Dewhurst & Son’s produced the Sylko range of machine twist cotton, perhaps the most popular range of cottons used in the UK.
The iconic cotton reel label is instantly recognisable as a symbol of quality and the wonderful colours and evocative names given to the threads mean that there are plenty of vintage and haberdashery enthusiasts who now collect the original cotton reels.
There were around 500 colours produced, originally on wooden bobbins (through to the 1960’s) and then on plastic ones (in the 70’s and 80’s). We only own a fraction of these but thought it would be worthwhile to illustrate these as a list for other collectors. This list concentrates on the bobbins produced up to the early 80’s as we don’t collect the very last types with a barcode on.
We have a number of Sylko and other vintage cotton reels available on RetroSpectro, please check here.
Note most threads appear to have came in both No 40 and No 50 weights. Number 40 was described as for “general requirements” and is the most common. Number 50 was described as a “…finer thread suitable for stitching the most dainty and delicate fabrics…” The red and the blue print were reversed on the No 50 on most labels.
The front label dates back to at least 1909 though may have been used earlier.
This style was in use by 1938 (the previous style was still being used in adverts in 1937). This still includes the words “Silk Substitute” and a thread weight is now given. This style of label was also issued on larger reels with a 36 weight and one marked 24/36. We have placed the rear labels in the order they were probably used (though there was in all likelihood some crossover). D.137 doesn’t give a colour name whereas D.136 does. D.117 introduces the Sylko brand logo on the reverse label and D.125 is an early example of the LD acronym being dropped. We have found both the D.136 and the D.117 style labels on small size (2.4cm high) reels.
In use by 1959 and featured on both wooden and plastic bobbins (the latter certainly by 1971 and possibly a little earlier). Note the words “Silk Substitute” have been dropped. This style of label was also issued on larger reels with a 36 weight.
For the rear label there were a couple of different labels used on standard size wooden reels, note the D.305 illustrated includes British Standard B.S. 3418-61 which was for Domestic sewing threads (cotton and linen) and was introduced on the 25/9/61. The D.123 illustration seems to be the earliest rear label used on plastic reels though D.460 shows that it was occasionally used for wooden ones too (we’ve only found a couple of examples of this label on a wooden reel).
Plastic bobbins only. These were in use by 1973. Note the use of grey ink instead of blue on the top images (the No50 weight came in the blue as well as grey). There were two distinct types of bottom label used, the one with the broader band came first and was later changed to the thin band type, both types dropped the point after the D in the thread number. Note the order of the metric and imperial measurements changes.
(click on the image)