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Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Gold Embroidery Needles: Are they Better?

 

Gold embroidery needles! A somewhat exciting concept, don’t you think? The richness of gold, coating the outside of the needle for a beautiful and smooth finish – to make the needle better for stitching. This is the concept, anyway, but does it hold true?

Some embroiderers have told me that they stitch exclusively with gold needles because of allergies. They find that other needles tarnish quickly in their hands, or bother their skin. In these cases, they’ve found that gold needles are a good solution for them. But if you don’t have skin allergies or reactions to regular steel needles, what is the advantage of stitching with a gold needle?

Most needles today are made out of high carbon steel that is stretched to the correct size, cut, sharpened, punched, and plated with nickel. Hence, folks with nickel allergies usually look for specialty needles that are plated with something else. That something else can be gold or platinum. Here, we’re looking specifically at gold-plated needles.

According to various descriptions of gold needles (in retail shops, manufacturers websites, etc.), gold needles are superior to other needles and are resistant to corrosion from humidy and body oils. According to one website, “gold needles cost a little more than steel but they impart a real sense of quality to your needlework.”

Available here in the US, the most common gold needles are made by DMC, which offers 18k gold plated embroidery and tapestry needles in various sizes. John James (made in England, but widely available in the US) also makes a line of gold needles, though I am uncertain of the range of gold needles they produce. I know they produce gold tapestry needles in sizes sizes 20 – 28, and petite tapestry needles in sizes 22 – 28. If you have a popular needle company in your own country and are interested in gold-plated needles, you might want to check to see if they produce any gold plated embroidery needles.

Now, about the needles specifically. Are they really “better”? Do they really “impart a sense of quality to your needlework”? (Um – logically speaking, I don’t think that claim flies, but anyway…) They cost more, certainly. For about a dollare more than a package of six John James regular tapestry needles, you can purchase three John James gold plated needles. So they cost more than twice as much as regular needles. Incidentally, John James platinum coated needles cost about $2.50 more per package, and you get… 2.

Gold Needles for Hand Embroidery

In the photo above, the needle on the left is a size 26 gold-plates tapestry needle (by John James). The needle on the right is a regular steel needle plated with nickel, John James, tapestry #26.

I started using the gold-plated needle because I was looking for a #26 needle, and I had a package of gold plated ones close at hand, so I grabbed ’em. I used this particular gold-plated needle in the photo above for several hours of stitching – probably six hours all told.

When I first started stitching with it, I did notice a different “feel” to the needle. Really! It feels different as it passes through the fabric. It is pleasantly smooth, and it almost seems “squeaky” smooth as it goes through the fabric. There’s no resistence or anything, but there is definitely a different feel to it. It glides in a squeaky clean kind of way. (How do you describe how a needle feels??!)

So, away I stitched.

Gold Needles for Hand Embroidery

I really hadn’t thought too hard about gold-plated needles before this particular incident of stitching. I have a few gold needles, but have never used them any length of time.

Gold Needles for Hand Embroidery

In the photo above, the needle on the left is the one I used for about six hours. The needle on the right is new from the package.

Gold Needles for Hand Embroidery

But, this is the thing – and I realize it may just be an individual difference in skin and body chemistry, so you can’t take this as an absolutely “objective” review of gold-plated needles. After about six hours of stitching with the gold-plated needle, it started to feel “sticky” as it passed through the fabric, rather than smooth and squeaky. I had to push it through – it had stopped gliding smoothly.

On closer inspection, the wear on the coating was obvious. On the shaft of the needle, there were darker areas of wear, and, as you can see in the photo above, the shaft is dull rather than softly shiny.

I still like the initial feel of the gold needles, and I am going to use the other two. I’ll try cleaning my hands a different way to see if that helps allay the corrosion of the gold finish.

But I have to admit, since I haven’t experienced any allergy problems with nickel, or any corrosion problems with the standard list of needles that I use – John James, Richard Hemming (not my absolute faves, but they’re ok), Bohin, and some Wendy Schoen needles – I probably won’t make a habit of paying extra for gold coating.

That being said, I really do think I need to try platinum! Just for curiosity’s sake!

What are your experiences with gold plated needles? Do you use them? Have you ever had corrosion issues? How about with regular nickel-plated needles? Any insights!

Have a terrific Friday!

