"An adhesive, or glue, is a mixture in a liquid or semi-liquid state that adheres or bonds items together. Adhesives may come from either natural or synthetic sources. The types of materials that can be bonded are vast but they are especially useful for bonding thin materials. Adhesives cure (harden) by either evaporating a solvent or by chemical reactions that occur between two or more constituents." (reference link)


Who knew that glue would have a long, documented history? A birch bark and tar adhesive was found in Italy dating back to around 200,000 BC. It was used to adhere stone flakes to a wood shaft to create a spear. Similar finds dating back to 70,000 BC in South Africa used plant gun and red ochre earth.

So, what other things have been used as glue throughout history?

In France, there is proof the Neanderthal used glue in their paint so that the cave paintings were protected somewhat from moisture. Animal glues from things like horse teeth can be dated back 6000 years. Tars, tree sap, and gum have been used separately or combined with other products. The Egyptians used various types of glue for furniture production with inlayed decorations. Their papyrus also contained glue. Even egg whites were used to attach gold leaf to parchment in medieval Europe. Ancient mosaics on floors and walls throughout Europe have held up over the centuries because of their knowledge of adhesives.

For centuries, people had their own special recipes for making the glue for a variety of uses. However, Holland had the first commercial glue factory in the early 1700s. England, with its fishing industries, made glue from fish parts in the middle 1700s. The United States entered the glue market with the U.S. Glue factory in 1899. This factory was established by the Milwaukee tanning industry, recycling scraps of animal hides.

According to statistics, each of us uses an average of 40 pounds of glue or adhesives per year. Let’s look at some of the most popular ones.

White glue (Elmer’s) is made of polyvinyl acetate, PVA. PVA is a vinyl but not the same as vinyl siding, LP records or PVC pipe (white plumbing pipe.)

Adhesives on envelopes is made from the sap of acacia trees called gum Arabic. These trees grow in India and Africa. This substance is in many snacks like gumdrops, marshmallows and even M&Ms. This is a very versatile product which also has non-edible adhesive uses in shoe polish and some watercolour paints according to Rik Sargent, of the Science Museum. (reference link)

Jane Ormrod of the Royal Mail in London wrote a bit more about envelope adhesive: "The gum on British stamps is composed of polyvinyl alcohol and dextrin. The dextrin is derived from starch (e.g. potato) and the vinyl alcohol is a synthetic derived from petroleum. The gum used on ready-stamped stationery items is a blend of polyvinyl acetate and dextrin with the exception of aerogrammes, where the gum is a blend of polyvinyl acetate and polyvinyl alcohol. Slimmers (dieters) may be interested to know that a single standard postage stamp contains 5.9 calories and Special or Commemorative stamps 14.5 calories. To avoid offending any religious groups or vegetarians, no animal products are involved." (reference link)

There are many brand names for super glue. This is a chemical compound called cyanoacrylate. The form we are most familiar with is a great glue for repairing broken toys, ceramics, and other important objects. If the type of alcohol in the formula is changed to butyl or octyl, it creates a chemical compound that can be used in place of stitches for humans and pets. That comes to no surprise to those of us who have glued our fingers together by mistake. The Super Glue company has a great article on how to remove superglue from your fingers (acetone) and other areas of your body where using acetone is not recommended, like your lips. (reference link)

Another product most of us use is hot glue called hot melt adhesive (HMA). This product is useful when heated with a hot glue gun. The glue is warm to hot when ready to use yet hardens within a minute when applied. A similar product is the hot-fix embellishments that are backed with heat activated glue. The glue is heated using a special tool.

Glues and Adhesives for Needleworkers

Miracle Muck

This is a tough, permanently flexible polymer film. It dries clear, is non-yellowing and water soluble. Janice Love recommends this product for attaching needlework to glass, such as night light covers or glass ornaments. For best performance and longest shelf life store Muck in area with temperature between 50-75 degrees. Miracle Muck will spoil if it is allowed to freeze.

