Jan 02

American embossed wooden thread reels




The Museum of Haberdashery* –  a virtual, crowd-sourced collection of sewing equipment – needs your help. What do you know about embossed wooden thread reels?

I believe that all these North American (mostly) silk reels date from the earlier part of the 20th century. The brands include some of the biggest names in North American silk thread production: Belding, Corticelli, Richardson, Coats, Clark’s (in various guises and partnerships). What they all have in common is that their reels have embossed, dyed ends rather than gummed paper labels. If you can help at all with the questions below, please do leave a comment.


Q1. Were embossed labels a particularly North American phenomenon? 

Q2. When and where was factory-embossing of wood introduced? 

Q3. Was embossing reserved mainly for silk thread reels?


It would make sense that the same or very similar technology would have been used for other wooden items such as pencils, rulers etc too. Did thread companies ever employ other companies to emboss reels for them? I’m wondering how expensive the process was, particularly in comparison with gummed labels? It would appear to have denoted a premium product – and would have carried the distinct benefit of never detaching from the reel, so there would have been some branding advantage there. From an online conversation with textile artist Hannah Lamb, I understand that silk producer Lister’s in Bradford, UK, decided to invest in such embossing technology, but I haven’t yet discovered further details. I’d be delighted if you would disclose more here, Hannah, if you could bear to!

So, any enlightenment or thoughts you can offer, fellow antique thread enthusiasts, would be really wonderful. Thank you in advance. And may I take this chance to wish you a very happy new year?  Here’s a close up of one of the more obscure reels in this selection, produced by Berkshire and Becket, a Massachusetts thread company, and featuring the wonderful slogan ‘Bountiful & Better’. Here’s hoping for a bountiful and better 2017!




* You’re warmly invited to use the hashtag #museumofhaberdashery on social media to share you own sewing collection or interesting sewing-related items you’ve spotted on your travels

Share This
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...



  1. Nancy says:

    I love your photos in this post. I vote for bountiful and better! I have some cotton thread spools that were also embossed. So I could share photos I published a post at http://joyforgrace.blogspot.com/2017/01/embossed-….

  2. graceonline says:

    I don't know much about those spools (as they were called when I was growing up), but I do remember my mom having some spools of thread with embossed, colored lettering on the ends. I remember how they felt in my fingers, how they felt to my tongue, how they smelled and tasted. Few of the women in my life could have afforded silk clothing, though all of them would have had one good silk garment, if they could manage it one way or another, so it may be those spools were only for silks. I suspect, though, that they came with cotton thread as well, because that is what most of the women in my childhood would have had in their sewing boxes and baskets. The sewing basket, or thread box, like the button box, was one way Mom and other women bought quiet time from us kids. We could build castles with a box full of colored threads. We could make them into cars and "people" and colorful beads strung on shoe laces as well. That's why I remember fingering, smelling and tasting those spools. Incidentally, Mom made dresses, even whole outfits from flour sacks for my sister and me.

    So glad to have found you, thanks to a mention about your blog on Second Hand Tales.

Socialized through Gregarious 42
make PrestaShop themes