Fingertip Tips

Each of us is different.

I enjoy being able to drive a 5-speed standard car! I can also drive an automatic, and now that I am in my golden years, I drive an automatic transmission car by choice. Each of us is different, has different skill levels, interests, gifts and abilities. Those skill levels might change over time for one reason or another.

Get set for success.

When I was a little girl, my dad was my fishing buddy. He helped me catch fish by teaching me how to use a cane pole, how to bait a hook with a worm, wait patiently and set the hook when I felt a tug on the pole and the fishing line went straight. My dad and others were my first and best teachers. They taught me how to use tools, gave me tops, and taught me techniques for fishing, cooking, ironing, planting and so many other things. As a classroom teacher for 37 years, it was important for my students to set them up for success by discovering each child’s individual strengths, gifts, and talents and focusing on them. I also enjoyed finding adaptive devices tools, and tips to assist children who had specific difficulties.

Each of us is at our own personal level/stage of hand sewing as well: a “wanna be,” or beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Colonial Needle Company has exceptional quality and diverse tools to fit the needs of all levels of hand stitchers. Learning to use these tools properly will enable hand stitchers to enjoy the process as well as the finished products of hand sewing.

Over the years, I have heard hand stitchers say they do not use a thimble, or do not hand sew any more because their hands and fingers hurt. Arther-itis lives in my hands, but thankfully I have no pain and can sit and stitch for hours when I use these wonderful unobtrusive tools and tips I have learned and practiced over the years. I will offer you information about fingertip tools, tips, and techniques for using them that just might enhance your hand sewing pleasure and assist in your finished products.

Needle Grip-It

The very first thing I do before I even begin hand sewing is to adhere two Needle Grip-It circles to the forefinger and thumb of my dominant sewing hand. To do so, since I am right-handed, I pinch the forefinger and thumb of my right hand as if I am holding a needle in preparation for inserting it into fabric. I then separate my finger and thumb, and look for circle indentations in each and press a circle of a Needle Grip-It on the tip of my forefinger and thumb. These wonderful adhesive circles are so unobtrusive and so helpful. The repetitive motion of inserting, gripping, and pulling a needle through fabric can, over time, cause pain in one’s fingers and hands. Whenever I am teaching a hand sewing class of any kind, I’m sure to provide a sample to my students. There are 70 self-stick dots in each package. In addition to reducing hand pain, they help with control of the needle.

Thimble It

For newbies and or those hand stitchers reluctant to use a thimble, I highly recommend a self-stick oval Thimble-It. By the time you use the 64 ovals in a package, you probably will have developed enough muscle memory to advance to the next level of finger protection for hand sewing. These little ovals are best placed on the rounded surface tip middle finger of your dominant hand. A good technique for hand sewing using a thimble is to push the eye of the needle with the side of your finger, rather than downward motion with the end of your finger. This helps reduce pain and allows for greater precision of needle placement. I especially like to have these adhesive ovals handy when teaching beginners as well as those who might be reluctant to use a thimble.

Thimble Pad

Colonial Needle’s Thimble-Pads work like a thimble, with a snug fit to the side of your fingertip. They work like a dream, reducing stress on your fingertips and assist with accuracy of needle placement. Made of real leather, each one of the 12 Thimble-Pads in a package is strong and flexible.

Thimble Crown

Another alternative fingertip tool. Made of stainless steel with tiny molded “dimples,” a Thimble-Crown offers perfect needle control, allowing the hand stitcher to push needles in at any angle, allows better control, and stitch faster. The raised edge of each Thimble-Crown prevents needle slips. Each package includes one stainless steel thimble and 8 adhesives. Not to worry about running out of adhesive circles. Keep reading for the solution…

Thimble Dimple

A beginning hand stitcher soon learns that the under-hand fingers become sore as they feel the sharp point of the needle with every stitch. Also made of stainless steel, the raised edge of the Thimble Dimple serves as a rim of protection for your under hand, whether you are a newbie or experienced hand stitcher. The raised edge also allows for greater needle control by preventing needle slips, therefore helping one to sew faster and more accurately. Each Thimble Dimple package contains one stainless steel thimble and 8 adhesives.

