Hints & Tips

When a group of avid stitchers gets together knowledge and experience is naturally shared. Each member of Town Clock Stitchers has something to offer. Our monthly program and group projects are often developed and compiled by our own members.


We are sharing some of our work with you in hopes that you, too will benefit from our experiences. 

They are free to be copied and shared. We ask only that they be reproduced in their entirety, unchanged and include the author and source.

Happy stitching!

Courtesy of Jean

  1. When needles are manufactured the eye of the needle is punched with a tear drop shaped punch. The punching process results in the top side of the needle having a slightly larger opening than the underside.  If you are having trouble threading the needle you may be using the smaller hole that was created during the punching process.  Turn it over.  
  2. Needles are designed for the technique. If you look at tapestry and crewel needles, you will notice that they become larger at the eye.  This larger eye (hole) is designed to spread the canvas or fabric threads as the needle passes through.  This reduces wear on the thread. It is not a good idea to use too fine a needle because there will be more wear on the thread making it look frayed.

Courtesy of Beverly

A straw needle is required for bullion knots.  Unlike crewel and tapestry needles, a straw needle is the same diameter for its entire length.  When creating bullions the thread is wrapped snuggly around the needle. To create the knot the needle is pulled through the loops.  A crewel, or tapestry, needle would get stuck in the loops.

Courtesy of Jean

It is sometimes difficult to thread a needle.  When using perle cotton, there is a handy method of threading.  Lay the thread over your finger holding it loosely with the adjacent finger. With the other hand, rub the eye of the needle over the perle cotton so that the eye is in line with the thread. The perle cotton will curl into the eye of the needle and can be pulled through.

Courtesy of Hilary

When cutting sewing threads, as well as embroidery threads, cut the end on a diagonal for easier threading.

Courtesy of Jean & Bonnie

Most threads have a nap - much like velvet. If you stroke it in one direction, it will lie flat and smooth. If you stroke it in the opposite direction, it will look rough. Most manufacturers produce threads so that when you pull the thread from the spool, skein or ball, the nap will flow from the end of the thread backwards. Therefore, when you pull the thread out, use this end to thread the needle and place the knot on the end that you cut. The nap of your thread will lay flat as you pull it through the fabric. Otherwise you are pulling your thread against its nap and it will become fuzzy and rough.

Courtesy of Jean

Variegated threads are designed so that your stitching will have a random colour pattern. Variegated threads usually have a repeat pattern of colours - just like wallpaper. Sometimes you may want to either emphasize or reduce one of the colours. Unwind the skein and lay it in a circle, matching the colour pattern. Cut it so that the undesired colour will be at the knot end, or threaded end.  The colours at the ends of your thread will be reduced and the colours in the middle increased.

Courtesy of Lorraine & Bonnie 

Many projects require only 1 or 2 strange of 6-strand embroidery floss. Cut the length that you need (usually a maximum of 18 inches). Tap the end of the 6-strand embroidery floss a couple of times with your finger.  This spreads the strands apart. Remove only one strand at a time. Pull one strand straight up from the tip of the 6-strand piece.  

Courtesy of Stella

If you think that you may not have enough of a particular thread to finish your piece, you may be able to mix in a similar colour to finish a small part of it. This works particularly well in crewel but can also be used with stranded floss.

Courtesy of Jean

Away Waste Knot

When starting a new thread, it is not always possible to anchor the thread in existing stitching. Make a knot in your thread (cut end) and insert your needle from the front of your work at a good distance (2 or 3 inches) away from the point where you wish to begin. Come up from the back at the point where you wish to begin your stitching. Continue your stitching and when convenient, cut the knot and thread the tail into your stitching to finish.

Inline waste knot

If you will be stitching in a straight line, you can place your waste knot an inch or more from your starting point but directly in line with your stitching.  Your stitches will secure the tail of the thread and when you reach the knot you may cut if off.