The Perfect Printer For Cross Stitch

Green Lake Reflected Color Cross Stitch Print (Source: solidrop.com)

I know what you’re thinking; Is this guy really about to talk about printers? Well, yes, I am. And for good reason. With printer ink costing twice the price of human blood in the USA, its no suprise that printing patterns can cost a shocking amount. But is that the only way?
I’m here to tell you it isn’t.
 
We’ll start with the basics. You probably have a printer that requires ink cartridges at home, it was the standard for a long time. The reason for this was the competition was super expensive. Specifically, the laser printers. But as time has gone on, lasers have reduced in costs massively and now are not only comparable, but chearper than a ink jet. But here’s the big secret; they can be cheaper than a standard printer ink cost.

Black & White Or Color?

The first thing to work out, is if you even need a color printer. Some people use their printer all the time, but never print in color. In fact, most people print patterns in black and white just to reduce cost. As a result, you probably don’t need a color printer. But you’re still paying for one. If this is you; you’re in luck. Look up the prices for a “Mono Laser Printer” and you’ll find a whole load for under $50. Now, much like ink printers these need a supply of “ink” too, and normally these cartridges costs about $50. So all in all, you can get a printer for $100. Now if you compare this to a new ink jet printer with a full set of ink, it’s cheaper from the start. In fact, a new color set of ink costs up to $80.
The big saving is the rate that these lasers go through their cartridge. Most ink printers can print a maximum of 2000 pages, but average only 200. Most laser printers can print a maximum of 20,000 pages, and average, 20,000 pages. Yes, you read that right. Unlike traditional ink, which can dry up, lasers are ready to go whenever they’re needed. And on top of that, they only use electricity, meaning you don’t have to replace it anywhere near as often.
They’re just as high quality print wise, but as stated, they are only black and white. Personally, I think mono laser printers are 100% the best printers for cross stitch.

Green Lake Reflected Color Cross Stitch Print (Source: solidrop.com)
Green Lake Reflected Color Cross Stitch Print (Source: solidrop.com)

But what about color printing? I hear you, sometimes you just need color, or maybe you just prefer a color print. Well, you can still get a laser printer, but a color one. They are roughly the same price, but you need to buy a more expensive cartridge to go in it. This is on average about $100, so its not a small investment, but it can print just as many color pages as the mono lasers before needing replacement, and its the same price as 1-2 sets of standard color printer ink.
There is a problem with this though; it’s not suitable to print on photo paper. It actually gives a better quality print than a ink jet printer, but thanks to the way printer paper works, it just won’t work.
 
Now, that said, I wouldn’t go out and throw your printer away based on this article, but it might be worth checking the prices of a new next time you get some new ink. You might get a great deal; I picked my printer up for $30 thanks to a deal, which was the same as new ink!

What is the best monthly cross stitch subscription box?

The Geeky Stitching Cross Stitch Subscription Box (Source: thegeekystitchingco.com)

Everyone loves a subscription box, that feeling when it comes through your door and makes you feel like its christmas every month, but with more and more subscrition boxes out there, its hard to find the best. So we brought 3 month subscriptions to cross stitch subscription boxes to review, and tell you which is the best to get! Updated March 2019.

The Geeky Stitching Club – Score 9/10

$5 per month: Digital pattern download only
$10 per month: 1 counted cross stitch pattern (6×6 inches), 1 counted cross stitch pattern (6×6 inches), 1 counted cross stitch pattern (2×2 inches), Aida, DMC Threads, Needle, Sweets, 15% shop discount, access to all previous patterns
$15 per month: All of above + 1 counted cross stitch pattern & kit (6×6 inches), Pom Pom Kit
 
The Geeky Stitching Club is our prefered cross stitch subscription box for a simple reason; stuff. You get a lot of stuff. Not content with just one pattern, you get 2 full 6×6 inch patterns, and a sweet mini pattern to stitch up too. You get enough stuff to make one of the larger patterns, and some sweets (always a nice touch). The real gem with the subscription though, isn’t the amount of patterns you get, and not even the price, which is really low, or even that you can add ANOTHER kit for only $5 more. No, the gem, is that you get access to the full back catalog of patterns (5 years worth) for your subscription.
The patterns are well made, interesting, and vary enough to keep you at them month after month. I would say however that there is a definate theme to Geeky Stitching Club patterns; girly. That might not be much of a problem, but don’t expect pop-culture references or snarky comments.

