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Invisible Thread and ITR's
By Ron Jaxon
     My work with invisible thread and the ITR have become somewhat of a trade mark for me among magicians. My passion for working with it started when I first saw Kevin James perform his beautiful floating rose routine at a magic convention. I soon found other routines such as Mike Ammars floating bill and Steve Fearsons floating cigarette. These quickly became trade marks for me. 
     When the ITR (Invisible thread reel) hit the market, I picked one up as soon as I heard of the thing. After a lot of practice, study and trial and error, I've become very knowledgeable with the ITR.  

     Today, not a week goes by that I don't receive an E mail or a phone call from a fellow magician seeking help or advice with their thread work and their ITR. So I sat down and typed up this little tutorial. I hope you find something valuable to your success here. So you to can perform some of the great magic you can do with invisible thread. 


    What is invisible thread? Actually, any thread can be invisible in the right condition. The use of back ground design and lighting can make most threads and string invisible to the eye. What magicians refer to, as invisible thread is a single strand taken from a length of thread. In the old days, magicians would take this from a pair of woman's stockings. Which was a very time consuming process. 

    Then magic dealers started selling the thread used to make stockings in spools. This made thread work more accessible. Today, invisible thread comes in many different strengths, thickness and colors. Some are what are refereed to as elastic threads. These have a little elasticity to them. 

    It's easy to tell if a type of thread can be stripped or not. What makes it usable, as invisible thread is that the thread is made of long almost endless strands combined together. So, when you look at a spool, if you don't see little fibers sticking out, then it is made of the long strands. This doesn't mean it can be used as invisible thread though. A lot of threads such as Rayon are made of long strands, but they are to bridle and one strand isn't strong enough to be used. 

    Woolly Nylon makes great invisible thread. It has a little elasticity, but is very strong for it's thickness. It also comes in a variety of colors. There is a small debate on which color is best for invisible thread work. Most say black, some say dark blue or green. For myself, I stick with the traditional black thread. 
     Another consideration when choosing what thread you like to use is how much glare or shine comes off the thread. If you go to a fabric store to search for invisible thread, you'll notice that some brands are more a flat black, while others are shinier. The duller the black, the better it'll be. This is because it's the shine of the thread that is usually visible in the wrong lighting situations. So it usually isn't the thread itself they see when they see the thread, but the glare of the light off the thread. (By the way, I've found the brand name Metlerflock to be the best Woolly Nylon for invisible thread work.) 

    There are things you can do to prevent them from seeing the glare of the thread. Such things as lighting, back ground and where to position the thread in conjunction with the position of the your body and the light source. (See when and when not to use I.T.) 

    There are some amazing things that can be done with invisible thread. Some of the most beautiful pieces of magic ever performed where accomplished with it. To name a few examples: Kevin James Floating Rose, Steve Fearsons Original Floating Cigarette and Michael Ammars' Floating Bill. These are also great sources to learn more about invisible thread work. I might add that there's a video from Kevin James called The Floating Rose, and Steve Fearsons The Thread Head. Which are both excellent sources for invisible thread work routines and tips. 

     You can also go to Steve Fearsons site Down Load Magic and obtain his on line magic video called "Area 51". This is a great magic video that goes into great depths in explaining his floating cigarette routine. You'll also learn his Area51 routine which is a variation of the floating cigarette with a glow stick. If you are interested in this video, Click here to go to his site. You'll be glad you did. This video also gives a lot of presentation ideas for floating other objects. 

    I'm not going to say that all thread work is easy to master. At times it can get frustrating when first learning to work with it. Invisible thread is a very bridle thing. It can easily break while you're learning to work with it. You'll find after time that it'll break much less often. As in anything in magic, if it's worth performing, it's worth mastering. 

When and When not to use invisible Thread: 

    There is basically one reason not to use invisible thread in a performance. Other then it doesn't suit you. The situation isn't right to use it without them seeing the thread. While this is an obvious reason, some performers have a hard time knowing if the situation is right. The biggest concern is lighting. You hear it all the time when talking about invisible thread. "Stay away from bright light." While this has some truth, it's not completely accurate. In some cases, a bright light in the right location is actually beneficial. To have the background light brightly is a plus when working with invisible thread. In other words, if the area behind you is lit brightly, and where you are performing is a little darker then that bright light, there less chance that anyone will see the thread. In fact, Kevin James (Who is very knowledgeable with invisible thread) says that he has the back of a stage lit brightly when doing thread work. 

