Imagine living in the early 1900’s and visiting your local haberdashery store and seeing such beautiful cabinet displays as this fabulous sewing machine thread cabinet. I am sure this cabinet would have been one of many situated amongst glass fronted drawer units cramped with braids and ribbons and glass fronted drawer counters displaying all kinds of haberdashery delights.

This particular thread cabinet was specially designed to house the Wreath & Lion brand of the very best of silk and twisted sewing machine threads, a product synonymous with the London wholesaler W. Williams & Son. This cabinet was manufactured from American walnut and featured a highly polished finish. It measured 20 inches in length x 16 inches width and 12 inches high and held between 864 reels and 1008 reels dependent upon the yardage of each reel. This particular Wreath & Lion Machine Silk thread was available in reels containing 50 yards, 12 yards and 15 yards. Retailers purchased this thread for 13/6 per 144 reels, this is equivalent to £0.37 per reel at today’s prices, but with 100+ years of inflation, the thread would be worth £43 per reel today.

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Who would have thought it? A “Perle” type thread available to purchase from your local haberdashery needlework store in the year 1910. This Silkysheen embroidery thread had a twisted appearance, very much like the appearance of the current “Perle” thread and was sold in a 50 yard ball and was available in a large range of colours.

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During the Victorian era a toilet pin, known today as a hat pin, was and still is a decorative and functional pin, which is used to hold a hat in place. In the 1880’s hats replaced bonnets causing the sale of hat pins to soar all the way through to the early 1950’s.

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The Studley Quilters based in Warwickshire, are a group of ladies who, prior to Covid19, get together once a month and who enjoy quilting and all aspects of sewing. Their aim is not just friendship, they also learn sewing and quilting techniques from one another and put their practical sewing skills and creativity to good use in order to create unique supplies for numerous charity projects. This year, not only have they supplied the NHS with much sought after scrub bags and headbands, but they are also busy making incubator quilts for the Neonatal Unit at the City Hospital in Birmingham.

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There are a wide variety of stitches which can be used in canvas embroidery and using a mixture of stitches within the same project can ultimately create an interesting piece of work. Most stitches are formed from combinations of straight, horizontal and diagonal stitches and when stitched in a variety of lengths they can create texture and depth. This piece of stitching has been created on a single thread canvas and using tapisserie wool which is moth resistant and colour fast. A size 26 and a size 28 round blunt point tapestry/cross stitch needle was used.

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Sometimes canvas embroidery and needlepoint are referred to as the same application, however there is a difference between the two. Canvas embroidery, as the name suggests, is a combination of embroidery stitches whereas needlepoint, also referred to as tapestry or petit point, consists of a single stitch called a Tent Stitch which is rather like a half cross stitch. Both types of application are created on a canvas rather than on a material. There are different types of canvas available and choosing which one can sometimes be a nightmare.

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Embroidery needles and chenille needles, sometimes referred to as crewel needles, are used in free style embroidery. Your choice of needle is dependant upon the weight of fabric and the type of thread used. Traditionally an embroidery/crewel needle is used for stranded cotton and a chenille needle is used when stitching with Perlé thread, crewel yarn and some metallic/Lurex threads.

This sample of free style embroidery is using a combination of stranded cotton, crewel yarn and lurex embroidery thread to create texture and depth highlighting individual areas of this piece of work. Stranded cotton as the name suggests consists of 6 separate strands that are twisted together which makes this thread quite versatile. You can use all 6 strands at once as used in this piece of stitching, or you can separate the thread into single strands or groups of 2 or 3 strands etc. The needle used most probably would have been an embroidery size 5

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It is just as important to try and create neat stitching and a neat finish on the reverse side of your work as it is on the front side of your work. Admittedly this can be very difficult to achieve but something we should strive to do.

This piece of embroidery stitched by my late mum is quite old and for years it was used as a display piece and was not behind glass but open to the elements in her then wool, handicrafts and haberdashery shop. Considering it is was stitched in the 1980’s it is still in a reasonable condition even though I recently placed it in my washing machine and pressed the delicate hand wash button and prayed.

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I was reminded the other day how a piece of forgotten embroidery can take you back and remind you of happy times with loved ones that are no longer with you and how calming and soothing and indeed personal a piece of stitching becomes.

Its over a year now that my mum passed away. However the other day I found myself looking through a couple of boxes of Mum’s stitching and finished pieces which I had put to one side.  Although this beautiful piece of work stitched by Mum is personal to me, I could not let it go without sharing it with you.

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The Sizing of the Sewing Machine Needle

In 1942 the sizing of machine needles became regulated and fixed individual metric sizes were introduced, leaving behind an antiquated system of more than 40 different individual sizes. Sewing machine needles are sized in metric, however the equivalent imperial size is also shown, which appears adjacent to the metric size. For instance: 90/14 means that 90 is the metric size and 14 is the imperial size.

The size of the sewing machine needle is dictated by the diameter of the needle blade, which is measured above the “scarf” of the needle. The measurement is in one hundredths of a millimetre, the same as a hand sewing needle and therefore, for example, a size 90 sewing machine needle means that the needle diameter, just above the “scarf” area, measures 0.90mm.

Remember the bigger or larger the number size – the larger the diameter of the sewing machine needle and therefore this denotes which fabric to use.  For example: a size 70/10 is a fine needle and this is used on lightweight cottons, whereas a size 110/18 which is thicker than a size 70/10 and is used on heavy brocade fabrics.

The most popular size of a sewing machine needle is a size 80/12. It is a middle size, not too large and not too fine.

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