 
 

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(35) Comments

  1. I've never tried gold needles, but once I bought this expensive pack of John James platinum needles. I was totally disappointed. At first, they squeaked too much, I even thought they would get stuck in the fabric. Then, they became dull and sticky and unpleasant to the touch. So I went back to nickel needles or those ones with gold-plated eye, I think they are the best.

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  2. I think a gold plated eye makes a huge difference in the way your thread passes smoothly through the eye of the needle, especially when using silks, but that's about it. My only reliable supplier of gold eye'd Crewels is Pony, they are inexpensive, but I prefer them to John James.

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  3. I've never used gold needles but I have no kind of allergic problems… may be for silks I must try a gold eye needle as Ravenrigan suggests.

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  4. http://www.crossstitchneedleshop.co.uk/p/category/0903121909-GOLD+plated+crewel+embroidery+needles/

    I am a needle-holic. Comes from having one needle as a kid learning and it became chipped and rough. NOw I hardly go to a fabric store without coming out with some kind of needle.
    I always wanted a gold needle and finally went to this site and ordered some size 7 embroidery needles from the UK. IT cost me about 10 total.
    I am in love with them. They pass thru great and I haven't had the tarnish problem at all.
    Janice Miller

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  5. Years ago I bought a platinum sewing needle and LOVED it. It was short and slim and absolutely glided through fabric! Alas, it got lost or maybe mixed into my other needles after some time.

    Recently I started having the skin on my fingers to split, exactly where I held the needle and where the thimble rests. Frankly, I would have preferred another platinum needle but was able to readily get gold instead. I thought it was rather sticky to begin with and ran it into my emory a few times to clean it up. Perhaps I have just become accustomed to it but it's working OK although I believe the gold plating is wearing off. I got a gold thimble around the same time and my fingers haven't been splitting although that may start again if the gold plate totally wears off the needle.

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  6. I have a gold plated SRE needle, and I keep it with several other regular SRE needles on one page of my needle book. At first it was easy to tell the gold one from the others, just by the color. Recently I've noticed that the color has faded and it is indistinguishable from the regular needles. It still works fine.

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  7. Wow. I didn't even know there were gold needles available! I don't think they are even sold here in Brazil. Anyway, I still have my first pack of embroidery needles, bought years ago. Only one of them got rusty, if that's what happened to it, and I'm sure that was inevitable. Our hands do sweat sometimes, right? I guess they're nickel, I'm not sure, but most certainly they're not of more noble materials. And they do the trick, anyway, so I don't think it's worthy to buy gold or platinum.

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  8. I have never tried a gold needle but read somewhere that they are better for doing knots because they slide through the wraps of thread easier. Interesting about the 'feel' of them. Do you think you could polish the needle a bit with a polishing cloth made specially for gold or silver? Would that remove the stickiness and make the needle last longer?

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  9. I have some gold-plated needles in my needlebook and that's pretty much where they stay. I've found that something — either the wear from the stitching or the oils and/or chemicals in my skin — makes them rough with use. I haven't had the same experience with platinum, but they're a bit pricey, so I usually stick with my nickel John James and Mary Ardens.

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  10. I got those gold needles from Pony; I haven't stitched a lot of hours with them, but I do love the way they feel going through the silk.

    To me, the bit about "imparting quality" isn't as much about altering the appearance of the finished piece, as it is about changing the experience of working – I love working with beautiful tools, and they impart a sense of dignity and beauty to my working – the actual time I spend making something – whether or not it shows in the finished stuff. I have a little turned wood case for needles, and a matching one that holds my scissors – they don't even touch the fabric, but I do think that using beautiful and elegant tools helps me to get my head right for the work, and that can show.

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  11. I have some gold needles that I haven't used yet. I mostly got them for the way they look. LOL! I do have some super fine needles, short that I bought at a second hand store years ago. I don't know if I even have any thread that will fit through the eye. I'd be interested in your thoughts on those. I could even send you one, if you like.
    🙂

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  12. The gold eyed needles that I've used have worn away very quickly as well.

    Oddly enough, I'm allergic to gold. I can't wear gold plated earrings for more than a few hours or it will bother the piercings quite a bit. My aunt is the same way, and my grandmother can't wear metal against her skin at all. Maybe that affects needle corrosion, I don't know.

