Do you have any favourite brands? I love Dutch apple butter (we call it “appelstroop”, literally apple syrup), which comes in quite a few brands, but Timson is the one for me. Is it really better than the others? Perhaps, although it would be difficult to prove – but it’s the brand I grew up with, and to me the others are just not quite the right thing.
In the same way I have favourite brands in stitching equipment, and more particularly a favourite brand of needles and hoops. As with apple butter, it’s terribly difficult to prove that they are better than other brands – so much is a matter of personal taste and preference. But as you will know if you are a regular FoF reader, I could actually tell the difference between my favourite needles and other brands in what was in effect a blind test (long story, but it revolved around discarded packaging, and thinking I was using one brand while actually using another – and not liking it). My favourites, in case you didn’t read about that particular comparison, are Prym’s between needles (or “halblang”, “half long”, as they call them).
My only gripe (and it is a minor one) with Prym’s between needles is that the no. 5 and no. 3 sizes, which I find just right for crewel embroidery and which I’ve been using on my RSN Jacobean piece instead of the John James chenille and embroidery needles they put in the starter pack, are not available separately – you can only get them in a mixed pack with no. 7s, of which I have a lot already. Still, the surplus no. 7s can be used up in kits, so not a major problem.
Sometimes you might like to try a brand, only to run into unexpected difficulties. One of these difficulties is what I would like to call the American conundrum. There are certain things which are for sale in America, such as a particular brand of lovely dense linens and extra deep Hardwicke Manor hoops, recommended as the ultimate in hoops by many a respected source. These linens and hoops are imported from Europe. “Oh goody,” you think as a European embroiderer, “I’ll get them from Europe and save on the postage”. And then you find that they are actually extremely difficult if not impossible to find in any European shop. The only Hardwicke Manor hoops I managed to find in the UK were standard depth square ones (rounded squares, really), which I didn’t want.
I did have some larger deep hoops from the RSN’s shop, and they are perfectly good – I’d just heard so much about the Hardwicke Manor hoops I really wanted to try one. Oh well. However, what I did discover while trying to find these particular hoops was that Prym, my favourite needle brand, did hoops too!
Interestingly, their sizes don’t go up in inches. As Prym is a German brand it wasn’t too surprising to find that they are metric rather than imperial, increasing by 3cm at a time – at Jaycott’s, where I got mine, they come in 13cm, 16cm, 19cm, 22cm and 25cm. I tried out two of the smaller ones first, and I was impressed: the hoops come with reassuringly solid brass fittings, the beech wood is beautifully smooth and they are quite sturdy compared to other hoops I had in my stash. In the picture below the orange arrows point to the Prym hoops, the blue arrow to an unbranded hoop from my stash (outer hoops only). I soon got all the other sizes Jaycott’s offered as well.
When I got the hoops, I noticed that the metal fittings all carried a number, from no. 2 on the smallest hoop to no. 6 on the largest. This suggested there was at least one other size, a no. 1, probably 10cm in diameter. Then, although the tags on the hoops carried the name Prym and had a lot of German on them, a different name was branded into the wood: Nurge. More research was obviously called for.
The no. 1 hypothesis was soon confirmed when I found the 10cm hoop on Sarah Homfray’s website. Some further Googling revealed Nurge to be a Turkish brand, and excitingly their hoops come in three different depths (8mm, 16mm and 24mm) as well as eight different diameters (up to 31cm). They only problem is that so far I haven’t been able to find the deeper ones for sale anywhere. But the search continues!
For now I enjoy using the hoops I’ve got, whether Prym or Nurge or both. As Shakespeare would have said if he’d been a stitcher, what’s in a name? That which we call a Prym hoop by any other name would work as well. They may not strictly speaking be Prym, but they are certainly proper .