Hand sewing and thread

Well how is that for a title? Hand sewing and thread. Not very thrilling. But – actually – it is!

Do you have any of these? Sold as a mending aid, my mother swears by them. I use mine from time to time. In fact I have three. One is cotton, the other two polyester multi-purpose thread. As you can see some colours are used more than others, and also that they soon look like a brown mess as all I tend to extract the cooler-brighter colours (which I use more than the warmer and more muted shades). But for people who just do hand mending these items are a boon because they include all the colours you are likely to need (or close enough) for fixing the boy’s shorts, or attaching a lace collar, repairing a zip or hem on your jeans. The pre-cut length is maybe a tiny bit short for some jobs but it is convenient for many. Economical too. The all purpose thread is good for everything but there is also a thread plait available with button hole weight thread, which may be useful for attaching buttons as well as button holes and a little bit of top stitching.


I even have a little mending kit that has one of these in it, a few needles and pins, a safety pin and some tiny scissors. And a tape measure.  I often carry it around in my handbag and find I use the tape measure and the scissors quite often. My mother, who was growing up in the 1930 and 1940s, also had a similar product for fixing her stockings, that were originally made of wool or silk (before Nylon was invented). She still has these in her sewing kit although the only stockings she wears these days are compression knee socks. But the colour is accurate!

However if you do a lot of sewing these plaits have their limitations. At a hat making weekend I realised you do lots of hand sewing, and you want a good colour match, but you don’t necessarily know in advance what trimmings or gros grain ribbon you will use. You need different – millinery straws – long, fine needles. And in terms of thread  I was introduced to the modern, souped up version, by another student. As I am going to do a course in millinery next term I decided to splash out on the Ferrari of rainbow thread.

i absolutely love this product. It cost £42.66 which works out just over £1 per reel, so pretty good value. Of course I will use some threads more than others, but I can replace them as they run out with the same or different colours.

I love the presentation too – the folding box that fits into your bag, the squishy black foam that holds the reels out for you to peruse and it make me feel the like the sewing version of a district nurse, door to door sales person or visiting chiropodist. Everything to hand for the professional seamstress or milliner!

And the rainbow ordering is so compelling. I love to put colours next to each other in the “right” order. It is quite an art. Like perfect balance in matters of proportion, our eyes always enjoy the natural order of colour. I had to buy these felt tips in Aldi, for obvious reasons. I hope to use these for my sketching workshop!

Rainbow felt tips
Fine liner felt tips


15 Responses

  1. Linde

    I have a stocking plait that is years old but still comes in useful sometimes because it has every shade of beige and brown. I also have a wooden mushroom somewhere which my mother used to darn my father’s socks. I have to confess I have shoe boxes full to the brim with every type of threads which I cannot part with just in case.

  2. Stephanie

    I love this post. First because I love hand sewing and so I found the sewing kit information interesting, but also because I adore arrays of colours. I often order my paints in that way. It gives me a secret thrill to see arrays of anything. Last weekend I took a photo of my blue threads laid out, as I have many shades and love the process of choosing which one to use.

    By the way, how excellent that you are going to pursue millinery next term. I look forward to reading more about that.

  3. Elaine Sabin-Simpson

    Lovely post- my mum used to have one of those thread plaits, and I’d totally forgotten about it, so thanks for that. I used to love playing with it as a rather introverted and arty child,
    My threads are contained in two smallish plastic chests, within which they are sorted by colour into sealable plastic bags. The majority of them came free with a cheapo sewing machine about 15 years ago, cheap quality, but that’s been fine for me. I’ve only very recently had to start buying new threads other than black and white.
    The joys of Gutermann threads passed me by completely until I bought some just to do the handsewing on our wedding dresses four years ago. Lovely, but expensive to my market-trained mind. For special work only I think!
    Love your OCD colour arranging, I used to peg things on the line by colour just to slightly alleviate the boredom of washing loads for 6 people…

  4. Maggie

    I love to look at those rainbow sets of threads. It’s pleasant to work with nice notions and threads.
    Regarding the plaits if thread being too short for some jobs: whenever I got a knot in a thread while hand sewing, my mom would tell me “a good seamstress uses a short thread” I’m not sure where she heard that before, but I hear it in my head now whenever I get a tangle.
    Can’t wait to see your posts about millinery class!

  5. ceci

    I was told also that good seamstresses use a short thread, or sometimes to cut my thread in half “you are sewing not fishing”. And also that one should always put the cut end off a spool into the needle’s eye as that is the easier end to thread with because of the way thread is spun. I’ve never seen a thread hank like that, very interesting…..


  6. Annnieloveslinen

    I haven’t seen the plaited thread before it’s a new one on me. Is your new thread. Gutermann’s? I didn’t know you can buy those in a kit, now I want one. I have to confess that I couldn’t arrange colours in order if I tried, how can I have lived this long and not know this? So much new to me stuff in this post, amazing.

  7. Kim Hood

    I have thread pack envy. My threads are stored in old Ferrero Rocher chocolate boxes. I have an unreasonable amount of it having worked for clients for so long, and almost all Gutterman as I had some problems with cheaper thread and I felt it was ‘cheaper’ for me to use the quality thread and less time. It is sorted roughly by colour but there are always rogues.
    I love those thread plaits but have never used one.

Leave a Reply