Pulling threads

It’s the weekend and so I am finally getting some time to sit and work with some materials. I’ve purchased a variety of threads to test out – I’m trying to get a feel for the materials.

My usual working threads are stranded cotton, a 6-ply thread which I split depending on the weight (thickness) of stitch line I’m after, and standard machine cotton which I use for fine detail. However, having now spent some time examining the embroideries in the archive in close detail it’s apparent to me that my usual threads are far too heavy (thick) in comparison. While it’s not my intention to make precise physical replicas, the aim of this project is to translate embroidery digitally, I do think it’s vital to get a ‘feel’ for the materials and the scale at which the original pieces were worked.

However, I do hit a moral problem with regard to materials. The original embroideries were worked using silk threads and I have avoided the use of animal products for over 15 years. My intention is to find an alternative (and get some, hopefully, interesting insights into materials and techniques of thread manufacture in the process). I have access to vegetable fibres that were unavailable 500 years ago, but in order to find a comparable equivalent I think I will have to try some small samples working with silk.

But that’s a dilemma for another day…

This weekend I have been trying out various types of cotton, stitching sample lines in back stitch and running stitch so I can compare them. I noted that none produced a smooth stitch line, as these particular threads are not mercerised, and that when split into single strands the soft cotton and coton a broder (16 & 25) were extremely fragile and pulled apart after only a few stitches. Which makes me wonder how the original embroiderers managed to work with (the much more fragile) single strands of silk?!?!

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