Under Thimble

Just as some of us prefer “real coffee” as opposed to decaf, an Under-Thimble is another option for providing protection for the stitcher’s under hand; thereby no more pain from needle sticks, increased speed of stitching, and producing small even stitches. Also, this package contains one stainless steel thimble for the tip of the hand stitcher’s finger and 8 circular adhesive circles for attaching.

Ultra Thimble

Ultra Thimble offers the hand stitcher options: it can be used on the middle fingertip of the stitcher’s dominant sewing hand. Or, it can be used on the middle finger of the stitcher’s under hand. Or, with two, one can be used as a thimble and a second one on the under hand all at the same time, thereby protecting the upper and/or under hand.  Ultra Thimble provides needle control, and is comfortable and secure due to circular adhesives in the package. A package of Ultra Thimble contains one thimble made of stainless steel with dimples plus 8 circular adhesives.

Adhesive Replacements

Thank you for your patience and perseverance, as this is the place to learn about obtaining those little sticky circles that attach the previously described tools to your fingertips. Colonial Needle has available adhesive dots that can be used again and again! Each package of Adhesive Replacements contains 8 adhesive circles. Detailed instructions on the back of the package are helpful in applying each adhesive. A few minutes and a little patience are required. Sounds like cookie break time to me…

More product information is available by going to

Additional tips and techniques:

  1. Placing a pillow on my lap while hand sewing helps relax me hands and arms, and allows me to enjoy hand stitching even more.
  2. Taking breaks while hand sewing also enhances one’s sewing process.
  3. A good light source right over the area being hand stitched is helpful, as is a lighted magnifier.
  4. As with a learning set, making a “nest”, one’s personal private space for hand sewing allows one to spend a few found minutes or longer doing what one so enjoys doing.
  5. Whenever someone comments positively about your show and tell, instead of pointing out your “mistakes” just kindly say “thank you”. Remember, be kind to yourself!
  6. Take a newbie under your wings and set her/him up for success.
  7. Assist a golden years stitcher with these adaptive fingertip tips to all her/him to continue doing what is such a joy.

Happy sewing,

Judy Moore Pullen

When Disaster Strikes: Repairing A Thread Break

We’ve all been through it: You have a favorite quilt, it’s been with you through thick and thin, more like a cozy confidante than a mere blanket. But suddenly, disaster strikes! A quilting line breaks, literally threatening the very fabric of your cozy companion. Now, you could take it to a professional, but is that really necessary? It’s like sending your best friend to therapy when all they need is a one-on-one chat over coffee. Hand sewing quilt repairs is like giving your quilt a little spa day—it’s personal, it’s intimate, and let’s face it, you get to bond with your quilt on a whole new level, whispering sweet nothings to it as you stitch, ensuring that it’ll keep you warm and cozy for many more slumber sessions and rainy afternoons to come. So, grab a needle and thread, and let the healing stitches begin!

Quilting lines break… regardless of what thread you use or the tension you stitch with, sometimes it just happens. And when it does happen, it’s a simple process to repair that line and keep the damage to a minimum. We re-check our quilts for thread breaks before cleaning or before putting them up for the season and make quick mends before they become bigger problems.

For this video, we were repairing a random quilting thread break from one of the quilts from our new book Scrappy Wonky Quilt Block Extravaganza before it shipped out for a trunk show.

How To Repair A Thread Break

Our Video Tutorial can be found here.

Tools Needed:

  1. Thread pick or tweezers (for taking control of those unruly threads)
  2. Sewing machine (for the fast and furious fix)
  3. Matching colored thread (of course we’ll keep it stylish)
  4. Needle threader (for those tiny eye-of-the-needle challenges)
  5. Good hand sewing needles (because not all needles are created equal, dah-lings!)
    – We use the John James Signature Collection Between, size 11. If you like Sharps better they will work great here too.

For quilts where one line of stitching has broken (i.e. the bobbin thread broke on the back as shown in our video) the steps are simple and straightforward as long as you take it one step at a time. First things first, let’s tie off the existing ends of the thread.

Now, onto the grand performance of quilt surgery!

1.Untangle Any Mess: On the backside of your quilt, delicately unpick the rebellious thread in both directions. We need enough thread to secure the line, tie a knot, and tuck it away discreetly—about 4–5 inches should do the trick.

2. Making the Cut: Cut the remaining thread on the top side of your fabric, again you need at least 4–5 inches, more if you can manage it… pull this through to the back. Thread both the top and bottom threads through your needle (needle threader to the rescue here) and finish the stitch on the backside, stitching through the back fabric alone.