The Geeky Stitching Cross Stitch Subscription Box (Source: thegeekystitchingco.com)
The Geeky Stitching Cross Stitch Subscription Box (Source: thegeekystitchingco.com)

 

Rag Tag Box – Score 8/10

$5 per month: Digital pattern download only
$16 per month (USA); $22 per month (Canada): 1 counted cross stitch pattern (6×6 inches), Aida, Wooden Hoop, DMC Threads, Needle, Link to other pattern options
 
The Rag Tag Box is what you would expect from a cross stitch subscription box. It has a pattern, all the tools needed, a hoop, and even different versions of the pattern supplied to mix it up a bit. The brilliance of the Rag Tag Box however are the patterns themselves. They vary. They vary like crazy. One month you might be getting a snarky phrase, the next a sweet collection of miniatures, the next month a cute animal, the month after a time-specific pattern. What makes these even better however is how detailed, and well made they are. You’d genuinely want to go out and buy these patterns.
The only downsides we could come up with however were both the price, and that you can’t get the kits outside of North America. But, with a $5 download only option, its a nice option (if a little less special). Their patterns can be a little pop-culture and sci-fi related sometimes, but I see that as a positive.

Rag Tag Box Cross Stitch Subscription Box (Source: spot-colors.myshopify.com)
Rag Tag Box Cross Stitch Subscription Box (Source: spot-colors.myshopify.com)

 

Mini Little Stitching Club – Score 8/10

$10 per month: 1 counted cross stitch pattern (6×6 inches), 1 counted cross stitch pattern (6×6 inches), Aida, DMC Threads, Large Needle, Sweets
 
From the same makers of the Geeky Stitch Club, the Mini Little Stitchers club follows roughly the same model, but instead of small intricate designs, offers simple designs, stitched on wooden boards, with big threads and needles. Therefore, it shouldn’t be a suprise that its aimed at 6 to 12 year olds. Whilst this definately isn’t the best subscription box for adult stitchers, its a fantastic way of getting kids into the hobby.

Mini Little Stitchers Cross Stitch Subscription Box (Source: thegeekystitchingco.com)
Mini Little Stitchers Cross Stitch Subscription Box (Source: thegeekystitchingco.com)

 

SnarkBox – Score 7/10

$5 per month: Digital pattern download only
$22 per month: 1 counted cross stitch pattern (3×3 inches), 1 counted cross stitch pattern (3×3 inches), Aida, DMC Threads, Needle, Sticker
$32 per month: All of above + Wooden Hoop, Backing Felt, 1 accessory/gift
 
By far the most expensive subscription on our list, the SnarkBox is a nice, yet slightly samey box. Instead of giving one kit, you can get up to three kits, accessories/tools and finishing items too, so its a great way to built up your cross stitch stash, but with patterns that range from snarky phrase to slightly less snarky phrase, I find there wasn’t enough varied patterns coming each month. In addition, due to the size of the patterns, finishing them all in time for the next box was a push.

SnarkBox cross stitch subscription kit (Source: snark-box.com)
SnarkBox cross stitch subscription kit (Source: snark-box.com)

 

So, What Is 5D Cross Stitch?

5D Cross Stitch Close Up (Source: espacepublic.fr)

I regularly attend events on embroidery, and with that comes questions. Most are simple to answer, some can be more challenging, but as soon as people hear I cross stitch, there’s only one question they can think of:



Have you heard of 5D cross stitch? What is it?

Is it cross stitch?

No. It’s not.

But there are simularities. You see, much like diamond painting, 5D cross stitch uses an adhesive back where small things are stuck on. However, unlike diamond painting, they use a special fabric, very similar to aida, with 14 ‘beads’ per inch.

So is it diamond painting?

Well, its closer to diamond painting than anything else, but still no.

Diamond painting is kinda of taken itself a bit quickly, so no one really knows the original type, but diamond painting uses a diamond grid, not squares like cross stitch. It also uses round ‘diamonds’, a hard backing, a randomised count (which is similar to 16 count).

So where does that leave us?

In short, 5D cross stitch is a half way house between cross stitch, and diamond painting.

