Not quite 40 shades of green in the Figworthy household at the moment (although if I went through all my thread boxes I could probably get together at least that number; but let’s not go there) – four are quite enough for now. They are the variegated greens I am trying out for the wheatear border on the third Floral Gems design, which will be made into a workshop, and they are Weeks Dye Works (WDW) perle #12, Cottage Garden (CG) perle #12, Chameleon perle (Cham) #16 and Sulky Blendables (SB) 12wt.
Let me start with an apology and a spoiler – this is not going to be a detailed analysis, just an impression of what the threads are like to work with; and I like all four threads.
Having got that out of the way, let’s have a look at the four threads in close-up. WDW (top) looks a little heavier than the other threads, even though CG is a perle #12 as well. SB is a 12wt which I had assumed (although I have not been able to find any very clear-cut information about it anywhere – thread weights are complicated!) to be about the same thickness as a #12, but it looks thinnest of the four, possibly because it is quite tightly twisted. It wasn’t until I looked at this close-up picture that I noticed another difference between SB and the other threads: it is a Z-twist, whereas the others are the more usual S-twist. I knew some silks and rayons are Z-twists but didn’t think there were any cotton ones – you learn something new every day! (I’ll say a little more about Z-twists later.)
In all of the following samples I worked with 90cm (1 yard) lengths; far too long according to received wisdom, but I dislike fastening off and on too often, and it seems to work for me. Well, generally. With perles, which are twisted, it can lead to the thread bunching up (very noticeable with Treenways’ fine cord, for example, which is a very tight buttonhole twist – you very definitely need shorter lengths there!) The stitch is wheatear, which gives the wreath outline a bit more interest than a plain chain stitch. It is essentially a reverse chain stitch (shown here by Mary Corbet) with straight stitches sticking out, and like chain stitch works well in a circle.
First up is WDW perle #12 (2171 Emerald). It was occasionally a bit tangly but the variegation has a lovely effect, it’s a beautiful colour (I got another shade, 2166 Bayberry, which is even closer to what I was looking for, but it came too late for me to use it in these experiments) and it’s exactly the right thickness – it has enough body to show off the colour, but is thin enough for the stitch to have good definition.
Next is Cham perle #16 (Fennel). I knew Chameleon Threads, a South-African company, from their hand-dyed stranded silks – in my silk boxes you will find most of the colours from their Shades of Africa range (used in Remember the Day). I found this #16 perle at the Knitting & Stitching Show; it’s a relatively new range, as yet available in a fairly limited palette which fortunately for my purpose includes this attractive, subtle green. It’s a nice, well-behaved perle to work with, and although obviously a bit thinner than the WDW it still gives enough coverage in the stitch to be an effective frame for the design.
The third thread is CG perle #12 (809 Oregano). Cottage Garden is an Australian company, and their range includes stranded cotton as well as #8 and #12 perle (but no #5, which means I can’t use them for Hardanger on my usual 25ct fabric). Although off the skein it looks a bit thinner than WDW #12, it stitches up with more or less the same look. It’s fairly well-behaved, even with my 90cm lengths.
And finally SB 12wt (4086 Cactus). As I mentioned above, this is different from the other three threads not only because it isn’t a perle, but also because it is a Z-twist. This means that when looking at the twist in the thread, the slant has the direction of the diagonal of the letter Z; in an S-twist the slant goes the other way. There is a little bit more about it in this post about whipped stitches, and a lot more in this recent post on Mary Corbet’s blog.
SB is very tightly twisted, but unexpectedly it doesn’t bunch up like some of the others – it is a very pleasant thread to work with, and (not unimportant when considering threads for workshops or kits) it works out much more economically than any of the others. It has a nice crisp look, and although the variagation is a bit stronger than I would have liked, it doesn’t break up the unity of the wreath.
So which do I like best? If I were just looking at the threads, how they handle and how they stitch up, I’d go for Weeks Dye Works; it is my favourite where colour and variegation are concerned, and in spite of some tangling it is comfortable enough to work with. I just really like the look of this thread in wheatear stitch. Chameleon and Cottage Garden I will happily use again, but they wouldn’t be my first choice. In the end, however, I have to bear in mind what I am choosing this thread for – kits and workshops. The materials have to be of good quality, but it is just not viable to pick anything too expensive. In trying out several hand-dyeds I was probably being a bit unrealistic to begin with, and Sulky makes a good alternative – it is a high-quality thread with the interest of variegation, but mass-prodused and therefore more affordable than the more labour-intensive hand-dyed threads. So in spite of its rather unfortunate name (whoever thought that was a good idea?) Sulky Blendables will be my choice for the Floral Gems.