HNW - questions from a sewing box

CarolynKayta Barrows kayta at
Sun Mar 4 03:20:33 PST 2001

>Leather needles have a tri-corner _sharp_ edge (my fingers may not survive 
>my new
>gloves) and the sail repair needles (that I've seen) have a curve at the 
>end.  Good
>guesses though.  ;>

Needles with curves at the ends, usually also flattened there, are called
'sacking needles', and they were used for sewing feed sacks, etc. shut at
the top.  Sail sewing needles look just like the leather needles you
describe.  Half circle needles with no flattened bits are for upholstery,
so you can get the needle into and right back out of someplace like the top
of a thick cushion.  Really long needles are for sewing buttons all the way
thru an upholstered chair (I used to have one about 9 inches long), or for
sewing both teddy bear/cloth doll arms on at once.

BTW, sail makers use a thing called a 'sewing palm', which is a
metal-reinforced leather 'thimble' so big it wraps around your hand.  The
eye end of the needle goes against a dimpled metal plate embedded in the
'palm', and you push it where it needs to go with the heel of your hand
(especially thru 6 or 8 layers of modern synthetic canvas).  Clover makes a
much more civilized version of this which sits right where a thimble ought
to sit.  The Clover one also has a dimpled metal plate to push against.

>I've never seen sailcloth thread.

Traditional sails were sewn with waxed linen thread, like that sold for
hand sewing leather.  Modern hand-sewn sails are sewn with a synthetic
thread which mostly looks and acts like waxed linen.
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