Sunday, 2 May 2010

I finally bought some tin thread -- now what shall I do with it?

I finally got around to buying some "real" tin thread. I already have the copper version and at a sale I also got some black enamelled copper thread. Tin thread isn't exactly cheap so I have putting off buying some for years. But now I just couldn't resist it anymore.

If you're not Scandinavian I suspect you wonder: what, then, is tin thread? Well, tin thread is a literal translation of Swedish word tenntråd. Sometimes it's also called pewter thread, seeing it's made using a tin alloy -- in Swedish tenn is used both for tin and pewter so different translations exist. But unlike most pewter alloys used in jewellery components, tin thread has a pinch of silver in it: 4 % silver to give it a nice shine. Of cause it's also nickel-free. The thread consist of a fibre core around which thin tin/pewter threads are spun (see close-up below). The sizes can be confusing: it is not the actual width of the thread, but the width of the core, that is measured...

Tin thread is used in traditional Sami embroidery -- since at least the Middle Ages -- as well as in a type of jewellery where tin thread braids are stitched onto reindeer hide. The jewellery is often called a traditional Sami handicraft, but isn't as old or traditional as many think. Not like the tin thread embroideries. In Sweden this type of jewellery, mostly bracelets, is made by non-Sami and Sami crafters alike.

Making these bracelets was popular when I was a kid (80's, early 90's), I remember, but though I wanted to try it, it was considered too expensive by my parents I guess. We had a help teacher in our class that was part Sámi -- not very common in Southerns Sweden where I live -- and she had one of these bracelets as well as other hand-crafted Sámi jewellery and embroidered accessories that she showed us. I also think it had a certain rise in popularity during the 70's as well, but I'm to young to know that for sure.

A few years ago tin thread braiding again became in vogue, but this time it was more about colour. Instead of just natural or dark brown or black dyed hides, craft stores began selling dyed stips of hide. And there was also a wide variety of colours in the threads, not just the traditional tin threads, but enamelled spun copper threads. But the "tin thead bracelet trend" seem to be constantly evolving because in the latest catalogue I got from craft store chain Panduro, the red, moss green, black and blue was gone. Instead there was silver and lilac hide -- lamb, not reindeer -- matched with the silver-grey tin thread. They pitched it as"folklore gone glam". Of cause, there was still the more traditional dark brown and black reindeer hide too.

I do not know how many more years it will be trendy for crafters and hobbyist jewellery-makers to make these bracelets, but I do know that it never really falls out of fashion: there are always a few people making these, especially in the North -- not least as long as there are foreigners interested in buying "exotic" jewellery or wanting "genuine" souvenirs.

I'm not sure exactly what I will do with my threads. Perhaps I'll make something "traditional", perhaps I'll try to add more of my style to it or perhaps I will just not use it for braiding or embroidery at all. Though it might look nice, using some in bead embroidery?


How to make tin thread braided jewellery

Were you reading this, looking for instructions or tutorials for how to make "saami bracelets" yourself or tips on where to buy tin thread? I've written about all of that HERE.


  1. lots of kids at my school saw my wild threads bracelet and asked me to make one for them and im confused with ideas please help me

  2. Where ever would one find the copper or pewter thread. It looks like something I would be interested in using in non-traditional ways.

    1. The short answer would be in Sweden/Scandinavia. Not sure where to find it state side, but if you're interested in buying from Sweden -- or want to pursuade your favourite bead shop to carry it -- I do have a short list of suppliers and shops that deliver internationally that I've given to others who've asked me the same thing. I'll try and find it amongst my e-mail and then I can get back to you with it.

      PS! If you like this type of thread, you might want to check out the jewellery at -- some fab eye candy there!


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