Best hand embroidery needles

Hi Creative Mamas!

In this post I want to share with you the different types of embroidery needles so that you can decide which are the best embroidery needles for your hand embroidery projects.

Best embroidery needles

There are a few things to consider when deciding which are the best embroidery needles or which is the right needle to use.

Whether you are making an embroidery pillow, upcycling a garment through embroidery, embroidering applique, quilting or collaging you must choose the right needle for the job!

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There are 3 types of needles that are widely used in hand embroidery.

Types of embroidery needles

Please note that for regular sewing you would be normally using sharp needles (I sometimes also use sharp needles for embroidery depending on the project)

Each of these needles have a specific purpose and they all come in different sizes.

an embroidery hoop with embroidery needles and embroidery thread

The larger the number of the needle, the shorter and finer the needle is. So a size 10 crewel needle is much smaller and finer than a size 1 crewel needle.

There are many brands but I consistently use 3 brands:

Crewel needles (embroidery needles)

These have sharp points and are of a medium length. They have large eyes and they are easy to thread. These are my go to needles.

Crewel needles are the most widely used needles for hand embroidery projects. They come in needle size: 1 to 10.

They are the best needles to use in fine embroidery work and in combination with tightly woven fabrics.

Chenille needles

These needles are thicker and longer than the crewel needles. They also have sharp points and large eyes.

I like to use these needles when using thicker threads. They are my go to needles to use with naturally dyed wool and fabrics that are open weave.

You can’t use these needles with tightly woven fabrics because you can damage the fabric with the thick needle.

They come in needle size: 14 to 26.

Tapestry needles

The main feature of the tapestry needles is that they have a blunt point or blunt tip (in machine embroidery these are referred as ballpoint needles)

I love to use them to make french knots and they are the best needle to use when doing thread counting embroidery techniques and canvas work. They come in sizes 14 to 26.

Tapestry needles are great when your fabric weave is open enough that you are not relying on the needle point to pierce through it.

john james needles, bohin needles and birch needles in different sizes, chenille tapestry and crewel needles

How to choose the best needle?

The type of needle you choose will depend on your embroidery project. The best needle will be the one that is considered based on the type of fabric and the embroidery floss you are using.

Different types of fabric will require a different thread which will require a specific needle size with a specific needle eye.

For example when working on cross stitch you would choose a tapestry needle for an even weave fabric so that it slips between the threads.

For other fabrics, you may want a pointy needle with a sharp point such as crewel or chenille needle to pierce through the fabric.

Also, you will choose a needle with a bigger eye if you are working with a heavy woolen thread; and a needle with a smaller eye if you are using a thin embroidery thread.

I recommend to use an embroidery hoop or frame if you want to keep an even tension in your work.

I like to choose my hand embroidery needles based on the following variables:

a variety of different types of embroidery needles and a variety of embroidery threads and floss

Needle variables

  • tip of the needle (sharp tip, blunt tip)
  • size of the eye (larger eye or longer eye, small eye)
  • needle length (various sizes)

Other types of hand sewing needles

Threading a needle

There are three easy ways to thread an embroidery needle.

Using a needle threader

Needle threaders are little devices which has a loop of fine wire at one end.

All you need to do is to pass the loop through the eye of the needle and push the end of the thread through the loop.

At this stage you need to remove the needle threader and the wire loop will pull the embroidery thread through the eye of your needle!

Using the fold method

My mom taught me this method and it’s my favorite. All you need to do is to fold the end of your thread over the needle and pull it tight.

Remove the folded thread and thread it through the eye of the needle. The trick here is to wet the thread with a bit of saliva so that the thread remains folded nicely 🙂

Using a paper strip

If the previous 2 methods don’t work, this will!

Cut a piece of paper 5 cm /2 inches in length. The paper needs to be narrower than the needle eye.

Fold the paper in half and place the end of your thread inside. The thread will be sandwiched in between the two layers of paper.

Now pull the paper through the eye of the needle.

Threads for embroidery

There is such a variety of effects and styles in embroidery! This variety calls for a wide range of embroidery threads.

They differ in fiber composition, number of plies and strands. However, all embroidery threads are uniform throughout otherwise it gets difficult to pull them through the fabrics.

a variety of embroidery threads in different colors and types

Types of embroidery threads

Wool thread

Depending on the embroidery project you may want to consider using a thread with multiple strands or a single strand.

For heavy fabrics I like to use thick threads and for lighter fabrics I would normally go for a pearl cotton or a soft embroidery cotton.

Embroidery fabrics for an embroidery needle

There are 3 main types of embroidery fabrics:

  • Plain weave
  • Even weave (Aida fabric, Binca fabric and Hardanger fabric)
  • Surface pattern

Plain weave: These include fabrics that are tightly woven and have a smooth surface.

Even weave fabrics: These are essentially plain weave as well but the main difference is that the thread count is exactly the same for the warp and the weft.

Surface pattern: These fabrics have an even surface pattern which acts as a guide for certain type of embroidery such as cross stitch and smocking.

My top picks are the three types of needles described in this post: Tapestry/crewel and chenille needles. This needle set will allow you to create a variety of embroidery and crewel work.

My favorite needles to make french knots and bullion knots is the tapestry needle. I also like this needle for canvas work.

My prefered needle to work on aida fabric is a crewel needle.

More embroidery fun at La Creative Mama

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