One Sure Thing…

I will be replacing all my needle stock, which is considerable, with Bohin Needles. They are like holding silvery slices of infinitely sharp air. Speaking of, as much as I love DMC threads, do not ever buy their needles. As good as their thread is, that’s how bad their needles are. Oh, and technically speaking, I’m not doing French Knots on the canopy. I’m doing an odd blend of Candlewick & French, so that I don’t need to alter my wrap direction when going between the canopy and trunk.

© C. Ford, all rights reserved.


  1. says

    I never would have thought that needles were a performance issue. But that’s because I don’t use them much (and when I do, I’m holding them with pliers)
    So it looks like needles are made by folding over a loop of wire, to form the eye, then welding the two sides and forming them by pulling them through various sized dies, and eventually polishing them and sharpening them.
    I wonder if you could “tune” a needle by polishing it better on a felt wheel.

    I bet it’s an interesting problem -- like making a knife that cuts well -- the shape of the edge is more important than how thin it is, which is also important, as is the texture of the micro-abrasions on the edge. I wonder if there’s anyplace that documents what a “good needle” is like. (tottles off to look)

  2. says

    I don’t know what Bohin’s exact process is, but I do know that they’ve kept much of the generations old way of doing. Needles are a massive issue for anyone who uses them, definitely for hand embroiderers. Flaws, cracks, spurs, all ruin fabric and thread, and fuck up your stitching. Having to yank a needle through fabric fucks everything up. A proper needle should go through fabric so well that you don’t feel it. The other issue with bad needles is one I brought up before -- bending and breaking. Snapping needles while stitching is no damn fun, and it’s fucking dangerous. Blunts are not supposed to be dull. Bent needles, oh, fuck I could complain about that forever. I have pill bottles full of bent sharps. I was gonna use them in an art piece. Maybe one day, when it stops being such an anger issue.

    Now that I have a Bohin’s on all the tree quilt threads, I won’t use anything else.

  3. says

    Snapping needles while stitching is no damn fun, and it’s fucking dangerous

    I bent a needle on some thick leather stock and it hit the walking foot. KABLAM! I had a piece of needle sticking out of my cheek and another one in my eyelid. That was when I stopped sewing by pushing my glasses down on my nose and bending close to the machine, and got bifocals and started wearing goggles.

  4. says

    Oh fuck. Yeah, it’s even worse with a machine, because you have velocity behind the snap. *shudders*

  5. Dunc says

    Marcus @1: I believe that quality needles are polished and sharpened on leather. I’m pretty sure that the whole process has already been optimised as far as possible, but most people aren’t willing to pay enough for it.

  6. says


    but most people aren’t willing to pay enough for it.

    Which is the complete opposite of how people should be. The old saying ‘get the very best tool you can afford’ is just as applicable to needles. People will try to get by with cheapshit tools, no matter what they’re doing, and soon learn they need good tools. You should never waste your money on cheapshit tools.

  7. says

    That would make sense -- probably hand buffed.

    When I was younger and more full of testosterone than I am now, my buddy Mike and I used to have a sort of friendly competition about whose knives were sharper. I used to burnish my edges on frosted glass with water as a lubricant. Mike finally took a large wad of maple and turned it down in a lathe, then wrapped it with leather soaked in oil and jewelers rouge, turned that a little bit to balance it, and levelled it by erasing a Henckels cooking knife with it. I think he said it took a couple hours until the thing was fully loaded with steel and rouge and it looked sort of like a great smooth spinning rock. Then he sharpened a vintage sushi knife on that. And we declared him the winner and I stopped worrying about it. Besides, when you’re cooking with a knife that’s scalpel sharp, it can be difficult -- you slice a carrot on a polypropylene cutting board and the knife gets stuck in the poly and it didn’t even notice the carrot… Mike went around putting mirror polishes on awkward things, like car keys and cans and a hard drive case, then I think he got bored of it.

    I’m guessing a buffing rig like that would be what you’d use to polish a needle and it’d do it very quickly. It would also throw the needle right through your hand if it caught on anything. The good news is it wouldn’t snag much. The bad news is it’d be hot.

  8. says

    You should never waste your money on cheapshit tools.

    Damn straight!!

    When I was a kid, one of the other kids I played with cut his leg a bit (not badly!) using a hand-saw. My dad was furious and after all the bleeding and stuff was taken care of, we walked home and I asked him why he was so angry. He explained that the other kid’s father had given the kid a child’s saw to do real work with, and it wasn’t sharp enough or long enough to really cut properly -- so the kid had learned to bear down on the saw because its teeth wouldn’t do the work. By giving the kid a child’s saw he had not only made the kid’s sawing more dangerous, he taught the kid how to do it wrong. Then I understood why my grandfather (who worked as a carpenter during WWII building the air force hangars in Minneapolis, and who could saw a laser-straight cut with a hand-saw about as fast as I can with a table-saw today) let me use his saws, which were razor sharp, and which glided through wood like silk and death. My dad was always terrified of power tools because of some of the stories grandpa told him, but I always get the good stuff, the heavy stuff. Like my 1920 Sears table-saw, which has a cast iron deck that vibrates about as much as Fort Sumter. But it has a riving-knife I installed a few years ago after the lucite bound on the blade and threw a piece through my kevlar jeans jacket into my arm, where it stopped just short of the artery on the inside of my upper arm (whichever one that was..) good times. I can still hear my grandfather’s ghost tsk tsking at me for making a mistake like that.

