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Back to basics, needles and thimbles

Back to basics, needles and thimbles

Old 02-19-2012, 11:50 AM
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Default Back to basics, needles and thimbles

I have been working hard on hand quilting my quilt, but am having some problems. It is nothing I can't deal with, but I'm just wondering if anyone here would have a suggestion or tip.

I'm using Richard Hemming & Son large eye needles, #11. Threading the needle isn't too much of a problem as long as the thread is fresh from the spool. It seems to me that it isn't really any easier than it was when I used to use regular eye #10 needles. These were the only ones I could find in the town where I live. Walmart had some, but they were junk. They bent after the first few minutes of use. It is hard to quilt a straight line with a bent needle. So I went to my LQS. This was all they had.

Anyway, I don't know if it is the smaller size or the larger eye, but I am having a real problem not only trying to grasp the needle, but pulling it through the fabric when it contains any more than two stitches. It will take forever to quilt at that rate. It is also very hard on my thumb. When I attempt to grip the needle, most times it slips right through my fingers. I can't seem to get traction (sorry, NASCAR season just started). I've even tried roughing up the needle with a little emery paper. That helped a little. I'm thinking some kind of device on my thumb might help. Any suggestions?

An unrelated issue--I've bent two needles and broken one. I was pulling it through and apparently don't know my own strength because the needle snapped, right at the base of the eye. The tip went flying. Fortunately for my cats paws, I found it.

Also, I'm using a standard thimble, the same one I have used for seven other quilts with no problem, but I'm thinking it may be time to go thimble shopping. I am having to wrap my finger, (I usually use my index finger) with a cloth bandage in order to not injure my finger with the edge of the thimble. Does anyone know of another type of thimble that might work better? I want to quilt every night in front of the tube, but there are days I have to simply rest my hand.

Thanks in advance. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 02-19-2012, 12:48 PM
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I ordered Roxannes # 10 quilting needles from Keepsake Quilting. Wow! What a difference they make. They glide through the quilt like butter. If these needles can make such a difference for me, then the ones you are using might make such a difference in how hard it is for you to quilt.
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Old 02-19-2012, 12:49 PM
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I really think your problem with the needles is the larger eye. Some brands of needles are sharper than others; I'm not sure about Hemming.

Amazon has Roxanne needles in size 10 and John James in size 9. Why not order some needles online? If you factor in gasoline costs to shop locally, it's often worth it even if you have to pay shipping.

Is it the finger using the thimble that is getting injured? Or the other finger? I am thinking maybe the lip of the thimble is too sharp? Thimbles are such a personal matter, it's hard to make a recommendation about type.
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Old 02-19-2012, 01:02 PM
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I have been handquilting for more than 40 years. I use the tan leather thimbles. They have a little piece of plastic embedded in them to keep the needle from going through them. I also wear a leather thimble on my left thumb. I cut the "skirt" on it down as that digit is shorter. I long ago taught myself to quilt with both hands. It makes is so much easier, especially if you are working on a floor frame. They actually make a little round disk of rubber that you can use to grip the needle with if it seems to be stuck. I have made myself some just by cutting into small circles one of those rubber like disks they sell or give away to open a jar. The larger eye needle is part of your problem. I know as we age it gets harder to see that tiny eye. I make sure I use handquilting thread as it is especially stiffened to make threading the needle easier. Over the years the tips of my fingers have gotten tough from the constant touch of the needle. I really have to jab myself hard to even feel it anymore.
There are various tools on the market for pushing the needle. One of them looks like a modified spoon and another is again a spoon like handle with a small paddle shaped round end. I know that some people have had a lot of luck with them.
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Old 02-19-2012, 01:32 PM
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I hand quilt with betweens or sharps. I did not like John James needles, but I do use the
thimbles. I also put a finger cot on the finger that I use to pull up the needle. It gives just enough traction to make pulling the needle easy.
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Old 02-19-2012, 01:38 PM
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I also dropped using the large eye needle. I quilt w/ YLI thread - it's a glazed cotton and is stiffer, and I haven't had any problem threading it thru a regular needle. Once a needle bends, I pitch it. My preferred needle is from Jeana Kimball's Foxglove Cottage. I do use a size 10 Betweens and I think they're sharper than the Roxanne's (which is too bad, because I bought a container of 50 of the Roxanne's)....

btw - I use a leather coin thimble that I get from Joann's. Never have mastered the metal thimbles.

And yes, I only get 2 or maybe 3 stitches on the needle, but that's ok
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Old 02-19-2012, 01:54 PM
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Like everything else the quality is not as good as it used to be in quilting needles. I have a package of John James betweens and I do like them. I keep a needle threader handy at my frame and also one of the little rubber/plastic flexible discs for pulling the loaded needle through. I usually use an ordinary metal thimble but I recently bought the flexible plastic thimble with the metal top. It fits nicely and is a pretty pink colour but I am having a hard time getting used to it. I don't hand quilt as much as I used to but I try to do one hand quilted quilt a year. The old saying, "use it or lose it" applies to hand quilting skills too. If there are any upcoming quilt shows with vendors, check out what they have in way of hand quilting supplies.
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Old 02-19-2012, 01:56 PM
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it sounds the quilt sandwich is too tight in your hoop or frame - try loosening up a bit. It's also possible you have a bad pack of needles, if they're breaking when you pull them through.

I use a piece of rubber to pull the needle through when it gets loaded up with stitches. Quilt shops sell rubber finger cots that will work, too.

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Old 02-19-2012, 02:42 PM
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The elastic band from broccoli makes a good needle puller/gripper. I use a pair of small needle nose pliers to pull needles. I have been hand quilting since the '60 and my favorite needle so far is the John James #9 betweens. When I have problems with needle bending or breaking it is usually either to tight tension on quilt or a lot of seams to quilt across.
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Old 02-19-2012, 03:23 PM
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I have a brass Roxanne's thimble, and it actually grips the needle to pull it through. You can also use a (medical instrument) hemostat or needle holder. They are readily available, on ebay at at flea markets, and look like tiny needle nosed pliers. Some have teeth on the blades, and if the teeth are too sharp, you can put a piece of tape over each blade so the needle doesn't get scratched.
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