Friday, September 4, 2020

All About Hand Sewing Needles - Off the Wall Friday

 Ever since I was 7 and I got my first hand sewing kit from my Aunt Bert, I've always loved the way the needle felt going through fabric,  Plus they are so fine but strong and lethal.  I'm sure there is a good essay in there on how historically women have mastered a tool like the needle .... refined, graceful yet can draw blood....So let's talk Hand Sewing Needles!

Have you ever gone to buy needles and are faced with a plethora of choices?  So many sizes, names, companies....What's a girl to choose?  

Okay let's talk basics!   You want to choose a needle that fits the job AND the size of the thread you are going to use.  So needles are broken down into categories and number sizes.  The  BIGGER the number, the SMALLER the size of the needle (and the needle eye).  Normally you can buy packets in categories that either have an assortment of sizes or all the same size.

Although there are A LOT of categories - here are a few common ones that a textile artist should use sooner or later....


All-purpose needles with nice sharp fine tips and one of the thinnest needles.  Normal sized 1-12.  Good for all general sewing except on maybe thin or delicate fabric.


Short length needles make it easier to take small precise even stitches for traditional hand quilting.  Sized - 1-12


Longer and thinner than sharps, these are used for decorative stitches, pleating.  Also a lot of English

Paper piecing and applique work since the tips are super sharp and super fine.  Sized 1-11


Blunt thicker needles with wide eyes that will accommodate yarns or embroidery floss.  These needles will work nicely on any kind of lose weave fabric.  Sized 13-26


These are the sharper cousin to the tapestry needle. So these will also work with yarns and floss but sharp point will make it easier to get through tighter courser fabric.  Quilters are now using these for big stitch quilting.  Sized 13-24


Very similar to sharps, these have a larger eye so they can be used in embroidery and needle craft. Sized 1-12


Very long, fine needles with long eyes for...wait for it ...beading.  Sizing of these can be very important so that they will fit the specific beading or embellishments you are working with.  Size 10-15

And THAT's just a few !!!

You can see how picking the right needle for the job you're doing can get confusing!!!  Not to mention, not all needles are created equal AND the availability can get tricky too!!  Like anything, your choice in needle is very personal but since this is my blog I thought I would share what  I use.

For Applique, EPP, and binding quilts ... I use Richard Hemming & Son  large eye Sharps 10 .  I love, love these needles.  I always try other brands and other kinds and I keep switching back to these. Yes, I've tried Milliners which I do love for how sharp and fine their points are but my fingers can't get used to how long they are!!

For Traditional Quilting  - I have a box of Clover Size 12  - that I am working my way through (for the last 25 yrs) I can't honestly say what their quality is now since I bought the box of packets so long ago, but after trying many other hand quilting needles, I keep going back to my Clovers.

For Cross Stitch ... I use John James 26 ... I don't  do any cross stitching any more but I did do a TON at one time so you never saw me without size 26's!

Normally, I pick up needles from a vendor at my favorite quilting conference.  I can't get them locally and I won't even talk about needles I see in the stores here.  But this year, with COVID, pushing it ways into every aspect of our lives (even hand sewing needles), I had to come up with a new plan.  I found that The Colonial Needle Company had an excellent website.  It just so happens that AQS has a cool deal of 25% off of $25 with the code AQS2525 (I just ordered from them recently and was very happy with the transaction).  As always, I am not affiliated with them in any way (nor will I EVER monetize this blog).  Once I started looking, there are nice web pages out there for John James and others.  

Okay, I'm sure this is WAY more than you need to know about needles but it basically comes down to this - 

  1.   Think of the job you're doing
  2.   Think of the thread you're using 
  3.   Think of the fabric you're going through
I highly suggest you find your favorite all around needles and keep a half dozen packets of them.  They aren't expensive and you can grab a new needle as soon as yours becomes blunt or bent (or lost in the couch!) Also, I suggest having assorted packs in other types of needles that you use occasionally so when can use the right needle for the right job.  Nothing is worse than trying to play the struggle monkey with the wrong needle!!

Thanks for sharing our guilty pleasures last week - they made me smile a TON!!  

 sOOOOOO.....what needles do you use?  Where do you buy them?

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Chris said...

I love milliner's or straw needles. I usually use a #10 for hand applique and pretty much everything else I stitch by hand. With my arthritic fingers, I find I can push the needle through then pull it the rest of the way without having to use a thimble. I have dozens of packets here. They were so hard to find when I started using them so I bought what I could find. Not too many shops carry them so I have ordered them online. I prefer Bohin because they are a bit easier to thread. And, did you know that the eye of the needle has a front side and a backside? Ask me how I know. I either thread it first try or not at all. I cut the thread on an angle to make a sharper point then I wet it and flatten before threading. Sometimes I have to recut the end several times until I find the front side of the eye.

Norma Schlager said...

Very good post about needles, so important to our work. I am a big fan of Gold Eye needles. When I was a hand quilter, many, many moons ago, I used a Between size 10 or 11 and never had any trouble threading it. I no longer hand quilt, but I do some hand embroidery and I much prefer the Gold Eye Embroidery needles, so much easier to thread than others and nice and sharp to thread the fabric. When I did hand applique I liked a size 11 Applique, again Gold Eye.
As for straight pins, I love the Bohin super-fine pins from France. They are so fine that I sometimes pick up two by mistake and put them right thru the fabric without realizing it. They are a little pricey, but well worth it to me. They also make a very nice seam ripper. I discovered them at their booth in Houston several years ago and never looked back.