3. The Disappearing Trick: Tie a knot roughly 1/4” from that last stitch. Then, like a skilled magician, make that knot disappear by inserting your needle into the fabric coming out an inch or two away from the insertion point and gently tug the end until the until the knot vanishes into the fabric. Snip off any excess thread and repeat the process for the other side. TA-DAA!

4. Time for Round Two: Now, let’s sew that quilting line back! Using a thread that matches the existing one, re-sew the quilt line, making sure to start and stop about 1 stitch length away from the original start/stop points. Leave plenty of thread for finishing touches and tying off—doing this last stitch by hand means your quilt fix will be invisible… even to your MIL or that one member of your guild who loves to point out everyone’s mistakes.

Bonus Tip: We always keep track of the fabric type and brand, the batting type and brand, and the thread brand, type, and color number. This allows us to make fixes later if necessary. It is not a bad idea to add a label to your quilts with this information on it… because who can remember where they put that notebook anyway? Which Dropbox folder was it in?

Label your quilts folx!

5. The Finishing Flourish: Finish the last stitch on the top by hand, then pull through to the back ensuring it cozies up next to the bobbin thread. Thread both top and bobbin threads through the needle, then tie them off with a knot or make a series of small backstitches next to the existing quilt line (it’s in the video), whichever tickles your quilting fancy.

6. The Grand Finale: Bury those thread tails like buried treasure, with or without a knot, and repeat the process for the other side. And just like that, your quilt is ready to snuggle into its rightful place—be it on your bed, on your favorite reading chair, or safely tucked away until its next grand adventure!

While you have that John James Signature Collection needle out, now would be a good time to add that quilt label we mentioned… just saying…

And there you have it, folx! Quilt repair made easy-peasy. Give this a shot with your next thread break and you’ll feel like a thread whisperer extraordinaire!

Shannon & Jason

You can visit our YouTube channel here. Don’t forget to subscribe so you’re up-to-date on all our latest reviews and tutorials!

A Sticky Subject: Roxanne’s Temporary Adhesive Spray

Greetings makers, crafters, and creators! Today, we’re diving into our Colonial Needle Company products to cover a sticky subject: Roxanne’s Temporary Adhesive Spray (see what we did there?), and why it is a must have for your projects.

Who are we?

Who are we you ask? We are Shannon and Jason… the DIY Duo behind

Shannon is the creative driver behind our colorful escapades. Picture a project enthusiast and savvy artist with a penchant for pushing boundaries and a love for all things fiber. Shannon’s imagination knows no bounds, and her ability to blend history and art into fun and inspiring teaching moments will leave you wondering if she’s secretly a sorceress in disguise. (Spoiler: she is.)

And then there’s Jason, the yin to Shannon’s yang, the peanut butter to her jelly (or should we say, the pixels to her crochet hook?). Jason’s the backbone behind our chaotic adventures; a photographer/designer with a knack for turning ideas into reality. From photographing projects for our books and patterns, to machine sewing quilts, to sashiko embroidering garments, there’s never a dull moment as he dreams up the next beautiful thing to create.

We recently joined up with Colonial Needle Company to inspire you to delve into more creative endeavors with their FAB products. You’ll see a lot from us over the next year as we endeavor to educate, motivate, and inspire you to embrace your own creative chaos.

That’s us… now let’s talk about Roxanne’s Temporary Adhesive Spray.
Ah, Roxanne’s Temporary Spray Adhesive—AKA the secret sauce of the quilting world! Let’s dive into what makes this stuff so special, shall we?

What makes Roxanne’s Adhesive’s so special?

Let’s face it—for quilters, pinning layer upon layer of fabric while making a quilt sandwich is like playing a game of “Don’t Poke Your Fingers” on expert mode. And surface design projects can be fussy and a sticky mess with other types of glue…don’t get us started on having to pin some of those details into place. Enter Roxanne’s Temporary Adhesive Spray, the new superstar of your maker toolkit! No more wrestling with prickly pins or risking a gloopy glue mess. Just a spritz here and a spray there, and voila! Your quilt layers and applique are bonded like lifelong friends at a quilting bee.

What are the benefits of Roxanne’s Temporary Adhesive Spray?

