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mkg-mtl-needls-art - 5/18/02


"A Way to Make Sewing Needles" by HL Suzanna the herbalist.


NOTE: See also the files: sewing-tools-msg, 8-P-Stitches-art, CMA-sew-supl-msg, embroidery-msg, merch-needlewk-msg, p-x-stitch-art, sewing-msg, color-a-fab-bib.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set

of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


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Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be

reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first

or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


                               Thank you,

                                    Mark S. Harris

                                    AKA:  Stefan li Rous

                                         stefan at florilegium.org



This article was first published in December 2001, issue 10 of

"The MoAS", the Minister of Arts and Sciences Newsletter of Atenveldt.


A Way to Make Sewing Needles

by HL Suzanna the herbalist


I am used to working with wire to make jewelry, and it seemed like it

would be fun to make my own needles.  This is how I did it, and some

alternative suggestions.  Most or all the tools and supplies should be

available at a good hardware store. or possibly an auto parts store.


I use 18 gauge copper or brass wire, which you should be able to find at

the hardware store.  I have also used 20 gauge, but it is even thinner

and harder to work with.  Iron wire could also be used, but it will rust.


I cut the wire into needle lengths with a hammer and a cold chisel

(intended to cut soft metals), which is the period method. Wire cutters

would be easier.


Then I hammered one end of the wire flat.  A small ball-peen or regular

hammer works well.  It is better if the face of the hammer is nice and

smooth.  You also need a piece of heavier metal to hammer against - scrap

steel or brass works, railroad rail, or a proper anvil. Again, it is

better if it is nice and smooth.  When you are hammering, be sure to hit

the wire with the hammer.  If you miss and hit the anvil with the hammer,

you will get dents in your anvil.


As the wire gets flatter, it also gets thinner.  This is the end for the

eye of the needle.  I used a punch to punch a small hole, and then used a

reamer (a small tapered square steel tool, which may be hard to find) to

enlarge the hole.  Sometimes this splits the eye so the needle can't be

used.  A better idea is to use a very small drill to drill the hole.  I

haven't been able to document such small drill bits in period, though.  A

friend of mine who makes tools made me a small punch to use in making the

holes in the needles.


After the eye is made in the wire, the next step is to make the point.  I

start by hammering the other end of the wire mostly flat, like I did for

the eye end.  Then I use a file (common file from the hardware store) to

file it down.  Then hammer some more, then file some more, then hammer,

until you get a nice sharp point.  The repeated hammering strengthens the

metal (which is called work-hardening) and removes the file marks so the

needle is smooth.


Once you have a nice sharp point, you may want to smooth the needle down

with sandpaper.  Use wet and dry sandpaper (the black kind) in 400 grit

(fine) then 600 grit (very fine).  If you can't find this at the hardware

store, an auto parts place will probably have it.  Now you have a needle

to use.  I would suggest making several, with slightly varying lengths

and eye holes.


You should find these work well for most embroidery on most fabrics

(possibly not on very sheer or very heavy fabrics).  I find that stitches

that are worked from top to underside, then back up, like couching, seem

to be a bit easier with these needles than running stitches that I am

used to working only from the top side, like chain stitch. Possibly

there is a reason couching was a popular technique in period?


I use the Dover publication of Theophilus' work "On Divers Arts" for most

of my documentation for metal working techniques, and Groves book "A

History of Needlework Tools and Accessories" for documentation of

needles.  You can probably find other information if you look.


Have fun with your needles.



Barony of the Steppes

Kingdom of Ansdteorra


Copyright 2001 by Sue Rogers, 2925 Seymour, Dallas, TX 75229. <wjwakefield at juno.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org