Sewing heavy material like canvas can be as hard on the needle as it is on your hands. If, however, you rub the fabric well with soap before you stitch, the job will be a lot more comfortable and the needle will slip through the cloth without nearly so much danger of breaking.
Source: A Farmer's Almanac
By duckie-do from Cortez, CO
I hand sew and I pull the thread through a bees wax disk. This makes the thread go into the fabric and for me it's easier to handle the needle.
I keep slivers of soap with my sewing stuff. It's good for this purpose but it can also be used to mark in place of tailor's chalk. I have had a few items stained by the chalk.
Good tip, although you want to be careful of a few things when using it:
Always use the right gauge needle for the fabric you are sewing. Doing so makes it easier to pierce the fabric cleanly and makes for less work. Hand or machine, there is a correct size needle for every fabric.
If sewing by machine, make sure the soap you use is one of the pure soaps like Ivory to avoid potentially corrosive detergents (normally rinsed off when using soap in a 'normal' application) from gunking up the bobbin case.
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