How to select the right needle
for your project.
An item to claim attention of any embroiderer is the matter of needles,
and be sure this is a very important item in the embroiderer's outfit,
as upon the use of proper needles depends much of the beauty of the
work. Frequently, too little thought is given such a small object, but
with embroidery, it is often the small things that count. Proper
selection of this item will, without a doubt, increase the speed of the
embroiderer as the silk, floss or wool will not become tangled or
snagged in the eye. Proper selection also will retain the beauty of the
foundation cloth by making the correct size hole needed for the
embroidery material, whether silk, floss, wool or anything else an
imaginative embroiderer might use.
For embroidery on fine material, a long, slender needle with sharp point
is better than a short, blunt one. Novice embroiders, as well as many
experienced embroiderers, find a blunt needle useful when
cross-stitching as it will not pierce the cross-stitch fabric in
inappropriate places unless undue force is used. This enables the
embroiderer to proceed quickly
with her project. No matter the project, there should be at hand a
supply of needles of various sizes, both round eyed and long eyed.
The best needle for embroidery is one which has a smooth eye that allows
the silk plenty of play, without pulling it to pieces or roughing it in
the least. A needle too coarse or too fine will be sure to prove a
source of constant annoyance. If the eye be too small, the silk cuts and
frays, because it gathers in a thick lump at the eye of the needle,
which has to be forced through the fabric to the detriment of the silk.
If the eye be too large, the work takes on the appearance of having too
few stitches, and holes mark the edges of every stitch.
Victorian ladies were given the following tips from accomplished embroiderers.
- It has been found from experience that a No. 9 or No. 10 needle is especially well adapted for general use.
- Arrasene needles are best for carrying chenille, arrasene, ribbosene, rope silk, art silk, Bargarren linen and rope linen.
- The needle for working with Bargarren linen should be two sizes larger than that for carrying rope linen
- The needle for carrying wool arrasene should have a larger eye than the one employed in carrying silk arrasene or rope silk.
- It is better to have a needle too large than too small for such threads as Bargarren arrasene and chenille.
- For embroidering with etching silk, filo
floss, wash twist, linen floss and embroidery cotton a round-eyed needle
should be used.
- A No. 9 needle is best for filo floss and linen floss.
- Nos. 9 and 10 are the proper sizes for one
thread of Filo Selle, which is to be embroidered into linen lawn, grass
linen or bolting cloth.
- For ready stamped linens, use a No. 8 or No. 9 needle.
- On heavier linens, use a No. 8.
- "Caspian" Floss and Outline Silk require a No. 8 needle
- Butchers' linens or fabrics mounted over linen, requires the use of a No. 7.
- No. 7 is the size for heavier work in two threads of Filo Selle.
- "Roman" Floss requires a No. 4 needle.
- Rope Silk takes a No. 4 needle.
- In Mountmellick Embroidery, one should use the
coarser sizes. A No. 7 is required for Mountmellick Silk size FF; No. 6
for size F; No. 5 for size G; and No. 4 for size H.
- In shading, where a number of colors have to
be used alternately, an experienced embroiderer will not confine herself
to one needle which has to be threaded and re-threaded with the
different colors, at a considerable loss of time, but she will have a
needle for each color and use them in succession, as each color is
required in her work.
- In working upon certain materials, it may be advisable to select some sizes different from those mentioned above.
Victorian ladies could, as ladies can today, purchase packages
containing assorted sizes. One could order the sizes shown in the
picture, as well as size 5/10 which means that there were 25 needles in a
paper of assorted sizes ranging from sizes 5 to 10 inclusive. Also
available were 3/9 size, meaning the paper contained sizes 3 to 9
Easy Steps for Choosing the Correct Needles
For Today's Needlework.
- Determine what fabric you wish to work on. If the
weave is tight, such as with cotton or synthetic blends, a sharp needle
will be required. If working on an loose weave such as canvas used for
cross-stitch or needlepoint or linen, you may choose to work with a
- As you will want to use the smallest eye possible for your project, the next
step would be to decide what medium you will be using to put a design
on your fabric. Pick a needle with an eye that will easily hold the
medium without roughing or snagging it and allows it to flow easily
through the fabric. Usually a pattern will tell you what needle size to
use. If not, a little experimenting will be in order. Just remember, you
want to use the smallest eye possible that will accommodate your medium
comfortably and while still avoiding putting large holes in your
- Determine what your finished project is to
be. Will the finished item be thick or thin? Thicker project will
require longer needles than those of thin projects.
The following are good choices in needles for that particular work.
If you are:
- attaching beads to fabrics or other needlework, use a beading needle
- threading ribbon, drawstrings or elastic
through fabric or other needlework casings, a bodkin is useful. Bodkins
are available in flat and round form. A bodkin makes quick work of
threading something through a casing and is much easier to use than a
- working on a crewel embroidery project, crewel or embroidery needles are the preferred needles
- darning or mending wool, you will need darners, long, short or both
- embroidering or using a stamped cross stitch
item, embroidery needles will prove invaluable. Embroidery needles have a
longer eye which makes threading stranded cotton through much easier.
The longer eye is the only difference between them and ordinary sewing
needles. Note that some manufacturers package their embroidery needles
under crewel. If the manufacturer of the needles you use does so, just
be sure to choose the correct eye size.
- working on course fabric, a Chenille needle
may be preferred. A chenille needle is identical to tapestry needle
except it has a very sharp point.
- doing leather work, Leather needles are
required. These needles have triangular point that pass through leather
and suede without marring the surface.
- wanting to make decorative stitches or
pleating, Milliners needles are the answer. These needles were
originally used in the millinery trade (hence the name). The only
difference between them and ordinary sewing needles is that millinery
needles are longer.
- quilting, use needles especially designed for
quilting. Quilting needles are shorter than ordinary needles which allow
quilters to stitch faster.
- sewing garments or doing general sewing, Sharps are the needle to use
- making a counted cross
stitch and needlepoint item, a blunt tapestry needle is required.
Tapestry needles have large eyes which allow room for tapestry wool or
six-stranded cotton. The blunt end enables the needle to be used without
damaging the canvas.
When you purchase needles, they are labeled for their intended use such
as beading or darning needles. You may find it useful to try different
needles to see if, although you might not think it is the "proper"
needle, it works well for your application. There are no hard and fast
rules for picking the correct needle. The bottom line is, whatever works
best for you is the needle for you to use. Experimentation and
experience will be your best teacher on what needle is correct.
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