Thread-banging, Head-banging Entropy

I’ve been quietly working (okay, reality is I’ve been roundly cursing, but let’s try for a modicum of dignity) on several projects as time permits. I’m nearly finished with the first chemise (about a foot more stitching on the neckline casing, then the hems) and have a workaround for underarm gussets I’m planning to document on the next go-round. I’ve run several dye experiments, on both cotton yarn and an incredible linen-cotton blend fabric that I found at Mama Said Sew in Fort Collins the last time I took the cat-child for her medical experiment. (More on that when I have time to write it up.) I altered the glove pattern and built a pair on the altered pattern out of a lovely, soft wool, and I have built a muff base (following on Katherine’s muff base) that is stuffed with silk batting.

I’ve also woven some of that same dyed cotton on my rigid heddle loom, but truly, that was a practice piece that is not at all ready for prime-time, or even day-time UHF (what is the equivalent now? Daytime basic cable? Having gone to TV by interwebz in about 2000, and having been without cable since I was 16, I’ve kinda forgotten or never knew.) I’ve managed to forget to snap pictures during daylight every time, despite having cameras on practically every device I own (and a pretty good digital) because seriously, I’m GenX. For me, pictures were expensive, between the film and the developing, and there were books that I needed a lot more than more scraps of paper to be packed or tossed whenever we moved. By the time I remember to take a pic, the light is gone, and my other half is home, and he’s as camera-shy as the Amish. Also, he’s happier in the dark.

And in between all of this, and work, and just dealing with the fact that the country as a whole seems to be one missed dose of thorazine from a full psychotic break, and goofing off on the Intertubez and reading and the other forms of cat-vacuuming known as sustaining life and fending off local entropy, I’ve been winding various hanks of spun fiber into useable balls or onto spools. A couple years ago, I managed to score ten hanks each of Araucania Ulmo cotton yarn in the most gorgeous violet and red. I had intentions of crocheting it, but my crochet projects have to be short attention span theater. Weaving turns out to be just active enough that I don’t get bored, while crochet is just too slow for me. (I cannot knit. Yes, I’ve tried. No, it doesn’t work for me. I’m glad you do, and I’ll admire your efforts, but no, I can’t be taught.) This stuff is soft and delicate and small vat dyed, so it has this incredible, subtle marbling. It is going to weave into beautiful fabric. It’s also the most consistently tangled skein of yarn I have ever encountered. I can wind a ball of Cascade or Simply Caron in about 10 minutes (no swift, no winder) but every skein of Ulmo takes at least a half hour, despite being stretched on warping pegs and carefully handled. All knots, all the time.

Tonight, I’m winding floche, which is fancy-schmancy embroidery thread. (Ah, the exciting life of a pure geek.) It’s not stranded, like regular DMC floss, and it’s a little more delicate than either perle cotton or floss, but it’s the stuff for period embroidery. It’s soft and smooth and gorgeous long-staple cotton. I expect it to be brilliant to work with. And I know now why it’s rare and nobody uses it anymore. It tangles. OMGWTFBBQ does it tangle, despite warping pegs and careful handling.

If you’ve come to this post via googling on tangled thread, here’s the advice:

1. If you’re hand-sewing, make sure your thread is no more than 18 inches long. Yes, you’ll be rethreading the needle a lot, but shorter threads tangle less, are less likely to break under pressure, and shorter thread makes for better control of smaller and neater stitches.
2. Though it’s tempting to double the thread and knot both ends together, don’t. This will cause more tangles as the two halves of the thread try to double-helix around each other, plus the eye of the needle will wear a weak spot in the thread. Knot one end, if you must, and slowly adjust the tail end so that you’re always sewing with about 3 inches of single thread.
3. Lubricate the thread. Traditionally, this is done by running the thread over a block of beeswax, but in a pinch, you can use a dab of beeswax based clear lip balm on your fingers, or a hand or body lotion. Just use a very, very light touch and try to stay away from the petroleum based balms and lotions. Yes, Chapstick works. No, I don’t recommend it, because it does make oily stains. If that’s not an issue, have at.
4. For embroidery floss, take the two tubes of paper off the ends and stretch out the skein between your hands so the skein is flat and unkinked. If you have a handy comrade you trust with sharp objects, have your comrade make one cut with sharp scissors through all of the threads in the skein. (If not, lay the skein on a table and do the snip yourself. If you don’t trust yourself with sharp objects, please call your doctor or your local mental health emergency help line. End PSA.) This will produce about a gazillion 18 inch lengths of 6 strand floss (assuming DMC or equivalent), which is the right size for needlework and hand-sewing. Loosely slip knot the strands around something so they both stay together and don’t tangle up. The something can be anything from a pencil to a spare embroidery hoop to a set of disused circular knitting needles.

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