Thread

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Thread is either animal or vegetable fibre spun into long, flexible strands. It is used in sewing, weaving and any number of other fibre crafts.

Thread can be made from a great many different materials including:

  • Wool - (mostly from sheep but also from lesser animals if nothing else was available). As a sewing thread (i.e. to sew up seams or for embroidery), wool tended to snap more easily than silk or linen, and so was used for cheaper projects, when other materials weren't available, although there are exceptions. Wool thread would have been particularly used to make woollen cloth, which had great advantages over other cloths, being warmer, more easily felted so that seams don't unravel, and keeping the rain out due to natural lanolins.
  • Cotton - a rare material in period - mainly imported from Egypt and India and mostly used in coarse fabric due to a short fibre length.
  • Hemp
  • Linen - The most common thread in period - came from flax and the best flax grew in Holland. Linen was a common thread for sewing up seams of garments, be they wool, silk or linen. Silk thread was better at this, but the extra strength seldom justified the expense. Linen is not as easily dyed as other fibres, so was seldom used as embroidery thread (silk was preferred). A lot of linen thread would be made into linen cloth, which was chiefly used for undergarments (again, even in hotter climates, fibres that could be easily dyed pretty colours were preferred for outer garments).
  • Silk - Silk was expensive during period, but was very desirable for its strength and bright colours (it takes dye well), and also for its fineness (the fibre staple is very long, allowing for a few fibres to twine for a great length) so that very stong and thin threads could be made. Generally imported from China, though silk production occured in Italy from the 14th century onward. Silk thread could be used for handsewing, embroidery, braiding and to produce silk cloth.
  • Some metals e.g. gold thread were spun around a core of silk (or linen). Period artisans could get this quite thin by the mid period. Vikings just used thin metal wires (eg silver). Gold was most desirable, and most used as it didn't tarnish like silver.

Thread can be made into: