Embroidery Needles 101
The Basics About Needles
Selecting the correct embroidery needle can make or break your project...not to mention your patience. Needles come in a variety of sizes and types. I'll review the two basic types of needles that I use but know that there are plenty of specialty needles out there to explore as you become more advanced. I recommend that you consider purchasing a variety pack so that you can experiment to see what feels best in your hands and flows most easily with the fabric and thread that you select for your awesome project.
Also known as "embroidery needles", these are the most basic and you should keep plenty of these on hand. They come in a variety of sizes, running from 1-12. I know it is tricky but remember that the SMALLER the number, the BIGGER the needle is. Size 5 is a very standard size for beginner stitchers to use on cotton fabric. A size 12 is super tiny and you may curse a bit while trying to thread it!
These have a sharp point that pierces fabric easily. The eyes are longer and since the sizes vary, you can use various thread weights.
Plan to keep a pincushion full of tapestry needles on hand because as your skills develop, you may want to experiment with some new stitches. Tapestry needles are great for stumpwork and needle weaving.
Tapestry needles have a blunted point (try to touch it...it doesn't hurt) and a large eye that makes it easy to thread. I typically use thick thread (up to 6 strands) when using these needles.
The primary purpose of these needles are for weaving thread above the fabric and they typically do not pass through the fabric. Because these are thicker needles, they will leave a whole behind on the fabric if used for stab stitches.
HOW TO KNOW IF YOU ARE USING THE WRONG NEEDLE
If you are starting to curse, tug, yank or lose your patience when pulling the needle and thread through the fabric, you are likely using the wrong needle size for that particular weave of fabric or weight of thread and should consider using a smaller needle.
Another indicator of using a needle that is too big is if you hear a significant "pop" when the needle is passing through the fabric. You will know the pop because it is often accompanied with a curse word.
If you find that the needle is slipping out of your hand, you are dropping it often or struggling to thread it, your needle may be too small for your project.
Have any tips, tricks or questions about needles? Feel free to comment below!