Needles, Froggers, and Threaders… oh my!

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.

General Guide:

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.

frogger2 frogger1

Needle Threaders

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!

Howdy all! First in a series about the tools we use…

Hi everyone! Welcome to the RMWS blog and my first blog post ever. Before we jump into this month’s topic, I would like to take a moment to introduce myself.

My name is Lisa Russell and I have been stitching since I was 13 years old. I am a self-taught stitcher, having purchased a small kit back in the day when I tried every craft from knitting to macramé to glass etching and beyond to keep myself occupied. Although I have not stitched continuously lo these 30+ years, the gaps filled with small babies and crazy jobs and unemployment, stitching was the one thing that stuck with me.

In my experience, I find that stitching is able to mold itself around whatever interests me at a given time, whether the patterns be whimsical or serious, simple or complex, modern or historical. Thanks to the range of products, I also find that I can create pretty much anything for any occasion or holiday. I can sit for hours stitching something that I know will be lovingly accepted by a recipient, or I can relish in a project that I selfishly construct for myself. I imagine that you folks will agree with me when I say stitching accommodates everyone. But that’s enough about me… on to the blog topic.

Today’s topic is the first in a series of six about the tools we use. I have some ideas for other topics once this series is complete, but I would love to hear from you, the members, regarding topics of interest so let me know and I will plate them up for consumption. We can never have too many things to talk about while we stitch, right?

If I were to ask you what the most important tool in your stitching arsenal was, what would you say? Would everyone have a different answer? Think about the one tool that you use every day, every time you stitch, without fail. The one thing that doesn’t change or waiver, that you would make you crazy if you lost track of it, and stays close to your side (or even attached to you)… did you answer scissors? Because if you did, then you know where this topic is headed.

Scissors, or some kind of cutting implement, is one of the single most used tools for stitching. This doesn’t mean that you have one pair per se, since there are different scissors for different applications and even different locations or scenarios. But scissors remain a constant in our stitching world, so let’s take a look at some of the particulars about scissors.

Shears – These are what most people imagine when they hear scissors. However, shears are specifically made for cutting fabric. They are large in size, somewhere between 6”-8” with long blades. They typically have a small thumb hole and a larger opening for the fingers. Most importantly, they have a slight angle to the blades, making it easier to cut against a flat surface. Pinking shears also fall into this category and are used to finish the raw edge of the fabric to keep it from unraveling.

Shears should be sharp in order to cut through fabric efficiently. You can test the blades by trying to cut cleanly and quickly through a piece of doubled scrap fabric. If you can’t cut through it, they aren’t sharp enough. To maintain their edge, label and use them for fabric only.

Scissors – These are quite different from shears. They are straight… straight bodies and straight blades. These are slightly smaller than shears, usually between 4 ½” – 6”. The holes for the thumb and fingers are typically uniform in size. Scissors are used for detail work like hems and seam allowances where the smaller size and precision cutting is required.
Snips – These are basically a small version of scissors. They have the same straight blades and body, with uniform finger and thumb holes. Snips are used to cut threads while sewing.

Embroidery Scissors – I bet you own a pair (or two or ten) of these. Embroidery scissors are a specific, refined version of snips used for cutting threads. They are small and delicate, and while you will often see ornate versions of them (sometimes in a stork-like pattern with the blades as the beak), they come in functional varieties too. The tiny blades and sharp points allow for extreme precision when cutting embroidery threads.

Curved Embroidery Scissors – These scissors are curved up, against the flat of the blade which allows for cutting a jump thread with a precise cut. The design helps avoid snipping the portions of your embroidery that you don’t want cut. Especially useful when you need to undo, or frog, portions of your stitching that have an error.

Some important points (get it?!) about scissors:
• Scissors can pick up residue from various uses, so clean them regularly. Run a cotton ball soaked with alcohol (carefully now!) over the blades to clean them. This will help keep residue from transferring to fabric.
• To help your scissors last longer, don’t use scissors that are designated for one application for another. For example, don’t use your good fabric shears or snips to cut cardboard.
• Label your scissors for their various uses and keep them in a safe place to protect the blades (as well as people and pets).
• Decide whether you want to invest in better scissors and keep them longer by having the blades sharpened periodically, or if you would rather spend less on scissors and replace them every so often when they dull or bend. Either way is fine (the stitching police won’t come after you), just know the pros and cons to each decision.

I hope you have found this topic enlightening and useful.If you have any questions or comment, I would love, love, love to hear from you.

Hugs and stitches!