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Thread: Back to basics, needles and thimbles

  1. #1
    Senior Member rural01's Avatar
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    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.
    Carol

  2. #2
    Super Member dublb's Avatar
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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.
    Bev
    My initials are BB, so dublb is double B.

  3. #3
    Power Poster Prism99's Avatar
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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.

  4. #4
    Super Member mpspeedy's Avatar
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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.
    Trying to sew, quilt or read everyday.

  5. #5
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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.

  6. #6
    Super Member 117becca's Avatar
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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
    my name is becca and i'm a quilt-a-holic :-)

  7. #7
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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.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Hinterland's Avatar
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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.


    Janet

  9. #9
    Senior Member Kat Sews's Avatar
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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.

  10. #10
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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.

  11. #11
    Super Member virtualbernie's Avatar
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    If you're not allergic, I use latex exam gloves. I cut the fingers off and use the fingers on the fingers that I use to pull the needle through. They are thin and because I'm only using them on the fingers my hands don't get hot and I can hold the needle as if they were my bare hands.
    Bernie

  12. #12
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    No one has suggested putting less stitches on the needle. I can hand quilt faster with just one or two stitches.
    One does not have to fill the needle (unless he or she just wants to).

  13. #13
    Senior Member rural01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dublb View Post
    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.
    Thanks Bev, I will give that some thought.

  14. #14
    Senior Member rural01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Prism99 View Post
    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.
    I never thought about Amazon. I will check that out. I love ordering online.

    It is the finger using the thimble that is getting injured. Together these problems are a real pain. I took the day off so I should be good to go to quilt with The Bachelor tomorrow. hehe.

  15. #15
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    I use a sterling thimble from Jean S. Lyles when I need one...I'm afraid the leather ones think they're just there to be sure I hit the target!
    If you feel like you're special...it's 'cause you are!
    Momto5

  16. #16
    Senior Member rural01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mpspeedy View Post
    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.
    Experience is the best teacher sounds appropriate here. I was looking at those leather thimbles. Looks like they might be comfortable...I can do without the large eye. It doesn't seem any easier to thread than any other quilting needle...Quilting with both hands; that is awesome. I can't imagine doing that, but then I've never quilted on a frame or in a group before. I've only quilted with a lap hoop. I do love the freedom and don't have the room for a frame. Thanks for the response.

  17. #17
    Senior Member rural01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spark View Post
    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.
    Thanks, I will definitely keep that in mind. Sounds like the ticket.

  18. #18
    Senior Member rural01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 117becca View Post
    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
    Becca, great advice. The price isn't bad either. I will definitely bookmark that site. I am thinking it might be time to pitch the metal thimble too. Thanks.

  19. #19
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    I'm long time handquilter, too. I find that not everything works the same every day. Some days I change thimbles several times until I get comfortable with one. Also, change needles to suit me. One thing I would not do is rough up needles with emery cloth. A rough needle will be even more difficult to push through the layers. Hang in there, you'll find something you are comfortable with.

  20. #20
    Senior Member rural01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tartan View Post
    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.
    Oh boy, you said a mouthful with that quality issue. I have seen the thimble you are talking about. I'm starting to think I may purchase a couple different kinds and then switch off, depending on my mood. I do believe I'm going to ditch these needles though. Thanks for your response.

  21. #21
    Senior Member rural01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hinterland View Post
    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.


    Janet
    Thanks, I'll try to keep it loose from now on Janet. Actually, I do think the needles are bad. I like the idea of a piece of rubber for needle traction. I'll give that a try.

  22. #22
    Senior Member rural01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kat Sews View Post
    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.
    Hey Kat, great idea. We must buy similar broccoli. I know exactly what you are talking about. Actually I bought some rubber bands that might work too. Thanks. Wow, quilting since the 60's--that is very cool. You must have created some beautiful things.

  23. #23
    Senior Member rural01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JustAbitCrazy View Post
    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.
    Thanks, I will check that out.

  24. #24
    Senior Member rural01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by virtualbernie View Post
    If you're not allergic, I use latex exam gloves. I cut the fingers off and use the fingers on the fingers that I use to pull the needle through. They are thin and because I'm only using them on the fingers my hands don't get hot and I can hold the needle as if they were my bare hands.
    Thanks Bernie. I actually thought about that. Sounds like an excellent idea.

  25. #25
    Senior Member rural01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Holice View Post
    No one has suggested putting less stitches on the needle. I can hand quilt faster with just one or two stitches.
    One does not have to fill the needle (unless he or she just wants to).
    I can't even imagine trying to fill the needle. This problem exists with only two stitches on it. I'm thinking it is the needle. It has to go. Thanks for answering.

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