DIY, embroidery and textiles, stuff i've made

One way to use up leftover thread…

I got around to organizing my embroidery threads the other day…putting all the untouched hanks, little paper bands and color codes still on, in one organizer, looping the working hanks of thread around plastic thread card thingies, and gathering all the odds and ends of leftover threads (short lengths, minus a few skeins)

If you do a lot of embroidery, chances are that you have a small (or medium…or humongous…) mass of embroidery threads left over from all those other stitchy projects. Could it possibly look anything like my own thread bunny, here?…or am I more slovenly than most of you? >:)

DSCF1780

I hate to throw anything even remotely usable away, but I know that I will not remember to rummage through my tangled thread monster for a particular shade of thread when I am working on an embroidery design, so the solution—for me—has always been to create a project specifically to use up my leftover threads.

Years ago I drew diamonds on an A4-sized piece of white linen using gold gutta, and whenever I had time to kill I would take some leftover thread and fill a shape or two in with satin stitch. I ended up turning the finished piece into trading cards and swapping them away. I only have this one crappy photo, pretty much to scale, but you can see what I mean.

Harlequin

It was time for another one of those projects:

A simple geometric grid on the fabric (old white cotton bedsheets, in case you were wondering)…nothing too complicated.

Inch-sized squares halved on the diagonal. I’ve kept each shape smallish, just the right size to use up the verious 16-inch lengths, 3 or 4 threads to a skein, of each color. Any bigger and I would have to pull fresh thread from the other piles, and I am trying to use the snarl up, not create more leftover thread.
grid

I’ve filled the triangles with a simple satin stitch…alternating between horizontal and vertical stitching gives textured patches of glossy and matte threads.

I started out by using the regular satin stitch, but realised that some of my thread lengths were so short that I wouldn’t have enough to fill even one triangle, so I shifted to surface satin stitch—leaving almost no thread on the back of the embroidery.

front / back

Once I use up this tangle of  leftover threads I hope to always keep a piece of fabric, with a simple grid like this, ready in a hoop, so that I can stay on top of the thread situation, working a triangle here and there alongside my real embroidery projects.

It doesn’t really matter that I don’t know what I’m going to do with this piece of cotton when it’s full of embroidery…there are a million ways it can be used, and I’ll just decide that when it’s done.

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65 thoughts on “One way to use up leftover thread…

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  11. jeanne e. says:

    fantastic way to use up thread! i always have tons of bits leftover, and like you, i hate to toss it. :) thanks for sharing.

  12. Beautiful. I haven’t embroidered in years but this has given me renewed inspiration. I like that you don’t know what it is until it’s done! And I like the economical surface satin stitch too! Thank you so much for sharing this :-)

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  15. diane says:

    i think this will make a very nice ” me time ” project, something to do when you need to relax and when i have finished ALL my UFO’S ( Don’t say anything daughter, i WILL get to them ) ha,ha,ha,ha

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  17. This is lovely. I didn’t know there was another version of satin stitch (although I’m not an embroiderer so it’s probably not that shocking!). There’s something really lovely about the stitch and the shapes. One day, when I’ve finished all the other things on the list, i must try it!

  18. This is so simple and so pretty! I love it! I think I will try this out. I mostly quilt rather than do embroidery, but have started playing around with quilting using embroidery floss.

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  22. lyn lewis says:

    What a natty idea! Wonder if it would work as well with a mixture of threads………..embroidery and perle for example!

    • I was wondering the same thing, there’s some perle thread in that bunny…I think maybe for a less structured, formal design? Where the uniform rows and shapes don’t feature so strongly? Let me know if you try the mix! I have less of the perle left over, though, because it isn’t divisible, so after a project there’s rarely more than 6 inches left…

  23. tanvel says:

    After using thread/wool from a new hank I wrap the leftovers on cardboard.I write on it the brand and the corresponding #, so if I need more I have the info ready.
    I store these in the plastic zip bag of the same color, so I never have thread bunnies.
    Thanks for your great project.

    • Yes, I’ve seen some very organized thread stashes…in fact, I think I have a bag of about 50 of those plastic thread bobbin thingamabobs somewhere, from my mom…but I couldn’t keep a system like that up for more than a week, then it’s back to thread bunnies! And one of the first things I do is throw away the little paper band with the thread number and brand on it, to make sure that I have no idea where it’s from or how to get more. :D Because i like surprises, and I like living dangerously! LOL
      Thank you for visiting and commenting.

  24. I save all my warp ends and they look very much like your thread bunny. Connected with your blog through Pinterest and look forward to following your creative hands.

  25. Love this – looks bright and colourful and a great way to use up leftover thread. I hate wasting time doing the “proper” thing and using the thread bobbin thingies and always want to get into a project straight away. Of course the result of being slap happy is that you end up with a big mess …. but this is a great project to justify impatient people like me! Thanks for sharing

  26. alison dowell says:

    fantastic stuff. I love what u do…!
    u are a woman after my own heart. I have thread bunnies too but i didnt know that is what they are called.About to start a sewing program at Anula School where I teach visual art.

    • Oh, Alison, how nice of you to visit! I just call ‘em thread bunnies, after dust bunnies, you know…roll around the corners of the boat in a breeze, stalk the cat, breed under the bed…

  27. I did something similar with my left-overs – some small pieces of panama fabric and threads. I made little embroideries in cross stich – christmas trees in all sorts of green hues (!!) and girlands of flowers and birds in rows etc. and I’m not over it yet ; (

    • I thought about doing that…small projects…but once I get bogged in designing something, it slows me down. Hence the truly brainless activity of stitching one triangle next to another in total randomness! It would go even faster if I wasn’t being net about the satin stitch. Maybe I should just do, I dunno, random straight stitches, like candy sprinkles…
      Thank you for the visit and comment, Urshula!

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  29. the geometric pattern i’m totally digging. plus the colors – great and brave, i must say, use of thread. i wouldnt know how to attack a thread bunny like that. hehe

  30. I looooove this. I usually just toss old thread into my softie-stuffing jar, but I might save the longer pieces for something like this. It looks like a great way to practice satin stitch, too. Which I definitely need.

    • For sure, a few of these and you’ll be reigning mistress of the satin stitch! Softie stuffing, that is such a good idea, didn’t occur to me (I don’t have that much leftover thread, and don’t do many softies…but I could, in the future.) Good to know. thanks!

  31. Oh I love this idea… however my thread stash is a little bit more organised so I don’t have a mass of loose leftover threads to work with…. But colour and design-wise your project is looking fantastic

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