share with readers. So keep an eye out for that!

    2. I started doing that Martha, but it was taking more time to maintain the “thread index” than I could spend on embroidering, so it all came crashing ingloriously down around me. I have sorted them all into colours and each colour has its own box or boxes.

      For those of you who are feeling a little guilty (?) at the extent of your addiction, worry not, I love them all and have them all, cotton, silk, rayon, synthetics, metal, wool … are there any more? if so I probably have them. Not that I actually use them all all the time but it’s nice to know they’re there if I want something different.

  27. I love the EdMar threads…they’re so beautiful and I really bought into them. They have such a wonderful sheen. BUT, I’m afraid to use them, they’re so pretty. I’m worried that I won’t like what I do and I don’t want to waste them! 😀 But I do like the touch them and dream…

  28. Me too! Me too! The first hit I can recall is getting into my mother’s ordinary sewing cottons (and trouble) when I was about 6 or 7. Apart from adding to my floss and crochet cotton stash at the slightest excuse, I have a tendency to accumulate types of thread that I am very unlikely to use, just for the sheer pleasure of the threads.

  29. To me “stop and smell the roses” means “stop and feel my threads” ha ha ha open boxes and look at them and run my fingers through them – enjoy them. Ahhhhhhhhhhh such bliss.

  30. I’ve decided that whenever (mostly my mum) asks me what I want for my birthday or Xmas, I’m going to tell her ‘Threads’. I definitely dont have enough, there are so very many types & colours and prettiness, and they are ALL USEFUL!!

  31. Embroidery thread, crochet thread, quilting thread, sewing thread and even spools of serger thread, oh my. Silk thread, cotton thread and linen, no doubt, but also some corn thread just because it was found. Mostly used in medical and industrial uses. Tea bags and dental floss come to mind. (I’m using it for an experimental all corn fiber quilt.) Darning thread, crewel thread that are really a yarn. Ribbons and pearls all stacked in a basket. I had so much thread I thought I should trash it. I couldn’t throw out my special, albeit unusable antiques. So I purchased a huge jar and salavaged the stash. Now I have a conversation piece to share when people ask. Addicted you say, oh no that is not true. I stitch it, I share it, and teach others to use it. Addiction implies that we have a disease, instead let’s assume that thread is the staple and filament of the stitcher’s true spirit.

  32. It’s getting scary as they are way too many threads to choose from. There is a shop in La Jolla California that just has threads so it is a dream shop!!! Never know what the perfect thread is so it would be nice to have every one of them in your inventory.

  33. Oh dear…… I didn’t think I HAD a problem – I thought “my level of interest” was normal as others I’d see were the same. But now my eyes have been opened & I see that actually I might, just might have a problem. Just yesterday I came home with four more red bundles. They were just so shiny, so Christmassy, so, so… so I bought 4. Oh well, could have been worse and I could have bought the other shade of red too! Glad to see I have good company in this. Is it OCD I wonder?

  34. We don’t have a thread addiction ;)…we are ‘thread aficionados’ or ‘avid collectors of fine textiles’! lol

    I plan to continue being a thread addict/aficionado/collector for as long as I can and my passion is the older European fibers. Oooh I just drool over them.

  35. Ah yes, everytime I go to find that thread I just know I have …somewhere in my workroom I spot another one I’ve forgotten (texture, color, etc) Then I just have to take time to sit down and explore some more with what I have. So you see I am easily distracted by the pretties and it is too much fun so I don’t even try to resist.
    Just keep it up because those threads will tell you what to do with them someday.

  36. I too am fascinated by embroidery thread. When I find something new I buy a few colors. When I’m ready to try it out I usually find that I have chosen the wrong colors. I like to blend colors in the long and short stitch mostly on flowers. Is there a trick to selecting the right colors?
    My collection of thread is large and I am always looking for the right storage method. I can live with this because I love to play with all the beautiful colors.

    My other vice is collecting fabric for quilts.
    Now this can take a lot of space. Color seems to be my “turn on”. There is a saying in the quilters world, ” The one who dies with the biggest stash wins”. I bet I could win.

    I can’t wait for my next issue of Threads. I’ve used the beetle wings on some handbags and am very pleased. Thank you for introducing me to this.
    In fact “Thank you” for teaching me a lot of new things. I don’t know how I managed before I found you.
    Sincerely yours,

  37. My collection of threads has stayed mostly with floss and perle cottons and a few silks. So far.

    I’ve seen colored wire in the jewelry section, and tools for making wire coils. I wonder….for very small amounts, it might be an option to make your own?

  38. I forgot to ask about that bit of folded green ribbon thread. Is it a pre-made item, or did you make that yourself? It’s very interesting also.

  39. What is it’s approximate width (compared to a # in metal threads, say). Looking at the chenille near it in the first photo it looks quite large, assuming that is AVAS chenille.

  40. That is one amazingly beauteous wondrous thread, Mary. I have never seen anything like it and I can’t wait to see what you use it for.

    I don’t know about you but acronyms are a pain in the posterior for me and really detest the “DH” etc thing, so much so that I always refer to my other half as “DB” meaning Dearly Beloved but it sure spikes some people up when they think I am sleeping with/living with etc my brother!

  41. I hoard threads, but of course the gorgeous Golden Hinde is the only one I need now. I wonder what it would look like when used for variations on the chain stitch
    Thanks again for your hard work on our behalf.

  42. Threads here in the States can be quite inexpensive, even the silks aren’t so bad. Instead of buying make-up, I buy threads. And no, I don’t “fight” the compulsions! I do wish I could remember when I have bought something as many times I have found that I have several skeins of the same color but never realized that when I purchased.

  43. I too get lost in the colours of threads. Cannot have too many – Can you? Husband says yes! I have that coil in deep blue and silver plus a burgundy and gold, but you appear to have longer lengths than I managed to find. Bought several years ago for dragon twiddly bits I even separated the two colours where I needed only tiny bits. It couches very easily as long as you do not mind using pliers to turn corners! When I find out how will post up the dragon – got a commendation from a Regional EG day so really proud of him.

  44. Good Morning Mary, Just wanted to say that I ordered a few different coloured spirals from Golden Hinde in the UK and two are going to work brilliantly in a gold work piece I’m doing at the moment. Thank you for letting me know that such things exist!! And the other coloured spirals? Well they’ll sit there splendidly in my box of gold work threads and tempt me with ideas.

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