Have difficulty threading a needle ?
Have nearly as much trouble getting a piece of wire into a needle eye as a piece of thread ?

There are 4 other main types of extra help with threading needles :

Easier to get the thread into the hole :
Calyx eye needles – end slot hand sewing needles.
Side slot needles – available for both hand and machine.
Pusher type threading tools – for both hand and machine needles.
Help with seeing what you’re doing :
Conventional wire needle threaders with magnifying lens or light (I’m not commenting on these).

As well of course as the fine hooks used in the threaders built into some sewing machines.

People have strongly different opinions on these tools, so do try several for yourself !

Here’s what works for me, for both hand and machine sewing.
Many people find ‘self threading’ hand sewing needles useful for finishing off short ends of thread, as in quilting.
I’m commenting as someone with shaky hands, so I use threading helpers for all sewing. I don’t personally know how helpful these tools are for someone with severe arthritis or limited vision.

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Calyx-eye hand sewing needles

I find these self-threading needles much easier to use than a conventional wire-loop needle threader.
But there were some things I needed to know before I could use them without hassle.

”calyx
(image source no longer available)

Put the thread into the V-slot in the end of the needle.
Give a sharp tug, and instant-amazement the needle is threaded.
I started by moving the thread into the slot. Now I find it easier to move the needle onto the thread.

Do buy quality.
Buying cheap ones is just a way of throwing away money. It’s not that cheap needles do the job badly, they don’t do the job at all. They either shred the thread or the thread pulls straight out when you take your first stitch. Before I tried a quality one, I spent some time thinking self-threading needles are nonsense.

Quality ones eventually wear out and stop holding the thread, but that shouldn’t happen for a while.

I haven’t tried all brands. I’ve had good experiences with Clover brand. I’ve seen an enthusiastic review of Prym brand, review no longer available.

Don’t waste time and energy trying to get the thread into the second hole. It won’t go and it isn’t supposed to.
That lower hole provides a bit more ‘spring’ for the end of the needle that opens up as you pull the thread through.

It used to take me several minutes to thread a needle and now not – hurrah. I enjoy hand sewing but getting a wire-loop needle threader into a needle hole is nearly as difficult as thread for me. Using these self-threading needles, and the pusher-type threaders below, is near miraculous for someone like me with shaky hands.

Here’s a tutorial on using these needles, much advice specifically for people with limited vision – not so good for me as the method needs steady hands.

Calyx eye needles only come in general purpose sewing sizes, there are none for tapestry, crewel embroidery etc. Though it is quite a bit easier to get a wire-type needle threader into the large eye of a crewel needle or a tapestry needle.

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Slot in the side

”spiral
Here’s the main web-site of the Spiral Eye company.

These look interesting but are expensive to import to the UK so I haven’t tried one.

They have at least 2 advantages :
– they are available in a wide range of hand sewing needle types and sizes,
– they are available as sewing machine needles too.
The machine needles are only in one size, and are converted from Schmetz universal point size 80/12.

Schmetz themselves also make ‘quick threading machine needles’ which simply have a small slot in the side of the eye.
”quickSchmetz”
Instructions for using them here.
Universal point needle, sizes 80 and 90. I haven’t yet tried these.

Both these machine needles have a Universal point, so can be used on both woven and knit fabrics, on both home sewing machines and serger/ overlockers (ones which use the same needles as home sewing machines).

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Pusher-type threaders

Sewing machine needles

My previous sewing machine had a built-in needle threader which I found easy to use.
The needle threader on my new machine is not the same (or perhaps my hands are shakier than they were).
Anyway, I now find it easier to use a pusher type threader. (I also take off the presser foot, for easy all-round access.)

”plunger

Have the machine needle at its highest position, so you have room to work.
Put the thread horizontally into the V of the threader (they only work one way – have the triangle and hook shape on top) and hold the thread somewhat taut. Move the threader slowly and gently down the front of the machine needle while putting a little pressure on the pusher. The device should push a thread loop through the eye of the needle.

These threaders may be a bit temperamental – there’s a knack to using them, and the fine wire that pokes the thread through the needle eye can bend easily. Avoid the cheap ones, which work rarely if at all. I use a Dritz one, expensive but it works almost every time, and lasts a while.

Pusher threaders for hand sewing needles

Many people are enthusiastic about pusher-type devices for threading hand sewing needles, but I haven’t done well with them.
They only work for a small range of sizes of needle, so check if they’re suitable for your purpose.
Here’s the Clover version. The one I tried would only take small size fine hand sewing needles, which I can’t use.
There are one needle size and two needle size versions from other companies.

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Serger/ overlocker needles and loopers

Needles
Most serger/ overlockers use the same needles as sewing machines, so pusher needle threaders should work on them as well.

Loopers
There are long looper threaders, they are like the wire loop hand sewing needle threaders but on a long wire, so not much use to me as I can’t thread them any more easily than I can the looper holes. . .

For help with threading looper holes, here are some suggestions.

Do try to find a serger /overlocker which has help with making it easier to get at the lower looper.
If you can’t visit a dealer or show to try out a machine, these days it is easy to download a free manual for most machine models, or find a video for the model, so you can check before buying one how easy the looper threading is. The diagrams of the process may look complex and daunting, just look for a machine which has clearly labelled guides and a tool for moving the lower looper temporarily into an easy access position.

Looper holes thread from front to back. I haven’t got steady enough hands to put the thread through the looper hole. But there is an easy solution. Simply put the end of the looper thread into a hand sewing needle. I use a Clover calyx-eye needle as above.
Upper looper : simply pass the needle through the hole.
Lower looper : on my machine, a short hand needle will go all the way through the hole when the looper is at its highest position.

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In the days when all sewing was done by hand, it needed specialist metal-working skills and tools to make any needle, and they were expensive.
We are lucky to have these marvellous modern threading helper inventions.
Good Luck for finding ones which meet your needs.

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Originally written July 2016, links checked September 2022

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