What is a Bodkin and How is it used in Sewing?
A bodkin is a very useful tool in sewing. Especially if you have someone at home constantly pulling out drawstrings out of pants, and hoodies. It is a threading tool used to insert elastic, fabric tubes, ribbons, cord, yarn Et al through casings easily and smoothly.
The most obvious use of a bodkin is as a replacement for what we all have used at one point or the other to insert elastic or fabric tubes through casings on waistbands, hems, etc – the safety pin. A safety pin is usually flimsy and comes open once it is inside the casing in a very inconvenient way.
A bodkin goes through the casing, even very thin spaces, easily and draws the elastic/cord, etc smoothly through. You can also use a bodkin to thread ribbon or cord through loops/embroidery stitches or through laces. If you have a laced garment this tool can be used to draw the string through the small eyelets. You can also use it to turn bias tubes rightside out.
I can think of so many of my garments and accessories that can use a bodkin – drawing elastic back through waistbands of sweatpants, skirts; drawing ribbon or webbings through casings of pouches; turning out fabric tubes.
But Bodkin is an umbrella term and not a single tool – The term Bodkin refers to five variations of a similar type of tool.
5 different types of Bodkins I have seen
The first one looks like a long needle ( about 4-5 inches long) with a sharp point and with a small projection on the other side that resembles an eye of a needle
The sharp tip helps to make holes in fabrics. For eg. Holes for making eyelets, buttonholes. It is also used to make the corners of stitched fabric pointed for eg collar points.
The projected part/eye is used for drawing thread, cord, thin ribbon, drawstrings or elastic through casings. It goes through very small spaces.You need to guide this side through your casing otherwise the sharp side will poke into your fabric.
The second bodkin has a rounded tip on one side instead of the sharp point. This helps in easily easing the cord through the casing.
The third tool is slightly different and the best of all. It is shaped like a tweezer. It is called a pinch bodkin – it pinches the ribbon/elastic or whatever you are using with special teeth and you can tighten the pinch with a sliding ring around the hands of the bodkin which can be adjusted to your desired tightness.
Use this to draw the cord/elastic/thread through the casing just like you would with a safety pin. It is very useful with wide elastic /webbing which would not go through the eye of the other bodkins.
The advantage of this one is that it can be used to draw out elastic /fabric tube etc which has gone rogue- I mean the end has gone inside the casing and disappeared. You insert the bodkin inside the casing, pinch the end and bring it back. The grip of the pinch bodkin is secure but you need some practice to get it right
The fourth one is a thick, blunt needle of medium height with a large eye. Because of the blunt end, it does not pierce the fabric. You can use it for inserting ribbon, thread, tape or cord through a casing. Learn more about sewing needles here
The fifth one is a plastic one and very long and flexible. The metal bodkins are small and you may feel frustrated at times if the casing is long but this longer one can serve you well here.
The sixth one is completely different and its purpose is also different so I cannot say it is a variation. But a tool with a sharp metal point on one end with a wooden handle on the other is also called in places as a bodkin.
A diaper pin is still my favorite for inserting elastic etc. It has the safety clasp which does not come open in the middle like the normal flimsy safety pins but a disadvantage is that it does not go through small casings. Here a bodkin is more useful.