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Sew and So

How to Make a Tin Embroidered Key Chain

Tenntrådsbroderi, or embroidering with pewter or tin thread is almost a lost art. The Saami used tin thread since the 1600’s to decorate their clothing. The tin was obtained by melting down old pewter plates and dishes and was spun into thread. The use of pewter thread has recently become fashionable in jewellery items such as pewter braided reindeer leather bracelets worn by actors such as Benedict Cumberbatch.

Tin thread is quite difficult to work with and requires a lot of patience and practice to make. This is a how-to project for making a reindeer leather keychain with tin embroidery.

Working with tin and leather can also be quite hard on your hands so if you have any hand, wrist or shoulder problems, please do not try this project. If you do this project or any other needlework project be sure to take frequent breaks and or work on a different type of project, to give your hands a rest.

Reindeer Leather Keyring

Reindeer Leather Keyring

Materials
You will need:
a small piece of reindeer leather, about 9 cm x 7 cm
a narrow strip of reindeer leather, 1.5 cm x 24 cm
Tin thread, about 1 meter length
a small square of wool felt, wadmal or a sturdy piece of wool cloth, about 7 cm x 7 cm
light iron on interfacing, linen fabric or natural cotton fabric, about 7 cm x 7 cm
fine leather needle
sewing needle
thimble
silk thread or good quality polyester thread
invisible sewing thread
metric graph paper
fine permanent marker felt tip pens

The Pattern
Sketch the pattern onto metric lined graph paper. This pattern has been drawn on 5 mm lined graph paper.

Snowflake tin embroidery pattern

Snowflake embroidery pattern

Trace the pattern onto iron on interfacing using a permanent marker. I have marked the end points of each snowflake with dark blue ink. This makes it easier to see the end of the stitch when you are embroidering.

Snowflake Embroidery

Snowflake Embroidery

Iron the interfacing onto the back of the small piece of wool felt or fabric. In this example I have used a small piece of handmade wool felt but you can use wadmal (which is a woven wool fabric that has been felted) or other sturdy wool fabric. I have also used linen fabric for the pattern rather than interfacing, because I happened to have some in my stash.
I have stitched the fabric onto the felt using a basting stitch.

Tin Thread Embroidery Pattern

Tin Thread Embroidery Pattern

Tin Thread
You will need about a meter of tin thread for this project. If you have a longer length of tin such as on a spool, don’t cut it at this point. Instead I sew with it while it is still on the spool and cut the end when I am done, so that I don’t have any waste as the pewter thread is quite expensive to buy.

Tin Thread

Tin Thread

Tin thread comes in a number of thicknesses ranging from .25 to .5 in diameter. For this project I have used .3 but you can use a finer tin thread .25 or a thicker one if that is what you have on hand.

Tin Thread Unraveling

Tin Thread Unraveling

To make it easier to thread the end through to the back of the felt, you will need to unravel a bit of the tin from the core thread. The tin has been spun around a core thread. Pinch the end of the thread between your thumb and forefinger about 2 cm from the end. With your other hand give a bit of a twist to the thread. The tin will untwist and can be stretched out.

Tin Thread Unwound

Tin Thread Unwound

Starting at the centre of the snowflake thread your sewing needle through the felt and pull the unraveled ends of the tin thread through to the back of the work.

Tin Thread Sewing

Tin Thread Sewing

Tin Thread Sewing

Tin Thread Sewing

Tin Thread Embroidery
Thread a sewing needle with the invisible nylon thread. I find it best to tie a couple of knots at the end of the thread, one on top of another to make a secure knot.
Sew a few stitches to secure the ends of the tin thread to the back of the fabric.

Using the pattern drawn on the back of the work as your guide, follow carefully along the lines as you stitch the tin thread to the wool felt. Pull the needle to the front of the work, and stitch the tin thread to the wool felt. Work your way along the pattern being careful to keep the stitches in line with the pattern. Use very small stitches to sew the work.

Tin Thread Embroidery

Tin Thread Embroidery

When you get to a corner, push the needle through to the front of the work, and wrap the tin thread around the needle to form the corner. I give the tin thread a bit of a pinch to help hold the shape. Sew the corner securely in place. Pewter thread is quite soft. The thread can break while you are working with it, so do this carefully.

Tin Thread Embroidery

Tin Thread Embroidery

Tin Thread Embroidery

Tin Thread Embroidery

Once you have stitched your way around the pattern cut the tin thread leaving an end of about 2 cm. Pinch the end of the thread and unravel it as before.
Thread this through to the back of the work.

Tin Thread Embroidery

Tin Thread Embroidery

Reindeer Leather
Draw an outline cutting pattern for the key fob on a piece of graph paper and cut it out.

Key Fob Pattern

Key Fob Pattern

Using this paper pattern cut the embroidered felt to the shape of the key fob pattern.

Cut a piece of reindeer leather using the same pattern.

Put the cut reindeer leather and the embroidered felt together. Using the leather needle threaded with polyester or silk thread, stitch around both of them using a whip stitch. Fold the end section of the reindeer leather under and stitch into place.
To make the key fob a bit thicker insert a small piece of plastic or other thick material in between the felt and the leather.

Reindeer Leather Snowflake

Reindeer Leather Snowflake

Reindeer Leather Edge Finish
Fold the 24 cm strip of reindeer leather in half and cut a small slit in the centre. This will fit over the top part of the key fob.

Reindeer Leather Key Fob

Reindeer Leather Key Fob

Leather Key Fob

Leather Key Fob

Sew the leather edge to the key fob using small backstitching.

Reindeer Leather Keyring

Reindeer Leather Keyring

Paivatar Yarn on Etsy

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More About Sami Duodji

Sami Art of Tin Thread Spinning
Sami Reindeer Bracelets
What is Sami Duodji
Sami Open Braid Weaving
Beaivi Rigid Heddle Weaving Video

Saami Band Weaving Workshops

Beginner Saami Pickup Band Weaving Learn the basics of how to weave pickup using a Beaivi double hole rigid heddle loom.
Warp a Beaivi Loom Workshop Learn how to warp a Beaivi loom and how to weave pickup patterns.

Saami Music – Itunes

Binna Banna – Kikki Aikio
Áphi (Wide As Oceans) – Sofia Jannok
Ulda – Ulla Pirttijärvi & Ulda
The Kautokeino Rebellion (Music from the Movie) – Herman Rundberg, Mari Boine & Svein Schultz
Beaivi, Áhcázan (The Sun, My Father) – Nils-Aslak Valkeapää

Saami Books

God Wears Many Skins: Sami Myth and Folklore in a New Poetic Interpretation (Voices of Indigenous Peoples)
With the Lapps in the High Mountains: A Woman among the Sami, 1907-1908
Saami: A Cultural Encyclopaedia
Lapps and Labyrinths: Saami Prehistory, Colonization, and Cultural Resilience

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This page last edited on August 8, 2017

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