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  13. Mary,

    Try the same test with a regular steel needle. If you take a new needle, it will probably stitch better than an old one. The nickel will probably last longer than gold, as gold is softer, but I'd bet a new needle or either kind would stitch better than an old one.

    Sally

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  14. Gold is the softest metal there is I think. I was wondering if you embroidered for 6 hours straight or 6 hours with a few breaks. I am pretty sure that the gold has worn off and it could even happen sooner to some people with warm hands. the gold coating is so thin. My grand father had several gold rings fromhis dad and grandfather and his first mariage and he had them melted down and made into another ring its gold content was more than 18k and it was really soft you could change its shape easily. I was wondering maybe if you traded back and forth as you work between a couple of needles if they would last longer as the gold could cool and become harder again. just a thought. either that or you wind up with two worn out needles at the same time lol.

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  15. I agree, the plating wears off and they feel sort of sticky even when new. I've had the best results from Piecemaker needles. I will darken needles eventually, but those not so much.

    I've always wanted to try a SOLID gold or platinum needle!

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  16. Mary,
    I've had the same experience. The gold needles (at least John James, which are the only ones I've tried) do seem to lose their finish easily and stop gliding as well. As for platinum needles, I dimly recall trying them, but they didn't seem to be any better than your standard needle. I do have a friend who has problems with nickel, though, and she swears by the platinum.

    Within the nickel needles, I find that needles from certain manufacturers are better than others. I refuse to buy DMC needles because the eyes often break on me. John James needles handle well, but the eyes are often slightly bent, pinched, or rough. As much as I don't like the political / religious overtones of the group that puts out Piecemakers needles, I can't argue that they make GREAT tapestry needles. But that's just me…

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  17. In recent years, I've started using gold needles almost exclusively, because they behave better with my skin chemistry. The corrosion you got with the gold needles is what I get with regular needles. It happens even faster when the weather's hot. So far, the gold ones haven't given me that problem.

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  18. So it isn't just me. The other day I was stitching with a gold needle (John James) and I would describe it the same way, sometimes squeeky and other times sticky. I thought whats all the fuss about? This was a 24 tapestry needle, this being said a few years back I thought I recall using a 26 tapestry petite in gold with silk on a Scarlet Letter piece and just loving it. Never did finish that nasty piece, cross stitch over 1 on 32 ct. ~ aint' no taking out mistakes. Maybe I should go back in my WIP box and see if the needle is still in with the linen.

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  19. I must admit my skin takes the gold plating off after about 1/2 hour of use, but platinum last for much longer and I prefer to use these. Incidentally when I wore a new gold plated neckchain it was black in less than an hour as well so it is not just needles! Having said all this I usually just end up using normal needles and change them very frequently.

    Jacqui

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  20. ….and I thought it was just me.
    I wish I could find the packet so I could see who manufactured mine.
    I loved them initially but after a few housrs of stitching found them to be 'sticky' and definately not going through the material smoothly. Living in the tropics normal needles tend to tarnish after a while so I end up throwing away quite a few, so I thought maybe paying more for the gold plated and getting them to last longer would be the best bet. How wrong was I. Not seen the platinum ones, though I haven't really looked.
    Jan in far north tropical queensland, australia

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  21. I use gold needles when I can. The gold-plated ones are indeed a snare and a delusion, but in England I can get gold needles which are either all gold or much better plated.
    I find them easier to work with, and they don't go depressingly rusty on me!

    Seems like it depends on body chemisty…

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  22. I haven't yet met a needle that I can use for more than one project and on larger projects often have to use two or three. Body chemistry I guess. I read the hype on gold needles and tried a pack, they lasted even less time than nickel needles. So I just wait until needles go on sale and buy them in bulk, knowing that each project will take 1-3 needles.

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  23. There is a reason that they get sticky like that. I am a jeweler and metal smith by trade, and what you are doing in the plating process is putting a VERY thin, VERY wear susceptable layer of a very soft metal over a harder interior metal. precious metal plating is not made to last when any type of wear or chemical is applied. I have seen people wear through plating on a bracelet clasp or some such piece in just one day of wearing a bracelet, just from their skin chemistry. This will happen for ANYONE, some people just take longer. the tacky feel you are getting after use is the plating starting to come off the base underlying metal, it will only get worse. the reason a nickel plating works, is because nickel, in composition is much closer to the base metal, as well as being a more durable metal on its own.

    the only way I see a gold needle working well and consistently from opening the package through last use, is if it were either a solid, 10k or better gold needle, or a 14k or above gold fill needle(which means 20% of the needles weight is gold).

