Tagged: Museum of Haberdashery

Aug 15

Paisley: The Town That Thread Built

 

 

 

Paisley has been all over my Twitter feed recently because it’s been shortlisted for City of Culture 2021. I’m definitely keeping my fingers crossed for it. And if you want to know why I think it deserves such an accolade then watch this delightful BBC documentary, The Town That Thread Built, which aired last night. Hint: it has something to do with J&P Coats and their magnificent thread empire.

It was fascinating to hear the memories of the women who produced Paisley’s thread (for it was mostly women), and refreshing to hear a former factory manager (a descendent of one of the original Coats founding fathers) talking enthusiastically about the unsung importance of thread – even the distinct type used to make sanitary tampons. This is just the sort of obscure textile detail that I love to hear. So, please enjoy! Sincere apologies to those outside the UK who will be unable to view it. And note that it’s only available for another 28 days.

I was pleased to see a box of J&P Coats Bear thread featured prominently a couple of times in this film; in terms of design, this is one of my favourite antique reels, and I’ve had a full box (see below) tucked away in the Museum of Haberdashery the for some years now. The pink, dyed reels and orange thread are also a salutary reminder that the past was often more colourful than we tend to imagine.

 

Vintage haberdashery

J&P Coats Extra Strong Bear Thread, made in Paisley, Scotland

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Jan 02

American embossed wooden thread reels

 

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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!

 

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* 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

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