Photo Tutorial: The Art of Threading a Needle, and other ramblings.


Hello dear readers,

I come to you a little later than usual this Sunday, as I've been away from home today.  Today is father's day - and as I'm sure you'll understand, it was quite a tough one for Mr PB and me.  But I'm back now, and ready to address another challenge.

On Wednesday I started a new feature on The Project Bag Facebook Page:  I Wonder Wednesday.  I used to do this in form-time with my students... I'd let them loose on the whiteboard with the markers - each student could ask a question - and then I'd try and answer some of the interesting (and appropriate!) ones over the coming week. 

The feature seems to have gone down well, and I've already answered one question on the page.  So now I turn my attention to some of the trickier ones.

"I've never been good with a needle - how long does it take to get the hang of it?"

This is quite a tricky question in that it seems quite generalised, so I thought I'd start with the thing that seems to frustrate people most:  threading the damned things!

Firstly - don't waste your time licking the thread:  it is yucky and pointless.  If you're going to wet anything, wet the needle.  But I'd suggest using a cloth rather than your tongue for this one!  It's actually the eye of the needle that needs lubricating and this simple trick can help.

However, there's also another nifty trick you can use when sewing by hand and so I bring you my first photo-tutorial!

How to Thread a Needle:  Photo Tutorial

The main problem with trying to poke a raw end of thread through the tiny eye of a needle, is that if you miss, the thread can split.  In fact, even if you don't miss, the tiny tiny bits of thread can send you off-kilter.  This tutorial will show you how to bypass this, and thread a needle successfully every time!

First thing's first: you need to make sure you're using a needle appropriate to your thread, cotton, or yarn.  It stands to reason that you won't get a DK weight yarn through a standard embroidery needle.  Here I'm using a darning needle and DK weight Twinkle Yarn by James C Brett.

1) Start by placing the thread around  the needle.  You can see here in this first photo that I've left a little tail of about 2 inches.  

 2)  Pinch the thread tight around the needle and then slip the needle out from the thread, as seen in the photo below right. Keep pinching it tightly!
3) Still pinching the thread tightly between your thumb and forefinger, turn the needle with your right hand (if right-handed) and place the eye over the folded, pinched thread (image 1).  Push the eye down over the pinched thread, so that it pushes the thread through the eye of the needle (image 2).  Then pull the thread out through the eye of the needle, providing you with a threaded needle and a tail! (Image 3)

Other Ramblings

So, there you have it: how to thread a needle.  I figured it made sense to start there as really there's not much to needlework other than patience and practice.  The first french knots I did were awful! I've even managed to sew garments shut while trying to attach buttons.  I was advised not to take textiles to GCSE because I wasn't good enough or fast enough, but look at me now!  

If you're doing embroidery, there's nothing worse than threading a needle, only to spend ages repeatedly poking it through the fabric to start a stitch and the whole thing coming out the other side.  Many people choose to tie knots in the end of their thread, to stop it pulling through the fabric.  I personally find these unsightly and awkward.  Instead, just adjust the technique from above.  

1) Cut your thread to double the desired length, but no longer than your finger tip to your elbow (any longer and it will knot as you stitch). 
2) Then, fold the thread so the two ends are together.  
3) Using the same technique as before, fold the thread over the needle and pinch, noting that this time instead of one tail, you have two.
4) Push the eye of the needle over the pinched thread, and pull through.  
Now you will have two ends poking out one side of the eye of the needle, and a loop through the other side.  When you make your first stitch....

Argh I think it would be easier with photos...hang on and I'll get the hubby......

**** Some time later... ****

Okay, here we go!  As you can see from these three photos, the threading is exactly the same, but with the thread folded in two, creating a loop at one end.  This loop is going to provide the anchor for our first stitch.

1) Start as usual, popping the needle through the fabric, and drawing the thread through, ready to start the first stitch.  Do not pull the thread all the way through.  If you flip the fabric over, you will see the loop on the reverse side, as in photo 2.  

2) Pop the needle through the fabric again, as though to complete the first stitch.  Once again, be sure not to pull the thread the whole way through.  If you flip the fabric, you will see that it looks like photo 3:  with the loop waiting to be used as an anchor and the thread now on the reverse of the fabric.


3)  Now, to complete the first stitch, draw the thread through the loop on the reverse of the fabric as shown below left.  As you pull it taut, the loop will close around the thread, anchoring the stitch without unsightly knots creating lumps, as shown below right.  This is the reverse of the fabric.  Flip the fabric over and carry on stitching!

Over to you!

What tips do you have?
What further questions do you have about needlework?

Let me know in the comments below.

I hope you've found this tutorial useful.  If you have, do let me know!

Gem xxx


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