Co-Pubished with my Sewing Blog
Though, in historical times, working with a sewing needle was probably about as typical an activity as other domestic tasks, I've never heard of a game called Wash the Dishes (though let me know if you've heard of one!). I'm guessing that's because dish washing is a more straightforward process. Hand needle threading has always been just ever so slightly challenging. And of course you often come up against it when you least want to deal with that finicky little task. These days we can typically change into another shirt if we rip a seam heading out the door, but only a generation or two ago, that might not have been an option. It was your day clothes or your Sabbath garment. So you quickly threaded a needle and ran up the seam. And it was just as important as it is today, to get that thread into that needle eye quick-like-a-bunny.
As I've already mentioned in my post about threading a sewing machine needle, a little spit goes a long way. Yes, I lick the end of the thread (and I do wash my hands before I sit down to do this), but I also spread a little, well I just have to say it again - spit - over the eyehole of the needle. Just as in the case of the machine needle, the water molecules want to buddy up, and the thread is more likely to be attracted to the eye of the needle.
My other favorite needle-to-thread technicos include... beeswax. You can buy beeswax in the notions department, but I keep the stumps from the beeswax candles I buy from the farmer's market and use those. (I like to support those businesses because, and I know you know this too, local honey promotes good diverse hive health, which is one of those save-the-planet kinda things. Agricultural mono-culture is a big concern for the future of my favorite fruits and vegetables.) Beeswax stabilizes the thread and makes it easier to push through the needle - less fibers on the end of the thread to push against that tiny needle eye.
Also I always make sure to cut the end of my thread at an angle. That makes a point that slips through more easily. I learned this from the same Viking Sewing Machine dealer who taught me the spit trick!
These are the tips that keep me in stitches.
Dance Description and cool wood cut illustration from Webfeet