Roxanne Glue – Baste It

This glue is 100% water soluble, pH neutral, dries clear and flexible. Instead of pinning or basting your edges, apply tiny glue droplets with the applicator tip. The Glue becomes tacky immediately and dries in 3 to 5 minutes. The glue will hold until washed out with soapy water. You can even iron it. This glue is great for temporarily placing appliqué pieces. It is made in the USA. View a video on how to use it.

Punchneedle Fabric Glue

This is a permanent, washable adhesive that works perfectly for punch needle embroidery, securing stitches on the back of the fabric designs especially if the threads are going to be cut or brushed. It dries clear and flexible plus it is machine washable and dryable.

Stitchery Tape, 0.5" x 60 yards

Stitchery tape is a contact adhesive and is great for framing your needlework. This is the ultimate double-sided tape, perfect for mounting needlework to mat board, foam board or stretcher bars. This acid- and solvent-free archival quality tape is coated on two sides and will adhere to fabrics as delicate as silk, linen, or velvet without adhesive bleeding through and damaging the fabric. Repositioning is possible for up to 48 hours. This tape is also ideal for other crafts including scrapbooking and card making. Also available in 1.5" x 30 feet.

Another set of products that are quite popular with needle workers are those that stop fraying.

Fray Stop

Stop cross-stitch fabric from fraying safely with this nontoxic, nonflammable product. To use, first shake the bottle well. Then apply a small amount on the edge of the fabric and let dry. It dries soft, clear and pliable. It does not say whether it is washable or not. That may be why it clearly states "cross-stitch fabric" on the label. This comes in a 1 oz. squeeze bottle.

Fray Block

The packaging says that this product prevents fraying on fabric and ribbon. It dries quick, clear, soft and flexible. It is washable and dry cleanable, so it can be used on more than just your cross stitch fabric. To use this product you run the tube under hot tap water for 3 minutes and then shake it for 30 seconds. Poke a tiny hole at the end of the tube and screw the applicator cap back on the tube. Place your fabric on a thick paper or cardboard so it doesn’t leak through to the surface of the table. Apply the glue with the tip of the tube against the fabric. Experiment on a scrap first to get your squeeze pressure figured out, because it comes out faster than you think. You should pre-test your fabric if it is in an area that discoloration might show. This product is flammable so don’t use near heat or flame. This product is Made in the USA and comes in a 1.5 ounce tube.

Fray Check

According to the Fray Check label, it prevents fabrics from fraying and secures thread ends. It is washable and dry cleanable. Fray Check will not discolour or stain most fabrics. Always test on an inconspicuous seam to be sure. To use, place a piece of cardboard between area being treated and other fabric layers. Unscrew the blue cap and puncture tip with fine pin. Gently squeeze the bottle to apply a very small amount of Fray Check. Allow to dry for 15-30 minutes. This product is flammable both as a liquid and as a vapor so do not use near heat or flame or where there might be a chance for sparks. It is made in the USA and comes in a .75 fluid ounce squeeze bottle.

The manufacturer calls this next product glue-less, but it does some similar stuff, so it is included here.

Hugo’s Amazing Tape

From the label, use Hugo’s Amazing Tape anywhere you would use rubber bands, tape, or duct tape. This super strong, reusable clear tape is glue-less, just overlap the ends to secure it. Keep thread spools from unwinding, hold projects while glue dries, and stop a ruler from sliding while cutting. It’s not just for crafters! Works for gardening ties, sealing freezer packages, and securing hot dish lids during travel. Each roll is 1″ wide by 50 feet. For best sealing, the key is to have enough length to create a couple inches of overlap.

Perhaps this article will keep you out of (or in) some "sticky" situations!

We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

For those interested in using this article or others published by Nordic Needle, Inc., please use this copy when referencing the information:

“The following article was published by Nordic Needle in their weekly e-mail newsletter. Permission was granted to share this article in (name of your publication). For information on subscribing to their newsletter, visit”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.