No matter what kind of sewing you like to do, there are times you must use a hand needle and thread. It could be for something simple, such as sewing on a button, stitching an opening closed, or tacking a strap in place. Or, you can move up the hand-sewing food chain to beautifully intricate techniques, like hand embroidery or hand quilting. Learn our favorite tips to help eliminate knots and tangles, and keep those stitches flowing smoothly.

Whether you’re a pro or a novice at hand sewing, you’ve probably noticed how easily thread can twist back onto itself and become knotted, tangled or both. When this happens, after the cursing subsides, it becomes almost impossible to effectively finish your stitching. In some instances, you may have to completely start over because the thread breaks in the middle of your work as a result of your attempts to remove the knot!

We’ve outlined our favorite products to use and the tips to try to tame those tangles.

Do you have other tips or products we haven’t listed here? Please leave a comment below with your own “tricks of the trade.” We love hearing about new solutions.

Fave products

Beeswax

A commonly used product you may have spied in your mother’s or grandmother’s sewing box is beeswax. It’s traditionally found in the shape of a circle, often in a circular plastic case with notches on it so you can easily pull the thread through the beeswax before sewing (which you should do two to three times to properly coat the thread with wax).

The beeswax coating provides added strength, resistance to static cling, and helps allow the thread to slip through the fabric and prevent tangling. In addition, you can wrap your beeswax-ed thread in a scrap of fabric (preferably muslin), a paper towel, or just plain paper and then iron the thread. This ironing process will melt the beeswax onto the thread for additional strengthening. The one negative to beeswax is that it can stain some fabrics. And, some people find it too sticky. As we always say, test first!

You can find beeswax at most local sewing supply stores. We found it online at Amazon as well as other retailers.

You can also find blocks of pure or natural beeswax,”which some experts say is the only way to go. We found a nice selection of this natural beeswax at Laney Honey.

Thread Heaven

A popular alternative to beeswax with many sewing experts is Thread Heaven. This is a thread conditioner and protectant that comes in a little blue box with a hard gel-like square inside, into which you press the thread as you pull it through. It provides all of the same benefits as beeswax, such as strengthening, anti-static, and tangle reduction, but it also doesn’t discolor, and the product does not stain after laundering or ironing.

THAT SAID, SAD NEWS AS OF FALL 2017: Thread Heaven is discontinuing the production of their product. The news states that the company/product has not been sold nor is it for sale. So, if you see it, buy it as it is a great product.

Home remedy

At Sew4Home, we understand everyone has a budget. So, when we’re researching a subject, we like to also look for ways to use household items you may already have on hand. We learned many quilters use dryer sheets to help prevent static cling and tangling when sewing by hand. Simply run your thread between the layers of a folded dryer sheet a couple times to try this trick. Here again, we strongly recommend trying all the options we’ve discussed to see which works best for you, your specific project, and your thread type.

Hand sewing thread versus regular thread

Many thread companies make specific thread for hand sewing, which is already treated or coated to help reduce static, tangles, and knotting. You can check out these options at a local sewing supply retailer and compare how they feel in comparison to the regular threads you use in your machine.

NOTE: Do NOT use hand sewing thread in your sewing machine. It’s okay to use machine thread for hand sewing, but don’t go the other direction as hand sewing thread may not have the tensile strength to work at the high stitching speeds of a machine without snapping.

When it comes to thread, you can dive right into the deep end and soak up tons of information about types, twists, finishes, and more. There’s a lot to know about this sewing staple! You’ll soon learn certain types of threads are more susceptible to static and tangling. We have a Sew4Home article overview on selecting the right thread for the job, which was put together with help from our friends at Coats & Clark.

Other hand sewing tips

Always thread the end you’ve actually cut from the spool into the eye of the needle.

As you hand sew, pull the thread in the direction you are sewing.

Hand quilters will roll the needle between their fingers as they stitch in the opposite direction of the twist of the thread.

Cut you thread into lengths no longer than about 18″ to 20″. Some people have offered a non-tangle tip of not cutting your length of thread from the spool until after the eye is threaded.

Stitch on the straight and narrow with Tiger Tape

If you’re hand stitching in a straight line, one the ways to keep the thread pulling through smoothly is to make sure your stitching is as straight as possible. A good tool for this is removable Tiger Tape, which we discovered from our friends at Fat Quarter Shop in one of their Sew Sampler Boxes. There are various stitch length options; the image above shows one of the most common: the ¼” tape that contains 30 yards marked at 9 lines per inch. Simply place the tape on your fabric and use the even guide lines to keep your stitching perfectly spaced.