Notice in the image above that the shine on the bottom edge of the thread shows up brighter with the Black back ground. This is why black is the worst color to wear while working with invisible thread. 
In this Image, the light source is coming from below the thread.  
    The reason is important is that when anyone ever sees the thread, what they actually see is the reflection of the light off the thread . 
If the lights behind you, the reflection will be on your side of the thread. Since you are between the light source and the thread. Then you are protecting the thread from that light. In this case, you would be creating a shadow on the thread. 

     In this image, The imaginary light source moves around the thread clock wise, you can see how much difference the direction of the light source effects the visibility of the thread.  

    There are two kinds of lights that you have to stay away from at all costs. One is the obvious bright sunlight. (All though later you'll see that Invisible thread can be used for certain things out side in the sunlight.) The other is found in side, which are those bright Florissant lights. This isn't usually a problem because if you're working in a bar or restaurants. These lights are usually located behind the bar. Unless you're working behind a bar you shouldn't have much problem. In any case, avoid them. Having said this, if the room is slightly dimmed, it should be suitable for invisible thread. 

    The same back lighting rule applies on stage, but since most stages have lighting systems, you should figure out how to set the lighting before a performance.  
    A big thing to consider is that you are the background in most cases when you are using invisible thread, especially with the ITR. Some people seem to think that black is the best color to wear. This is totally wrong. Black is the worst color of all to wear when using invisible thread. So is the case with the background behind you. The reason black is so bad for invisible thread is because of what I just mentioned. When they see the thread, it's actually the reflection of the thread they see. So, a bright reflection would show up clearer over a black background. 

    The best thing to wear is something with a pattern; this will prevents their eyes from focusing on the thread. You don't have to change your whole wardrobe to use invisible thread. Most clothing patterns are good. Just stay away from black and white unless it has a pattern. 

    These are the basic rules of lighting situations suitable for invisible thread. They aren't near as confusing as some believe they are. For the most part, just be conscious of the lighting and make your best judgment call. Which will be more accurate through experience. 

    The ITR (Invisible Thread Reel), actually a more appropriate description would be the Modern Invisible Thread Reel, for the ITR commonly known to magicians today is not the first ITR introduced to the market. Others have come and gone through the years but none proved more practical then the ones made by the Sorcery Shop. In other words, they made the first ITR that actually served its purpose. Which is to allow magicians to utilize invisible thread at a moments notice. 

    Since 1989 when they Sorcery Shop introduced their ITR to the market. They have come forth with different sizes and designs to meet the means of performing styles. There original was a large tube shaped ITR that measured approximately 6" in length. They worked wonderfully and became a great hit in the magic market. Suddenly those who didn't like the hassles of stripping thread where now doing thread work. Not only was it now easier to use invisible thread. Because you could change the length of the thread at any moment and the thread would retract back. It opened up new possibilities in presentation and handling. 

    In the years that followed they made even more improvements and made it even more practical. They also made a variety of different sized ITR's. Although the smaller ones where an improvement. You'll find in here that they do have there down faults. You'll also find ways to improve of fix these things to make your ITR more versatile. Having said that, all the ITR's made by the sorcery shop work great for basic levitation's of light weight objects such as bills, cigarettes and napkins. But here you will find routines that require less tension then the smaller ITR's have. So with the help of some close magic friends, we've found ways to lessen the tension and allow more control for these routines.  

    I might add that there has been some copycat ITR's on the market. Some work fairly well for basic use. While others are near useless. So be careful of what ITR you purchase. A better price doesn't necessarily mean a better buy.  

