Royal School of Needlework-- 2015 Courses

Friday, March 12, 2010

Toothpick Treatise

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Over the years, interest has developed in toothpick usage and comparison as it applies to applique. One expert applique lady (whom we will call Nancy) found some hand-carved toothpicks from Portugal. She discovered that the blunt end of these toothpicks provided a perfect tool for turning under the edge of the fabric for the purpose of applique in a technique previously referred to as "needleturn" (and now affectionately called "toothpick turn" by some). Since needles are made from metal, they tend to slip when used to fold the fabric under to the stitch line. The toothpicks, on the other hand, provide the needed friction element to grab the fabric and gently push it under to the predetermined stitch line. A pointed end of a toothpick has been known to aid in this endeavor, but the blunt end (as Nancy has pointed out--no pun intended) can accomplish the job with much more ease, saving the pointed end for tight spots where only a sharp point will be effective. The toothpick on the top is the original blunt-ended Portuguese toothpick so cherished by certain elements of the applique community. We will also refer to this style of toothpick as "The Nancy". As time wore on, it has become more and more difficult to locate these hand-carved toothpicks. The same company started providing the buyer with the double-pointed toothpicks which are popular with the dining crowd but are not as popular with applique enthusiasts. I have altered the new double-ended toothpick to create a workable hybrid of the original (2nd toothpick in photo). As you can plainly see, the hybrid is smaller than the original, however. The size of the hybrid is even smaller than the standard American toothpick pictured at the bottom of the photo (purchased in bulk at a local eatery). Since the originals have become a rare item (and have finally made the applique ladies' endangered list), some have asked for a photo of the originals. We would ask, that if you discover another source for the toothpick on the top, please let me know immediately, and I will alert the applique community.


Kathie said...

oh how I wish I could find those toothpicks too!
every time I go to a new grocery store I look at toothpicks!!!
what we don't do to get the right tools!

Margaret said...

On my last trip to Portugal, I made an honest effort to find them. They were all pointed at both ends. Maybe the carver has met some ill fate!