Spinning thread for hand stitching, part 1. What do you want it for?

Talking to someone on FB the other day (an exchange of comments is what passes for conversation these days), I suggested they spin their own embroidery thread. And was asked if I’d done so, and what tips I might have. So I thought I’d start with a brief introduction to be followed by at least three posts about specific fibres and uses.

I’ve used quite a lot of handspun thread for stitching, not just boro textiles but also new garments. Just like any other yarn, when I’m spinning thread for stitching I start by thinking about how I’m going to use what I spin. It is useful to think about these factors even when considering which commercial thread and needle to use for garment repairs.
For example, if I want to stitch seams in a fine, densely woven fabric I need fine thread: a thick needle and a thick thread will break threads in the fabric each time the needle passes through the fabric. If the stitches are small and close together, over time these broken threads will weaken the fabric. If that fine thread is spun from short cotton fibres, it will require quite a lot of twist — be hardspun — to stand up to abrasion.
That fine, hardspun thread will eventually wear through softer spun threads. Traditional sashiko threads are spun softly to avoid damage to soft handspun fabrics.

Will the thread be exposed to wear, for example in boro-style repairs to clothing?
I loved my tabi so much that I wanted the repaired soles to be BEAUTIFUL.
I used embroidery floss and decorative stitching that I could admire while sitting cross-legged on the couch.

embroidery floss used for decorative repair to soles of tabi socks.

Embroidery floss is relatively soft-spun from long-staple cotton. It’s intended for surface decoration, it doesn’t wear well. So the repairs didn’t last long. I should have thought before I stitched.That’s what floorboards do to embroidery floss. But fabric also abrades thread: each time your needle and thread pass through the fabric, the fabric damages the surface, lifting fibres along the full length of thread used. That’s why embroiderers work with short lengths, because over time that abrasion from the fabric changes the character of the thread. If you want to reduce vulnerability to wear, spin a more tightly-twisted thread. Although too much twist will make a stiffer thread that might not lie as flat as you wish. Sample! 

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