There are so many and sewing needles, choosing the right one for a project can make a real difference not only in quality of finished work but also enjoyment of stitching along the way.
While there are many variable to consider, the 4 major components are:
- Needle Point
- Needle Eye
- Needle Length
- Needle Diameter
Choose the right type of needle for a project, then the select the best size for the fabric and thread.
Run thread through beeswax AFTER threading to help strengthen it, prevent thread tangles, and give thread a smoother pass through fabric.
With hand needles, the larger the number means the SMALLER the needle. This is the opposite of machine needles! So a size 12 hand needle is smaller than a size 5 hand needle.
Sharps – sizes 1 -12. General purpose, thin, medium length, round eye, very sharp point. similar to the universal machine needle.
*there are “easy threading” needles out there too!
Quilting/Betweens – sizes 1 -12. Similar to
Sharps but shorter with a smaller, rounded eye. Best for hand quilting, easily create more precise stitches, more quickly with this needle. Good for detail work, especially on heavier fabrics.
Ballpoint – sized 5-10. For knit fabrics, medium length with a rounded smooth point, protects knit fabrics by passing between the threads.
Cotton Darners – sizes 1 -9. Long needle, long eye, sharp point. For mending woven fabrics. Also comes “long”, in longer lengths.
Embroidery/Crewel needles – sizes 1 - 12. Same length and point as Sharps with an elongated eye for thicker thread.
Tapestry – sizes 13 to 28. Large blunt point, thicker needle body, very large eye. For needlepoint, loose weave fabric, hand knits.
Chenille – sizes 13 - 28. Like tapestry but with a very sharp point. For applying decorative finishing on heavier fabrics, upholstery fabric, polar fleece, ribbon embroidery.
Milliners aka “Straws" – sizes 5 - 10 ”. Similar to Sharps but extra long, small, rounded eye, very sharp point. For hats, pleating, basting, decorative work requiring long stitches.
Leather aka “Glover’s” – sizes 2 - 10. Triangular shaped head made to cut as it enters fabric. Similar to Sharps, more elongated eye. For leather, vinyl, suedes, “pleather”, and soft plastics.
Beading – sizes 10 -15. Long, very thin needle, sharp point. For bead work, sequins, pearls.
Upholstery – sizes vary. Straight or curved, thicker and longer than other needles. For upholstered furniture, mattresses, hand tying quilts, extremely thick, heavy fabrics or layers.
Doll – sizes 2" - 7". Thinner than upholstery needles with a finer, sharper point. For sculpting fabric dolls.
There are recommendations to use a new needle for every project but I never do. Some of mine came from my gran & though I never sharpen them they are still serving me well.
You know those tomato pin cushions with the strawberry attachment? That berry is filled with a fine grit called “emery” and is meant for sharpening needles & pins by ocassionally sticking them straight into the berry a couple times. It really only works on solid stainless steel though so beware of that. I’ve also read stuffing a pincushion with very fine steelwool can sharpen but I haven’t tested it.
I use a needle book for everything but another way to store and sort your needles by size and type is in a segmented, multi colored pin cushion with labeled sections.
John James has a free dowloadable PDJ chart available here.