My parcels have arrived!

Having been held hostage for a week by Customs (don’t get me started on the extortionate Royal Mail handling fee!) my two parcels from Margaret at the Little Thread Shop arrived yesterday. Unfortunately work doesn’t stop just so I can play with new threads, so it had to wait until the evening. I’d sent Margaret two rather long lists of Caron Watercolours and Wildflowers, and on the invoices it said how many of each she was sending but not which particular numbers, so although I knew that one Watercolours and about five Wildflowers weren’t available, I didn’t know which ones. The first thing to do, then, was to sort through them, a very pleasant occupation and one that my husband thought deserved a photograph (apologies for my bad posture).

Sorting through Caron threads

And here is the complete haul, in numerical order. Already I’ve identified some very promising combinations, like Old Brick with Turmeric, and Caramel with Almond (apart from the Old Brick it’s beginning to sound like a recipe! Mind you, some of them do look good enough to eat). The parcel also confirmed how good Margaret’s customer service is – one of the Wildflowers she didn’t have was Parfait, but she sent me a skein of Blossom at no charge saying it was quite close to Parfait and might work (it does).

My new Caron threads

One of the things I did notice while having my little thread feast was what a difference dye lots can make. I have two skeins of Watercolours Caramel (one I bought in Holland because I didn’t remember it was part of my order from Margaret) and they are really completely different colours, one more golden brown, the other almost with a reddish, brick-like cast. The pair at the bottom are Watercolours and Wildflowers in what is meant to be the same shade, Sunglow, but you can see from the picture that although they look good together, they are definitely not the same. No fault of Margaret’s at all, but it is another reminder that there really is no substitute for seeing the threads in the flesh (or in the fibre), and also that if you’re going to need more than one skein for a project you’d better make jolly sure they’re the same dye lot!

Differences in dye lots

Now all I have to do is wind them all on bobbins …

More threads – fewer threads

I’ve been adding some very pretty threads to my collection over the past few weeks, and one of the pleasant things about ordering them has been the discovery that stitchers are just Very Nice People! Margaret at the Little Thread Shop, Susan at Treenway Silks and Yvonne at West End Embroidery have all been really helpful, ordering things in, comparing colours, finding out about threads and so on. Strictly speaking I do not know whether all or any of them are actually stitchers themselves, but they are definitely stitch-associated, so I think that counts smiley.

Here are the goodies that came in from the Little Thread Shop a week or so ago; including postage they came to less than 60% of what I would have paid if I’d bought them in the UK, which is pretty good going! These are Weeks Dye Works perles (only #5, unfortunately, so I had to source the #8 elsewhere – hats off to Sew & So who as usual took a day to get them to me) and Caron threads; the lovely variegated orange at the bottom is Calabasa, which I used in my latest Guildhouse project.

Threads from the Little Thread Shop

And then there were the silks I ordered from Treenway. One of the things I like about both these American suppliers is that they are happy to send orders using First Class post (I hope I got the name right), which means postage on these orders was between $4 and $6. I will come back to that a bit later on, but first things first, the silks. Don’t you just love unwrapping an order of threads or fabrics or beads and simply enjoying the look and feel of them? That’s what I did with these – they are terribly tactile, and need to be stroked and handled. I don’t care if the oils in my hands mean that at some Antiques Roadshow in 2213 the expert will tut and say “oh dear, these silks have been handled far too much, they’re disintegrating”; it is simply impossible not to pet these beautiful threads.

Threads from Treenway Silks

Some of the colours I chose to match some I already have, some are new matching pairs (like Mandalay and Faded Rose, the muted pinks in the middle of the bottom row), and one is a top-up (Tangiers, second left of the top row). The ribbon, which is Tangiers as well, I got especially to go with the colour combination I showed you some time ago, with the dark wine red fabric. I have since found that some Miyuki beads I picked up at the Knitting & Stitching Show will go beautifully with that, so now all I need is a project for them.

Treenway Silks, Miyuki beads, DMC and Zweigart fabric

So why the “fewer threads” in the title? That’s because I’m finding some threads harder and harder to find, certainly here in England, and some overseas suppliers are pricing themselves out of the market (at least my market) with their shipping charges. I have just placed an order with West End Embroidery for some Petite Treasure Braid, WDW perle #8, and Dinky Dyes perles. It’s the DD perles which are the problem – Yvonne told me they are phasing them out and won’t be replacing any that they sell. This means that as far as I know there isn’t an online shop in the UK that sells Dinky Dyes cotton perles (Sew & So sell the silk perles, but they don’t come in the same range of colours and are obviously much more expensive). Margaret at the Little Thread Shop said she’s happy to order them in for me, but I’d have to order at least three of each colour, which is more than I need. I did find one or two shops in the US which sell the cotton perles, but their shipping charges make it impractical to order from them; at one shop I chucked 20 skeins into the virtual shopping basket as an experiment, and found that postage to the UK would be about $36! So if any of you know of a supplier that sells these threads and whose p&p to the UK is reasonable, please let me know – I’d very much like to keep using Dinky Dyes’ pretty perles.

Support your independent needlework suppliers

If you’re not one of those lucky stitchers who has a local needlework shop to supply their stitching needs, don’t immediately head for the nearest Hobbycraft! For one thing, they won’t have any speciality threads or fabrics anyway so it would be a waste of time – time that would be much better spent studying the covetousness-inducing price list of Margaret Roberts’ Little Thread Shop or browsing the delectable Sparklies website for Kate Burgess’ vibrant hand-dyed fabrics. The Little Thread Shop was a great find, and I am grateful to a friend from the Cross Stitch Forum for recommending it. You can email Margaret direct if you want a different combination of threads, her shipping costs are very reasonable indeed and she is most helpful in working out how much you can have sent to the UK without incurring import duties! So now if I want a few Caron threads, or decide to treat myself to Gloriana silk perles or Thread Gatherer hand-dyed silk ribbon that’s where I go – and just have a look at some of the lovely things I got from her this year …

Caron threads from Margaret Roberts Thread Gatherer silk ribbons from Margaret Roberts

Sparklies is more local to me (in the UK instead of in the US!) and so I occasionally get the chance to see her fabrics in real life at the Knitting & Stitching Show (although I’ve just heard she won’t be doing Alexandra Palace next year, which is a shame as that’s the one I go to). What I like about Kate’s fabrics is that besides the pastel, subtle shades that you often get in hand-dyeds, she does some extremely bold and vibrant colours which definitely make a statement! For most colours you can choose aida, evenweave or linen (with pictures that show the difference in colour between the various fabrics) and a good number of thread counts. I tend to go for my favourite 25ct Lugana, of course, but Kate has promised to dye me some Hardanger fabric for a course I hope to be teaching next year. And if you can’t decide what shades would be right for your project, you can order some samples – an economical way of making sure you go for just the right colour, and great to use in their own right for mini projects.

Sparklies samples

And sometimes when you buy things from different shops it’s not until you see your purchases together before putting them away that you realise you’ve just bought a magical combination that cries out for a new design. Here is Sparklies’ Fire combined with Caron Bittersweet and Flamingo. Doesn’t it just zing?

Caron and Sparklies