Contributors

Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Jodi Kelly

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

*Sew4Home reserves the right to restrict comments that don’t relate to the article, contain profanity, personal attacks or promote personal or other business. When commenting, your name will display but your email will not.

25 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Biva
Biva
2 years ago

Pro tips, thaks for sharing.

Pro tips, thaks for sharing.

Hafsa
Hafsa
2 years ago

The article was a gold mine

The article was a gold mine and the comment/advice tips are all gold nuggets! Thank you

Patty S
Patty S
2 years ago

While working on a counted

While working on a counted cross-stitch embroidery project, I spray each 3-strand floss with Wrinkle Releaser, run it through my fingers to straighten it,  and the knots are lessened. It dries within minutes.  If they do occur, they are easier to untangle.  The finished project looks much neater also.

Glenda Coe
Glenda Coe
3 years ago

These were great tips. Used

These were great tips. Used the dryer sheet and the cutting of thread thru the needle eye. 

I also found that if you tie the threads separately instead of together I had no mor problems.

3 years ago

When hand sewing make sure

When hand sewing make sure your thread is no longer than twice your elbow length to stop knotting.    Also if hand basting use a basting thread as this removes easily without knotting or damaging fabric.

ElizabethD
ElizabethD
3 years ago

another tip: if you are

another tip: if you are having trouble threading your needle, you could be approaching the eye from the “wrong” side. Turn the needle around.

sounds unlikely, I know, but it has worked for me without fail. 

Thanks for another great article.

evie
evie
3 years ago

It is also a good idea to

It is also a good idea to thread multiple needles when sewing on a project.  It allows you to keep moving throught the project without so many stops to re-thread needles.

Patty n Texas
Patty n Texas
3 years ago

Wow, I have never heard MOST

Wow, I have never heard MOST of these bits of wisdom.  I think that hand sewing is a dying art in some areas.  The few hints I have gotten on hand sewing were from articles which encouraged the use of a product.  I LOVE the look of long stitches with bright threads around blocks in a quilt, but have been afraid to try it because of of knots and tangle issues I’ve experienced in the past.  I am going to print these hints and use them.  Thank you all!

Barbara
Barbara
3 years ago

Great tips. I enjoy hand

Great tips. I enjoy hand sewing and I’ve been using beeswax but I’m going to try Thread Heaven. 

BTW, as I sew, I still hear my Grandmother’s voice in my head from decades ago: “Long thread, lazy girl.”

Karen W
Karen W
3 years ago

Love the tip & Thread Heaven Love the tip & Thread Heaven is a product I like & use; my grandmother would sometimes iron thread between sheets of wax paper, impregnating the thread with wax.  As a hand-quilter, I have always tried to follow the adage, “Knot the end that you cut.” — AFTER you’ve used that fresh-cut thread end to thread the needle.  Some brands or types of thread are wound differently, so if I come across one that tangles while sewing (even after using with Thread Heaven), I reverse it & knot the other end.  I also try… Read more »

Momo (Barbara)
Momo (Barbara)
1 day ago
Reply to  Karen W

Members of my needlework guilds always told newbies to knot the end that comes off the spool first, but I, too, have found that it depends on the direction of thread twist. It one way doesn’t work well, reverse it. I do love Thread Heaven and even use it for for thread on my machine when starting a new or different spool. I used to melt pure white beeswax and mold it in tiny teddy bear candy molds, adding a loop of ribbon or floss to the back, to give to friends and new guild members. Yellow beeswax should not… Read more »

Liz Johnson
Admin
Liz Johnson
1 day ago
Reply to  Momo (Barbara)

Thanks for adding in your experience!

Rochelle @ eSheep Designs
Rochelle @ eSheep Designs
3 years ago

Thank you for this… I will

Thank you for this… I will have to try the dryer sheets. I sincerely hate hand-sewing as it is, but self-knotting thread in the middle of a simple job is aggravating in the extreme!

Doloris
Doloris
3 years ago

Good tips. Very disheartening
Good tips. Very disheartening to be sewing and the thread breaks because of a snag.

  FOLLOW US!
Translate »