The Easiest Way to Thread a Needle

by A Manly Guest Contributor on December 14, 2013 · 28 comments

in Manly Skills

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Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Sebastian Sandersius, a co-founder of Bison Made.

Like so many honest moments captured by Norman Rockwell, his depictions of this exasperating task are true to our experience. Whether trying to re-attach a button that has popped off, helping grandma thread her sewing machine, or stitching your own wallet, we have all had our frustrations with threading needles. Sometimes we get lucky but then sometimes we get caught up in the iterations of cutting, licking, and coaxing the thread into the eye of the needle.

Luckily, there is an easier way to thread a needle!

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At Bison Made, we do a lot of hand-stitching to ensure our products are finished with the finest attention to detail. When I train a new employee to sew our products, lesson 1 is the best way to thread a needle.

Every time I show someone this method of threading a needle, they are astonished at how simple it is — and they take to it very quickly. I personally happened upon this easier method after countless bouts with needle and thread during the early days of developing our products. I scoured the internet and couldn’t find any documentation on this method, so I decided to write it out myself to help make this simple task common knowledge.

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When most people thread a needle, they hold an inch or so of thread between their fingers and try to guide it through the eye of the needle. Leading it directly through is difficult, because the thread is flimsy and floppy. When you inevitably miss, the thread deflects and frays, forcing you to put it in your mouth to reform the fibers before making another attempt.

The 4-step “pinch the tip” method offers a simple, but significant improvement to this method. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Hold the thread between your thumb and index fingers.
  2. Pinch down on the thread between your fingers until you can barely see the tip of the thread between your fingertips. With your other hand holding the needle, bring the thread and needle eye together.
  3. Instead of trying to push the tip of the thread through the eye of the needle as in the typical method, here you push the eye of the needle onto the tip of the thread. Your fingertips give the thread support so it will not deflect or fray. Even if the thread is too thick, pinching the tip compresses it into a shape that fits the oblong shape of the needle eye.
  4. With a little practice you should be able to feel with your fingers when the needle is being threaded properly. Keeping your fingers pinched together to support the thread, follow through and push the needle between your fingertips. As you part your fingertips you should reveal a threaded needle.

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When it comes to threading the needle on a sewing machine, this same method should work just as well. The only difference is now instead of holding the needle in your other hand, the needle is fixed in place. Approach the needle eye with the pinched thread tip as shown below.

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This “pinch the tip’” method will work for all types of threads: bonded, unbonded, cotton, polyester, nylon, kevlar, teflon, etc.

I hope you find this method useful and straightforward so that next time you need to replace a button or patch up a hole, you won’t be frustrated trying to thread your needle. Don’t worry about cutting a clean taper or wetting the thread in your mouth to twist the fibers tight, just pinch the tip.

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Bison Made uses the principles of high-quality craftsmanship when producing quality leather carry goods. Instead of paper patterns and hand cutting, we use high precision cutting dies to create consistent leather components that are hand finished and stitched. We have taken a position that by starting with high-quality raw materials and detailed precision, beautiful and functional works that are designed for life will follow.

 

{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Daniel December 14, 2013 at 6:14 pm

A needle threader is a lot easier, and quicker. Especially when threading a sewing machine’s needle. Don’t laugh… a sewing mating is, um, a *machine*. Every guy should know how to run one.

2 Margaret December 14, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Interesting boys!

3 Dan December 14, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Or you could just fold the end of the thread down into a small loop and push it through the eye of the needle.

That’s how I’ve always done it and never had a problem threading anything quickly.

4 Dalton December 15, 2013 at 2:44 am

Neat.

5 Nash December 15, 2013 at 3:37 am

LOL! I have been using this exact method for ages and I always thought I was doing it wrong! A big bazinga to my family for laughing at me ;-)

6 Brett December 15, 2013 at 11:49 am

Monumentally helpful! Thanks

7 s. December 15, 2013 at 2:22 pm

I was SOOOO hoping it would be something I didn’t already know! I guess I’ll just have to get stronger reading lenses after all.

8 JohnR December 15, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I never have any trouble simply by using a little device called a needle threader which is a piece of shaped sprung wire. You poke it through the needle. It springs open once through the needle and you place your thread through the generous loop you wire makes. Then you pull both back through the needle. Easy!

