THREAD THREAD

Based on questions from Elaine and others, here’s a bit more on the thread I’ve been using on both the Permissions and Trifles samplers.

As I’ve said before, my stash came from a small needlework/beading supply shop in Pune, India.  It wasn’t current stock.  The head clerk sent a boy scampering up into the storage attic for a VERY dusty box of odds and ends.  I picked out the best colors left, avoiding pastels, and looking for what high impact/high contrast hues that still remained in quantities of 10+ skeins.  I bought them all.  They were very inexpensive – just a few rupees per skein.  At the then-current exchange rate of 60 rupees per dollar, I think I spent less than $20.00 translated, and came away with a huge bag full, well over 200 skeins divided up among about 15 colors.  Here’s just a sample:

floss more-floss

The name brand is Cifonda Art Silk.  It’s not a spooled rayon intended for machine embroidery.  As you can see, the put-up is more like cotton embroidery floss.  And it turns out that the stuff is still being made, and is available in Australia, and even in the US – although mostly by special order.

The websites that offer this thread vary a bit in description.  Some say it is a 35% silk/65% rayon blend.  Others say it is all rayon.  Contemporary put-ups specify 8 meter skeins.  My vintage stash skeins are a bit longer, possibly 10 meters (I’ll measure tonight).  The large bundles above are actually “super-packages” of ten individual skeins.  You can see the bright red one at the left is broken open, with the single skein labels showing.  On mine, color numbers are written on each skein by hand, not printed.  There can be hue variances between the super-packages of the same color number, so I suspect that special care should be taken to buy all that’s needed at once, so that all is from the same dye lot.

Cifonda’s structure is that of standard floss – six strands of two-ply relatively loose twist.  The individual strands are quite fine, two of them are roughly the equivalent of one ply of standard DMC cotton embroidery floss.  The colors – especially deeper ones like red and indigo – do run when wet, although they do not crock (shed color on hands, ground cloth, or wax when stitching dry).  I would not advise using this thread on clothing, table linen or other things likely to need laundering.  It may be possible to set the colors before stitching using a mordant bath or long water soak, but I don’t have the experience, time, or materials quantity for experimentation.

I am pleased with the way the Cifonda looks in my work.  It’s a bit shinier and finer textured than cotton floss, although it does not have the coverage of the true silk floss I’ve used (Soie d’Alger).  My Cifonda is quite slippery.  Two or more plies held together tend to disassociate and slide past each other for differential consumption, even when using short lengths in a small-hole needle.  I tamed this by aggressive waxing – running the entire length of my threads over a block of beeswax before use.  Since I’m doing linear counted work, any change in color or texture is not noticeable.  Someone using this for satin stitch, long-and-short, or other surface stitches that maximize thread sheen would probably want to wax only the inch or so that threads through the needle.

Like all lightly twisted rayons, this thread does catch and shred a bit on rough skin.  Care must be taken to use needles with very smooth eyes, and to hold the unworked length out of the way when taking stitches, because the stuff snags extremely easily.  My own stash, well aged as it is, contains some colors that are a bit brittle.  The bright yellow I’m using now, and the silver-grey I used on the last sampler are both prone to breaking under stress, and must be used in shorter lengths than the other colors.

I will continue to use up my India-souvenir thread stash, working smaller and smaller projects until it is gone.  But in all probability, I will not seek out the Cifonda to replace that inventory as it is consumed.

Anyone else have experience or hints on using this rather unruly stuff?

3 responses

  1. Thanks, Kim! I have a small amount of something like that, too, inherited from my mother or grandmother. There’s a silk/rayon blend embroidery floss available here in Oz under the brandname Raj Mahal, but I haven’t tried it. My stash is already sufficient for several lifetimes.

    1. I’ve seen a couple of posts that said that the Raj Mahal was very much like the stuff I have, so maybe the experience above will be useful to you.

  2. […] through previous posts.  30 count evenweave linen ground, stitched over two threads (15 spi).  The 6-strand floss is man-made “silk”, rayon actually; a vintage find brought back from India, slightly thinner than standard DMC floss. […]

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