Different threads, different look

If you’ve been following Flights of Fancy for some time you may be aware that I like silks. A lot. My budget doesn’t, but I do. Unfortunately most of these beautiful silks seem to be produced by people a long way away from the Midlands (of England, that is) – America, Australia, South Africa … One of them is Treenway, and I wrote a while ago how helpful Susan had been choosing various shades that go together. I picked several combinations with the Song of the Weather SAL in mind, but because there are so many great threads to use only one of them made it into my final selection. All the other silks just sat there, being stroked occasionally, waiting for a project.

They got their opportunity to shine when I decided to have a little stitching holiday and just do some variations on small designs I’d stitched before. Very relaxing, and very interesting to see the difference colours can make. Here, however, it wasn’t just different colours, but different textures – the difference between cottons and the lustre of reeled (or filament) silk; between the medium twist of perle cottons, the slight twist of Treenway’s 8/2 silk and the strong twist of their Fine Cord.

Happy Hour 1 as designed Happy Hour 1 using Treenway silks Happy Hour 2 as designed Happy Hour 2 using Treenway silks

There is one more “variation” that I want to do: a white-and-bright, slightly adapted version of one of the Round Dozen. After that I’ll be good and go back to stitching for the SAL, and from my Planned list. Promise.

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.

Great customer service from Treenway

Last time I told you I’d had a reply from Treenway Silks – I’d asked for some advice about their colour range. They do a variety of gorgeous silks, but the ones which are most useful for Hardanger are their 8/2 Reeled Silk and Fine Cord. The latter is a tight buttonhole twist which gives a beautiful texture to Hardanger when used instead of a #8 perle. According to the Treenway website, the 8/2 is equivalent to a perle #3 but I have successfully used it as a substitute for perle #5; as it is not so twisted it doesn’t have the texture of perle, but it more than makes up for that by its lovely lustrous sheen. You can see the effect of these threads in two little experiments I did some time ago; the first one uses 8/2 combined with 20/2 (a spun silk about the thickness of perle #8), the second uses 8/2 and Fine Cord.

Treenway 8/2 and Fine Cord (St Thomas)
Treenway 8/2 (Hollyhock) and 20/2 (Pomegranate)

Treenway’s threads and silk ribbons (did I mention they do silk ribbons?) come in 53 solid colours, which are very beautiful, and a number of variegated colours, which are stunning. Unfortunately, although the Fine Cord comes in all 70-odd variegated colours, the 8/2 doesn’t. This made it a little difficult to find a pair of shades for the Stitch-Along, especially as I had previously bought threads in the shades St Thomas and Daylily, and for preference I’d like to buy shades that would go with one of them.

There was an added difficulty: how do you decide on pairs of variegated shades when you can only see them separately on a computer screen? So I wrote to Treenway explaining what I was looking for and what I already had, and their reply was a model of customer service. Susan went far above and beyond the call of duty – she put together all the colours I mentioned, plus several which she thought might work, and photographed them side by side, with several skeins of the colours I already had interspersed so I could see how they looked together!

Treenway's colour comparison picture for St Thomas
Treenway's colour comparison picture for Daylily

I have just sent in my order; with the cheapest postage option, so it may be a while until they’re here, but when they arrive I’ll post a picture. Which shades do you think I’ve gone for?

Waiting for the postman, real and digital

Having stitched all twelve of the Song of the Weather designs in blue and white standard perles, working out thread requirements and seeing whether stitches worked together, I am now stitching them all again using a variety of threads and fabrics. There are several reasons for this.

  • It was difficult to take pictures of tricky parts when I stitched them first time round, because I wasn’t quite sure yet what the tricky parts were;
  • As people have different fabric preferences it is useful to show what the projects look like on different counts;
  • The first version shows what you can do on a limited budget, the second will give options for those wishing to expand their thread repertoire;
  • And finally, any excuse to play with my collection of hand-dyed and other speciality threads smiley!

One problem is that it can be difficult – not to say downright impossible sometimes – to pick two shades that will work together if you can only see them on a computer monitor. I have one or two threads in my stash which bear witness to the fact that what looks irresistible on-screen can look less than enchanting in real life. Most sellers, however, are quite happy to give advice; I remember getting shades of Splendor silk together for Papillon’s “Quaker Gameboard” and Bobbie at Stitching Bits & Bobs helping me out by checking them against DMC shades.