It has all the hallmarks of diamond painting, but features 14 count flexible fabric backing, and small squares instead of round pegs.

5D Cross Stitch Close Up (Source: espacepublic.fr)
5D Cross Stitch Close Up (Source: espacepublic.fr)

How To Cross Stitch On Black Aida

Black aida (Source: Etsy)

I personally love black aida, it can really make a piece sing, however I’ve also heard of people scared to use dark and black aida due to the issues involved. Ad while I understand their point of view, dark aida really isn’t to be feared. In fact, with some really simple changes you can make stitching on black aida a breeze!

Light it up like crazy

Daylight Slimline Table Lamp (source: Amazon)
Daylight Slimline Table Lamp (source: Amazon)

The first thing that everyone says when it comes to dark aida is light it up. I would personally suggest stitching somewhere so well lit up that it doesn’t matter if you have dark aida or not, but investing in a really reliable and bright light can work wonders for your work. If you’re interested we looked at if daylight bulbs are really worth it and we even mention the use of dark aidas.
But people often ask me about how they should light their area. I’ve regularlly heard about lighting under your work as well as on top, and whilst I understand why, I think that this isn’t the way to go. I would light from the top only.

Cover your lap with white (or use a light box)

Tracing pad (source: Amazon)
Tracing pad (source: Amazon)

And here’s why I think you should light from the top only; you should light from the bottom differently. Instead of using a traditional bulb, you should either use a large white sheet to reflect light, or, my personal favorite; a tracing pad. You can pick tracing pads up from amazon for a dozen dollars, and they’re super light and thin so you can rest them on your lap, or table without issue. The advantage is that unlike standard light, a tracing pad both lights and gives a white backdrop at the same time, meaning you can see right through those holes.

Grid it

Thread grid cross stitch by medlow studio tapesty needlepoint (source: thehappycross-stitcher.com)
Thread grid cross stitch by medlow studio tapesty needlepoint (source: thehappycross-stitcher.com)

I used to hate the idea of gridding, and honestly, I’m not too sure why, but for an average project, I still don’t grid. But that isn’t the case for dark fabrics. For dark fabrics I ALWAYS grid. Half the battle with a dark fabric is the effort of counting, and with a simple grid you can make it so much easier.
Check out our cross stitch gridding techniques if you’re new like I was!

Frame it

Easy Clip Cross Stitch Frame (source: amazon)
Easy Clip Cross Stitch Frame (source: amazon)

You probably frame your work when you stitch, however with dark aida it becomes super important. You want a nice frame that will stretch out the fabric as tight as possible to ensure the holes in the aida open up so you can see through them. You can pick any of the best cross stitch frames out there, but make sure the fabric is really tight.

Magnify it

With all this extra light, gridding, framing and whatnot its no suprise that looking at dark aida is a strain on the eyes. We would suggest taking regular breaks anyway (we’re big fans of the 20-20-20 rule), but there is something else you can do to help your eye sight; magnification. Put simply, the larger the aida, the clearer it is. As simple as that!

Use your needle to ‘feel’ the fabric

When stitching, I like to watch TV, as I’m sure many of you do too, but by doing this I accidently developed a skill I didn’t even know was a posibility; feeling the fabric. I personally think this explination from StitchedModern is the best at describing it, so I’ll leave it to them:

If you slowly and lightly drag the tip of your needle over the fabric, it will dip where there are holes. Do this before you take a stitch and you are more likely to find the hole instead of piercing the fabric fibers. This takes a little practice, but eventually you get the feel of it.

A simple, but truly effective method for dealing with dark aida…

Black aida (Source: Etsy)
Black aida (Source: Etsy)

Self Threading Needles – Are They Worth it?

Self threading needles pack (source: Etsy)

Our recent post on needle threaders has been a bit of a runaway success, however I’ve had a few people ask a simple question; what about self threading needles?
I must admit, that despite owning a pack, I never actually tried them out, so I threw caution to the wind and threaded a few needles.

What are self threading needles?

To start, let’s talk about the elephant in the room; self threading needles are needles which say they can make threading super easy. Most often they’re marketed for people with arthritis or poor eye sight, however anyone who hates the game of ‘poke the thread through the hole’ can stand to benefit.
 
