Monday, 26 June 2017

Which needle do I use?

When demonstrating silk ribbon embroidery I often get asked about the needles I use.  So, I thought I would create a little tutorial on needles and how to thread them.

First of all a little bit about the needles.  A Chenille needle is the best type of needle to use for silk ribbon embroidery: it has a large eye and a very sharp point - it's sort of a cross between a tapestry needle and a sharp embroidery needle.

Why use such a big, thick needle?  The answer is simple: you need the sharp point to pierce the fabric easily and the thickness of the shaft and width of the eye of the needle to create a large opening in the fabric which will allow the ribbon to pass through easily.  If you use a thinner needle with a smaller eye, the hole you make in the fabric will be smaller too; this will require more effort to pull the ribbon through the fabric, which in turn will damage the silk ribbon.  Silk ribbon is a delicate material and every time you pull it through the fabric, you add to its wear and tear.  A big chenille needle will reduce the wear on the ribbon.

I know that the eye of the needle is fairly self explanatory - without it you couldn't thread it! However, in silk ribbon embroidery the size of the eye of the needle is also important.  For a 4mm silk ribbon I use a #20 Chenille needle and for a 7mm ribbon I use a #18 Chenille needle.  If you compare the eyes of both needles you will see that the #18 is larger - this is so that the ribbon, when threaded through the eye, does not fold over on itself; it lies nice and flat within the eye.

7mm ribbon on the left
4mm ribbon on the right

It is also worth bearing in mind that, even whilst using the correct needle, your silk ribbon is getting worn out as it travels backwards and forwards through the fabric.  I therefore recommend using short lengths of ribbon, roughly the length of a ruler - 12" or 30cm.

However, silk ribbon, unlike thread, can be a slippery thing when threaded through a needle - it will keep slipping out of the eye!  To prevent this, there is a little knack of securing the ribbon to the needle.

Step 1:  Thread one end of the ribbon through the eye

Step 2: Take the end  that's been threaded through the eye
and poke it onto the end of the needle.

Step 3: Now pull the long end, or tail, of the ribbon to tighten.

Next tutorial:  Starting and finishing silk ribbon

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