As promised here is the first on materials information for needle painting – THREADS. I have presented it interview style based on questions you have asked in the past.
Which is the best thread to use for Needle Painting and why?
DMC & Anchor stranded cotton are best, here’s why.
1. The matt sheen is more visually appealing and suited to this style of embroidery.
2. Cotton is easier to work with and split than other mediums.
3. One strand of cotton is the perfect width.
4. It comes in a wide range of colours which is essential for needle painting. I use both Anchor and DMC shades combined to find the exact colour I need.
5. It is completely colour fast and good quality.
Which Is the Best Brand?
Both DMC & Anchor are available in a range of approx 450 solid shades and I have my favorites in each. The DMC range is excellent but I would like to see more very pale shades in each family of colour and some of the colours are a bit on the bright side. The Anchor range is more subtle and includes a good selection of shades from very pale to dark in each family. An example of this is shown in the picture – the Anchor range is parituclarly good with its greens whereas there are some mid tones missing in the DMC range. Basically I use whichever shade I need whether it be from DMC or Anchor and they work well together.
As far as quality goes they are similar. Anchor is slightly softer than DMC but inclined to fray a bit towards the end if your piece is too long (longer than 50cm). Both brands are priced about the same and now readily available online.
If I want to start a collection of stranded cotton which shades should I purchase?
My advice would be to purchase the sludgy greens, golds and browns in both ranges. These are used for branches, leaves etc in most needle painting projects. Then get a selectionof reds, muted pinks, yellows and oranges from light to dark. The colours that you are unlikely to use are bright pinks, purples, blues and oranges. If you do need these occasionally for a project (nature is full of surprises) you can place a special order.
It’s going to cost you but is a good investment just do without a hairdo or a visit to the dentist for a couple of months it will be much more rewarding and far less painful!
How do you use the thread?
Every thread has a nap (the direction of the pile) and it really does help to achieve smoother shading if you use your thread with the nap in the same direction. To ensure that you are doing this look at the skein of thread and you will see it has six divisible strands. Pull one strand out from the rest as shown in the picture and cut it off near the top. Each time you need to re-thread, pull out another strand and thread in the same direction.
For those of you who have spent hours winding your thread onto little bobbins – don’t do it!! Rather use it off the skein for the very reason that you will not know which end you are using if it has been taken off the skein and put onto bobbins. However if you have done this or are have pre-sorted your thread onto cards there is a solution – mark one end with a permanent marker pen and use this end to thread into the needle. It goes without saying that you will cut off the bit painted with the marker:)
What is the best way to store your thread?
Ok this one depends upon your personal needs, how big your collection is etc. I store my big stock of thread by number so I can find the colour on my shade chart and then look for the number. However, I store my left over threads in transparent plastic drawers in colours, i.e. greens in one draw, pinks in another. I can see the colours through the plastic. When I need a shade I just dig through and when I have finished with a project I just throw the left overs back into the appropriate draw. I find this works well for me but you may have another solution. Perhaps you could let us know how you store your threads, it would be very interesting?
Can you use other threads for Needle Painting?
I have to be careful here because in my book CREWEL & SURFACE EMBROIDERY – I experimented with combinations of silk, wool and cotton. It was great fun and I loved the results of the combined mediums, however it can be a bit tricky to obtain all the different threads, so after that I decided to make my life and everyone elses easier by sticking to cotton. Silk is lovely to use for needle painting, if you like the shiny effect, but is not the easiest thread to use and handling it can be a nightmare unless you use a hand cream. AU Ver A Soie have a lovely slightly matt silk which is great but I find it a bit too thick for this work. Having said this I do use Chinese silk for fine details, because I can split it down to one hair’s breadth. Crewel wool is a wonderful way to learn the technique as it is very forgiving and the hairiness hides imperfections but it is a bit on the thick side and does not provide the fineness that cotton does.
You seem to be using more Anchor than DMC in your recent projects why is this?
Again it is a matter of what colours and shades I need for a particular project. I try to use threads from one range for a project to make life easier for the consumer who has to go out and buy them, a shop may stock one range but not the other. Both ranges are available through wholesalers in South Africa but the prices and availability vary. My Colour Book is based on DMC thread and was sponsered by the DMC corporation but even then I did have to use some Anchor shades which were not available in the DMC range.