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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Which Needle?


Amazon Books

When you’re getting ready to launch into a hand embroidery project, do you struggle with the question of which needle to use with which thread? This is one of those “frequently asked questions” that arrive in the inbox every few days, so I know it’s a prevalent question among many stitchers!

Well, the folks in the Valley Quail EGA chapter out in California came up with a solution that can help you answer all your questions about which needle to use! Since 1996, they have been selling as a chapter fundraiser a little fat book called The Needle Index.

The Needle Index

This is no fancy-schmancy book! It is straightforward and totally utilitarian. It solves the riddle of Which Needle!

So, what is The Needle Index? It’s a comb-bound chunky little book made out of cardstock, and on the outside, it seems wonderfully unpretentious. It’s not until you open it that you see the cleverness of the whole book. Turn the first page back and suddenly, this simple, light volume that you may have been tempted to overlook or dismiss becomes one of the most useful resources in your needlework arsenal.

The Needle Index

This is an ingenious little book. On one side of the page layout, you’ll find, in bold, the name of the needle. Underneath that, you’ll find a thorough description of the needle and its uses. Then, you’ll find a sizing chart. You can lay a needle on it and figure out what size needle you have. That’s good, right?!

But wait. There’s more!

The Needle Index

See what’s on the opposite side of the layout? That is a piece of wool felt, in which you can store your needles according to type. A great idea, right?

But wait! There’s more!

The Needle Index

Lift up the felt. Underneath it, you’ll find a chart. The sizes the needle comes in are arranged across the top row. Underneath that is a list of threads and numbers of strands of threads. Glance at the chart, and you know what size of that particular needle to use with your thread! So, you’re stitching with three strands of DMC cotton? And you’re going to use a crewel needle? Well, according to the chart, a size 7 will do you! But you don’t know if this particular needle is a size 7? Lay it on the needle sizing chart – and there ya go!

Now, if that’s not the handiest and cleverest little volume I’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is!

The Needle Index

You can see that it’s a thick little volume, but very light and very transportable. It’s user-friendly, straightforward, simple… and affordable.

Update 2021: I don’t know if the Quail Valley Chapter still sells these directly, but you can find them here at Needle in a Haystack, if you scroll to the end of the page.

If you’ve ever boggled over which needle, won’t it be nice to have the answer at your fingertips?


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(32) Comments

  1. Hi Mary,

    I have one of these little gems. It is quite useful. We will NEVER have all of this needle knowledge memorized in our heads. And I am one of “those people” who is forever trying to use a needle that is too small for the thread I’m using. I MusT use this book more….

  2. Dear Mary,

    I sent for this little book from the California chapter about 5 months ago (I think someone mentioned it in some blog) and I am very happy with it. It is very handy for those of us who need the reference.
    I’m still trying to get more needles to fill it up as much as I can!
    Thank you for writing about it. It is helpful to know I made the right purchase.
    Your site has to be the best of the best for embroidery information, advice, and resources!
    Doris HH

  3. This little needlebook sits right beside my embroidery workspace and I couldn’t be without it. It helped me immensely when I first started embroidering, and I love having all of my needles handily arranged. Couldn’t agree more with the kudos about this little book!
    -Sharon in France

  4. This sounds like a really handy book! I have this bad habit of always using my favorite tiny needles, regadless of thread-as long as I can fit it through that tiny eye, I’ll use it! But I really should be using bigger needles sometimes. Does the EGA only ship within the USA, or also international?

  5. This looks brilliant, thank you!! I’ll be ordering one directly.

    Your generosity with information and inspiration is very much appreciated. I ADORE your video tutorials – french knots were a mystery until that vid, lol 🙂

  6. I rushed right over to see if they would be willing to send a copy to Canada. This looks like a perfect resource to sort out my needles. Thanks for the info Mary!

  7. I just bought one of these about a month ago and think it will be very useful. It looks to be very well organised and laid out.

    I obtained mine during a visit to the Bay Area at Needle in a Haystack.

  8. Wow! Thanks for the shout out Mary!

    I’m a member of the Valley Quail chapter. In fact, I went to a work party a few months ago. I can assure you that all those books are put together with a lot of love and care and a whole lot of laughing, so we include some smiles along with all that felt.

    Despite helping to put them together, I too bought mine at A Needle In a Haystack. 😉

    As a new stitcher, I have to tell you I wouldn’t know my crewel from my tapestry needle, and I love this book. But I’m biased.

    Happy stitching and thanks for the lovely recommendation. It was such a fun surprise to see your topic tonight.

  9. Huh. I’ve seen this at my LNS, picked it up and put it down several times. I didn’t realize that the needle pictures were real-life sizes. Perhaps next time it will stay picked up.

  10. Mary, I could just kiss you straight on the mouth! I rushed over to the website to try to order and then sent an email for information. I’m going to get two, one for myself and the other for myself!
    Thank you so much,

  11. I LOVE mine! I happened across it in a quilting store on the big Island of Hawaii and snapped it up. It was only later that I realized that it comes from an EGA chapter right across the bay from me! I love the sizing charts not only for sizing needles, but also for identification. It was this book that made me realize I’d been doing embroidery mostly with darning needles!

  12. I am trying to locate a Needle Index book…it is just what I want but I went to the embroidery guild site mentioned on your website and I can’t find one (oh sad I am)! I’ve been looking and looking but….

    Any suggestions?


  13. I am interested in purchasing some(maybe 4) of the Needle Index booklets….Our friend had one yesterday at a sew in and we think it is just great….

    1. Hi, Linda – your best bet is to contact the EGA to get in touch with the Valley Quail chapter. I don’t know if they are still making them or not. But definitely worth contacting the EGA to find out! -MC

  14. HELP! I would love to get one of The Needle Index books mentioned in your article “Which Needle” in 2011. I have so many needles but I don’t always know their size. This book is the answer. I’ve joined as the guild as a member at large, but cannot figure out how to get in touch with the Valley Quail Chapter. Or, if there is another index out there, the name of it and how to purchase. Thanks for your help.

  15. I am trying to find someone who sells the “Needle Index” Can’t seemto get in touch with Valley Quail to buy one P;ease help

    1. The EGA wasn’t able to help. I purchased the Needle Index from Traditional Stitches in June 2012 and it is one of the best purchases I have made. Although shipping to the UK was about half the cost, it was still worth it. Luckily I wasn’t charged customs. I found another source in Australia but I can’t lay hands on it at the moment.

  16. Hi, I am trying to order the Needle Index Books for a fundraiser for our Brandywine Chapter, don”t seem to be able to do that by using quail valley chapter site, could you help me? Is there a person I can phone?

  17. I’d lone to order theNeedle Index, but I can’t figure out how to do it. Could you get back to me? I’d really appreciate it. Thanks. I won’t be in tomorrow morning, though, everyone’s favorite GYN annual! Any other time.
    I’m ESTime.

    1. Hi, there – there’s a link to the page it’s on at Needle in a Haystack in the article above. You’ll have to scroll down the page to see the listing. Hope that helps!

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