  1. Temporary Hold: Imagine having the power to hold fabric together like a boss, but with the freedom to change your mind if the creative mood strikes you… as we are all prone to do. Roxanne Temporary Spray Adhesive gives you just that—temporary bonding for your fabric layers and threads so you can adjust, readjust, and re-re-re-adjust to your heart’s content.
  2. Low Odor: Ah, the sweet smell of success—minus the overpowering chemical stench. This is a big one on our list! Our spaces are small and, although we have plenty of windows, we don’t dare use some of these glues indoors and NEVER use the old style aerosols in the house. Fortunately, we don’t have to run out back to the garden for smaller projects or even larger wall hangings that we are assembling on the dining room… umm… studio floor. Roxanne’s low odor formula allows us to work without feeling like we are going to pass out from fumes that come with other spray adhesives. Disclaimer from the product packaging: this is still an aerosolized glue, so we always wear a mask when using it.
  3. Non-Staining Formula: We’ve all experienced those nightmare moments when a little adhesive turns into a big ol’ nasty stain on our quilt, silk applique, or antique lace. But fear not, intrepid makers! Roxanne won’t leave a mark on your delicate creations. The non-staining formula means you can spray with confidence knowing your fabrics and materials will stay pristine and stain-free. We always tell folx to test your fabrics first to make sure any adhesive isn’t going to stain and we personally did the over-use test on different fabrics for an applique project and it did not leave a single blotch. One less thing to stress about so we can concentrate on the creativity part.
  4. Versatility: From quilting and sewing to embroidery, applique, and surface design (and probably a few we haven’t even thought of yet… give us time), Roxanne is your go-to product for all things fabric-related. Need to baste a quilt? Roxanne’s got you covered. Want to tackle a craft project? Roxanne’s ready to roll. We have started using it for some of our boro and sashiko projects and love how quickly the glue sets (and the fact that we don’t have to go outside to use the spray). There are a LOT of options in the Roxanne line of glues and we will get to those in time so be sure to check them out. Really… there is something for every project. The particular basting spray has been a life saver for us for garments, quilts, and surface design work.
  5. Easy Application: Say goodbye to fumbling with pins and hello to a much easier way to work with this aerosol spray! Roxanne’s easy application means you can baste your quilt (and other projects) with precision and speed, leaving you more time to focus on the fun stuff—like picking out your next fabric obsession… just us? We thought not! We throw down an old sheet to protect our work surface (like we did in the video) and we’re off and running. Even in the case of a little overspray, a damp sponge was all it took to clean off our surfaces including a wood floor and our cutting table. Easy application, easy clean up… because the creative process isn’t always so neat and tidy.

What’s the bottom line?

The bottom line is: we are grateful there is this option for a temporary spray adhesive that doesn’t gas us out of our house and has such a beautifully fine spray that we can decide exactly how much to apply for different styles of projects. Our recommendation is to keep a few around for different projects. We used about one can for an oversized king-sized quilt and can do quite a few wall hangings and garment projects with a single can. We have four cans on the shelf right now because no way, no how, do we want to be struck by inspiration and not have this gem on hand.

That’s all for now but be sure to check back for more about our fav products from Colonial Needle Company as well as some projects and tutorials that reflect how we use this all-encompassing line of products in our studio. Keep up with it all on the Colonial Needle Company social media channels and YouTube. You can find us at and on our Instagram and Facebook pages we are @embracethecreativechaos. Which products do YOU have questions about? Let us know and we might just feature your question in a future video or post. Until then…

Shannon & Jason

You can find Shannon and Jason’s tutorial on how to use Roxanne’s Temporary Adhesive Spray to make a quilt sandwich on our YouTube channel here. Don’t forget to subscribe so you’re up-to-date on all our latest reviews and tutorials!


By Judy Moore Pullen

I am so eager to share with you one of my favorite NEW tools: Roxanne Temporary Adhesive Spray from Colonial Needle Company. It can be found on their website here, at major suppliers, and hopefully, quick as a bunny at your favorite quilt and fabric shops. There are so many wonderful uses and applications for this fabulous adhesive spray…so where to begin?!

What is Roxanne’s Temporary Adhesive Spray?

