Needlework Tools


Some stitchers are confused when it comes to the question whether it is important to use a frame or hoop. There is no hard and fast rule but using something to hold the fabric has many advantages.

For most needlework, one will achieve the best results if some kind of frame is used to hold the fabric while stitching. Frames keep the fabric taut so stitches will be even and a frame helps keep the stitching clean.

There are a number of different frames and hoops on the market and a few of them are explained below.

Embroidery Hoops

Hoops are the cheapest and simplest of the items available to hold fabric during stitching. They are available in plastic and wood and are made of 2 different pieces, the inner ring which is a complete circle and the outer ring, which is held together by a small metal piece and screw. If using a wooden hoop, it is recommended that the hoop is wrapped with cotton tape to protect your fabric.

The fabric is placed over the bottom inner ring and the outer ring is adjusted with the screw to fit loosely over the inner ring and fabric. When the fabric is sitting straight in the hoop, the outer ring is tightened with the screw.

There are a couple of disadvantage of using a hoop. The hoop can leave a hard to remove mark on the fabric and the fabric can still become dirty from where the hoop is held.

Stretcher Bars

Stretcher Bars are inexpensive and reasonably easy to use and are made of timber. They are probably more commonly used for Needlepoint but can be used for Cross Stitch. The frames are strips of timber that have a dovetail at the ends so they can be joined to make a square or rectangle. They come as a pair and it is usual to buy the width and length that is needed for the piece being stitched.

To use Stretcher Bars, the fabric is centred on the ‘frame’ and then carefully pinned to the timber edges while stretching the fabric (or canvas) taut. It is important to keep the tension of the fabric even as it is being pinned to the frame.

Scroll Frames

Scroll Frames are similar to Stretcher Bars in that the fabric is attached to them but they differ in the way they work. Scroll Frames consist of 2 round scroll bars that attach to flat side bars. The ends of the scroll bars screw into the side bars using adjustable screws or wooden knobs. The scroll bars have cotton tape or some other fabric to which the fabric to be stitched, is attached.

As a general rule, the Scroll Frame used should be as wide as the length or width of the fabric or canvas that is to be stitched.

To attach the fabric to the Scroll Frame, turn down a half inch hem, centre the fabric on the bars and pin in place. Using a needle and thread, tack the fabric to the cotton tape on the bars.

Attach the bars back on the frame and roll up with excess fabric. Adjust the screws to move the fabric or to keep the fabric taut.

A Scroll Frame will keep the stitching clean but care needs to be taken with beading when wound into the frame. It is suggested that beading is done when all the stitching is completed.

Floor Stands

There are many different brands of floor stands on the market and each has its benefits. Basically, a floor stand is made to hold either Stretcher Bars or Scroll Frames. Some even have attachments for lights, magnifiers, or chart holders. Most stands can be adjusted up and down until a comfortable stitching height is obtained.

Floor Sands can be cumbersome and take up a lot of room and some are hard to use with lounge chairs. The main advantage is that a stand will free up both hands so one can either stitch with 2 hands, one top and bottom or use a laying tool more easily.

Some stands come with their own Scroll Frames and the frames can be removed from the stands if one wants to stitch in a different location.

Table Stands

Table Stands are similar to Floor Stands but as the name implies, they are constructed to sit on a table. The have the same ‘hands free’ advantages as Floor Stands but are portable and can easily be carried from one place to another.


Q-Snaps are fast becoming one of the most popular ‘frames’ for holding fabric. They are a square plastic frame made of a similar product as small poly pipe. There are clips that snap over the frame and fabric and the clips can be slid backwards on the frame to tighten the fabric.

Each side of the Q-Snaps can be separated at the corners and even though they come as a square, 2 sides of a larger or smaller Q-Snap can be used to create a rectangle for easier stitching.

The main benefit of Q-Snaps is that the fabric can be repositioned easily. Beads can be covered with a soft cloth or excess fabric and the clip snapped over the top.

One disadvantage on a large piece is excess fabric but enterprising stitchers have solved this problem by rolling the fabric and clipping it to the sides of the Q-Snap with a large hinged hair clip.

Some Floor Stands now come with an attachment to hold Q-Snaps.



Have you ever looked at the huge range of needles at your local needlework store and wondered what they are all used for? Well, we will try and answer your question.

No matter what type of needlework one is doing, it is important to use the correct needle. The needle used should pass easily through the fibres of the fabric and as a rule of thumb, the eye should be slightly larger them the ‘hole’ in the fibre to allow the thread to pass through the fabric easier. For example, the needle used for stitching on 40 count fabric should be smaller then the needle used on 25 count fabric.

The size of a needle is designated by a number and the lower the number, the longer and/or thicker the needle. A small, fine needle will have a larger number.

Tapestry Needles

The end of a Tapestry needle is blunt to prevent the needle splitting the fibres of the fabric or canvas being stitched. The eye is usually large to allow easy threading of the threads being used. The most commonly used size of Tapestry needles is from size 13- 28. Sizes 13 – 24 would be used for Needlepoint and the smaller sizes 22- 28 for Cross stitch.

A size 22 needle could be used on smaller counts of fabric (10 to 14 count), size 24 – 26 on fabric 28 count and a size 28 needle on larger count fabric (32 count and higher)

Quality needles can be expensive and some brands are available in a gold or platinum coating or a petite size.

Embroidery or Crewel Needles

Crewel needles can usually be found in sizes 1 to 10 and they have a sharp point. The eyes are smaller and longer then a tapestry needle and suitable for most types of embroidery.

Chenille Needles

A Chenille needle has a large eye and is similar to an embroidery needle but they have a sharp point.

Beading Needle

Beading needles are normally long and thin with very small eyes to enable the needle to pass through the small holes in beads. There are some shorter, more solid beading needles available and these are perfect for adding beads to cross stitch projects.

Quilting Needles

A Quilting needle is usually a size 1 to 10, and they have small round eyes. These needles are also referred to as ‘betweens’ in some books. These needles are perfect for quilting and hand sewing or hemming.

Needle Threaders

Just as there is a large range of needles on the market, there is also an equally large range of Needle Threaders.From the simple silver threader to the more elaborate beaded models, they are all a wonderful timesaver and a recommended addition to your sewing basket.

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