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Embroidery Threads Bits- What Are Orts and What Should You Do With Them?

embroidery thread: What Are Orts and What Should You Do With Them?

What are embroidery thread bits called? Do they have a special name? What do you do with them? Do you try to save them for another project? Throw them away?

After I had been embroidering for a few years, I started hearing the term orts. I wasn't really sure what it was being referred to or if I was missing something in translation. Turns out orts are thread bits!

What to Do With Your Embroidery Thread Bits/Orts?

embroidery thread tangles

What Are Orts?

Orts are the leftover bits of thread that remain when you are done stitching. They may be the little itty bits of thread left from when you cut your thread, or they might be thread that got tangled and became unusable, or maybe they're longer bits that were left over from a project and you don't need them or can't figure out what color number they are.

These are all orts!

The word ort reportedly comes from Middle Low German and means leftover. It was originally used in the 15th century to refer to food scraps. It's unclear as to when needle arts took over the term and reappropriated it to mean leftover thread.

Other embroidery lore mentions that ort is actually an acronym for 'odd random thread' or 'old ratty threads.'

embroidery thread ends

What Should You Do With Your Orts?

Practically, you could throw them away and call it a day. But where's the fun in that? Maybe your thread has sentimental value. Or maybe you just like the color combo. Either way you can display, save and reuse your orts in fun ways.

Many modern embroiderers can often be found saving their thread bits and putting them in displays such as jars or shadow boxes. My orts start out as a tangly mess in the back of my needle book before being added to a (rather large) glass jar.

I've also repurposed a mass of orts as stuffing for small projects like pincushions. If you have longer pieces in your ort collection, these could also be used for mending, or improve stitching.

thread bits orts used as pin cushion stuffing

Project Ideas for Your Orts


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