Roxanne is a well-known brand of quilting products, including glues, needles, and notions. The qualities of their Temporary Adhesive Spray are many. This spray adhesive is acid free, odorless and colorless meaning it will not stain fabric or fibers. For those of you with pricey or precious vintage sewing machines, it will not clog your machine or needles. As a tool, Roxanne’s spray assists in positioning and holding fabrics for quilting, sewing, and other fiber-related activities, yet it is temporary and disappears when washed. It is almost like another pair of hands assisting you to smoothly position and hold layers in place for the next step.

Roxanne Temporary Adhesive Spray will be loved and adored by quilters who are layering, seamstresses, home décor sewists, embroidery enthusiasts, applique and piecing passionists (that’s a word, right?), craft designers and artists, pattern piecing persons, and so many more! If you enjoy working and playing with fabric, fibers, threads, roving, yarn, etc., you will find that Roxanne’s newest product will fill your needs for fun and ease of use. The time saved with its use will allow you to spend more time playing and creating. As a firm believer in the importance of process, the doing part of a project for me is such an important part of the joy of creating; almost as important as showing off my finished product!

How do you use Roxanne’s Temporary Adhesive Spray?

For years, I have been safety pin-basting backing, batting, and tops together for hand or machine quilting. I do not have time on my hands, but my hands have many years of time on them, and basting a quilt this way is not one of my favorite things to do. My hands and fingers become sore. However, what a joy to layer a quilt now with Roxanne’s Temporary Adhesive Spray!

  1. Prepare by rolling the batting loosely from one end toward the other.
  2. Repeat with the quilt top, and lay both aside nearby.
  3. Secure the quilt backing layer to a clean flat surface, wrong side up, with masking tape.
  4. Lightly spray with Roxanne Spray.
  5. Position the batting at one end of the backing, and unroll the rest of the batting toward the other end, smoothing lightly with your hands as you unroll. Spray backing with Roxanne then unroll and layer batting
  6. Next, lightly spray the batting, then lay the quilt top at one end of the batting.
  7. Unroll the quilt top toward the bottom edge of the batting, smoothing and pressing lightly, flat as a tortilla, and smooth as an ice-skating rink!! Spray batting and unroll and smooth appliquéd top.
  8. Quickly and beautifully flat for hand or machine quilting!

All odor-free, easy-peasy and no sore fingers or hands!! After a few minutes to dry, I am confident that neither my machine nor hand quilting needle will get tacky while stitching.

If you are generous with the spray and it winds up on your table or a surface, not to fret! A light spray with water and swipe with a clean dry cloth will remove the light tackiness.

What are some other benefits of using RX Adhesive Spray?

When machine or hand quilting, I sometimes get those undesired little pleats or tucks on the back side of my quilt whenever I approach a previous line of stitching. At times I need to manipulate the layers, or needle-down in my machine, lift presser foot, and give little tugs back and forth to remove bubbles on top, and hopefully prevent gathers on the backing. However, with Roxanne’s Temporary Adhesive Spray, I happily keep stitching when approaching quilting stitches, no bubbles on top and no ruffles on the back! My machine quilting has improved so much and in such a short period of time. Time saved basting layers together and quilting add up to the probability of getting more projects finished and more begun. Win~Win! More play time and improved finished product, means I am one happy quilter and excited about sharing what I have learned and experienced with this wonderful product from a name we know and trust to do what we love to do.

What else can you do with Roxanne’s Temporary Adhesive Spray?

Here’s how Roxanne’ Spray helped me easily add borders to an old incomplete project:

A wool applique enthusiast, I also discovered Roxanne’s Spray works beautifully to layer wool to batting for quilting.

Wool background layered with Roxanne Spray on batting

Another of my older needle turn applique projects needs help, so I plan to unstitch some of the applique on Sunbonnet Sue, spray lightly, reposition Sue’s dress and sunbonnet, and needle turn applique back in place.

In an upcoming blog, I want to share ways I have used Roxanne glues, needles, and notions. I guess you could say I am a fan of Roxanne products. Oh, wait, I happen to know where some vintage fan blocks are, and can hardly wait to applique them to backgrounds with Roxanne’s Spray. Then, I’ll turn them into a quilt, and move on to another fun project! Yes, I am very excited about this new product.

Go ahead, thank Roxanne for adding more playtime, fun, and pleasure to your fabric and fiber projects. You can thank me later.

