Hey everyone! I hoped you enjoyed the last post on cutting tools. I apologize for not posting in August… the time just got away from me. The month was filled with last minute summer vacations and school starting, and not nearly enough stitching (and obviously no blog post!), but I am back in action this month, stitching away (already two finishes this month) and writing blog posts.
This time around we are going to continue to talk about the tools we use, specifically needles, threaders and froggers. Enjoy the post, and pay close attention… there is a trivia question hidden in there!
What is stitching without a needle? Knotting? A jumble of threads with nowhere to go? We all know we need a needle (get it!?), but which one is the right one? Read on.
A tapestry needle most commonly used in cross stich and other counted thread embroidery. This type of needle has a large eye and a rounded tip, which prevents the needle from separating strands of thread. The tapestry needle is manufactured in different thicknesses for use on the various counts of material. The sizes are expressed in numbers, usually ranging from 18 to 28. The higher the number the smaller the needle size is.
How do you know which size to use? The needle should be large enough to move the fabric threads out of the way just a bit, and pass through the fabric with minimal abrasion, but not so large that the needle leaves a noticeable hole around the thread. Floss or fiber thickness, and number of strands used can also affect the choice of needle size. Below is a general outline of the size of needle used with certain fabrics. But by no means is this a hard and fast set of rules. If you are unsure of what needle, start with the size recommended and then move up or down in size depending on your preference.
18 = 6 count Aida
20 = 8 count
22 = 11 count or 22-27 evenweave
24 = 14 count or 28 evenweave
26 = 16 count or 32 evenweave or 22 count hardanger
28 = 18 count or 36 evenweave
There are other types of needles as well, and depending on the project, you may use one or more of these.
- Beading Needles – These are slim (sharp!) needles with small eyes. Because they are very slim, they are used when adding beads to a design as the needle fits easily through the small bead hole.
- Crewel (embroidery) Needles – These needles have a large eye and sharp point. Used with working on non-count (stamped) cross stitch designs and/or on non-countable fabric. These needles are also preferred by some stitchers for backstitching or fractional stitches on Aida.
- Chenille Needles – These are long like a tapestry needle but differ because they have a sharp point. They are used for crewel or other wool embroidery.
- Straw (milliner) Needle – These needles have an eye and shaft that are equal in thickness. They are ideal for French knots and bullion knots. [Author’s note… I stink at French knots. Maybe I should try one of these needles? Can anyone share any experiences with these needles?]
A frogger is used when you have to undo several (or more) stitches because of an error. Like leapfrogging, except backwards. Frogging is sometimes referred to as unpicking.
There are two schools of thought here, but whether or not to unpick your work is a personal decisions. Some stitchers evaluate whether the error is in a crucial part of the design. Others are perfectionists and only see the error when they look at the design, driving themselves crazy until it is unpicked. But leaving an error in place is not a crime… remember that this is your work, an original interpretation of the design itself. Go with what feels right to you and move on.
Depending on how often you want or need to do this, you might invest in a tool specifically designed for it. But usually a frogger is just a needle with some sort of a fob on it so you can find it easily. There is also something called (unfortunately so) a hooker, which like a tiny crochet hook, that is sometimes used for unpicking threads.
Need help getting that tiny eye threaded? You are not alone. Even with my relatively young, strong eyes and my reading glasses, I often curse the threading part of my stitching tasks. Whatever you do, don’t lick! Get a needle threader.
Needle threaders are invaluable tools for anyone who works with embroidery. There are two types… one for finer threads and ones for yarn and thicker threads. [Trivia Question: Why shouldn’t you lick?]
For thinner threads, the design is typically the same and very basic, consisting of a diamond shaped wire with a handle.
Standard Needle Threader:
For thicker threads, a tapestry threader is used. This is commonly a flat piece of metal with a hole stamped in the end or a hook- like end to lay the thread on.
Tapestry Needle Threader:
There are also gadgets that do both, as well as automatic needle threaders.
Multi-Function Needle Threader:
Either way, the operation of a threader is the same. Insert the wire or flat piece into the eye of your needle, loop your thread through the wire or hole, and then pull the whole kit n’ caboodle through the eye.
Do you have any fun photos to share of these types of tools? Perhaps something from your grandmother’s stitching box or a great find from an antique shop or fela market? I’d love to see what you have in your stitching stash!