How to Use a Teko-bari

© 1991 Japanese Embroidery Center:Kurenai-Kai, Ltd.

Be careful to protect your teko-bari from rust. It is made of soft steel that is worked by hand, allowing the tool to hold an extremely sharp point and provide thread control. If the metal darkens from use, it may be polished with very fine emery powder or paper.

The teko-bari, or stroking needle, is a unique, handmade tool designed to help in the proper laying of parallel filaments or threads. Although it was created for use with flat silk in working traditional Japanese embroidery, it is the best tool for laying any embroidery thread, whether silk, wool, cotton, or rayon, because of its design and the material with which it is made. Its balance makes it valuable for removing threads as well, enabling the stitcher to lift carefully even the smallest of stitches.

The teko-bari does not have the diamond-hard finish of tools which are chrome-plated. It is made of a soft steel, which places an imperceptible, delicate drag on the threads and enables the stitcher to handle them with greater precision than is possible with slippery, hard-surfaced tools. Unlike blunt tools, which permit the threads to jump from the end of the needle, collar stay, or trolley needle, the teko-bari has an extremely sharp point, which allows the stitcher to control the thread until the very moment when it is lying on the canvas or fabric.

To keep flat silk from tangling and to enhance the shine, it must be kept under tension. This tension is passed from hand to hand as you stitch. Bring the needle up for the first stitch with the left hand. Pull the needle up with the right hand and go down. When the loop of thread is almost to the surface of the fabric, insert the teko-bari in the loop and stroke no more than three times. It is important that the stroking motion be made only toward oneself. Never catch the whole thread and allow it to ride on the teko-bari as you pull the loop of thread down to the fabric. This means that you are stroking the thread in the opposite direction.

Hold the thread to the fabric with the teko-bari and come up with the left hand for the next stitch. When you take the needle in the right hand to pull up, catch the loop of thread that is hanging below the fabric with the middle finger or thumb. Keep the tension on the thread with the left hand as you pull up with the right. When the thread is all the way up, hold the stitch on the back with a finger of your left hand. Repeat this sequence.

This same procedure is helpful with any thread that is slippery, particularly on canvas, as the holes do not grab the thread tightly. If one is not working in the Japanese manner, the teko-bari may be held in either hand, and picked up and laid down as the stitcher desires.