Happily sew on and sew on…

Judy Moore Pullen

Itchin’ to Stitch

I have moved twice in the last two years, which is very positive, yet very stressful. Moving involves so much. Of course there’s the packing and storing, but there’s also the topsy-turvy life style as one adjusts, and dealing with mountains of paper work and address up-dates, etc. But, take a deep breath…it is all well worth the effort in so many ways. Change of any kind can be stressful, but change can also offer opportunities for seeing and doing things in new creative ways.

Sometimes the most difficult part of beginning something new for me, whether it is a new recipe, new sewing or gardening project, etc., is the starting part: Thing 1! But I have been so eager to sew during my “moving experiences” that I finally decided yesterday was the day to begin and I would treat myself periodically with positive reinforcement of cookies, ice cream, of sips of coffee from a favorite mug. Many times, I have to make a mess in order to bring order to that mess. Does anyone else identify with that process?

Thing 1 involved moving some pieces of furniture that I have acquired over the years that are great sources of memories as well as unique and fun for storage. In my mind, if I can move something one inch, I can move it across the room (given time and a treat or two). My vintage Half-Hoosier cabinet fit nicely placed diagonally next to my life-size mannequin, Lucy. Lucy wears one of my old high school cheerleading skirts and a straw hat. By now, you have probably guessed that my style of choice is wonky eclectic.

Sitting on top of this charming roll-top Half-Hoosier is a vintage wire dress form wearing an authentic vintage tightly laced and buckled corset. Propped against the other side of my new/old fabric stash cabinet is Grandmother’s Flower Garden, hand-pieced by my beautiful mother. It is layered and ready to continue hand quilting on the frames handmade by my dear sweet dad. I can hardly wait for warmer weather and sittin’ and stitchin’ outside on my covered patio on this beautiful quilt. I’ll be sitting on a vintage shoe store bench, acquired by bartering (for wool this time), while my fur baby Sadie Sue keeps me company and chases squirrels in the back yard.  

That is just one corner of my sewing room. The rest is still a work in progress. However, as I am sometimes attention deficit, I also began working on stashing some of my fabric stash on barrister’s shelves between books. Fabric and books…what’s not to love?! These shelves are in the living area, so I multi-tasked last evening, arranging fabric and books while watching a movie on tv. By the way, the word “stash” is both a noun and a verb. (Sorry, the retired teacher identity just popped out.)

I had set up my sewing machine cabinet last week but was rudely interrupted by the great need to do some not so much fun things, like vacuuming. So now I am ready to sew, even though there is more arranging to do. I have a wonderful closet with lots of shelves in my now-to-be-called Studio, but that closet is off limits for a while for reasons yet to be revealed.

Once I get started on a project, the next hurdle is stopping. But I am having so much fun creating my own personal creative space, even spilling over into other rooms of my new little home as well as outside! My precious little companion during all this moving is sweet precious Sadie Sue, a Jack Russell/Border Collie rescue and wonderful companion. She shadows and herds me, and is so much a part of my creative space and Studio. Time to feed Sadie Sue her cooked breakfast. She is also so patient with me. More to come as more is accomplished in my moving experience while I am itchin’ to stitch!

Happy stitchin’, and scratch that itch!

Judy Moore Pullen

Stumpwork Embroidery & Thread Painting

We are so excited to announce a guest contributor to our blog this week, Megan Zaniewski! Megan has recently authored a new book sharing her techniques, tips, and tricks for stitching 3D Nature Motifs. This book is an absolute delight and includes beautiful pictures and easy-to-follow descriptions and instructions to create your own thread masterpieces. We are truly inspired by her work and are thrilled to be able to share a digital copy of her book with one lucky winner!

*To Enter: Follow us and Megan on Instagram and be sure to like the contest post. For additional entries, tag a friend in the comments. Each tag = one additional entry so be sure to share the love!

Hi! I’m Megan Zaniewski, author of Stumpwork Embroidery & Thread Painting: Stitch 3D Nature Motifs and I’m guest writing for Colonial Needle today to discuss my favorite needles for thread painting and stumpwork embroidery techniques and share some tips for selecting the correct needle size for your project.

Embroidery tablescape with stitching tools

Why is needle choice important?

Even though the differences between different types of needles and their sizes may seem slight or insignificant, choosing the appropriate needle for your project can make a big difference in your stitching experience and the quality and look of your finished work. 

