Needleworking Hints

Here you will find a number of suggestions I have for making your needleworking projects easier and perhaps improve on your results.

♦Threedles designs are printed on heavy weight, loose leaf paper so that you may bind them to your choosing. Some stitchers are putting the pattern pages they are working from in plastic sleeves to protect them while are being used. While stitching the pattern I find a report binder works best. When finished, the entire pattern is kept in a loose leaf binder for safe keeping. Multiple patterns can be kept in a single binder. Here is an example of the type of sheet protector I use. OfficeMax item # 21711676  - [IN]PLACE Extra-Capacity Top-Load Heavyweight Sheet Protectors

♦ I have been using neodymium magnets for a number of tasks. They are super strong as compared to traditional magnets and make misplacing things like my needle, scissors or laying tool a thing of the past. My husband built a small tray that sits on the arm of the couch where I usually work that has some imbedded in the surface. He used a forstner bit to drill a recess in the tray surface and then glued the magnets in with clear liquid nails. I have also had some magnets strategically put into the stretcher bars I use to hold small items like needles or my scissors.

Needlework Tray
Needlework Tray

♦ Over time as you work a piece the stretcher bars will shift off a 90 degree angle. This ultimately makes for a warped canvas that is either not square or does not lay flat in the mat/frame. I began using flat angle brackets (available at hardware stores) to lock the stretcher bars in place to avoid this shifting. Since the angle brackets are steel, if you put a neodymium magnet under the angle bracket, the whole bracket becomes magnetic! If you use more than one the field is stronger, but you must make sure to use the same pole of all the magnets in contact with the bracket. I usually only stick needles to the bracket, so one magnet is normally sufficient

I pre-drill the frame (to avoid splitting) and then screw the angle bracket to the frame,  I also mark the stretcher bars, 1, 2, 3, 4 so if I take it apart and put it back together later for another project, there is no ambiguity in how it was assembled before.

I put the brackets into two adjacent corners. e.g. lower right and lower left.

Diamond Eyes - 8/11/11
Angle Brackets

♦ I typically mark a corner of the stretcher bar frame (in the Angle Brackets image you may be able to make out the TL in the top left corner of the image). I always work top to bottom, and I always make sure the TL indicator is in the top left or bottom right of my workstation. This keeps all my stitches looking the same. If you work top to bottom sometimes and right to left other times the stitches wind up looking different in the finished work.

♦ As you work a piece, the canvas stretches. Ultimately this causes your canvas to sag between your stretcher bars. If there is more than about 1/2" of play, peak to valley, in the canvas, I remove the staples along two adjacent sides of the canvas, re-stretch and re-staple the canvas to the frame. On some large projects I may need to do this 3-4 times during the stitching of the pattern.

♦ When using threads that are sold on board as opposed to on spools, they have a crease where they wrap around the edge of the board. This crease can create issues when trying to lay the thread on the canvas. In order to remove the crease you can wet your fingers and pull the thread through your fingers. If that does not work you can steam the crease out (much like using a steamer on silk fabrics).  If nothing works you can iron them out... but that can be maddening.

♦ Or you can use a small flat iron to iron the creases out! This works great on many threads, however some fibers may melt if left in contact with the flat iron too long, so be careful!

Creased Threads
Creased Thread
Small Curling Iron
Flat Iron

♦ My husband found an Ott-lite a few years ago on sale and bought it as a gift. It really helps with my work in a number of ways. First it is indirect light (non source specific) and that helps reduce shadows on the work piece. It also is wider spectrum than halogen or incandescent which helps with how the eye perceives color. Thus it allows me to decide which thread is the best color choice for the design without waiting for sunlight (I do most of my stitching in the evenings). Finally it is lightweight and portable for when I go to retreats to stitch with my friends.

♦ In some stitches, a thread will hide the hole in the canvas that the needle should come up in for the next stitch. If you do not pull the prior stitch tight, you can see the hole to come up in easier.

Tacky Bob
Tacky Bob

♦ I ran a cross a handy item for holding beads marketed as "Tacky Bob". It is about the size of a CD jewel case. It is a sticky surface in a clamshell. You put the beads on the tacky surface and you can easily pick them up with your needle without them skittering away, or moving every time the angle changes. It has a magnet to hold needles. Even if it only lasts for a couple of projects, for the price, I am ahead in time if nothing else. It got knocked off the table onto the hardwood floor once when it was open and only about 5 beads shook loose!

♦ I like to work "in the well," so the finished surface is below the stretcher bars (see the image above with the 90 degree corner brackets). When I worked on 'top' I found that the threads were prone to snag on the canvas and the work would get dirty from the dirt and oils it was exposed to (by the way you should wash up before starting your needlepoint activity to avoid getting dirt and oils on your finished work). I have gotten mixed views from people about working "in the well", the choice is yours, I am just making suggestions about what works best for me.

Magnifiers With Light

♦ A friend had a pair of magnifying glasses coupled with a headlight. I have been working with a clip on magnifying lens for years. I went looking for the same product so I could take it to our stitching gatherings because I do not always bring my Ott-lite with me. I found this item at Under $20 and not as pricey as the surgeon's models, but quite functional. It comes with a variety of magnifications. Note I wear glasses so I needed to be able to add the light and magnifier solution to my prescription glasses. Unfortunately the light/lens is not detachable from the glasses frame so you can't move it to your own glasses.

LED Ott-Lite Back Light Setup

♦ I like the impact of black canvas on certain color ways, however using dark colored canvas is quite a challenge because counting the holes in the canvas is a real problem. I took another stitcher's suggestion and started by placing a white towel in my lap which helped. I then started using a light in my lap in addition to the white towel. I have finally settled on a portable LED Ott-lite with a diffuser (a sheet of white paper taped into a tube) that provides a lit background over a large area. The LED lamp does not drain batteries as quickly when I am stitching away from home like incandescent lights do.

♦ In the picture above on the arm holding the clamp (from Needlework System 4) for the needlework frame, you can see where there are three brass pins that I sit spools of thread on when I am stitching. The thread spools don't get misplaced as easily when they are right there to work from. You can see the wooden tray described above, with all the miscellaneous items (laying tool, extra needles, thread boards, scrap thread "trash can," scissors, thread cutters, beads, etc.) on the right, and on the left is a booklet with the pages in plastic sleeves from the design I am stitching. The red item in the back left is a case that holds all the threads for the current color way I am stitching along with spare scissors, laying tools, thread cutters and such so when I travel, I do not have to remember as many items. Hexefoos - Ephrata is in the frame.