Is This the Best Way to Thread a Needle?

April 13, 2018

I’d rank the difficulty of threading a needle somewhere between removing the pencil from the forearm of the man in Operation and attempting that Indiana Jones scene where he has to replace a golden idol with a bag of exactly the same weight. I don’t do it often, but every time I find myself with a piece of string and an unthreaded needle in hand, I’m reminded of just how infrequently I thread a needle and how difficult the task really is.

Most people go the classic route: Lick the end of the string and jab it at the tiniest hole in the world and pray to some higher power that this time it’ll work. Others use wire loop needle threaders but those are like the size of a speck of dust and so easy to lose. There has to be a better way. And maybe there is.

Just last week, a video surfaced on Twitter that’s upending convention. A user named John Bick shared the hack to end all others, and it’s been making the rounds on Twitter ever since, kicking up all kind of dust. See for yourself here:

I wish I had the vocabulary to properly communicate what happens in the above video. Or maybe even the smallest notion of physics to fully explain why ferociously rubbing eye against thread against hand actually works, but all I can really land on is: friction. There’s something about high-speed friction that wheedles the filament into the teensy opening and leaves you with a perfectly strung, ready-to-go sewing needle. Twitter was incensed, but divided:

But does it actually work? Obviously, we had to find out.

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For the sake of journalistic integrity and ethics and all that, I have to admit that at first, it didn’t work for me. No matter how much I rubbed and how fast I moved the needle and how badly I wanted it to, I couldn’t quite get the needle to thread. That isn’t, however, to say that the method is futile. On my left, Katie got the hang of the trick in a matter of seconds. She threaded hole after hole and by her fourth or fifth needle had it down to a second. I admire her capability. To my right, Cory’s experience was somewhat closer to mine, if not a few hairs more successful. It took her but a handful of tries to master the method. “It’s great,” she conceded, “and pretty effective, but would I pick it over the traditional method?” Hmm, the jury is still out. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here trying to nail down the near-perfect form of the hands in the video.

What’s your go-to needle-threading technique? Please, please share other suggestions in the comments below.

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Valerio is a freelance food writer, editor, researcher and cook. He grew up in his parent's Italian restaurants covered in pizza flour and drinking a Shirley Temple a day. Since, he's worked as a cheesemonger in New York City and a paella instructor in Barcelona. He now lives in Berlin, Germany where he's most likely to be found eating shawarma.


M April 16, 2018
I don't know how much practice you need to make it work, or if there are certain types of needles it works better with... Whatever the case, the time I took trying to do this, and failing, is def more than the time I will spend snipping and bullseyeing for the rest of my life.
Jennifer April 14, 2018
Once again feeling alienated as a middle-aged reader of this site (food52, are you listening)? Are you serious? Shhhh, don't tell anyone, here's the secret: practice. Yes, practice. Ummm, like everything else. (Note to self: why are you still reading this site?)
Valerio F. April 16, 2018
You know what they say: practice makes perfect. Sometimes classic methods are always the best ones. Thought we'd share a new, quirky technique getting some attention on the internet but by nooooo means are we writing off something you may consider tried and true—you do you!
HalfPint April 16, 2018
Yes, but which technique, Jennifer? As these comments show, there's more than 1 way to thread a needle. I also don't understand why this should make you feel alienated when it is offering another idea to help out? You might not find this idea useful for yourself, but someone else might. There's a whole generation (maybe two) that are growing up without knowing how to sew a button because Home Ec is not something they teach in school anymore. I think this article could be of some use to those people, if not me.
Diana W. April 14, 2018
I wonder if this will work with beading needles and beading thread. Going to run off and try right now!
ktr April 13, 2018
Using sharp scissors to make a nice clean cut of the thread makes threading a needle much easier.
HalfPint April 13, 2018
My mother was a seamstress before she got married. She taught me to take wet the tip of the thread end with a bit of saliva to make threading needles a lot easier. Works best with neatly cut thread, though you'll be able to tell if the ends are frayed.
HalfPint April 13, 2018
sorry, need to grammar check. That should be "she taught me to wet the tip of the thread..."
Valerio F. April 16, 2018
I've totally tried this one. Works well, too!
HelloThereNicole April 13, 2018
I pinch the thread between my thumb and forefinger with only an 1/8 of an inch above and then use the needle to thread it by pushing down between my two fingers. Super quick.
BerryBaby April 13, 2018
Cut the thread diagonally so there is a point. Goes right in! A neighbor taught me this when I was about five. She was an incredible sewer and knitter. Wrote sewing and knitting tips for the newspaper. This was back when people would sit on their front porch, knit, needlepoint and visit with the children in the neighborhood.
witloof April 16, 2018
That works when you're in your twenties and thirties, but at my age (60, how did THAT happen????) you just don't have the close vision anymore. I sadly gave up crocheting because even with glasses it wasn't that much fun anymore.