The type of embroidery you are doing will help determine the type of needle you select. John James Sharps and Embroidery needles are both well-suited, high-quality choices for most hand embroidery with 6-strand cotton embroidery thread, including thread painting and stumpwork techniques. 

What is thread painting?

Thread painting refers to an embroidery style where long and short stitches are used to blend threads, similar to the way a painter blends paint with brushstrokes. Thread painted designs are most often worked in stranded cotton embroidery thread or silk split down to 1 or 2 strands at a time. This blending technique allows the artist to create depth and shadows that render their subjects in realistic, precise detail. This type of detailed embroidery requires a thin needle with a sharp point profile to achieve the best amount of coverage and detail in your work. When thread painting with a single thread of stranded cotton, a size 10 John James Sharp needle is my preferred needle. For 2 strands, I use a size 9 John James Sharp needle. 

A thread painted hummingbird body.
A Hummingbird stitched using Megan Zaniewski’s thread painting technique.

What is stumpwork?

Stumpwork embroidery includes a variety of techniques that produce a 3-dimensional effect. Padded stumpwork and wire slips are two embroidery techniques I use in my work and teach in my book. The John James Sharps needles are my preferred needles for these projects as well because of their sharp point profile. Their thinness and sharpness allow you to precisely couch wireslips in place and stitch through multiple layers of padded felt with very little resistance. Again, I recommend a John James Sharps size 10 for 1-stranded work involving wireslips and padding. The dependably high-quality of these needles will also help ensure your work is clean, consistent, and precise.

A stumpwork pink and purple violet.
A flowery example of Megan’s stumpwork.

How to select needle size

The size of the needle you select in your own embroidery will depend on the number of strands you are stitching with. Follow this general guideline choosing the correct needle size Note: there is some flexibility between sizes. The brand of stranded cotton embroidery floss you are using may affect your needle selection slightly. For example: a size 9 needle can be used for 1 strand as well if you are having difficulty threading it. 

  • 1 strand – size 10
    • 2 strands – size 9
  • 3 strands – size 8
  • 4 strands – size 7
  • 5 strands – size 5
  • 6 strands – size 3

How do I know if my needle is too small?

If you’ve mixed up your needles and cannot confidently identify their size, here are some signs to look out for that might indicate the needle you are using is too small:

  • You have more-than-usual difficulty threading the needle. Smaller needles have smaller eyes to accommodate fewer threads, so if you are trying to thread multiple strands through a smaller needle, like a size 9 or 10, you will find it is very difficult, if not impossible. 
  • You experience resistance when pulling the needle through the fabric. If you have to tug or pull to get your needle and thread through the fabric, your needle is too small. 
  • You lose fabric tension and notice your fabric is denting or puckering around the needle as you pull it through the fabric. 
  • A slight popping sound when the needle pushes through the fabric is often normal and okay, but loud or abrasive sounds as you pull the thread through might indicate that your needle is too small. The hole the needle creates should be large enough to accommodate your thread so that it glides smoothly through the fabric without a lot of rubbing or abrasion.
  • Your thread is becoming fuzzy-looking, breaking, or tangling easily. This happens when the hole is too small for the thread to glide through smoothly, causing the thread to rub excessively against the fabric and wear down with each pass.
  • Sore hands. If you are having to work harder to get the thread through the fabric, the additional strain on your hands can cause them to hurt or tire easily. 

If you encounter any of these issues and suspect your needle is too small, try the next size down (ex. switch from a size 9 to a size 8). Remember, needles get larger as the size # decreases.

How do I know if my needle is too large?

Alternatively, here are some signs that might indicate the needle you are using is too large:

  • Visible holes left in the fabric around the thread are a sign that your needle is too large. The needle should create a hole wide enough for the thread to pass through comfortably without resistance, but not much larger than that. 
  • Stitches that are loose.

If you suspect your needle is too large, try the next size up (ex. switch from a size 8 to a size 9), which will be a slightly smaller needle.

I hope these tips help take some of the guesswork out of choosing the correct needle size for your hand embroidery project. Remember, stitching should be comfortable and fun above all else. If your needle is causing you hand strain or frustration, try out different sizes until you find what works best for you. 

Happy Stitching!

Book Cover: Stumpwork Embroidery & Thread Painting