Thursday, March 21, 2013

Aemilia Ars Needle Lace - thread used for support stitches

Many times when we are interested in learning a new needlework technique, we go about gathering the "right" supplies. I know for me, when I want to start something, I get a lot of the enjoyment from the hunt for materials.

I have only dabbled in Aemilia Ars needle lace, a quick 3-hour class back in 2007 and some experiments on my own at home. Nothing I want to show anyone! From reading Italian books on how to execute this beautiful form of needle lace, I saw that they used something called "Refe" no. 40 for the support stitches. That is, the stitches which are placed on the cardboard support to hook on to when building a piece of lace.

I have never been successful in obtaining a spool of this mysterious "Refe" no. 40 so I've always just used cotton sewing machine thread. It is quite annoying as the sharp needle used to execute the actual lace always pierces the support stitches making it quite the task to separate the lace from the cardstock support. There are always endless little fibres from the support stitches to be extracted from the lace.

Here is what I mean by support stitches, I can't show you the whole design as it is about to be published in the May/June Lace Issue of Piecework.

I learned that the "Refe" no. 40 is not terribly easy to find in Italy either as it has been discontinued. The ladies are now using a new thread called Coats Glace no. 40. I immediately set about finding myself a spool (in the interests of research, you understand). I couldn't find it anywhere around here (North America) so I wrote to the Coats UK website asking where I might get some locally. While we wait on their reply, you can see what it looks like and read about its particular qualities at the Coats UK website. Keep in mind, we are talking about the Ticket no. 40 thread weight.

Meanwhile, I found Coats Glace for sale at TomboloDisegni in Italy (look under: Negozio, Filati, Cotone, Filati Vari), so I ordered a spool (among other things) and when it arrived I used it for the support stitches in the photo shown above. I always test my translations to see if my English makes any sense, so after I had translated the instructions for this piece, I started to see if I could execute the lace.

What I noticed right away was that I no longer split the support stitches with my needle when executing the lace stitches. Fantastic! If I ever finish the lace, it will be easily removed from the cardstock and support stitches.

Conclusion: the Coats Glace no. 40 thread is worth the investment as it will save lots of time and frustration in the long run.

Now, because I am who I am, I still wanted to see the "Refe" no. 40 thread and some kind ladies in Bologna send me a partial spool of it. The first thing I noticed is that the label doesn't have "Refe" on it anywhere! No wonder I couldn't ever source a place online to buy it! No matter! It was called "Lettera Lucido" and put out by Coats Cucirini which is the Italian division of Coats.

Comparing the two threads, the Glace is ever-so-slightly thicker and has 100 metres more thread on the spool but otherwise has the same stiffness to it, which is because of the way it is made. I can't get the price tag off the Glace thread without removing the paper below so I've left it there so you can see through it (underneath it says: Coats Glace, made in Turkey).

If I ever hear back from Coats about a North American source, I'll let you know!


  1. You can get Gutermann 40 hand quilting Thread in America - I've just found this link on a quick Google. And that is number 40 glazed cotton, fine, smooth, strong and almost impossible to pierce with a needle. I think this is exactly what you are after.

  2. Thank you very much, I will check it out!