So I’m waiting for the digital postman to bring me word from Treenway Silks, whose delectable silks are a joy to work with and who have created some of the prettiest variegated threads I have ever seen, and I am also waiting for the real-life postwoman to bring me two types of Tamar Embroideries’ hand-dyed cottons in three shades, some Caron threads and Weeks Dye Works perle #5 and #8 in four shades. Lots of lovely things to look forward to!

Obviously I haven’t got pictures of all these lovely goodies yet, but I’ll show you a combination I’m hoping to use for something or other soon. It’s standard DMC perle 815 in combination with Treenway’s Fine Cord, shade “Tangiers”, probably to be used on dark red fabric, possibly with silk ribbon in the same shade as the Fine Cord – yum!

DMC perle 815 & Treenway Fine Cord Tangiers

Three more new silks – Treenway

Some years ago I bought a grab bag of odds and ends from Treenway Silks, a Canadian company selling hand-dyed silks. They have since changed owners and moved to America, but the silks are still gorgeous, and the people are very helpful.

In their range of silks there are three which are of interest to any Hardangerers out there (a lovely term coined by Midge of the Cross Stitch Forum) – from thin to thick they are Fine Cord Reeled Silk, 20/2 Spun Silk and 8/2 Reeled Silk. Should you wonder, reeled or filament silk is taken from the cocoon in one unbroken thread, which can be combined and twisted to make a thicker thread; spun silk is made from shorter fibres, for example the ones from cocoons from which the moth has emerged, or from the leftovers of reeled silk. Reeled silk is stronger, less prone to fuzziness and fraying (so longer threads can be used), and generally shinier (although that depends also on whether it is flat or twisted).

Treenway describe these three types of thread as being equivalent to a buttonhole twist, #8 perle and #3 perle. I’ve not yet worked out what exactly a buttonhole twist is, but the few threads I’ve seen which go by that name seem to be tightly twisted perle threads somewhere between #8 and #12. Treenway’s #3 thread is interesting in that at first glance it is not very perle-like as it doesn’t have a very strong twist, and it doesn’t look nearly as thick as a #3; in fact, it looks more like a very slightly more chunky #5. So I decided to try it for Kloster blocks, with the 20/2 silk for the other stitches.

Treenway

Like some other thick silks and also Caron Watercolours, the effect of the Kloster blocks is less textural than with a perle cotton, or a tightly twisted silk perle like Gloriana, but I rather like the look of these blocks with their five stitches almost blending into each other. Coverage is great, as you would expect from a thicker-than-#5 thread, and not too bulky. The 20/2 works well as a #8 substitute, but feels a little thicker. I didn’t stitch the little backstitch motifs in this experiment, but I think the thread would have been a little too thick for them to be well-defined.

Would the Fine Cord perhaps work better? At this point I only had the grab-bag threads, so it wasn’t easy to find pairs of threads that would go together, but I managed to find a green 20/2 and a variegated green Fine Cord which made a usable combination. Having to use the thinner of the "perles" for the Kloster blocks meant using a finer fabric, so I tried this combination on 28ct.

Treenway

As you can see, the 20/2 is not quite thick enough to give good coverage in the Kloster blocks, even on 28ct. It’s just about acceptable, but cut ends keep poking out. The Fine Cord is gorgeous – easy to work with and what a lovely shine!

Ideally, then, I’d use the 8/2 silk and the Fine Cord together on 25ct (and they’d probably work fine on 22ct as well). There was one problem: the grab bag had not contained any of these that would go together. Oh dear. It looked like I’d have to buy a few colours just to experiment with …

I did (bet that didn’t surprise you). I got two sets of 8/2 and Fine Cord, plus a single Fine Cord in their delectable shade Tangiers to use on one of the Round Dozen. And here is the result (this shade is St Thomas):

Treenway

Like most silks, especially hand-dyed ones, these threads aren’t cheap. But for a special project, or as a treat to yourself, they are just perfect.