Needles. It’s a topic many cross stitchers don’t think about much at all… if you’re stitching a kit you just use the needle that comes with it, and if you have worn the finish off you just replace it with a new one that’s the same size, right?
But the history of needles is amazing. The original needles were probably pine needles or fir needles. Then carved bone needles, and finally copper and then steel.
I took a class in carving bone needles in the Viking manner at one point several years ago. It’s relaxing, fun, tedious, and frustrating all at the same time… (Hmmmm. Sounds a lot like stitching!) The needles created this way don’t seem to get much smaller than a size 22 tapestry needle, and the point is never completely sharp, though maybe more than you might think. They are fun to use, although they sometimes snap. Best for stitching in wool or cotton thread on a loosely woven, soft fabric.
When the technique of drawing wire needles was created, stitching really developed. Metal needles can be thinner, better for stitching fine details, and hold a point better. Old metal needles were polished, rather than coated with the finishes used today, and the emery strawberry was used to strip corrosion from them to keep them stitching longer.
Handmade wire needles are still available today, through places that specialize in Japanese embroidery, and sometimes Chinese. They’re a joy to use with silk threads and detailed work.
And OOOOH While looking for the above link I found this reenactment link with historic needle styles for sale in Britain!
We are blessed today with abundant needle types, shapes, and sizes for a relatively inexpensive pricetag. We no longer have to guard our needles jealously because even the most expensive ones are relatively affordable (though I guard my handmade needles the same way they did in the past!)
Well. That turned into a history lecture, didn’t it? (Sorry about that!) We’ll have to talk about what to use what needle FOR, later!