Old World Designs

Having visited the wonderful world of Britex Fabrics, it was going to be very hard for my next crafty stop in California to be anything better than a disappointment. However, while Britex Fabrics might be the Aladdin’s Cave for the sewer, the small, unassuming Old World Designs in Menlo Park is probably the hand embroiderer’s Nirvana.

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I have to confess I don’t quite understand what the subtleties of needlepoint are and whether it really is identical to canvas work or not but I do know that Old Word Designs is a fantastic shop!

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Beads, sequins and lots of glitzy threads!

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It’s quite unusual to find shops dedicated to hand embroidery now. Many craft shops will have a small, hand embroidery section with a few DMC/Anchor displays and some of those really horrible thin, flimsy wooden hoops but not the kind of threads that are so fascinating that you find yourself designing a project around them. In the UK, the best place to find some new materials in the flesh is probably the Knitting and Stitching show, but there are a few stores, like the wonderful Spinning Weal, that stock a few hidden gems like Oliver Twists Fibres and Sue Spargo’s Razzle Dazzle series.

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Old World Designs has it all though. There’s a nice selection of silk ribbons hidden away in a cabinet so make sure you go exploring there as well. I have the impression that ribbon embroidery seems to be a lot more popular in the US than the UK as I’ve never seen a brick and mortar supplier of silk ribbons specifically for embroidery.

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The Renassiance Designs and Tentakulum Products both caught my eye for their incorporation of metallic threads. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of all things bling in embroidery but, as well as the beautiful, hand-dyed colours, I like how the rayon works in quite subtly. I’m looking forward to trying to work with these threads as, while I do love metallic effects, unfortunately a lot of the threads are just hard work to sew with and do a great job of shredding themselves, cracking or destroying everything they come into contact with. I will keep you updated.

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Rainbow Gallery and their colossal colour range of ribbons, lames braid, neon, anything else you can think of make up a huge bit of the store. The strandable silk looks rather softy compared to Au Ver à Soie but I’ll see how it works up. There are a huge amount of over-dyed Au Ver à Soie threads on offer at Old World Designs so if you can’t quite find the match you need it’s possibly worth having a look for the work of one of the many dyers who seem to do this.


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As well as the threads, sequins and embroidery fabrics, Old World Designs lives up to its name with a huge number of needlepoint designs on offer. From grand, lifetime sized projects, to small cute things that could be turned into cards, they cover all subjects, contemporary to serious, seasonal to geometric. The shop staff are lovely too so I’m sure their classes must be great fun. Maybe next year. Most needlepoint designs aren’t really my thing but I could definitely see myself getting excited about doing some geometric canvaswork with the vast array of textures and colours of thread that are on offer.

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In case your feet are aching from pacing up and down the shop for hours and your mouth is dry from dribbling over the thread, there’s an awesome patisserie, that serves the best tea in the world (Mariage Frères), called Mademoiselle Colette just across the road!

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