Tuesday 28 August 2018

needle tips

When I was tatting back in the mid-80s till about a few years back, my Anchor tatting book & a few other patterns said “tie and oversew” at the end. Despite asking/searching, nobody seemed to know what it really meant. Similar questions are often faced by beginners who start on their own. Which is why I was recently requested to write a post about the tools used to hide ends and the tips I shared privately. When somebody shares, we all learn.
So, at your request, Jean ....

Which needle to use?
I remember Grace Tan telling me about tapestry needles for sewing in ends. These have a long/large eye and a blunt tip which prevents snagging & fraying the tatting thread. They are also called darning needles or long- or large-eyed needles.
This is the Pony tapestry needle set with coloured ends. 
I also slipped in a few larger wool needles for the extra thick threads.

This image shows the comparative size of needle and thread...
from top -
Large eye blunt needle – size 3 or 5 crochet cotton
Size 22 – size 10 Anchor knitting cotton
Size 24 – size 20 Anchor crochet cotton (about as thick as a Lizbeth size 10)
Size 26 – size 40 crochet cotton
Size 28 – size 50 and finer. Here it carries simple sewing thread which is knotted. I use this for stringing small beads.

A needle-threader is essential.
A couple of tips, that work for me, on how to use it effectively.
Hold the threader horizontally through the eye
In other words, let the needle stand erect/vertical and the wire loop open when seen from top. Then insert the thread through loop, pull loop and the thread is smoothly pulled through.
I find that holding the threader as in the bottom left, is not always effective, despite what the instructions on the threader show.

Secondly, keep the tail end short while threading. 
By doing so, we can go down a needle size! It may fray a bit at the tip, though, as seen in the collage. But the advantage is that we get a finer needle to sew through the stitches.

Whip stitching
Sewing in the end tails is the most common and secure method of finishing off. The various ways of sewing in the tail pertain to where the needle is inserted in the tatting stitch – weaving under the caps from top (whip stitch) or through the legs. You can find some of the how-tos here
Ever since madtatter80 posted her video, I’ve been hooked to whip stitching. It is almost invisible, easy to do, and does not add bulk.

I’ve used my earlier diagram to indicate where to insert needle. 
I prefer weaving the needle under the crests, but one may choose to do it under the troughs. 

Note that I have not drawn the woven tail in the diagram but can be seen in the tatted model and collages below.
Here I have used a different colour to show whip stitch 
and am piercing needle through the crests. 
Weaving progresses from right to left here.

Once the thread is pulled, it almost disappears!
Here the cream thread is hidden under the ring stitches,
woven from left to right under the crests. 

And of course, one can hide ends without sewing, whichever may be the last element(s)! As I said before, this post is in response to a specific situation and question.

happy tatting always :-)


  1. Yes good "point" ha ha ha the tapestry for this is best!

    1. Oh, Carollyn, you whip up a laugh riot!! I am in stitches ;-P

  2. Useful post, thank you. I've also been using the big eye needle, that one used for beading, it easily bends and it is very thin. But often breaks.

    1. I've had to throw away a couple of the finer needles, too, Ninetta. Good thing there are more than one in the set ;-D

  3. I use a easy thread needle, the eye is not complete so the thread hooks into it without having to be threaded through the eye, so you can use short threads. When I started tatting, the method I was taught was to use a finer thread to oversew the cut off threads. Not invisible, so I'd have to try to remember to keep all the ends on one side. Modern methods are better!

    1. When you wrote about it, I tried to buy it online, Jane. Too expensive ;-/
      That is what I tried, too - oversewing as in couching embroidery. But the result was worse than a simple knot and snip :-(
      So many modern methods to choose from!!!

  4. Thank you for that lesson!!! I have been wondering how people sew in their ends. I just had to guess when learning by myself. Now my question is....How do you hide variegated colored threads?? ;)

    1. Sue, the same way - whip stitching. I have found this to be the least intrusive - the difference in colours does not show, once you have pulled the thread taut. Works well for variegated - I've used it many times now.
      Another way is to tat over the old tails in the new element, if change is needed mid-project. I'm doing that with a split ring braid I've been working on. So far there have been 13 bobbin changes, and no ends to sew in.
      Then there is the Magic Thread or loop trick. But personally I am never assured of it coming off right or remaining secure. Whip stitching is my go-to.

  5. Good post on hiding ends! I'd never seen the Pony tapestry needles before - will have to look and see if I can find them online. I like the idea of colored ends so you know at a glance which needle you have. When I learned to tat, I was told to use matching sewing thread and oversew the ends (overcast stitch very close together and/or buttonhole stitch very close together) to hide the ends and sew them in securely. I was overjoyed to learn about other ways to hide ends. I'd much rather tat than sew over ends with sewing thread. :)

    1. The coloured needle ends do help to keep them in their place, besides making them cheerful to look at, Stephanie ;-D
      I never quite got that oversew right - it was a sore sight mostly ;-P Or perhaps I was doing it wrong. It is such a relief to have so many better/quicker options to choose from now!

  6. I have not seen pony coloured end needles before, but I have used a tapestry needle for years, I totally agree with Grace their bunt ends do not split the thread.

    1. Grace explained on InTatters a few years back, and with Carollyn's whip stitch, I find the combo very effective. Thanks, Margaret :-)

  7. Thanks, Muskaan, for this useful tutorial! I may have told you about tapestry needles, but you have converted me to whip stitching my ends! I have referred people to this page a few times already - I just did so again today! :-)


    1. wow, thank you so much, Grace :-))) We never stop learning, do we!
      With tapestry needles and whip stitching, I am no longer wary of hiding ends .... bring 'em on, I say ;-D