Until now many of the special threads we read about haven’t been available to us without paying duty. This is frustrating since many of them are produced here in Europe only to be imported exclusively to the USA . If we want to obtain one of these beautiful, historic threads, those of us who live and work in Europe then must order it from a supplier in the USA.
That supplier then sends the threads to us in the post. As those little packages of thread produced here but distributed by an American firm come into Europe, they arrive at the “Zollamt” (Customs and Excise Office) here in Germany (or whatever it’s called where you live) and we are asked to pay tax on that thread as it returns to Europe where it was manufactured in the first place. It’s frustrating since by then the cost of these beautiful threads then becomes prohibitive for those of us living here in Europe.
Thankfully, the English firm Benton and Johnson is now manufacturing silk wrapped purl right here in Europe! Neil Halford of Benton and Johnson sent me some samples just before the holidays and the thread is just lovely. Below are just a few of the colors he sent along for me to see.
Purl is a metal thread that is spun into a tubular shape. Usually it’s gold or silver or sometimes other metals such as copper. Silk purl is made the same way but a thin – super thin – bit of silk is spun around the metal thereby producing a colored, silk purl that can be attached in the same way to fabric as metal purl.
Benton and Johnson has produced an extensive array of colors. The list below includes most, but not all, of the colors.
China Blue, Mid Cardinal, Light Sky, White, Black, Burnt Copper, Ecru, Autumn Gold, Dark Mauve, Dark Rhubarb, Dark Lavender, Burnt Yellow, Marigold, Saxe, Dark Pewter, Muscat, Violet, Green, Pastel Green, Tartan Green, Leaf Green, Turquoise,Rose, Blue, Pine, Strawberry, Cerise and Iris.
Purl thread is attached to the surface of the fabric using a waxed sewing thread. The needle is brought up from the back of the fabric, passed through the tube (or center) of thread, and taken back through the fabric once again to the back. This technique is called cut work. For a good description and photos of the cut work I did using gold purl on my RSN Goldwork piece, click here.
Purl is a delicate thread and prone to what’s called bruising – a tiny dent that appears on the surface of the thread if handled carelessly. The purl in the photo below is next to a # 5 crewel needle.
The effects one can achieve with purl are beautiful. In one of my new Christmas gift embroidery books, Twixt Art and Nature (*see note below) there is this photo of silk purl attached in curved loops. The colors have been carefully chosen to achieve a shaded look and the effect is magical!
This pretty silk purl isn’t on the web site yet, but Neil Halford assured me that if you contact him directly he will help you with your order. The thread costs £2.95 per meter plus VAT and postage. You may contact Benton and Johnson directly through their “Contact Page” which you will find here.
I’m not sure what I’ll use silk purl for yet…but you can be sure I have some ideas! What about you?
*Note: I’ll be reviewing this book in the near future. It’s out of print and can be quite expensive but Hedgehog Handworks has a limited supply at a very reasonable price compared to other online book dealers.