     There are three most common ITR's made by the Sorcery Shop. One is called the Super Micro ITR. This measures about 2" in length and can be worn just about anywhere on the body. It's most common location is under the color. Another ITR is known and the Thread boss. The Boss was made as an improved super micro ITR. The safety pin on the super micro was replaced with an alligator clip, which allowed easier attachment to the body. You'll notice that they also replaced the rubber rings on the ends with rubber caps. These caps are less likely to fall off the ITR, which was a big problem with all ITR's up till that time. These caps have one other purpose. The elastic band in the ITR is attached to the caps. So by adjusting the caps you can adjust the tension on the ITR. Then of course you have the original ITR (The big 6" one). While these where a little to big for comfort, The tension on them where the best. (To date, there are about 10 different ITR's made by the sorcery shop. Ranging from being built into magic wands, Pagers, and other small objects. They've also come out with ITR's that have mechanical gizmos attached to them that do various things). Most of them are great for basic levitation's of small objects, but again even with the adjustable tension of the thread boss. Some modifications are necessary to do some of the effects with maximum control. The reason for this will become clear when you get into some of the routines.  

    You can still find the original ITR made by the Sorcery Shop. Which is the large 6" one. These are very large and sometimes uncomfortable to where, but the tensions on these are great and little modification is necessary. There is also a medium sized ITR called the Micro ITR, which is in between the size of the original (6"), and the Super Micro (About 2"). These are about 4" in length. This is my personal favorite size, but that's only a matter of opinion.  

     I should mention that in Steve Fearsons instructional video "The Thread Head" he teaches how to make something called the "Poor Mans Thread Reel". Although this isn't near as compact as the tube type ITR's. The tension on this is the best I've ever used. In fact the tension never increases on his ITR. In this video he has some really great uses for it, and a very unique hook up. Some of which would be very difficult if not impossible to do with a normal ITR. I recommend this video very much for those who really like thread work.  

Now that I've talked a little about invisible thread and the ITR. I guess I should teach how to do something with it, "I know you're aching for it... : )". Here's is an effect i perform regularly with it ITR. It's a great effect. You'll find it great to fill in the gaps of a performance. It's also a great attention getter. I use this all the time when I'm working a crowd and need to attract attention. It's just a compelling thing to see. 


The Airborne Card 
    This is a very eye catching effect. At any time you have a card in your hand. You toss the card away from you and it flies right back to your awaiting hand like a boomerang. Then you toss it again and it spins through the air, passes through a hoop made by your arms. Then back across the body into your awaiting hand. You can even cause the card to fly around you. It can also be done with credit cards or business cards or any flat light weight object.  

    Above is only a rough explanation of what you can make the card do while it spins through the air. With practice and experiment you'll come up with many variations. I came up with this effect by pure accident (and later found that others have similar effects). I was half practicing, half fumbling with the ITR while anchored to the end of a single playing card. At first I was tossing the card like a Frisbee and catching it in the opposite hand. Then in one attempt to catch the card the thread accidentally fell in the crotch of my thumb of my catching hand. The card swung in a big circle before finally arriving in the palm of my hand.  

    Upon playing with this newly found effect, I discovered that by actually gripping the thread when it arrives in the crotch of my thumb I can cause the card to rise up, drop toward the floor and even change the direction of it's flight. I've been performing this for about 5 years now and I still surprise myself from time to time with new variations. If you spend a little time with it I'm sure you will too.  

Handling and Hook up:     Although it will take a little time to get a feel for this effect. The hook up is very simple. In fact you set up right in front of your audience at any time during a performance. Which makes it perfect for additional misdirection in certain routines. It's also a great thing to do to cover a mistake. After seeing a card suddenly spin through the air in a very magical way. You could imagine laymen's surprise. What trouble you may have had moments ago will be forgotten.  
To perform, have the ITR ready to go under your jacket or on your shirt (I carry my main ITR under my left lapel). Grab the putty and secretly anchor it to the center of a playing card. That's all there is to the set up. You're now ready to perform. I should add that the ball of putty is visible on the card so keep it in motion (I usually cover the putty with my thumb as I display the card). With some practice you'll be able to keep the side of the card out of view of the audience through out the entire trick. This is such a compelling thing to see, they are very unlikely to notice the putty anyway. If you are really worried about it you can use a face card (King, Queen or Jack) and attach to the face of these. The coloration in the design will hide the putty. Basic Move: 
    If your right handed and the ITR is under your left lapel. Hold the card in your right hand in "Frisbee throwing position". Extend your right hand away from you toward your right waist. This will pull a good amount of thread out of the ITR. In this position, your left hand comes naturally to your chest and clips the thread in the crotch of your thumb (This allows you control of the thread). now extend your left hand clipping the thread a little away from you (Pulling a little more thread out of the ITR) and toss the card away from you. The more spin you put on the card the longer you'll be able to make it fly around.  
The card will fly out and circle to your left. use your left hand to control the card. Then loosen your grip on the thread with your left hand and raise the hand up a little. The card will fly up into your left hand. This will take a little practice, so experiment with this basic move until you can get it in your left hand every time.  

