Today, I’m pitching the curved needle. You definitely need one of these for your needlework tool box! They come in awfully handy.
I’ll show you what I mean by looking at the back of my current embroidery project, and then we’ll talk about curved needle sizes and resources.
This is the back of the Medallion Project. Because the whole front of the center of the project is completely covered with stitching now, to start and end threads, I have to run them under the threads on the back of the project to make sure the working thread is anchored.
When working goldwork (you can see the type of work I’m doing right now, if you read this article on using Lizardine wrapped with silk thread to outline the monogram), you often have to plunge threads to the back of the fabric and anchor them there by whipping over them with another thread.
Imagine a very taut piece of fabric on the frame, with lots of tiny stitches on the back that you have to slip a needle under in order to anchor a thread. So you slip the needle under. The fabric is very taut, remember! And you don’t want your needle traveling under much thread on the back – you don’t want to take it too far away from your starting point, right?
So, you have to get some leverage on that straight needle to pick it up before it decides to keep going straight forward underneath a few inches of stitches! There are times when I make use of a fingernail in situations like this: I slide the needle under a few threads and onto the tip of the underside of my fingernail. Then I pry up the tip of the needle up until I can get a hold of it.
But there is a Much Easier Way (and a much safer way – I can’t tell you how many needles have slipped into my finger using the above method!) to accomplish getting your needle under the stitches on tight fabric.
And that way is by using a different needle – the curved needle. If you’ve been stitching for a while – especially if you’ve done goldwork – you’ve probably run into the curved needle. But if not, trust me on this one! Curved needles come in especially handy for anchoring threads on the back of fabric. In the photo above, I’m anchoring the bunch of silk floss that is plunged to the back of the fabric after couching on the Lizardine wrapped with silk.
The curved needle just scoops in under the stitches and comes right back up in a nice swoop. It’s easy to grab hold of, and it makes stitching in a tight spot like this super easy and very quick.
To use the curved needle, when it’s time to anchor a thread on the back of your fabric, just unthread your regular embroidery needle and thread the curved needle onto the working thread. This may seem inconvenient, but in fact, it saves much time and effort in the long run. Then insert the tip of the needle underneath a few threads on the back of the fabric and gently push the needle out from under the stitches. Let the curved needle do the rest of the work. It’s got its own built in leverage system – no prying is involved to get this thing back up off the fabric!
Finding Curved Needles
Most commonly available curved needles at sewing stores are rather thick in size, and if your thread and your stitches are relatively fine, the thicker needles (like those sold for quilting or upholstering) don’t work as well for this use. It’s just harder to coax a thicker needle under those stitches on the back of the fabric.
So the question is: do they make fine curved needles? And the answer is: Yes! They do! What you need to look for is a curved beading needle. These are hard to come by in local sewing stores, so I generally get mine online, through Colonial Needle. Just search “curved beading” and you’ll find two brands on the second page of search results.
Curved needles come in handy for lots of other things, too. If, for example, you’ve ever wanted to make a fabric box – if you’re planning on making Carolyn Pearce’s Home Sweet Home project? – the curved needle is practically essential for the finish work on such projects. If you have one or two in your needlework tool box, you will certainly find a use for them at some point in your stitching endeavors.
A job can be done with greater ease, with greater efficiency, and with greater pleasure when you use the right tools!
Never underestimate the power of the curved needle!
If you’d like access to all the tips and techniques discussed in the Medallion Project, including complete step-by-step coverage of the Tudor-Style Rose, conveniently collected in one document, interlinked, referenced, and indexed, why not add the Marian Medallion Project e-book to your library? It’s packed full of all kinds of embroidery tips for undertaking a project like this, all in a convenient electronic format for easy searching.