Thread Theory

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The workshop of Wray Parsons Pt. 2

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We popped by woodworker, Wray Parson’s workshop again to pick up another order and this time Noah and I were able to tag along. Wray showed me his entire catalog of sewing and needlework tools that he makes or has made in the past. I enjoyed hearing the design process stories! He usually works with needlework artists who are looking for specific tools. They explain how they want the tool to function and look and then together they figure out how to create such a tool in wood, specifically on a lathe. He also puts a lot of thought into streamlining production so that the tools can be made in small or large batches as demand from shops and artists worldwide ebbs and flows.

When we first stepped into the shop Wray pointed toward the table where the orders sat and I went over to what I thought was our usual cardboard box. He stopped me and directed me to a very special pile instead…our little bag of wooden tools was sitting atop the most beautiful wooden bench complete with inset blocks spelling out Noah’s name! As soon as we got home Noah set the stool upside down and had great fun playing with the legs and watching as the letter blocks tumbled out for him to grab. I’m sure he will be using this stool, first as a toy and then as a seat, for many years!

While we carry most of Wray’s sewing related tools, there are a few designs that are new or I had forgotten about since I originally viewed his catalog years ago.

This little spool-shaped contraption is a combo pin cushion and beeswax block (used for conditioning thread to prevent tangles and to strengthen it when hand sewing). Wray uses 100% beeswax and, as always, stuffs his pin cushion with sheep’s wool so that the lanolin will protect your pins from rust.

While we carry his lovely acorn tape measures, he also makes these elegant bell shaped ones. To put the tape away, you spin the handle of the bell. When we are at craft fairs it is so fun to see people’s eyes light up in childlike wonder when they start spinning the acorn stem…this tiny bell sized to suit a doll or fairy would certainly have ignited my imagination as a child!

These wooden thimbles are very cute. I have never stocked them as they are decorative rather than functional but I thought you might enjoy looking at this one all the same!

From what I understand, the above tool is a form of bunka brush which is a brush used to set the nap of threads or fabrics all in one direction. It is intended for a very specific needlework but I wanted to photograph it to show you the three tiny wooden rings that float freely as decoration around the handle. So intricate! Wray includes this ring design on several of his long handled needlework tools.

Lastly, I am just so excited to show you this new project Wray has been working on at the request of an embroidery artist. These pin cushions are a take on his usual design but instead of adding velour fabric he’s packed the sheep’s wool in a fine mesh. He’s also altered the way it’s constructed so that the cushion can be removed. Any guesses why these changes have been made?

They are a DIY kit! These little changes mean you can add your own fabric or embroidery to create a custom cushion! What a unique way to feature a very special piece of fabric or an embroidery project! I’m definitely going to include these in our next order and can’t wait to work on some embroidered linen to decorate one for my own studio.

I laughed when Matt came home from his first visit to Wray’s workshop with a camera full of pictures of tools…Wray and his woodworking were nowhere to be found! I took these photos of his work to rectify the situation and Wray shared a favorite action shot of himself with me.

I hope you’ve enjoyed what has turned into a two part meet-the-maker series! I’d love to work with Wray to design a few more sewing tools. So far I am thinking of a magnetic pin dish (much larger than his needle minders since I love the convenience of being able to toss my pins in the general direction of a dish while I’m in a sewing frenzy). I’d also love to figure out some sort of wooden bobbin storage but I haven’t had any great ideas about how to convert this to something that could be turned on a lathe. Do you have any ideas for wooden sewing tool designs?

View Wray Parson’s tools in our shop.

One thought on “The workshop of Wray Parsons Pt. 2

  1. A true artist. Hand made of natural materials is so rare today compared to mass produced plastic jump made from injection molds. I really enjoyed this series.

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