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  24. Thanks, Brittany, for the insight. I had heard from a wife of a chemist via e-mail, whose husband said exactly the same thing.

    Which brings me to this point: given my propensity to lose needles, I can't imagine paying the price for 10K or gold-filled ones!!! However, I would not be adverse to having one in my "specialty" supplies – which hardly ever get used. But then again, that sort of undermines the whole purpose of a needle!

    Thanks, all, for your comments and insights on this post!

    MC

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  25. My guess, based on anecdotal stories from women about skin reactions to various metals in earrings and watches, is that there is a variety of individual skin chemistry and that has a bearing on which needle coatings work for which individuals. I have a sister-in-law who stops wrist watches! We tell her she's a real lemon. Best to all, Alice in Arkansas

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  26. I have a hard time with my needles tarnishing or the coating wearing away. I ordered a pack of the gold needles and got the same reaction.

    I may try DMC’s gold needles (on the packaging it says it is resistant to oils, humidity, etc.)…who knows…

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  27. I’ve been using one on my latest project (discovered it on a spring cleaning binge) and so far like it a great deal. Definitely smoother than I am accustomed to. I will have to check it over time for wear. I use fountain pens and gold plaited nibs are common. The plating should last many years as gold is one of most non-reactive (chemically inert) metals out there. Still, on pens excessive wiping with harsh cloth (tissue or paper towel) can wear the plating relatively quickly (weeks) if it is fairly thin. On these needles I imagine it is very thin. Conclusion, try them and see. It may be that the needle you used was im

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    1. Bah… Cell phone! Well you get the idea. Those concerned about chemicals in hands and whatnot shouldn’t be when it comes to good. Some of my pen friends put some quiet acidic inks in their pens to no ill effects. It’s about the mechanics. It would be cool but not cheap if they made needles out of iridium alloy. Lasts forever and can be polished to an amazing smoothness and is also highly inert.

  28. Me again! I have not used gold-plated needles, but I do know why the platinum coated needles are more expensive than the gold. Apparently, to get the platinum to ‘stick’, they have to coat the nickel in gold first, and then apply the coat of platinum.
    Hence the price difference, you are paying for needles with two extra layers of metal. I may try the platinum one day, but I am not convinced by the gold needles.
    Thanks again for more brilliant honest blogging!

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  29. I got a set of graduated sized tapestry needles years ago. They are certainly nice to start with, but over time, the whole coating has blistered off. The presentation box says “Kreinik Mfg. Co. of W.Va.

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  30. I would like to comment on the reaction to regular needles due to body chemistry. I encounter that problem when I’m not using platinum needles, and I just spent about 6 hours taking out a white background on a needlepoint canvas! I don’t know if the platinum wore off or if a regular steel/nickel needle got in my needle case by mistake. The reaction caused a streaked, dirty look to the fibers! I’m wondering if it might be the lotion I’ve used as I sit down to stitch. I’m just now starting to restitch the background and will not use the lotion. I’m going to keep a close eye on how it stitches up this time. This is a real problem for some stitchers that some people may not be aware of. Thanks for your explanation!

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  31. I recently bought some Clover gold eye tapestry needles. I don’t know why – I think I was just using up a gift certificate for Amazon. Anyway, I began a lovely needlepoint (canvas) kit and of course it came with a needle that I began using. After a while I realized I was struggling to pull the thread through and my hands were aching. I decided to pull out the Clover needles and switched. LALAAAAAAA (can you hear me singing?)! What a huge difference. It was gliding through the canvas with ease and my hands were happy. I’m 1/3 into this canvas and I couldn’t be happier with these needles. I will surely stash away the ones from the kits for emergencies only but I’m sold on these gold eye needles. I would never have even thought to buy them except for having read your articles about needles. Thanks Mary.

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  32. I started using gold plated needles when the plating started to chip off the steel DMC needles. This was true of both the shaft and the eye.

    I too noticed a different feel as the needle glides through the fabric. I’ve used the DMC gold needles exclusively (tapestry # 24 and #26), and I’ve never experienced the tarnishing that you mentioned.

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