It should also be said that there are multiple types of self threading needle, however they mostly come into two camps; V-shaped and spiral. We picked up a few packs of self threading needles from Etsy to give a good diversity.

V-Shaped Self Threading Needles

V Shaped Self Threading Needles Close Up (source: Etsy)
V Shaped Self Threading Needles Close Up (source: Etsy)

These V-shaped needles have actually been around for a really long time, and as a result have a whole raft of names including “self threading”, “French Spring eye” or “Calyx eye”, however they all have the same design. Simply put, you pull the thread down, through the two ‘clips’ which hold the thread in place. I had to try a few times before I got the system, as whilst it seems simple, doing it in real life isn’t as easy. I found that having a block to place the needle in so you could pull the thread through helped.
However, I wasn’t impressed. There are three reasons I just couldn’t get on board with these needles. The first was how annoying they were to thread. It honestly took me about 5 tries to thread the needle each time. Those 5 times weren’t all sunny times either, as they kept breaking the thread. I mean, these things break thread better than my scissors. However I can forsee myself getting better as time goes on.
The biggest issue for me though, was how painful it was to push the needle through the aida. Whilst needles are far from soft, the rounded edges make it slightly easier on the fingers, but these needles are like two little prongs stabbing me everyt time I pushed down. Not fun. I found the only solution was a thimble, which really gets in the way of cross stitching…

Spiral Self Threading Needles

Spiral Self Threading Needles Close Up (source: Etsy)
Spiral Self Threading Needles Close Up (source: Etsy)

Despite the V-shaped needles being far older, more often than not the only self threading tapestry needles you can find are the spiral type. This is down to how bulky the self threading mechanism is, however in our size tests they were no larger than ordinary needles. Unlike their V-shaped counter parts, you thread them on the side, which is MUCH easier, and frankly, lives up to the idea of being suitable for those with bad eye sight and arthritis. However, there are downsides too.
Specifically, we found two issues. The first was how often the needles caught on the aida, thanks to the side design the needle effectively has a hook, which caught on every 3 to 4 stitches, however with a slight change in how you stitch this can be avoided; but is practically worthless to those with reduced mobility. The second issue relates to the first in the sense that the eye of the needle breaks far faster, which isn’t too bad of a problem on its own, but these needles are expensive.

Are they worth it?

So, we finally get to the answer to the orginal question, of are self thread needles worth it. In my opinion; no. That isn’t to say they don’t have a purpose, I truly think that for some its a great idea, but with so many great needle threaders out there, that I just don’t think it’s worth it.

How many stitches can you get out of a 8m skein?

Discontinued US only DMC threads (source: 123stitch.com)

When anyone starts a new project there is one question that plagues cross stitchers everywhere. How many skeins of thread do I need?
 
What makes this question even harder is it isn’t the same for everyone. You see, people stitch in different ways, and generally that means you can be more or less efficient. So we stitched one color in an efficient and inefficient way to get a scale of how many stitches you can make using a whole 8m skein of thread.

CountInefficient
Stitches
Average
Stitches
Efficient
Stitches
10120012501300
12145015001550
14165017501850
16195019502050
18220022502300
20245025002550
22270027502800

 

Inefficient vs Efficient Stitches

A few people have asked what make the difference between efficient and inefficient stitches, so to help you stitch more economically, here is what we did.
Inefficient – Stitched in the “English Method”, with knots in the starts of the threads and ends of threads. Shorter lengths of threads were used, and all threads were used till at least 2 inches were left.
Efficient – Stitched in the “Danish Method”, no knots in the start or end (thread ends tucked), long lengths of thread and only 1 inch left before ending the thread.
 
If you want to increase your stitching efficiency, you might want to read our post on how to cross stitch faster.

When should you pay for a pattern maker?

MacStitch Screenshot with example Pikachu pattern

Last week we reviewed the differences between paid and free cross stitch programs and decided that whilst paid once were better, free ones held up quite well. But that doesn’t tell you when you should pay for a pattern maker, and when you pay, which type is best.
 
The first thing to discuss is the possible types of pattern maker you can get:
Free – Made using a simple pattern maker without customisation
Patterns As A Service – You pay for one pattern at a time
Fully Capable – Lots of customisation options, but a big learning curve
 
So with that in mind, let’s get into when you should pay, and which ones I suggest.

