Caveat Emptor

Fish Soup - finished
Has it really been over two months since the last time I updated this blog?

I’ve been here and there. ‘There’ being a freezing-cold Bradford at Easter, for the annual national science fiction convention; ‘here’ being the day job out at Battlefield, and regular visits to my father in South Shropshire. I’m also doing some transcription work, which means more of my spare time has been spent right here at the keyboard.

I’ve been doing this and that. ‘This’, below, is a small piece stitched mainly in Hungarian braided chain stitch. ‘That’, at the top of the page, is Fish Soup – a little picture worked in pineapple stitch: I was experimenting to see how the stitch could be used for the sort of stylised pictorial motifs normally worked in cross stitch. I designed Fish Soup to take advantage of some of the patterns that the stitches made naturally. It was surprisingly easy to stitch, once I had charted the design and I like the texture the pineapple stitch gives to the piece. I made both of these with some colourful thread which I bought from eBay (about which more in a moment).
DOOR  - embroidered picture

You may remember that I had given myself a ban on further needlework purchases, along with stationery and books until Easter. Well, the thread on this piece was where my resolve failed. I had been looking at this thread offer on eBay for several months, wondering if I should get it or not.

I first bought some thread from eBay about a year ago. This was supposed to be “100% Pure Silk” but I thought it looked rather more like rayon in the photo. When it arrived, it was definitely rayon, very similar to Marlitt thread. Nice stuff – too nice to return for not being ‘as advertised’.

Pink and Purple Butterfly
I used some of it for this butterfly, made while investigating trellis stitches.

Then came a bag of 50 spools of “rayon/art silk” machine embroidery thread from a different eBay supplier. A bit closer to the description this time, as 28 of them were, indeed, very nice filament rayon thread. Some good, useful colours, and all of them different colours from the spools and reels of machine rayon that I already owned. I’ve already made good use of these on various projects, particularly my rococo-stitch pieces. I expected the ‘art silk’ to be rayon too, it’s another name commonly used, but the remaining 22 spools turned out to be filament polyester – amazingly shiny, good quality, strong thread. It’s a little thicker than the rayon and in a useful selection of colours, but I am not quite sure what I shall do with them. Any suggestions? They do look nice, so I am sure I’ll be inspired one day. Here they are in a chocolate box looking almost as tempting as chocolates:

poly filament

My next two purchases were not embroidery-related and were very successful. A very good quality cotton canvas tote bag to replace my old one – so good that I bought a second one for my sister – British made and at a very, very good price. My dad wanted new braces like his old pair – and eBay came up trumps for those, again at a very reasonable price, in the colours he wanted.

Meanwhile a big bundle of skeins started calling to me whenever I browsed the embroidery threads on eBay. According to the seller’s advertisement, they were 150m skeins of “100% pure cotton”, they were pearl cotton size 16, and there would be 125 skeins in the pack – a mixture of plain and varigated colours. For the price quoted, either they were going to be the most cheap and nasty cotton out, or there was something terribly wrong with them, or otherwise they were going to be made of Something Else, not cotton. (The advertiser had a lot of these packs to sell, it was not a private seller ignorant of the value of pearl cotton. They came, in fact, from the purveyor of the ‘pure silk’ that was my first eBay purchase.) They were not particularly shiny in the photos, so not a filament thread. What were they? Nasty, fuzzy, short-staple cotton, spun polyester, fine acylic, or spun rayon? The postage charge was low, which suggested that they were not likely to be polyester. If they were acrylic, they would be very useful for my stitched boxes. If spun rayon, I was sure I’d make use of them. The only thing that worried me and made me hesitate was that they might turn out to be exactly what they were supposed to be!

After dithering for several weeks, I finally decided there was only one way to find out for sure: I bought a pack. When it arrived, it was very big and very light – a good sign. Inside, it was exactly as described except that the ‘cotton’ was 100% spun rayon. Hooray! Of the 125 skeins, two were faulty. Quite a few of the rest had their labels stuck to the thread (sorted with sticky-stuff remover and a wash – which also proved the excellent colour-fastness of the dyes), but in general they are good quality thread. fine spun rayon pearl threadI am extremely pleased to have them.

The thread is visually very like Pearl Cotton size 12, but it is much softer and less ‘solid’ when stitched. It turns out to be perfect for pineapple stitch on 36-count linen, and many other things. Ideal for places where real pearl cotton 12 is a little too thick and firm but just one strand of floss is too thin. The colours combinations are often quite bizarre, but I’ll have fun finding uses for them.

The only trouble is just how much of this thread I have now got  – over eighteen thousand meters of it. So you are going to see rather a lot of fine spun rayon pearl thread in projects and samplers over the next few years!

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3 Responses to “Caveat Emptor”

  1. I’d pick which of the pieces shown is my favourite, but I can’t pick. The pineapple piece is so interesting in the blending in colours and texture, Door is an Art piece, and the butterfly is so pretty!
    I’m interested in hearing more about the qualities of rayon and polyester and other acrylic threads after reading your post. I thought it was all rayon. Would you care to do a post?
    Suggestion for what to do with all your new stash : roll around in it to luxuriate in all the wonderful colours!

  2. I LOVE that door. It is so simple, but the thread makes it gorgeous. I haven’t even heard of these threads yo u are using. Lovely.

  3. suetortoise Says:

    Okay, I’ll do a piece on using rayon and synthetics soon, then. Thanks for the kind comments.

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