Lesson #3 The Difference a Sharp Needle Can Make
A Bit of History
After I had been painting canvases and stitching for a while (yes, I started painting canvases, then a shopkeeper taught me how to stitch so that I would paint better), DH and I traveled to London, I went to a series of lessons at the Royal School of Needlework, way back in the days that it was at Prince's Gate. Prince's Gate was only a stone's throw from where we lived in London, very convenient.
My teacher at the RSN used to say 'if you Americans would pay half as much attention to the front of your work as you paid to the back, you might make decent embroideresses'.
She had a British sharp tongue that ultimately cost her her teaching job (she made too many American ladies cry); when she left the RSN, I left with her and over the years it was she who taught me to stitch. As we venture into Intermediate lessons and beyond, I wish to say that many of my ideas come from her; over the years I have modified the ideas a bit, but basically the structure is the one she taught me all those years ago.
The Back of Your Work and The Front
I heard my teacher back then and did try to pay the most attention to the front of my work, but I modified the concept a bit: I learned to pay attention to the back of my work when it influenced the front, and using a sharp needle is one of those times.
In Beginning Lessons we learned about starting and ending threads. Now I would like to modify the lesson a bit. Instead of ending off your thread with a blunt needle, try changing from a tapestry needle to a sharp needle. It is easier to catch the threads on the back of your work and therefore you will not disturb the threads on the front as much.
Which sharp needles do I use? Embroidery needles #8, #9 and #10. #10 are the smallest and therefore more difficult to thread. I usually use #8 and #9.
Over the years this is one of the best tips I've learned and I use it all the time.
Another Needle Tip
From my friend Judy Souliotis I learned one of my favorite needle tricks: Use a needle that is slightly too large. Yes, it may separate the canvas meshes a bit, but it protects the thread better.
Licking the End of Your Thread to Thread Your Needle
This was always a no-no, but I learned to say yes yes when I watched the best embroideress I've ever known do it regularly. Why not, she said, it's easier, doesn't break your concentration and ultimately you cut the end of the thread off anyway, don't you. What she says is true.
Having a Difficult Time Threading a Needle?
If you are having a difficult time threading a needle, turn the eye of the needle over so you are threading from a different direction. Usually one direction allows the thread to go in more easily. This has to do with the way the eyes in needles are punched out.
I can't operate without needle threaders and I have a variety of them. My favorite is a Clover Needle Threader for Beading Needles, a double-ended one with wire for fine, it will thread a 15 beading needle!
A Bit More about the Back and Front of Your Work
Inspite of what my embroidery teacher said way back when, the back of your work does matter. You don't have to be fanatical about it, but if the back becomes too messy and tangled, ultimately it will influence a tidy front. End off your threads neatly and consistently and clip the ends so they don't become caught and tangled.
Oops, a Bit of Confusion:
I received this email from M. L.:
Hi Gay Ann -- I have just read the lessons for beginners and intermediate stitchers, and may have not read carefully. But it seems to me that one could be confused, in that in needlepoint one needs a "dull" needle so not to split the ground threads. I know the terminology can be confusion (maybe it's me), but just wanted to check with you.
Hi M. L. I use a tapestry needle for stitching, for the reasons you say. I use a sharp needle for ending off threads. Sorry for the confusion! Gay Ann
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