When you want a super realistic outcome

After a few cross stitch kits and patterns from others, its a fairly regular thing to want to stitch a photo you own, however free pattern makers just aren’t capable of making a realistic pattern in most cases (see the discussion on dithering on last weeks post). As a result, in order to get something realistic, you have to pay. But that doesn’t mean you need to shell out wads of cash. The patters-as-a-service model is perfect here, offering you the chance to get a pattern made with really good tools, without much effort, for only $10.
A word of warning though, if you want more than 5 patterns a year, we suggest you keep reading!
 
Our suggestion: thread-bare.com ($10) or patterncreator.com ($7.50)
Whilst pattern creator is cheaper and reviews slightly better overall in our tests, we find thread-bare has some fantasticly realistic outputs so long as you’re willing to experiment with the settings.

When you want something custom

There are a whole load of cross stitch patterns on places like Etsy, but what happens if you want something custom? The only choice is a paid pattern maker. This might take the form of something small, or something massive like the pattern below, but whatever changes you want, you need a robust pattern maker that can handle it.

Great Wave Inspired Japanese Cross Stitch Pattern by Lord Libidan (Source: Etsy)
Great Wave Inspired Japanese Cross Stitch Pattern by Lord Libidan (Source: Etsy)

 
Our suggestion: WinStitch (for Windows) or MacStitch (for Mac) $48
For us, Ursa Softwares WinStitch and MacStitch are the best on the market, and reviewed best on our review of the best cross stitch pattern software too. It has everything you can think of to help you make any pattern you can dream up.

When you intend to make more than 5 patterns a year

When you want to make more than 5 patterns a year, I would invest in a really good pattern maker. The advantage here is that not only do you get patterns cheaper, but you have ALL the control, meaning you can make anything from a tiny change, to a massive custom piece. If you just want a plug and play pattern, you can do that, but as you progress, or you want to make more changes, all the functionality is built in. The cherry on top? Once you purchase the software, you never had to pay for a pattern again, meaning you save on the first year by $10, and then the following years by $50+.
 
Our suggestion: WinStitch (for Windows) or MacStitch (for Mac) $48
Once again Ursa software offers the best option here, no only as its just under $50 (the price of 5 patterns on a pattern-as-a-service model) but also allows for a more realistic output and gives you access to tools you’ll need as you progress in pattern making.

Are free cross stitch pattern makers better than paid?

Stitchfiddle Screenshot with example Pikachu pattern

As a cross stitch pattern designer, I strongly sing the praises of any and all free and paid cross stitch pattern generators but there is something quite obvious when looking at these generators; they aren’t made equal.
 
As a result it often scares people away from purchasing a pattern or downloading software to make patterns. Further to this the confusion about what makes a good pattern maker is rife, and so I regularlly get people asking me if a free pattern maker is better than a paid one. The answer is usually no; paid is better, however the reasons why are quite important; it can mean the difference between a brilliant pattern, and a terrible one.

Color Selection

Color selection in a pattern is super important, and as you progress as a stitcher you’ll find yourself hand picking colors. The reason hand picking colors is so important is that no one actually know what the colors is. Here me out there; thanks to the new DMC threads there are 500 DMC threads in the standard range to choose from, and whilst you can find these colors represented in a lot of places with color blocks, the threads aren’t made up with computer screens in mind. As a result when someone wants to look at an image on a computer they have to guess what the color is. Yes, you heard that right, they guess.
To give you an example, below are two cross stith programs interpretations of the colors in the DMC range. The important thing here is to see how different they are. Even though they’re meant to be the same color.

DMC thread RGB scatter graphs (source: spritestitch.com)
DMC thread RGB scatter graphs (source: spritestitch.com)

Free programs use a list they found somewhere online, they haven’t sat down with each color and investigated what the accurate color might be. Paid programs do. In fact, many paid programs make similar graphs to the above just to check their working against others, as a result they have a higher likelihood of getting more accurate color selections.

Dithering

Dithering is a rather complicated thing, and I’m not going to describe it in detail, but in short, its how boundries of colors are represented. Actually making dithering work is a VERY complicated thing and In a lot of free cross stitch programs, its simply too complicated to bother and as a result there is no dithering. This sounds OK at first, but if you look at the example below (you can click it to enlarge it) you can see the difference dithering makes to ever part of the pattern. Simply put, dithering makes it look more real.

