The Easy Way to Thread a Needle with Thread or Stretchy Cord for Beadwork
Threading a Needle
Whether you're mending clothes, sewing in general, hemming a dress or pants, embroidering, or a host of other needle crafts, we all have the same problem: eventually, usually sooner than later, we need to interrupt our work to re-thread the needle.
This doesn't have to be a challenge in eyesight and hand-eye coordination! Here's the method I use to get back to "work" and get the job done without hating this little housekeeping step.
How to Quickly Thread Even the Smallest Needle
- Hold the needle in your dominant hand (usually your right hand).
- Make sure that the thread or other material you are threading is as small as possible, such as by cutting the tip off with very sharp scissors, waxing, and/or licking the end of the thread and pressing the fibers together.
- In your non-dominant hand, pinch the end of the thread between your thumb and index finger. Make sure that you can barely see the end of the thread, if at all. The goal here is to flatten the end of the thread or other material so that it is roughly the same shape and size as the eye of the needle.
- While pinching the thread, carefully set the eye of the needle down on top of it, being careful to make sure that all of the strands of the thread have gone through. (If not, repeat this entire procedure.)
- While carefully holding the needle, use your pinching fingers to quickly grab the thread as it comes out the other side of the eye of the needle.
- Pull the thread through to whatever length you need and you're all done.
Happy sewing (or needlepoint, or embroidery, or cross-stitching, or etc. or happy bead working)!
Remember, the trick is to set the eye of the needle down on top of the end of the thread, not the other way around.
How to Thread Stretchy Cord (Single Strand, Not Stretchy Floss or Elastic) for Beadwork
When beading, you typically want to use the thickest possible stretchy cord for the task at hand, and most serious bead workers use single-filament (single-strand) stretchy cord rather than stretchy floss or elastic thread.
However, using the thickest possible stretchy cord means that when threading beads with a needle onto the stretchy cord, the most common scenario, you will need TWO thicknesses of cord plus the eye of the needle to pass through each bead. That's a lot of bulk to fit through the hole in your beads and your maximum stretchy cord size will be limited by this.
To maximize the stretchy cord size you can use for a given project's bead hole sizes, follow these instructions. I'm not going to kid you, it is difficult to do this and frequently you will need to do this two or three times until you're successful.
Note: Thread the needle BEFORE measuring and cutting off the length of stretchy cord needed for your project. Why? Because often the following procedure ruins the end of the stretchy cord and you need to cut it off and start fresh. (Ideally, do not cut the stretchy cord at all until your project is complete because sometimes the cord gets cut as it passes through the beads, in which case again you'd need to repeat this procedure).
Tip: Whether you regularly wear glasses or not, this is one instance where intense magnification comes in handy. I don't normally wear glasses, but I bought a pair of cheap, full-sized, and comfortable 3.25 magnification reader glasses at the drug store for doing detailed work such as this, and I find them very helpful.
Here is how to prepare to thread onto a needle the stretchy cord that is made of a solid fiber, and not the multi-fiber or elastic kind, which is threaded as described above for regular thread.
Your goal is to reduce the size of the last approximately 1/8th inch of the end of the stretchy cord by about half so that it will go through the eye of the needle as described above. The process is something like cutting or filling off half of the end of a hot dog Once a tiny part of the stretchy cord is through the needle, you should be able to just carefully pull on the end and the rest of the stretchy cord will stretch and go through the eye of the needle.
Use one or more of the following methods to prepare the end (they are all easier said than done--stretchy cord is tough to prepare for threading):
- CAUTION—ADULTS ONLY: Take a VERY sharp pair of embroidery scissors or cuticle scissors and, holding the side of the stretchy cord against the index finger of your left (or non-dominant) hand, try to cut away approximately the last 1/8th of an inch of material. The cord will try to slip out from under the scissors, so you will need to do this several times.
- Caution—ADULTS ONLY: Take an Exacto knife, lay the end of the stretchy cord on a cutting board or craft cutting mat, and try to cut off part of the end of the cord. Several tries will probably be necessary because the cord will want to scoot away from the knife. If this happens, some clear tape that leaves minimal residue placed over the entire end of the cord will help somewhat. When you cut, be sure not to cut your finger(s) or hand in this process! If there is tape residue, nail polish remover should take it off (and change the color of the cord to opaque white, in my experience).
- Take a fingernail file or other file and, with the stretchy cord end laying on the tip of your finger, file away about half of the material.
- Alternatively, lay the fingernail file or other file on a protected but solid work surface (for example, a kitchen cutting board) and press the end of the stretchy cord to the file with your finger, grip the long end of the stretchy cord, then pull the stretchy cord across the file.
Important: Unlike thread, you want only a short "tail" of stretchy cord to be pulled through the eye of the needle because ultimately you will cut off all of the cord from where the needle is located to the end. This is because the beads sliding over the needle and both layers of stretchy cord make that section weak and likely to break. So, only pull through as much cord as you need to keep it from coming back out of the needle when using stretchy cord for beading. As a bonus, threading beads becomes easier after each bead has passed the double-cord area.
Now, simply follow the threading instructions in the above sections, pulling only a small amount of stretchy cord through the needle and knowing that it will be cut off when you are finished with the project.
Tip: Once the end of the stretchy cord is poking through the eye of the needle, if you absolutely can't grab it with your fingers, use your needle-nosed pliers to pull the thread straight through (be careful not to cut the stretchy cord leader section on the relatively sharp edges of your pliers).
Good luck and happy bead working!
For Bead Workers: A Video on How to Thread a Needle Easily
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If you tried this method for the first time, did it work better than your usual way?
© 2009 Laura Schneider