Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Mo… Choosing a Needle

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Selecting the proper needle for working a needlework project is almost as important as fabric and thread selection.  Needle choices at your local needlework store can be, well…. daunting.

Different needles are available for different tasks – here’s some info that will help you choose the perfect needle for your next project.

Needle Sizing: The diameter of the needle you select should always be similar in width to the thread you will be using. For example, if the needle is too narrow, the thread will not pass easily through the needlework fabric, which damages the thread.  This is often the cause of fraying and the dreaded fuzzies.

Needles that are too thick will leave a hole around your finished stitch – which may never go away.

Needle Tips and Points: The tip or point of the needle you select is based on the type of fabric you will be stitching through. For tightly woven fabrics such as linen and even-weave fabrics, a sharp point is necessary to pierce the fabric as you stitch.

For Aida or other fabrics where the holes are visible, a blunt tipped needle is used to prevent the tip of the needle from penetrating the fabric where it shouldn’t.

Needle Eyes: The size of the eye of the needle varies in size according to the type of thread used (thick or thin), or in the case of stranded embroidery floss, how many strands are used in the needle while stitching.

Tapestry Needles:

These needles have a blunt, rounded point as this type of needle is used on fabrics such as Aida when working cross stitch, or on needlepoint canvas.

A size 16 Tapestry Needle is perfect when using DMC Tapestry Wool, while size 28 works well with #12 Pearl Cotton.

When using 1-2 strands of embroidery floss or #8 Pearl Cotton use size 26,  with all 6 strands of embroidery floss or #5 Pearl Cotton use size 22, with #3 Pearl Cotton use a size 20, and with 3-4 strands of embroidery floss use a size 24.

Tapestry needles can also be used to assemble knitting and crochet projects.

Embroidery Needles:

Also known as Sharps, these needles have sharp tips that pierce the fabric as you stitch, and larger eyes for accommodating floss and embroidery thread.

Embroidery needles can be used for surface embroidery, smocking, cutwork and crazy quilt embroidery.

When using 1-2 strands of embroidery floss use a size 26, with 3-4 strands of embroidery floss use a size 24 and with 5-6 strands of embroidery floss use a size 22.  For #5 Pearl Cotton use a size 20, for #8 use size 22 and for #12 use size 10.

Chenille Needles:

These needles are similar to an embroidery needle, but are available in the higher size ranges.

The needles are also slightly shorter in length with wider, longer eyes.

A chenille needled is ideal for working with wool threads, such as for crewel embroidery, or for projects using chunkier threads.

Use a size 20 Chenille needle when using #3 Pearl Cotton, or a size 18 when using Tapestry Wool.

Darning Needles:

These needles are longer and more slender than all other types of needles and have a small eye.

Running and darning stitch projects commonly use this type of needle, as the longer needle length is helpful for this type of embroidery.

This is especially true with Swedish Weaving or decorative darning, when you may have several running stitches on the needles at any given time.

Use a size 5 with #5 Pearl Cotton or size 16 with Tapestry Wool.

Quilting Needles:

Also known as Betweens, these are narrow, sharp needles with a small eye that are slightly stubbier (shorter) than other types of sharp needles.

The needles are small enough to give a sense of control when taking multiple stitches while quilting, and are ideal for hand quilting and hand appliqué.

If you are using these needles for embroidery, use a size 10 can accommodate 1-2 strands of floss.

Beading Needles:

Very skinny needles with tiny eyes, so that the needle can pass through the small opening in beads.

Note: At one time DMC had a handy Needle Selection Guide available on our web site – this handy reference is currently being revamped!



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Categories: Cross Stitch, Embroidery, Helpful Hints, Thread Crafts Tags: , , , ,

4 Responses to “Eeny-Meeny-Miney-Mo… Choosing a NeedleComment RSS feed

  • Marilyn R
    February 22nd, 2011 5:34 pm

    Thank you! Sometimes it can be confusing as to which needle to use. This is very helpful on what type of needles to use.

  • Irene M.
    February 22nd, 2011 5:54 pm

    I was anxious to read on about needle size and how it affects the floss (fraying and fuzzies). My husband was having trouble with his floss splitting and fraying. I always use #26 and that’s what I gave him. But I see you recommend 26 for 2 strands. So it must be the floss from the kit. I was able to match one color with DMC and he hasn’t had any trouble since. Still, it’s good to know about all the different needles.

  • Maria Callaghan
    October 2nd, 2011 10:05 am

    I am working on a kit that requires 2 strands of embroidery floss for the pattern. I would like to replace the embroidery floss with perle cotton or another type of yarn that does not need to be split. Can you suggest what size perle cotton I should use or another type of thread?

    • admin
      October 3rd, 2011 9:59 am
      Author's Reply

      Depending on the desired thickness, you could use a size 5 or s size 12 pearl cotton. I love cross stitching with pearl!

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