9 Mazza December 15, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Great tip and good on you Daniel. Every man should know how to sew. My son had to show my daughter in law how to sew and he made the first curtains for the house!

10 Don H December 16, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Great tip, thanks. Also, try wetting the needle, not the thread (that is, if you have to wet anything at all). It even works when you just have to hold the thread with an inch or so hanging out.

11 Cheryle December 16, 2013 at 8:04 pm

I have limited sight in one eye and after years of sewing have not been able to use a standard sewing needle. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this tip!!! IT REALLY DOES MAKE THREADING A NEEDLE EASY!!!!!

12 Kory December 16, 2013 at 8:45 pm

This came in handy today when I had to sew on some buttons.

13 Jamie December 17, 2013 at 1:29 am

This is the method I use to sew the ribbons up my mine and my old man’s firefighting medals xD Dad never bothered learning to sew

14 Yokel December 19, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Super! This post makes me feel so clever. I’ve always done it like that (was never taught how) and always wondered why my wife could never thread the sewing machine – she always asks me to. I just never thought that most people do it differently. Guess that’s why I do just as much sewing as the women in my house.
Great tip!

15 Theo December 19, 2013 at 6:49 pm

I’ve been doing this trick for years. It doesn’t *always* work, but it can be a bit more helpful. :)

Failing that, there are “needle threaders”, which typically have a small circular bit of foil stamped like a coin at the top, and wire attached. You put the wire through the eye of the needle, add the thread, and then pull the wire back through.

16 Elliott December 25, 2013 at 9:50 pm

I already did this! It just makes sense that the thread can’t flex if you don’t let it.

17 Arthur December 31, 2013 at 10:07 am

I use a little mink oil or boot wax on the tip to keep it from fraying and find it very effective.

18 Glen January 9, 2014 at 1:33 am

Ever keep your twist ties?
I do
Strip the plastic of the outside and then add a tight 90′ bend in the middle.
I use this to thread all my needles cuts out a lot of time and reduces eye strain, besides you were just going to throw that twist tie away.

19 Credit Where Credit's Due January 9, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Just saved my jacket for my interview in the am–not to mention hours of frustration–you’re the man!

20 Amy January 19, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Thank you!!!!! I love the internet.

21 Fundinn Gangulfsson February 1, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Fantastic, I make sewing needles and am surprised by the number of people who don’t know how to thread them.

22 Lynn Hunter February 3, 2014 at 10:58 am

Enjoyed…I am a fan of Norman Rockwell and a stitcher. Thank you

23 Elizabeth Hardwick February 3, 2014 at 11:42 am

I learnt to thread needles by looping the thread round the needle then pushing the looped thread through the eye of the needles. For heavy threads like button thread, running the end of the thread across a candle worked.

24 Laura February 3, 2014 at 12:50 pm

My goodness, I’ve been doing this for decades! And to think my Mother told me I was threading the needle incorrectly. I turned to her and said, what difference does it make HOW the needle is threaded, as long as it’s threaded? That shut her up! LOL

25 Mary February 11, 2014 at 9:42 pm

There was actually a mention of this in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Fin, a very manly fact, I might add. Huck was disguised as a girl and an old woman discovered him by making him thread a needle. He tried to thread it by bringing the thread to the needle instead of your method. She knew instantly that he was shamming because any girl would know to pinch the thread and bring the needle to it. Ha! So I guess your method is actually tried and true, love it!

26 Ellen in Oregon March 2, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Great tip! Half the struggle is making sure you can see what your doing, esp. when using very small needles for quilting, so if you need magnifying glasses forget your vanity & buy a pair of magnifying glasses. People usually wet the end of the thread because the fibers become untwisted & fuzzy where the thread was cut. I used very sharp scissors and cut the thread at a 45 degrees angle and it threads like a dream with your method.

27 Rev March 17, 2014 at 10:53 am

The easiest way to see the eye of the needle is to hold a piece of white card or paper behind it. You will thread the needle every time.

28 Cam March 24, 2014 at 12:42 pm

Even easier way: buy a needle threader. You can buy a pack of very basic threaders for a dollar. Or, if you’re that cheap, you can do as Glen suggested and make your own out of a twist tie.

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