Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Death's Head buttons and thread comparisons part 1


Death's head (deathshead / death head) buttons by Gina Barrett

This post is really a bit of a repeat of a blog post I made way over 10 years ago, comparing threads when working a straightforward death's head wrap.
Of course, back then, the image was interesting, but probably not that helpful - I can't even identify all the threads! But now, with phone cameras being so good, I thought I would revisit this.

All of these buttons have been worked over our No 117 turned wood mould (20mm).

Death's head (deathshead / death head) buttons by Gina Barrett

Starting with Presencia Finca Cotton Perle, in sizes 12 and 8.

Size 8 perle is my teaching go to. It is easy to see the thread placement, covers well, and still retains a nice sheen. When I want something finer, I go for the size 12. I think it is good to start with a thread that isn't going to break the bank, or be scary to work with, especially when teaching and designing. These both do this job really well. It also has the benefit of being on a ball, so no guessing how much thread you'll need - very helpful in a workshop situation!

Death's head (deathshead / death head) buttons by Gina Barrett

We place stranded embroidery thread into a few of our kits. The button on the left was worked with a single strand, and you can see how a finish more like a floss silk can be achieved - so it is perfect when wanting to show the patterns more clearly. The button on the right uses all 6 strands at the same time - however, in order to achieve the shiny look, I did separate all strands then lay them back together first. This removes the twist and gives a more flossy look to the thread. 
Again, this is a really affordable way to start practising more complex designs - the biggest issue is cutting the length and separating the strands, but at least you can add more thread if you've cut too little.

Death's head (deathshead / death head) buttons by Gina Barrett

Next up, 
a DeVere 36 twist filament silk, 

In all of these, the thread is so fine you can just see the mould beneath. In actual fact, this is much more obvious on the photo than in real life. However, for darker threads, I would normally colour the mould to stop the contrast - a black sharpie works a treat, and black coloured button moulds are known. But that wouldn't have been the best comparison for you.
All are good threads for more complex woven designs, where the spaces become invisible as well. The Marathon was probably the trickiest, and I did wax the mould on this one. I like the way the cross is nicely pronounced on the Rajmahal button.

Death's head (deathshead / death head) buttons by Gina Barrett

Au Ver s Soie:

The Soie D'Alger is a spun silk, and I have used a single strand (it is divisible as with DMC cotton). It has a nice soft sheen and lovely to work with. Being softer than the tighter twists of the previous image, it fills the spaces better. It is a nice affordable silk choice I think, but, as with all spun silks, the sheen is a little less than with filament.

The wool is one of my favourite threads actually. It is the perfect weight for thread buttons. I know, I've chosen a rather darker colour, so perhaps hard to see, but it really is lovely to work with for a very different look.

Death's head (deathshead / death head) buttons by Gina Barrett

Au Ver a Soie :

Three of my favourite threads for wrapped buttons. They are all filament (or reeled) silk.
Gobelins is perfect for fancy woven and interwoven designs, it is super fine and you need good lighting! A button made with this does take time, but usually is worth it.

The perlee is lovely for tidy silk buttons. Like a cotton perle, there is a twist, which makes it good for weaving and for grappe techniques. It's very similar to historical weight silk twists, and works well for multi colour wraps.

The ovale -  this flat silk is just perfect for a glossy death's head. All of the single colour wraps work really well with this, as you can see, the cross really stands out beautifully yet the individual wraps have melded to appear as though one. You need to keep if flat as you work for best effect, so bear that in mind.

And before anyone says - yes, I know it would have been good to get the colours all the same. But, that's not actually possible for some of the threads, and I did think it best to not raid stock just for this post! I've enough threads to get the examples done. :)

There are still a few to come, so watch this space!

Stay safe and well all of you.


  1. Oh thank you, clever girl! Just the post I've needed to get myself to do the same with my thread stash, if for no other reason than to see threads worked up. The very faint 'kink' in the rayons looks quite historical. And you labelled things - another thing we all need to do. I fished out something the other day and could not for the life of me remember anything. Anyway, thank you.
    Himself is agitating for a walk - guess I'll put clothes on (no desire to frighten the horses).
    No wonder I've felt punk today - it is 30c - at the end of March! We have opened windows and turned on fans - quite wilted.
    Bought groceries yesterday ( not as hot, thank goodness) and I managed to get it all put away! As this stage almost anything feels like an achievement - even getting the denture cleanser tablets cut apart and into the tin on the window ledge (perfect for getting the tea and coffee stain out of cups with no effort). Don is pleased that he got the top layer mowed off the front 'lawn' patches and one chunk edged - so am I - the devil grass runners were a walking hazard.
    Lovely post -thank you again. Stay safe and well, and hugs all around.xxxx

    1. Goodness, we had very similar days. The hottest March day since 1968 in part of the UK apparently - it was just lovely for us. Mark managed to get the lawn cut in the evening, and I managed to descale the kettle.
      Labelling is my friend these days. I have given up trying to remember everything. lol.
      Stay safe and well both xxx

    2. Still warm today (Thursday) and rainy feeling overcast, but good for walking around the block. This is the kind of weather that convinces lilacs in the Midwest that Spring has sprung - and then does a hard freeze. Our dear friend in Missouri only had lilacs twice in all the years. And growing up in the San Bernardino mountains we would have sleet, snow or rain for Easter half the time. Made it hard to keep the new shoes and dresses nice for church.
      Keep up the good labelling work - essential with stuff falling out as soon as it gets stuffed in to the brain.
      Stay safe and well you two (and the Toby pup, of course!) xxx

    3. I do hope that you both manage to have a good Easter whatever the weather holds in store! It's getting chillier here, I think the forecast is to keep getting colder. Not a surprise when it's so early this year. We had a beautiful lilac at our old cottage flowered every year without fail. I hope it's still there....
      Stay safe and well both of you xx

    4. Lilacs are very tough once established, so inhale the memory fragrance - it is still there!
      Joy and well and safe! xxxx

  2. Thank you. I learned a lot. I love the beautiful thread alignment of this button design.

    1. It is one of my favourites too - there is something quite special about the way the light reflects. x