Cross Stitch Pattern with and without dithering example (Source: Thread-bare.com)
Cross Stitch Pattern with and without dithering example (Source: Thread-bare.com)

Extras

You might not think that any cross stitch pattern has ‘extras’ however things like per page thread usage, a preview image, page ‘cross over’ marks, amount of thread needed, and other things all come with patterns from paid pattern creators, however they don’t with free ones. In fact, with most, you’ll only get the bare bones of a pattern,.

Limits

It should also be noted that with every free pattern, there are limits. This is normally size and how many colors a pattern can have, most are limited to 200×200 and 30 colors, but there can also be other limits, such as only exporting in an image, or forced to have a weblink on the pdf.

Why They’re Free

Finally, there is one thing that everyone needs to realise; nothing is free. By offering a free program, what they mean, is they don’t think they can charge, as they know their program isn’t good enough to charge.
But that doesn’t mean you should never use free cross stitch pattern makers. In fact, there is definitely a time and place for them. We’ll discuss when you should pay for a pattern maker next week.
 
Although online programs like StitchFiddle make free programs super accessible, the ability of paid programs, such as the online Thread-Bare and the downloadable WinStitch make the paid alternatives much better.

How To Find A Perfect Needle Minder

Oreo Cookie Needle Minder by FandomCrossStitchery (Source: Etsy)

It’s fair to say at this point that I’m a big fan of needle minders. So much so that I included them in my cross stitcher christmas gift list this year, as well as devote a whole post to some weird and wonderful needle minders. But whilst stitching my Star Trek Voyager cross stitch I realised that finding the perfect needle minder for you, isn’t just its design.

Functionality

Everyone knows that needle minders are meant to hold needles for you, but a needle minder can be so much more. I’ve seen loads of different uses, from magnifiers to and the ever popular needle threaders, some of which we covered in last weeks needle threaders. By adding in something that you’re going to use anyway, you can stop that ever painful moment scrabbling around the floor trying to find one of those small tools.

Needle Minders with built in needle threaders by NeedleKeepEmporium (Source: Etsy)
Needle Minders with built in needle threaders by NeedleKeep Emporium (Source: Etsy)

Size

However in my mind, there’s something much more important to look out for with needle minders. Size. When you’re stitching up a massive cross stitch, this isn’t so important, afterall, you have the space. But when you’re working on a smaller project, or even worse, travelling, the need for a needle minder is even higher! Yet large needle minders are frankly unwieldy. That’s why I use a super small needle minder when I can, such as these tiny 1cm kittens!

Tiny Kitten Needle Minders by Snarky Crafter (Source: Etsy)
Tiny Kitten Needle Minders by Snarky Crafter (Source: Etsy)

Weight

But this of course opens up another thing to consider, weight. You see, whilst some needle minders can be small and as a result work better for smaller projects, a lot of needle minders are metal, meaning they’re heavy. This not only causes more pressure for the frame/hoop, but can even warp your aida depending on what frame you use. As a result its a good idea to have a light weight needle minder in your collection too.
We personally love the idea of combining some of these options, like this awesome 2cm tiny needle minder made from lightweight plastic by FandomCrossStitchery.

Oreo Cookie Needle Minder by FandomCrossStitchery (Source: Etsy)
Oreo Cookie Needle Minder by FandomCrossStitchery (Source: Etsy)

You can win both NeedleKeepEmporium’s and FandomCrossStitchery’s needle minders in our free cross stitch giveaway!

Are There Any Needle Threaders That Don’t Break?

Hummingbird Needle Threader (Source: emmalinebags.com)

We’ve been focusing on cross stitch tools a lot lately, however there’s one in particular that I personally don’t use; the needle threader. The reason I don’t use them? They break. A lot.
This is actually an accepted reason to shun needle threaders, even though they’re helpful, and the first thing that came to your head, if you use them or not, was breakages. But it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, there are a whole slew of needle threader types out there, and there’s only one that breaks.

