I don't often do this, but this week I want to start with a personal little story. Several years ago I participated in a Beadventures bead embroidery tour in New York with Sherry Serafini (my muse) and Maggie Meister.
One of the activities was a stop at CJS-- from their website:
5,000 square feet of vintage closeout bead, craft and jewelry part supplies: rhinestones, pressed glass cabochons and stones, findings, filigree, wood, plastic beads/parts, bakelite chips, chain, nailheads, lucite, Swarovski, cameos, seed beads (even 17/0’s), Venetian one hole beads/cabs, chandelier parts, etc. We specialize in liquidating vintage items/components... It is a warehouse and unless you know what you are looking at it can be very overwhelming - but if you are an experienced buyer and willing to dig/get dirty you will be in heaven! Wholesale only (no retail customers).
CJS is wall to wall, floor to ceiling boxes filled with bags of "great stuff" from all over the world. You dig through countless boxes filled with bags looking for that incredible discovery. I am convinced some of this stuff has been there for 50 years. It was amazing.
The next night I somehow walked into a revolving door coming home from dinner (I swear I had nothing to drink). My husband the brain surgeon (seriously) told me I could not go to sleep in case I had a concussion. So I climbed into bead and started beading. I did a double take. My pincushion finger -- the one I am constantly stabbing with a needle-- sported an angry looking abscess. I am convinced that somewhere in one of those boxes at CJS some nasty germ found it's way into one of those silly needle punctures in my finger.
I learned two things that night. I never go to CJS without industrial strength gloves and I need to protect my fingers while beading. I have tried countless forms of thimbles with very little luck. I find that the most punctures occur when I am trying to force a needle through thick materials or tight beads. Until recently, I kept a small pliers (registration gift from the Bead&Button Show) on my work surface. When a needle gave me difficulty, I grabbed it and pulled the needle through without tormenting my fingers. If you are not careful, you can easily snap a bead in a tight bezel.
This weekend I tested out two new needle pullers or "finger savers." Here are my observations:
Hedgehog Needle Puller
Imported from Holland, the Hedgehog needle puller does the needle grabbing for you. Just place it on a finger on your working hand. When you your needle starts giving you trouble, slide the eye over the tip of the needle. Push the button and pull the needle through. This was designed for quilters and I found that my #12 beading needles could not stand up to the force. If they didn't outright snap, they at least bent. On one try, the eye of the needle broke. I found them awkward in my hand. I suspect the Hedgehog will not be used often.
Dritz-Loran Needle Puller
I discovered the Dritz-Loran needle puller while searching for the Hedgehog. They were inexpensive so I thought I'd give them a try. Dritz's website states: "The needle puller works to grip and pull needles comfortably, providing finger comfort and finger protection while you stitch Wear a single needle puller on your thumb to grip and pull needles, or wear two needle pullers simultaneously on finger and thumb Soft silicone grips well and stays in place; the needle puller stays on your finger while you work Holes allow for breathing and open end accommodates fingernail." Each package contains two needle pullers in two different sizes. There is a small/medium and a medium/large. You can find them online for under $10 (including shipping).
I was skeptical at first because the little jelly like things have holes in them. How are they supposed to protect my fingers? I tried it on just the index finger (where I get the most punctures) and again on the thumb and index finger. I gave it the worst case scenario-- through a fish leather/ultra suede "sandwich."
It worked GREAT! I was able to push and pull the needle with ease through some pretty tough stuff and it did not damage my needle at all.
I am not sure how these silicone things are going to hold up? I am going to continue to use these little devils and I'll keep you posted on my impressions.