  9. says

    PS -- grandpa had a trick of hammering nails, where he’d grab a nail and bump it onto the wood, holding the hammer such that the head lent a bit of force to the bump, then he’d let go the nail (which would be driven just enough so that it’d stand perfectly planted in the wood) and smoothly whack it so hard it would drive flush into the wood from its own speed. It was amazing to watch. Tick-Boom. Tick-Boom. Tick-boom. I swear it was faster than a nail gun and he never missed, until the alzheimers’ started getting him. That was how we all knew something was wrong -- he started making mistakes with knives, missing with nails, and nicking the slots of screws.

  10. Dunc says

    I guess maybe the thing with needles is that only a small proportion of the total actually end up in the hands of people who know or care about quality… These days, only a handful of tailors and shirtmakers do much in the way of handwork. It’s gone from being a profession to being a hobby, and most hobbyists don’t put in enough hours for it to really matter how good their tools are. I can’t even seem to find a really good pair of bench shears… Nobody makes them any more, and the surviving vintage ones are all owned by people who aren’t parting with them.

  11. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Definitely buy good tools. I was fortunate to work for Sears one summer during college. I was able to buy a total Craftsman tool kit with an employee discount. Well worth it, as I still have the tools (except for a few losses due to my negligence, screwdrivers being the most misplaced).

  12. Kengi says

    Experience is what lets you know which tools to not compromise on and which can be. You found a nice cheap tool to wash the skeins with, yet know not to compromise on the needles. There’s no substitute for experience.

  13. says

    Ice Swimmer, they are often used to depict flowers.

    Kengi, you don’t need to be experienced to benefit from the experience of others, which includes elders, friends, books, and now, internet. And as with all things, having an active and good bullshit detector is always useful, as in the case of washing skeins. Among the hand stitching and machine stitching community, a minority went for the expensive, ‘specialty’ wash. The majority of people went with much cheaper alternatives. And I had no experience with the stuff when I first heard about it, so I went looking for info, and found it in abundance.

  14. Kengi says

    Caine, you now are that person with experience passing your knowledge along.

  15. says

    Yes, but my point is that you don’t have to have experience to do things the right way around from the start. You just need a bit of patience and research. :D

  16. Raucous Indignation says

    I love this blog so very much. I just read the entire comment thread. When I should have been working, of course.

  17. Raucous Indignation says

    Marcus@#9 Oh that artery would either have been the brachial or the axillary artery depending on if the wound was proximal or distal to the origin of the deep brachial artery.

  18. Kengi says

    Yes, but my point is that you don’t have to have experience to do things the right way around from the start. You just need a bit of patience and research.

    Allow me to clarify my point. You needed someones experience to learn from. You then added your own experiences to that learning process, and are now passing the gained knowledge along based on your own experience.

    I also feel confident you became better with experience, and weren’t doing everything the right way from the start, no matter how much patience and research you began with. This doesn’t negate the power of teaching and learning from others. In fact it’s the basis for why you could begin with any level of competence at all. That competence increases with experience, and your ability to pass that along increases with experience.

    In many ways how we teach is a defining characteristic of humans. While other species teach, so far we haven’t seen the desire to teach and gratification from teaching we see in humans of all ages. Even many primate studies on teaching skills require giving the “teacher” incentives in the form of rewards to teach other primates a learned task or skill. Humans, on the other hand, seem eager to teach others by default from a young age.

    Now if we could only convince our leaders to support comprehensive education at a similar level of our support for waging war.

  19. rq says

    I’m in love with that deep reddish brown russet shade in the leaves. I’m still not decided on whether it is brown or red, but it is a beautiful shade and for me it really stands out from the other greenery. I would say it’s the colour of dried blood, but that doesn’t sound as much like a compliment. However, the right kind of bloodstain really have this beautiful deep sheen to their colour, they’re quite lovely, from the artistic point of view.

  20. Dunc says

    Well, I’ve just taken your advice and ordered myself some Bohins (betweens and crewels)… I’m looking forward to finding out how good they are.

  21. says

    Raucous Indignation, thank you so much!

    rq, it’s Very Dark Garnet, a beautiful colour, and close to the colour some leaves turn here, usually in conjunction with yellow leaves. That’s a bit of life I’m happy to imitate!

    Dunc, oh, I hope you like them, let me know!

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