With hand embroidery and hand sewing, you are spoiled for choices – so many types of embroidery techniques, embroidery threads, embroidery fabric hand sewing methods, and embroidery needles. And they are selected based on type of fabric, thread used (e.g., ribbon, wool yarn, floss), and the type of embroidery work (e.g., cross-stitch, ribbon embroidery, appliqué).. Enough to confuse anyone.
And here is a lowdown on hand sewing needles and embroidery needles, too.
Needles always have numbers designated to them. A low number indicates a large needle (longer and thicker); Bigger the number finer (and most often smaller) the needle.
Whatever you choose from the list below to start your embroidery project, remember that the one you choose should have an eye which is 40% bigger than the thread diameter, otherwise your thread will start to break.
In this article I will cover:
- Different Types of needles
- 1. Sharps
- 2. Embroidery/Crewel needles
- 3.Tapestry needles
- 4. Beading needles
- 5. Chenille needles
- 6. Darning needles
- 7. Quilting needles
- 8. Felting needles
- 9. Canvas needles
- 10. Bodkins
- 11. Curved needles
- 12. Leather needles
- 13. Milliners needles
- 14. Betweens needles
- 15. Flat needles
- 16. Self Threading needle
- 17. Tambour needle
Different Types of needles
These are general all-purpose needles used for hand sewing. They have a Round eye with a medium length.
Uses of Sharp needles : You will be using these needles in your dressmaking, to make bullion knots or french knots in counted work, smocking. Applique is another use. They can be used for making small, precise stitches, so sharps are great for counted thread work like cross-stitch too.
2. Embroidery/Crewel needles
They have long narrow eyes with a very sharp point. They are of medium length. This is usually what we use as normal embroidery needles. They come in sizes 1- 10.
Needles with the number 6- 8 are the most commonly used needles. For lightweight fabric with two strands of thread number 7 needle is used.
Uses of crewel needles : This is best for crewel embroidery, which involves embroidering using wool threads. Crewel needles are often used for long and short stitch embroidery, also called thread painting.
These needles have a blunt point and a large eye (Oval eye) – an elongated eye for easy threading, and a blunt point glide smoothly through the holes in your fabric, without splitting the threads. Sizes range from 13-28.
It is especially used for needlepoint, counted cross-stitch and counted thread embroidery. This is the best needle to use for counted cross stitch on aida fabric.
Tapestry needles have different sizes. Smaller the number the larger the needle size.
Uses of tapestry needles : A number 24 needle is generally used for cross stitch embroidery. A simple guideline is to use a Size 24 tapestry needle for 11 -14 count fabrics; Size 24 or 26 tapestry needle for 18 count fabrics; Size 26 or 28 tapestry needle for 22 count and higher count fabrics. If bigger needles are used for finer fabrics the holes will be big and make your embroidery look bad.
This is also used for needle point embroidery, canvas work, and for stitching on plastic canvas.
4. Beading needles
These are the needles used to string beads in bead embroidery. The small beads need a needle with a very small eye, so normal needles are usually out of question. Usually beading needles are very thin and long with tiny eye otherwise small beads would not pass through. You need long needles to string many beads.
Related post – Mastering Beadwork Stitches
Sequins are also attached using these needles. Check out the post on 10 different ways to sew sequins
5. Chenille needles
This needle have large eyes and very sharp points. The eyes are large enough to accommodate ribbon and other thick yarn. Sizes 13-24 are generally used
Size 20 -22 needles are used for 4-9 mm silk ribbons. You have to ensure that the ribbon is not being crushed when passing through the eye of the needle.
Uses of Chenille needle: Chenille needles are primarily used for chenille embroidery, a technique that creates a textured, tufted, and velvety appearance on fabric. It is also used for ribbon embroidery. You can also work with testured yarn with this needle.
6. Darning needles
These needles have very large eye and are suitable for threading bulky yarn and wide ribbons. The tip of the needle is slightly curved, making it easier to pick up stitches. These long sturdy needles have very sharp points .
Uses of darning needle: These needles are suited for darning and doll making.
7. Quilting needles
These needles have long shanks and can easily penetrate through your quilt layers.They are quite short with small, round eyes. They make even small stitches needed for quilting and hemming.
8. Felting needles
These are L shaped sharp needles meant for repeatedly jabbing on felt wool
9. Canvas needles
These thick blunt needles are suited for use on plastic canvas. You can use these needles to join knitted fabric pieces as well
These are long thick and blunt needle (some times with sharp point)with a large eye. They are used for threading elastic, ribbons, and cords through casings. Here is a post explaining more about Bodkins.
11. Curved needles
These needles are also called upholstery needles. This curved needles are used to repair and mend usually upholstery weight fabric and gives almost invisible blind stitches. It is also helpful in reaching for seam which is impossible to reach with normal needles – for eg making the curved wraparound sleeve for a cup.
12. Leather needles
These are needles (Glovers) with a sharp tip shaped like a triangle for cutting into thick leather.
Leather needles with longer triangular point at the end are called sail makers needles. These needles are ideal for thicker leather. Checkout this post on the list of leather sewing tools and supplies and tips on hand sewing leather.
13. Milliners needles
These are long sharp needles traditionally used in millinery trade. Nowadays they are used for making decorative stitches. This is the best needle to make long bullion knots which are used as embroidery stitches for flowers.
Uses of Milliner needles: The name “milliner needles” originates from their traditional use in hat making (millinery). Milliner needles are essential for stitching, pleating, and attaching decorative elements to hats, bonnets, and fascinators. They can also be used in various fabric manipulation techniques, such as smocking, shirring, and pleating.
14. Betweens needles
These are needles used for hand quilting, and fine needlework such as shadow work embroidery. They have sharp points, Round eye and a short length.
15. Flat needles
These are used to embroider with plate metallic embroidery thread.
16. Self Threading needle
These are needles with a special groove in the eye, so that you can easily thread the needle . No more need of squinting or using any of the tricks for threading the hand needles
17. Tambour needle
This is a specialized needle primarily used in tambour embroidery. This needle has a tiny, hook-shaped tip that is used to create a chain stitch on fabric.
Uses of Tambour needle: This needle can be used to attach beads and do embroidery very fast on any fabric which is stretched on an embroidery hoop.
What are the basic considerations when selecting the right needle for your embroidery project.
- Fabric : Sharp or crewel hand sewing needles work well on tightly woven fabrics such as silk, lightweight cotton, and satin. Tapestry hand sewing needles are used for needlepoint and counted cross-stitch on canvas fabrics or aida. Delicate fabrics like tulle, chiffon, or silk may benefit from very fine hand sewing needles to avoid snags or visible punctures.
- Thread used ( ribbon, wool yarn, floss etc) : Chenille needles are used to work with textured yarn and with ribbons. Felting needles have barbs that tangle and interlock fibers to create felted designs.
- Type of embroidery work – Long and thin Milliner needles are the best needles for making bullion knots.
Whatever embroidery you are doing like cross stich or ribbon embroidery or applique work if you use the right needle, you will enjoy the work a little bit more. Just imagine the frustration when you discover your needle refusing to pass through the thick fabric you have chosen to do the embroidery on or the seed bead getting stuck on your too-thick-for-it needle.
You can make a cute little needle book to keep all the needles safe from rusting inside a too crowded box. Here is the tutorial to make this easy-to-make needle book.
Checkout all the different types of hand embroidery threads you can use on your needles.
Related posts : How to make knots when sewing by hand to secure the thread.