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Storing Thread – more thoughts.

First of all, thank you to all you commenters who shared their method of storing thread!
Seems that I am not uncommon in my approach to re-wind only some of the threads, and on different things.

One fact that I have found is that some threads are better suited to being wound on a simple stick or paper roll or similar item with no flanges at the ends, while other threads still have a lot of “spring” in them (usually because they were overtwisted slightly during the manufacturing process) and tend to spring off the smooth thread holders. Flat thread winders or bobbins/spools with flanges are definitely the better choice for such pieces.

If speculation is allowed, I can imagine thread winders made from parchment, too (and I am planning to make some to try): parchment is light-weight, smaller bits of it will accumulate anyways when cutting parchment sheets for book pages out of the whole parchment skin, and it should be very well suited for making thread-winders. Small bones might also have been used, with the thicker joint ends making for a more secure storage of threads even of the “springier” sort. Storing threads on the spindle (especially just until the second batch for plying has been spun) also makes a lot of sense to me.

So maybe lathe-turned bobbins are that rarely found because there really weren’t many of them in use – people preferring to use stuff that was handy, or less hard to get and less expensive. Scraps of parchment, slivers of wood, short bits of smooth twigs, small bones, bits of reed, spindle sticks, or simply little balls of thread with or without something as a core. I know that if I need to wind some thread on something today, I’ll just use whatever useable thing I can grab at once, so I’ve torn off some paper from chocolate wrappers, folded that and used it as a winding core more than once. Seen this way, it sort of makes sense to me to just use cheap, available things that do not scream “thread storage item” to the archaeologist and save the money available for textile tools to invest in things not found or substituted as easily. And as far as I see, the habit of using precious, shiny and expensive matching sets of needlework items only comes up much later – so representation of personal affluence by having precious thread storage items was probably not done in the middle ages.

Hm. Maybe I should have some nice roasted chicken soon and keep those practical little bones…

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7 Responses to Storing Thread – more thoughts.

  1. Suse says:

    Hmm, maybe you are right, and we are on the wrong track to believe that there where very much bobbins, but they just didn´t find them until now 😉
    I even cannot find paintings were such a bobbin are in use, who can say if the London find really is for storing thread, Tony said the end maybe looks a little bit like any technical adapter, but that´s really speculative 😉
    I think I will wind up my embroidery threads as balls of wool with a nostepinde (I didnt know this before, but it seems worth to try it!).
    And then I´ll put it in a splint box like here:
    And I like the thread winders Chris Laning posted, I think I will craft one out of wood 🙂
    hihi, and I now also have an good excuse for eating many roasted chicken 😉
    It´s much more interesting to try out and use quite a few of storing possibilities 🙂

  2. Aethelflaed says:

    I've found that grabbing leftover bits of fabric and rolling them into a makeshift spool works great–you work with what is at hand when the specific tool isn't available. I've wondered about period methods of thread storage before, and I think your speculation about using random "stuff" makes a lot of sense.

  3. Chris Laning says:

    I'm not sure whether I mentioned this, but I've seen period paintings where it looks very much as though thread has simply been wound onto a plain flat piece of card or thin wood. That would probably not be identifiable as a "thread winder" in an archaeological context.

  4. Aethelflaed, Chris, thanks for those two additional possibilities. So I think we all more or less agree that taking anything that's handy is still natural today…
    I've never thought of storing thread on rolled-up fabric scraps, I'll definitely test this.
    And since grabbing a bit of whatever is there and remotely suited at the moment is so much easier than shopping for a properly reproduced spool before you wind your threads on it… don't you love it when doing things in a plausibly historical way is easy (and cheap) for a change?

  5. ragnvaeig says:

    For thread, I use small bones that have been boiled or otherwise cleaned. For anything thicker than 30/2, I wind it on itself into balls.

  6. – here's a little gizmo from Dublin, that could be used as a thread-winder. As far as I remember, that was Viking Age dated, but I would have to double-check to make sure.

  7. Tassilo says:

    Reviving this blog post for some info and questions.
    Part of the Kempten findings were bits of reed with yarn on it apart from yarns with the needle still attached.
    It is now used often with us and with a stopper you can also store the needles inside.
    AFAIR there was some small wooden block with yarn on it in the Oseberg findings?

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