    While the card is flying you can cause the card to circle in the air below your left hand, cause it to drop toward the floor or raise toward the ceiling by lifting or lowering your left arm. By making a magical gesture you can make it seem to spin in place between your hands (Left hand above and right hand below). Just about anything you want. At anytime the card is spinning in the air, extend your left hand and the card rise up into it. With practice you can also grab the thread with the crotch of the right hand above the left and thus switching the hand that controls the card.  

The Hoop: 
    This is a great move to do with this effect. I'm still not certain who actually came up with this method of using your arms in this fashion to make a hoop for the floating object to float through, proving no support. My search has suggested that it was Simon LeClaire.  

    Once your left hand has the thread in the crotch of the thumb and the card is to the left of the left hand in its circle. Bring the left and right fingertips together with the left hand above the right. Both hands are in front of the body. As the card circles back toward your body. Allow it to pass under your left arm and over the right, thus causing the card to go through the hoop made by your arms. Once through it passes over your right arm then back around to the left again in another circle. This is a great method of showing no support to the card. With some practice you can cause it to go through this hoop a few times in one toss. The smoother the card circles the better the illusion.  

· The faster the card spins the longer it'll fly. It'll also fly smoother with a fast spin do to inertia. This will keep the card flat or at times when you want it. You can cause the card to spin at an angle. (I found this handy when I'm performing this effect with a card they believe to be there selection. (Incidentally this effect is a great move for the marketed effect Inertia where the pips of the card move to the edge of the card).  

· Try this effect with other flat objects such as credit card, Business Cards, paper plated, Drivers License, or any flat light objects.  

· IF you want more distance in the flight of the card. You can bring the throwing hand back behind your body. This pulls more thread out of the ITR and will allow more distance. Be careful when doing this though. The thread can get caught on any buttons or pins on your jacket.  

    Experiment; there are many possible courses the card can take while in flight.  

Standing Card 
    A card stands on its edge on your fingertips. Then falls flat on your palm.  

    This is a simple effect but a very neat one. I always perform this effect with a card before doing the airborne card. For me it's simply another phase I perform in a one card routine.  

    The hook up for this effect is exactly like the airborne card. I.e. the thread is attached to the center of a card. Hold the card in your left hand with the side that is attached to the thread toward your body. Extend your right hand palm up in front of you. Bring the card onto the right hand and put your right index and middle fingers on the corners of the short edge of the card. (At this point is you let go of the card, it would fly back toward the ITR at your chest). Angle the card away from you slightly as to allow the thread to hold the card up. By allowing the thread to hold the card up, you can let go with your left hand.  

    It will appear that the card is standing on your fingertips with no support. If you're confident that the putty you used wont be seen on the card, you can turn your body to show the standing card from all angles. When you want the card to fall onto your palm, simple move your right hand forward slightly. The card will fall flat on your palm.  

    You can grab the card with your left hand, dislodge the putty and allow the thread to be pulled back into the ITR under cover of the card. Or you can go right into the airborne card effect.  

    Incidentally, with the hook up used in this effect and the airborne card, you can still tenkie palm the card with out breaking the thread. This allows a little more manipulation possibilities to a one card routine.  

I hope this little tutorial on Invisible thread and the ITR have provided some information that will allow you to make good use of invisible thread and the ITR. Even those who don't prefer to use it, everyone agrees that some beautiful things can be done with it.  
if you have any comments, questions of information you'd like to share on this tutorial or invisible thread. Please feel free to contact me or post them in my message board.  

Invisible Thread and the ITR