Saturday, August 7, 2010


I want to share three of my favourite needlework gadgets with you. They may not necessarily be Italian, but I got them all and learned of them all in Italy so this is how they tie in with my blog.

The first is a small awl:

This awl is about 3 5/8" long, the handle is plastic and the metal shaft is a bit rough, that is, it's not perfectly smooth, its got a few burrs - so I wouldn't go near any silk with it. I was advised to use it to count ground threads on high count fabric (38ct shown above) when doing hems or other drawn thread areas. Count over 10 (or however many you like) ground threads and push the awl into the fabric between the ground threads. You are left with a little hole which stays visible for quite awhile. This is extremely handy when calculating or counting out Four-Sided Stitch-based hems or any other counting really. I think the roughness of the shaft of the awl helps in keeping the hole visible by roughing up the threads just a bit so that they don't fall back immediately into place. Once you do your stitching, washing and ironing, there is no trace of the holes.

The second gadget is also related to drawn thread work, it is a long shafted, ball point needle:

My ball-point needle is about 1 7/8" long and is used for withdrawing threads. (Click on the photo for a close up look) They come in varying lengths and also with wooden handles. It is the best thing ever! I used to use a regular #24 tapestry needle for withdrawing threads but sometimes I'd have to slide the needle under the thread 5 or 6 times before pulling up at the right moment to pull it out as the thread would slide off the end of my needle. Now with the ball-point needle, the thread doesn't slide off the end and I'm able to go much faster when withdrawing my threads. The length of this ball-point needle makes it very easy to hang onto. It has revolutionized the way I prepare my drawn thread work channels!

The last item is again related to drawn thread work and hemming. It is a plastic adjustable finger shield called a Salvadito in Italian:

It wraps around your finger so it will fit any size. Placing the shielded finger under your work means that you can stitch "scoop-method" without stabbing yourself when using a sharp-tipped needle. It took a bit of getting used to but now I don't hemstitch without it, whether I'm using a tapestry or sharp needle. The Salvadito makes the going so much faster as the needle just glances off the plastic below - no stabbing, no catching.

Where to get these gadgets?

Well, I bought the Salvadito at the Italia Invita Forum in 2007 but I see they are at Lacis in California, under Thimbles.

The long-shafted, ball-point needle – which I understand are hand-made, I ordered from Tombolo Disegni. Click on "Negozio/Shop", then "Aghi", scroll down to the third row, they are the "ago/aghi con la punta a pallina". Send an email request to order.

For the little awl, I don't know what to tell you. It was a gift to me from a lady in Ferrara who bought it at her local Merceria which is like a haberdashery or notions store. There is no manufacturer's name on the one I have. I have tried using regular awls but they are too smoothly finished and do not leave the holes for long in the fabric like this one does. If you know where to get them online, will you leave a comment below?


  1. This is very helpful information! I didn't know about that ball-point needle, and I understand how hard it can be to catch the threads for drawn-thread work. What a great tool, Jeanine! Thanks for this post....

  2. I didn't know about that ball-point needle as well and I can imagine how useful it can be! I have to buy one!

  3. and of course thank you, Jeanine :)

  4. I discovered your blog while looking for a couple of instructions for some drawn thread work. I usually do Japanese embroidery, but white work is a nice break and it's washable!
    I'm going to have to see about one of those needles. I have a source for the awl. Tanja Berlin at sells one very similar. Thanks, AnneG in NC
    PS when will the site with the tutorials be back up?

  5. Hi Anne,
    I'm sure that Tanja sells a very good quality awl while the one I'm talking about is very cheaply made and does not have a smooth shaft. I think that because it has burrs along the shaft it is good for this use outlined in my post. I have tried doing this with a good quality awl and with a large needle and the fabric threads just fall back into place.

    Which site with the tutorials are you meaning?


  7. The ball point nedle is also used for filet lace... it makes doing linen stitch so much easier.
    When doing darning stitch the long needle allows for doing long runs of thread.I buy mine in Australia from Josco Lace supplies and there are several different sizes

  8. Hello, I was looking for a tutorial for the Madama da Medicis stitch apparently very similar to the double running stitch but done on burato fabric with a coarse matte cotton. I have downloaded all the pdfs from TuttoRicamo before it went offline and was reborn... as an online store. They have great linens by the way as well as machine-knotted net for filet lace.
    I just wanted to answer your question about the little awl. I have seen a similar one for sale either at the above website or at Canetta is another good website for italian needlwork supplies. I buy some linens from them too. But then again I live in France so the shipping cost is not such a problem.
    I love Punto Antico and many other Italian needleworks. Will visit again. Lovely blog you have here! Cheers,

  9. Kamo, if you do a search here you can find out about Punto Madama (search Catherine de'Medici). The old website TuttoRicamo evolved into a blog:
    The online linen store with the same name is not the same people.
    Thanks for the info about the little awl!

  10. I noticed in the photo the picture of the see through ruler with a cut out circle. I was wondering where you purchased it? I would love to have one. It would help me to focus on the threads I remove in Drawn Work now that my old eyes aren't what they used to be.

  11. This is a 16 inch- 40cm ruler that I probably got at the local stationery store which has since gone out of business. I cannot read the manufacturer's name on it, I'm sorry. Unfortunately the black marks have started to wear off. I'm sure you'll be able to find one at your local office supplies place. Good luck!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to answer. I just adore your blog!