Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Problem Solving for Stitchers: Needles without Nickel


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When it comes to embroidery, it would be nice if all the supplies, all the tools, all the fibers, all the fabrics, all the lights, all the stitching aids, all the *everything* that we like and use with our needlework were universally usable for every single person, no matter what.

Often, it’s simply not the case. Allergies, sensitivities, physical difficulties with vision, with motor skills, and more – all of these things can hinder the pursuit of needlework.

Sometimes, many who love embroidery, who find happiness, a sense of calm, relaxation, or alleviation of stress with needle and thread, end up giving it up altogether because of some hinderance that is hard to overcome.

They lose something beautiful in their lives.

But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if they were able to find solutions to their difficulties, that would keep them stitching?

These are topics I’d like to address more frequently on Needle ‘n Thread. I would love to hear from fellow stitchers who either have a solution to a specific hardship that would have kept them from stitching, or from folks who are looking for a solution to some difficulty that’s keeping them from stitching.

I think it’s important to address these challenges and to share the solutions to them! And we can do this best when we all put our heads together! Please feel free to contact me if you have some experience and input on the topic!

Needles without Nickel

Lately, I’ve had a few emails from stitchers who love embroidery, quilting, or hand-sewing, but who suffer from a nickel allergy.

A nickel allergy often results in a very irritating case of contact dermatitis – an itchy rash that develops when the sufferer comes into contact with nickel. It is not pleasant, and it tends to put those who are nickel-allergic completely off handwork that involves needles. Why? Because the majority of commonly available needles today are coated with nickel. It’s what keeps them smooth and shiny in an affordable way.

There is a solution to the problem, though!

The solution is to invest in needles that are not nickel coated, or that have so little nickel in them that they are not problematic.

Mostly, these are stainless steel needles. There are some gold-coated needles out there that will sometimes do the trick, but for the most part, you’ll find a wider variety of stainless steel needles available than you will of gold-coated needles.

The Needle Lady

Whenever I run into someone (figuratively – usually it happens via email, social media, or here on the blog) who has a nickel allergy and is desperately seeking a solution, I refer them to Pam.

Yes, Pam! Pam is The Needle Lady. She really is! She understands specific needle problems that stitchers face and she has worked long and hard to create solutions for them. I admire that!

There are a few issues with needles that Pam has solved. One of the most prevalent is this one: “I can’t thread a needle.” Her solution was to invent the Spiral Eye needle, which is the easiest threading needle out there. I’ve written about Spiral Eye needles here, and followed up with more about them here.

Pam has also addressed the nickel allergy problem. You can read her article comparing stainless steel needles here.

She stocks the various stainless steel needles that she compares, so that you can easily add them to your tool box without having to hunt them down elsewhere online.

If you are suffering from a nickel allergy – if you find you develop a rash or itchy, burning skin when you use a needle – visit Pam. She’ll set you up with the needles you need to overcome this unpleasant difficulty.

And voilà! You’ll be back to stitching comfortably in no time!

No affiliation here. I sincerely admire the work Pam has done to make accessible needles for stitchers, and I hope that anyone out there trying to overcome needle difficulties will find a solution through her website!


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(12) Comments

  1. YOU ARE SO AWESOME!!!!Thank you for your continued support and wonderful comments. Someday I need to meet you in person and buy you dinner!!!! I am so very proud of all the stainless steel needle options I was able to get and put on my website, but I didn’t think it was as big of a problem as it is. So many people don’t know their red eyes and itchy fingers are caused by their sewing needle! Thank you for bringing this to everyone’s attention.

  2. THANK YOU!!! I have an allergy to nickel, however, my skin doesn’t develop a rash but the needle will “turn” on me. The coating goes away and it gets rough. The gold needles sometimes work if the plating is good. It nice to have a resource like this:)

    1. I went through a short stint some years back – I don’t know if it was a hormonal thing or what! – where my needles always turned black and roughened up in spots where the coating disintegrated. It happened with any nickel plated needle, no matter the brand. But then one day, I noticed that it didn’t happen anymore. I have no idea what the difference was or why it worked out the way it did.

  3. Any tips for stitchers with essential tremors and/or intention tremors?

    I already try to brace the side of my hand against something solid, and I know about the rubber band/hair tie trick.

  4. Fabulous idea to address these type things when possible. I have an aunt who loved to do x stitch but no longer is able. She has Shogren’s syndrome, so there is no answer or help for her sadly. But it makes me more aware of how sad it is when someone who wants to do this can’t because of something hindering them. To find an answer for those problems is maybe one of the most important things you could do for your “peoples”. 😀

  5. This is a great topic! I’ve pretty much had to give up needlework because I found that up close work was giving me a sick headache. It made me so sad. I’ve tried different glasses, lots of different magnifiers and lights and went to the eye doctor, but still have issues. I’m hoping someday I can figure out how to stitch comfortably again!

    1. Oh wow. That is a difficult situation! How much are you willing to invest? Have you tried CraftOptics? You can read about them here. I think they’ve developed their pieces even further since that article. They have a 45-day trial period with a money back guaranty, so it might be worth looking into. There’s no affiliation. I just like them. I’m hoping that they can help me out with my current eyesight dilemma, once I get a new prescription squared away again.

  6. I have a severe nickel allergy! I am a bead embroidery stitcher, which means I need a beading needle size 10 or 12, other wise those tiny seeds wont slide over the eye. I have tried Pam’s stainless easy thread beading needles. Unfortunately, the point was too blunt, the gage too large (only about half my size 11 beads would slide over the eye), and my thread would not stay threaded in the split eye. That being said, I love her other needles!

    I have found ONE beading needle size 10 and 12 that has zero nickel! It’s very difficult, or rather impossible, to find in North America.

    I order mine from Ireland or Lithuania, via Etsy.

    Let me introduce the Pony Black (carbon fiber) beading needle. I absolutely adore these. I wish they were available in North America and I hope Pony continues to make them. They solve my allergy issues and are lovely to sew with. I treasure the ones I have like they’re gold.

  7. The Pony hypoallergenic needles are nickel-free. I am a cross stitcher who does not have a nickel allergy; however, once I used the Pony hypoallergenic tapestry needles, I gave all my other needles away. They are hard to find in the U.S., but they are available from the Maydel website (awesome customer service).

  8. Good article about nickel allergies. This is more common than most realize, and the numbers of people that have it, is growing.
    I have found several nickel-free needles. But HELP – I have not had any luck finding a nickel free dressmaker pin. Does anyone have a resource for this?

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