Stands for Old Raggedy Thread(s). It is what cross-stitchers call the thread ends snipped off the ends of threads. Mostly when they are too short to be used. There are those who drop them in a small container (of which you can buy various fancy versions on Etsy) or drop them in a cup or a wastebasket. At the end of the year, or so the story goes, you will have an idea of all the stitching you did.
I thought about it for a while, when I started stitching again and decided it was a cross-stitch community/Facebook/Instagram/Flosstube thing. It is not like weaving where the thrums, those end left at the beginning and end of a warp which can’t be woven, might actually be long and bulky enough to stuff pillows or ornaments. In the case of stitching, we are talking small, thin and almost weightless even when smashed into a ball.
All of this led me, while tossing mine in a wastebasket, to think about the origin of the practice. Was it like the story many of us heard during med school rotations about the surgeon on his first job, at a small town hospital. Being handed a suture for closure, he quickly and efficiently made the stitch and tied it off, Middle of the suture at that. The OR nurse looked at him. Quietly reloaded the needle holder with the remaining suture and handed it back. By the fourth time, he was attempting to close the wound with just a tiny bit of suture, almost too small even for an instrument tie. He turned around and asked “Why are you doing this?” The answer – don’t be wasteful. We are careful here and the patient pays for each and every suture pack opened.
Given when I graduated and started my internship – 1975- this story probably has its origin in frugalness and responsibility learned during the depression. Of the Waste not, Want not variety, My mother, as well as her mother were this kind of responsible when I was growing up. My grandmother first worked as a Public Health Nurse in southern, rural Minnesota and then as a bookkeeper for her brother-in-law. My mother grew up with homemade clothes, hand-me-downs and day old bakery bread. My father, on the other hand, grew up in the same era as a child of privilege and never was responsible. Not so, his sister, my aunt, who was one of the most lovely, hardworking, and generous women I have ever met.
Where am I going with all of this? I was evaluating my tendency not to waste thread. To stitch to the end of each length even if it was a bit ragged. It doesn’t make sense, I can afford more floss. DMC here in the US varies from $0.40-0.79/skein. I have a significant supply. Nor is it because I just don’t want to rethread the needle. I am doing that constantly on full-coverage pieces. It might be because, if I run out of a color I am going to have to dig out more? No, actually, I think it stems from a generational knowledge that things may not always be bountiful and that being conservative with the use of one’s things is smart.
In defiance, I stopped off a moderately ok bit about 5 cm long and rethreaded my needle.