Sewing With Nancy
Helpful hints
from our viewers

Helpful Needles & Thread Hints

Invisible Stitches
How do you secure the ends when working with clear or invisible thread? They're so wiry. I'm always afraid they will pull out. Backstitching doesn't seem to be reliable.
Nancy's Answer: There are different qualities of clear thread. I have found that some are very wiry. Some are like fishing wire. Use one that is quite pliable. I do recommend backstitching and then stitching forward again, so that each section is stitched over. So, backstitch, go forward, and clip your threads. I think you'll have secure thread tails.

Ruth Barrett, Penfield, New York

Ballpoint Double Needles
My question relates to using double needles on knit fabrics. Ordinarily we use ballpoint needles for knit fabrics, but I find I have a problem with skipped stitches when using double needles on knits. Are there ballpoint needles available or can you suggest a technique to prevent skipping?
Nancy's Answer: Generally ballpoint needles are available for you in a variety of forms including double needles. A traditional double needle has a red plastic holder at the shank where the two needles attach. Look for needles with a blue plastic holder because that indicates that they are stretch or ballpoint, one and the same. So you can have the same look without skipped stitched when you use these stretch or ballpoint double needles.

Margaret Brock, Saint Helens, Oregon

Pass in a Pinch Bobbin Thread
I was wondering if I could use my serger cone thread for filling my bobbins? It appears to be about the same weight as the bobbin thread that I purchase for my embroidery machine.
Nancy's Answer: I compared the Bobbinfil thread for machine embroidery with serger cone thread. Bobbinfil is a very lightweight and a very finely twisted thread. The serger cone thread is a two-ply thread so it's lightweight, but the thread is not as finely twisted. I would use this in a pinch, but for best results I'd use the thread that's recommended for embroidery.

Carol Turner, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota

Titanium Needle Change
With standard needles it is advised to change them with each new project or about every eight hours of sewing. What are the parameters of changing the new titanium needles? I like to use them to embroider with metallic thread.
Nancy's Answer: Titanium needles are much more durable than a standard needle. Our sewing staff agrees that you can use them about 3-5 times longer than a standard needle. We haven't found any printed information on this, so rather than changing it every eight hours of embroidery or stitching, you could go up to perhaps 24 hours. Of course, if you find that your stitches aren't even, change it. But they do last longer, and are much stronger.

Louise Jurek, Clearfield, Utah

Thread Shopping List
I'm constantly buying new embroidery threads that I already have. Now when I purchase a new spool I take a few moments and wind the new thread color on a piece of card stock with a corresponding thread number. I take my thread cards along to the sewing store and I'm certain that I'm not going to purchase the same color of thread twice.

Nancy Giroir, Metairie, Louisiana

Metallic Thread Savoir Faire
If you sew with metallic thread you know it breaks often. To alleviate this problem, use metallic thread in the top and silk thread in the bobbin. It works well for me.
Nancy's Suggestion: It's also a good idea to use a metallic needle for metallic thread. A metallic needle has a much longer eye and the shaft in the back is longer to prevent the thread from fraying.

Donna Adler, Omaha, Nebraska

Self-Threading Needle for Short Thread Ends
I bought some self-threading needles thinking they would be great to use when I'm hand stitching. I couldn't get accustomed to sewing with them. They kept coming unthreaded as I stitched. I finally found a wonderful use. When you're finished hand sewing or you need to pull a thread to the underside and the thread is cut short, use the self-threading needle. Push the needle through the fabric, slip the thread through the self-threading eye at the top of the needle and pull it through the fabric. This also works when you need to re-sew ends of threads into a seam.

Amy Penny, Whitby, Ontario

Note from Nancy:
On a recent program I answered a question from a viewer about using hand quilting thread on a sewing machine. It has been brought to my attention that hand quilting thread has a coating on it called “Glace.” The coating may come off on the tensions of the sewing machine. Many sewing machine manufacturers discourage the use of hand quilting thread on their machine because of this coating.

Bobbin Tape
I had problems winding monofilament thread in my bobbin. I discovered that double-sided tape worked wonders! Place a small piece of tape on the inside of the bobbin and begin winding by hand. Thread winds onto the bobbin like magic, no unwinding or nesting. This would also be an option for decorative threads or silk ribbon when doing bobbin work.

Marlene Geveshausen, Mountain Home, Arkansas

Tangle Free Thread
Use this idea to keep your thread tangle free when hand sewing. Fold a piece of wax paper in half and place hand sewing thread between the layers. Pull the thread as you iron the layers together. It works great—no more tangled thread and no more frustration!

Jeanette Brady, Erlanger, Kentucky

Ribbon/Floss Organizer
Finished projects always look better when the floss or ribbon is properly prepared and pressed. Fan fold a heavy weight cotton tea towel. Press the folds in place. Cut floss or ribbon in usable lengths. Separate the strands and iron if necessary, then place the strands in the folds of the towel with about an inch exposed at the edge of the towel. Use one fold for each color. The weight of the towel will allow you to pull each individual strand of floss or ribbon out of the towel.

Sharon Demetree, Bradenton, Florida

Quilts Pieced with Serger Thread
I've made many quilts for my family and friends and I will admit that I use serger thread for the convenience of not having to constantly change thread. On one of your programs you said not to use serger thread for regular sewing or piecing quilt tops. Could you please tell me what to expect from using serger thread? Will something happen to the quilts I've made and given away? I haven't found any of the ones I've kept to be falling apart, but I'm very concerned about the quilts that I've given to others.
Nancy's Answer: You don't really have to worry. The difference between serger thread and all-purpose sewing thread is the ply, or the number of layers or plies of thread. If it is a 2-ply thread it means that there are two strands twisted together. The all-purpose thread is 3-ply—a little heavier. That's the difference. You can use serger thread, but it's not going to give you as strong of a seam. That's the only reason.

Nancy Scierka, Oil City, Pennsylvania

Double Needle Trapunto
My idea is to use a double-needled seam for trapunto. I back my fabric with a lightweight knit interfacing. Stitch a design with a 4.0 double needle. Use a large eyed upholstery needle threaded with yarn to stuff the zigzag channels on the reverse side. It's a wonderful way to add a little accent!

Joyce Carroll, San Antonio, Texas

Tape Threader
I've had difficulty threading my hand sewing needles with heavy thread and metallic thread. Metallic thread always seems to separate as I try to thread it. I've tried using a needle threader but the thread is usually too thick. Now I wrap a section of clear tape at the end of the thread and trim it to a point. The needle threads easily and the clear tape can be cut off. It sure saves a lot of time! This same technique works well for threading a serger tail back through the serged seam.

Joanne Haack, Algoma, Wisconsin