Monday, March 4, 2013

When can you use old/vintage thread?

I thrifted this box of misc handwork things a while ago and I wonder if the floss is too old to use?
I got a question from a fellow Flickr user about how you can tell if vintage floss is ok to use.
I thrifted a box of floss and handwork and not sure if the floss is too old to use?
And I have to admit, I have no clue. I've never used vintage floss - I guess my local charity shops are not that well stocked with that sort of thing.. ;-)

So I thought some of you might know/have experience with vintage floss (and sewing thread as well). How can you tell if it's no good to use?


  1. First off if it's beginning to rot then the fibres will start to come apart making the threat less strong. So give a length of it a good old tug and if it snaps it's no good. If its stranded thread then separate the strands give them a tug. If you are unsure then compare it to a new thread.
    Secondly it may be strong but the fibres may start to disintegrate or separate when you are stitching, so try doing a test piece and if after a while the thread starts to fray or fibres coming off it then it's no good.
    Lastly you should check the colour, some threads may have faded with time. Unravel it a bit and see if the colour is the same through the whole skein.
    I use quite a bit of very old thread, its just trial and error as to weather it's ok or not. Mainly due to how it has been stored.
    Hope this is helpful.

    1. I was going to say the same thing, give it a tug to see if it breaks easily. I have a bunch of vintage thread from various locations but it turns out a lot of it is really brittle. I also have some vintage wool/crewel embroidery thread and it seems to have fared pretty well.

  2. I also suggest that whatever floss is still good, you make sure that you know 100% that you have enough for the project you want to use it for. I inherited some a long time ago, and most of it was "dye lot" stuff, and the colors may not be the same now because many cotton flosses no longer have dye lots. Make sure to check to make sure that it is the same if it appears to be the same color. It could also be that the company is no longer in business, or they just make "fashionable" kits for the year it was manufactured, which often do not include enough floss from the beginning. There are many reasons why you may not be able to get more. Have fun!

  3. Thanks for this! I have a couple boxes of thread I inherited from my husband's grandmother that I've always been afraid to use.

  4. I've been using 40+ year old floss on and off for years that was my mother's, which is what was used when learning to embroider when I was young. It was always stored in a plastic bag and I haven't had a problem with it. I don't test it and I've been lucky. I would suggest testing it. Also, most of the skeins are from companies that no longer exist so color matching would be even trickier. Since I make up my own designs I've been lucky in having enough of each color that I've needed. It's definitely something to be aware of because of the reasons mentioned by these other experienced woman. I'll be receiving 5 lbs. of floss from friend that found it thrifting (how exciting) and I will probably test it even though it comes from being stored in a vintage wooden DMC box.

    I also have vintage spools of sewing thread. I have used some in my sewing machine but I think it's more fragile/dried out and after one spool breaking regularly and then reading something about sewing with old thread I've stopped that practice and buy new. The friction of the needle and pulling is too much for it and it will save a lot of time to buy new and not have to fiddle with broken threads, it will also better hold your sewn piece together. :)

    Have fun with it, I hope you're able to use it. There's something warming to me to think about a woman before me using that same floss for her stitching project.


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