Have you ever wondered what is a bodkin for sewing? According to ancient Gaelic, the word bodkin described a dagger. This useful little sewing implement sometimes looks like a dagger because of its shape, but it has multiple uses and is not a weapon of destruction.
What is a Bodkin in Sewing Tutorial
What is a Bodkin?
If you have not heard of a bodkin, it is a gadget that will replace the safety pin you have been using to thread elastic, cord or ribbon through a casing. There are a variety of bodkins, and all are useful for threading different materials. Typically bodkins have a large eye, and look like a long blunt needle. They can vary in size and length. Some bodkins clamp the elastic, while others need to be tied on. In general, they are an inexpensive sewing tool with a great variety of uses.
What is a Bodkin Used For?
The purpose of a bodkin is to easily thread elastic or ribbon through a hem or casing. Once threaded, you can pull the elastic in and gather a neckline or waistline as well as other areas needing to be drawn up in a decorative or purposeful manner.
The shape and design of a sewing bodkin mean it can slide through narrow spaces and pull whatever is being used through the casing smoothly.
Here are some common uses for bodkins:
- Elastic or Ribbon: Bodkins are often used to thread elastic, cord, or ribbon through casings and hems. This can be helpful in projects such as sewing elastic waistbands, and making drawstring bags.
- Ribbon Embroidery: In certain types of embroidery, a bodkin can be used to help guide the embroidery floss or ribbon through the fabric.
- Making Holes: Some types of bodkins, with a sharper point, can be used to pierce holes in fabric or leather. This is useful in various crafts, including sewing leather and bookbinding.
- Turning Fabric Tubes: Bodkins can also be used to turn fabric straps and tubes the right side out, such as spaghetti straps or button loops.
How to Use a Bodkin, Step by Step Instructions
While all bodkins work slightly differently, here are the general instructions for how to use a bodkin. Below I have described how to thread elastic with a bodkin, but it works just the same for cord, ribbon, or threads.
- Thread the Elastic Through the Bodkin: First, you will need to thread the elastic through the eye of the bodkin. The size of the hole in the bodkin can vary, but it should be large enough to accommodate most types of elastic.
- Secure The Elastic in the Bodkin: Depending on the type of bodkin, there might be a mechanism to secure the elastic. For example, some bodkins have a small hole that you can use to tie the elastic. Others have a sliding ring or clamp that locks it into place before threading.
- Insert the Bodkin into a Casing or Hem: Once your elastic is secured, you can begin to thread it through your casing or hem. Insert the pointed end of the bodkin into the opening of the casing and gently push it through. You can help guide the bodkin along by bunching the fabric onto the bodkin, then smoothing it out again after the bodkin has passed.
- Pull the Elastic Through: When the bodkin emerges at the other end of the casing, gently pull it out, making sure to hold onto the end of the elastic so that it doesn't get pulled back into the casing.
- Unclip the Elastic: Once you've pulled enough of the elastic through, you can unclip it from the bodkin.
- Adjust the Elastic: The last step is to adjust the elastic so that it sits evenly within the casing.
Remember to always handle bodkins carefully. Even though they aren't sharp-ended like needles, they can still cause injury if not handled correctly.
Types of Bodkin for Sewing
The following types of bodkin tools are the most well-known and useful.
1. The Flexible Sewing Bodkin (Elastic Threader Tool)
This little bodkin can bend and is flexible, as its name suggests. It is useful for threading a casing or drawstring and makes threading through a waistband casing easier. The flexible nature of this bodkin enables it to pull through small curves and more difficult areas like the end of a sleeve.
2. Pinch Bodkins
These bodkins look like hairpins and have teeth and can grip a piece of elastic or a trim you are trying to thread through. They act rather like a pair of tweezers. The ring that slides up and down the bodkin helps to tighten and grip any elastic or ribbon you are threading through.
Firstly grip the piece of elastic with the teeth and then slide the ring down the bodkin to tighten the grip of the teeth. Then thread the bodkin through the casing. The ring prevents the tweezer action from coming undone halfway around the casing.
3. A Ball-Point Bodkin Tool
This style of bodkin is especially useful for threading a thicker thread or ribbon through a straight casing. The beauty of the ballpoint end is it will not pierce the fabric, and it goes around and through the casing smoothly.
4. Plastic Bodkin Sewing Tool
This is a long and flexible bodkin. It has a variety of slots to use for threading different elastics or cords to pull through a casing. It is also flexible because it is made of plastic and can turn corners easily.
5. What is a Bodkin I can DIY?
A sewing bodkin is a nice-to-have accessory to your sewing kit, but if you do not have one, you can use a safety pin to do the same job. Use the largest size safety pin that will fit through the casing and ensure that it is securely fastened.
The biggest danger that I find when using a safety pin is that sometimes the end comes undone halfway through, pushing it through the casing. If that happens, your only option is to pull it back and start again.
6. Multiple Threader Bodkin
The modern-day version of a sewing bodkin has many different features. A blunt or ballpoint tip to stop the bodkin from stabbing through the fabric and several different holes to allow for different ribbons or elastic to be threaded into the bodkin and then into the casing of the garment you are making.
Other Fabric and Sewing Uses of a Bodkin
A sewing bodkin can also be used to make holes for eyelets in tough fabric like leather or for pushing out the corners or tips of a collar.
If you have had the misfortune to find your elastic has slipped back inside the casing, the tweezer grip of the pinch bodkin can save the day. The pinch bodkin will grip the slipped elastic and pull it out from the casing. This makes the re-threading of elastic or cord so much easier.
Another advantage of a bodkin is it can pull your elastic or ribbon through smaller holes and into narrow casings. The elastic pulled by a bodkin does not twist and curl on itself because the bodkin keeps the elastic firmly in place. This is especially true of the pinch type of bodkin.
Bodkins with a big eye and a tapering shaft with a pointed end are very useful for threading or lacing. This was probably one of its original uses. The bodkin used for lacing corsets may have been the same bodkin seen in a lady's hair at that time. It had multiple uses both then and now. Bodkins were widely used for threading drawstrings long before elastic took its place.
What is a Bodkin - In Conclusion
Sewing bodkins have been used across the centuries as a useful little tool every sewer should have amongst their kit. Although elastic has taken the place of ribbons and lacing in modern times, the bodkin is still here to be the little tool that takes pride in drawing your elastic through any casing. Thick or thin, the bodkin will always fit in!