Buying threads online

Nowadays very few of us are lucky enough to have a needlework shop anywhere near us – let alone one that sells more than 14ct Aida and stranded cotton. For speciality threads or slightly more unusual fabrics you either have to travel a long way (there’s a lovely shop in Ilfracombe, for example …), bulk buy all your needlework supplies at a stitching show once a year, or buy online.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that I can get pretty much any thread or fabric I could possibly need (and many, many that I will never need but am tempted by nonetheless) by going online. I can get supplies from the UK, from my native Holland, and (if I’m willing to pay import duty and Royal Mail’s extortionate handling fee) from as far afield as America, Australia and South Africa. It’s great!

But sometimes, it’s just not good enough.

When I was trying to get three shades of beads (some of them variegated) that would match three variegated shades of Caron threads for Very Berry, I realised I hadn’t a hope of doing so unless I could compare the beads and threads in the flesh (or should that be "in the fibre"?) My husband very kindly took me shopping at Burford Needlecraft and I managed to find the exact shades I wanted – but trying to match them up on a computer screen would have been utterly impossible.

Very Berry

We don’t always have that option, though. Usually, the images on the monitor are all we have, and they’ll have to do. And so, what with the unreliability of online images and the differences in dyelots, buying hand-dyed threads online can lead to surprises when unwrapping your purchases.

Some shops do their very best to minimise these surprises, and are willing to go the extra mile for their customers. Stitching Bits & Bobs (US) has more than once helped me find the right shades by going through their stocks and finding a silk "a little more DMC 3042 than 3743", or some such description of mine. Sew & So have likewise been very helpful.

So I turned to them again when getting the threads for the anniversary version of Lustrum. I had decided on Caron 038, a very pretty shade I already had in Impressions (silk/wool), so I knew what it looked like in real life. On their site, however, the picture of the Watercolours thread in that shade looked much darker than the others in Caron’s range (Wildflowers cotton, Impressions and Waterlilies silk). When I contacted them I was advised to add a note to my order explaining that I needed the Watercolours and Wildflowers thread to be quite close in shade, and so not to send them if the Watercolours thread was really as dark as the picture suggested.

I don’t know how many dyelots they had in stock, but they managed to find me a Watercolours thread which was the same lightness as the Wildflowers thread, which was great. Unfortunately there was another snag – the Wildflowers they sent and the Impressions I already had were much alike in colour, with lavendery blues, pinks and creams, but the Watercolours thread had no blue shades at all and hardly any pinks, but was mostly cream and a warm lilac. (Click on the picture for a larger version.)

Caron 038

When I contacted them they very kindly had a look at the skeins of Watercolours 038 they had in stock, but they were all much the same, so we agreed I’d return the threads. I contacted a number of other shops carrying Caron threads, and several of them were extremely helpful. Burford Needlecraft sent a scan of the thread they had in stock, the London Bead Company looked at several dyelots for me and described them ("this one is more lavender blue, that one is more mauve, but the mauve one has more pink"). Both, unfortunately, were not blue enough. Finally I turned to Thread Bear, and after a few very helpful emails back and forth I picked one which I will now use with the thread I already have – Impressions is a little thicker than Wildflowers, but its matte appearance should make rather an interesting contrast.

Oh, and you’ll want to know what the new Watercolours looks like, of course! It is not easy to show the difference between two threads in photographs, but I think you’ll agree the new thread is definitely less mauve and more lavender than the original. So here it is, with the other threads and fabric that will make up the anniversary sampler.

Caron 038

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