The one that breaks

Basic Needle Threader (Source: Etsy)
Basic Needle Threader (Source: Etsy)

It would be remiss of me to start this list without mentioning the elephant in the room; the threader that everyone knows, and loathes. Let’s start with the positives, as afterall, they do work well as needle threaders. They’re also dirt cheap, and easy to find. More often than not you can get them free in a hotel sewing kit or by 100 of them for a few dollars.
But that’s kinda where it ends. You see, these things are effectively a small wire, and as a result, break often. Way too often. The wire might break, bend, or come free from the handle part. They’re also super hard to hold (especially the cheaper metal handle ones)

Clover Needle Threader

Clover Needle Threader (Source: SnugglyMonkey.com)
Clover Needle Threader (Source: SnugglyMonkey.com)

But fear not! Someone has improved the design. Clover was the first, so we’ve shown them here, but essentially they’ve taken the flimsy wire and made it a thin flat bit of metal. They work exactly the same other than that, however thanks to their thickenss are only really useful for cross stitch (which lets face it, you love). But this all comes at a price which is kinda over the top for what it is. Considering the other options on our list (like the one below) are often cheaper, it feels like these are better, but still not great.

LoRan Needle Threader

Needle Minders with built in needle threaders by NeedleKeep Emporium (Source: Etsy)
Needle Minders with built in needle threaders by NeedleKeep Emporium (Source: Etsy)

So now we look at the better alternatives. The LoRan needle threader as its come to be known is a new take on a needle threader, which is loaded on the side, and hooked through the eye. They’re a simple sheet of metal, so still super cheap (its worth getting them online where they’re a few cents each, rather than store where they can be a shocking $5 or more), but they’re also better in every way.
The hooks on both sides give you options for smaller and larger needles (or eyes), and are super sturdy. They can also be combined into needle minders like the one above by NeedleKeep Emporium. And finally, its the easiest one on our list to actually thread.
But there are things to be careful about. The hooks are kinda large, so it you use really small needles, such as petites you might not be able to fit them, and you need to be careful not to bend the hooks when they’re in your kit, or threading the needles will become SUPER hard.
 
I personally really rate these needle minders, I now use them myself. I rate them so much that we’re even offering one in our free giveaway this month!

Dritz Looped Needle Threaders

Dritz Looped Needle Threader (Source: Youtube)
Dritz Looped Needle Threader (Source: Youtube)

Whilst the LoRan needle threader is my go to, that doesn’t mean it’ll work for everyone. We already discussed above how petite needle users will struggle, and the possibility of hook bending might ruin your day, and so Dritz (who also came up with the LoRan needle threader) came up with something that might help; the looped needle threader.
You need to think of this as a ring of wire, however they make it in such a way that there is no join, and the wire has been pressed into a long spike. You feed the thread into the ring and then you use the wire to thread the needle. In my mind this kinda defeats the point as the wire is just as hard to thread, but it can be a life saver on sewing machines.
That doesn’t mean they’re all bad though, as these are cheap, super hardy, come in a multipack and we couldn’t break them; and we tried really hard.

Hummingbird Needle Threader

Hummingbird Needle Threader (Source: emmalinebags.com)
Hummingbird Needle Threader (Source: emmalinebags.com)

And now we come to the final, the true ‘best’ of the list. The hummingbird. Ignoring the fun shape for a second, its a hooked wire which you thread the needle onto, and then the thread. It’s been created to fix everyone’s needs. It has a cover so it doesn’t break, its cheap, its small so will go through any needle, it has a hook system so you don’t need to look too closely to hook it on, and it’s user friendly. However the fact that it tried to fix all these problems at once, for me, means it doesn’t really fix any. There are cheaper ones out there, there are ones that break less often, there are ones more suited to smaller needles, there are easier ones to work, and there are simpler forms. Sadly, for me, it falls short.

Automatic Needle Threaders

What about automatic needle threaders I hear you say! Well, there are some out there that do a good job. I’m not going to pretend otherwise either, as some work on magic I swear. However there is one big thing that gets me about automatic needle threaders. They’ve been around for about 50 years and in that time have been tried by countless thousands of embroidery fans, however I don’t know a single one that uses theirs. Instead they use a manual one. I don’t know why, and maybe that will be a future blog, but for now, I’ll still with the experts and choose the manual ones.
 
If you’re interested in how to use any of the above needle threaders, our friend Peacock & Fig have a super video.