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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The Broken Needle


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Yesterday in her article English Needles No Longer Made in England, Trish Burr brought up a subject near and dear to my heart: The Needle.

A Broken Needle

A couple weeks ago while I was in a frenzy of stitching, my needle snapped. This has happened before, but normally with inferior quality needles. I was surprised this needle broke. After all, it was an English needle, and English needles have always been synonymous with superior quality needles.

But was it an English needle, really?

A Good Embroidery Needle

Now, I’m not one to be romantic, emotional, or affectionate about my needles, as if they are living things. The needle is simply an inanimate object – a tool with which to do a job. When it breaks, it goes the way of any item that is broken, unrecoverable, and no longer functional. It is disposed of.

Hand Embroidery Needles

But that’s not to say I don’t like and appreciate a good needle. A good needle is a needle that is free of flaws, that does its job, that holds up for a reasonable amount of time. I do become attached to a good needle, but I don’t shower affection on it. I am not sad when I lose a good needle or break a good needle, but I am irritated, because it is inconvenient to lose or break a good needle.

The Fine English Needle

Trish brought up a sad fact about the embroidery needle industry today – and it’s something that I’ve been musing about for a while. For a very long time (hundreds of years), the English needle has been made in England, and it has always been a quality needle. The phrase “Fine English Needles” has been an attraction to hand stitchers for eons, and those of us who have been embroidering for a while have probably bought packets of needles simply because they were adorned with that phrase: Fine English Needles. Doesn’t it just sound like you’re guaranteed some darned good needles out of that package? Of course it does!

And Seekers of Good Needles received quality needles in those packages. English needles were really good needles. Why? Because they were produced to an industry standard, and an excellent industry standard, at that.

hand embroidery needles

Unfortunately, with the high cost of manufacturing at home compared to the low cost of manufacturing in other countries, the English needle has gone the way of many, many manufactured goods. The companies that own the familiar names of English needles apparently outsource their manufacturing of needles to countries where labor is cheaper, and, apparently, there is no longer a needle-making industry in England.

Hand Embroidery Needles

A while ago, after hearing from another manufacturer that English needles are no longer made in England, I was curious. I wanted to know when the shift in meaning occurred for the phrase “English needles,” which is used so often in marketing needles here in the US. This used to mean they were made in England. Now it apparently means the name brand is held by a company in England, but the needles aren’t necessarily made there.

I wanted a company that produces English needles to tell me yes or no – are they, or are they not, made in England? And when did they stop being made in England?

I easily followed the John James trail to Entaco Limited, a British company situated in Worcestershire, which, as they say on their website, is an area “known as the Needle Capital of the World.” Well, that’s jolly! But are your needles actually made there? That’s what I want to know! The trail grew a bit cold when I contacted the company a few times to get an answer.

English Needles

The answer never came. And so I scoured the website, looking for the phrase “Made in England.” I wanted some assertion that the needles are actually English needles. I went through every picture on the website, to see if I could find photos of packaging that read “made in England” or even “English needles” (which is how they are often marketed in the US). Every photo of packaging features the top half of the package, so no help there.

Does Quality Change?

The demise of the needle industry in England means a lot of things to the needle connoisseur. The workers who produce outsourced products do not generally have a vested interest in holding companies that supply business to their factories, or in the items they are producing. Pride of workmanship and pride of “ownership” are no longer elements in the manufacturing process. For the consumer, this means that needles that were once guaranteed to be superior quality are not necessarily as superior in quality. And the consumer can rightly wonder if the products are up to the same standard that they were before.

I like John James needles. I use them quite a bit, and I’m sure I will keep using them – at least until my favorite needle types & sizes are produced by another needle manufacturer (I’ll talk about them next time we talk needles). I still have quite a few packs in my stash that read “Made in England,” and I opt for needles from these packages before I opt for the ones in newer packaging. I think I notice a difference in them. And of course, the broken needle above from a new package of needles seemed to confirm my suspicions.

The Romance of the Needle

But maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s a psychological thing. Maybe I was too attached to the notion of the “Fine English Needle” – to the idea that the needle I was wielding came from that great land that has produced so much beautiful embroidery. Perhaps I am to romantic about my needles.

What about you? Have you noticed any shift in the quality of the needles that you use? Do you have any preferences for a particular brand of needle? Do you think I’m nuts to really care about whether needles marketed as “English needles” in the US are really made in England? What’s your take? Have your say below!

If you want to read a little bit about the history of needle making, you can find The History and Description of Needle Making (1862, by Michael Morrall) available online at Internet Archives.



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(151) Comments

  1. I use John James needles and it is ridiculous how many have broken lately. I was not being particularly rough with them. I know someone who is saving every needle that breaks and sending the pieces back to them (John James). I meant to ask her if they were refunding her money.

  2. I was somewhat surprised when I read Trish’s blog yesterday.

    I’ve never really noticed differences in my needles, unless they were REALLY cheap. I have some I bought for a T. Wentzler piece I stitched that have really wonky eyes. But I’ve never really paid much attention to where the things were made.

    Like you, I don’t get emotional about my needles. As long as I’m using the right size/type one for the job, I really don’t pay much attention to the quality of the needle. And I know that there are people who say you’re supposed to stop using them after a few hours of use. Phooey to that. I’m still using needles that have been in my stash since I started stitching seriously, nearly 20 years ago. They’re just fine.

    But given all that, I would love to have a pack of “made in England” needles just to see if I can tell the difference.

    1. I agree, I have never noticed a difference. I also have numerous needles of various brands from when I was a child, bought at various craft stores over the past 20 years, not specialty needlework stores. Also a few left to me from my granma when her arthritis got so bad she couldn’t sew (she never embroidered much, just sewing) any more. I also have no idea which needles are what brand since they are in several old fashioned “lipstick” (I think) tubes that have a foam earplug in the bottom and lid to prevent them from being dulled. I have only had 3 break on me since I began in the 80’s. I do “maintain” them with a large emery, but I have never really noticed any differences.

  3. A good quality tool is essential. I have a “heavy hand”. I draw so heavy I can never erase and I embroider to the point that I end up with a “curved” needle if it’s not of good quality. I have never used John James but I do like the Richard Hemming & Son carried by my local quilt shop. It’s says “assembled and inspected in EU using needles imported by Entaco to our quality and specification” HMMMMMMMM, sounds outsourced to me but so far I haven’t seen a change in quality. DO NOT BUY needles from the run of the mill fabric store. I bought Dritz and they are a waste of money! I also have some I ordered on the internet from an embroidery source “Scarlet Today”. It says Finest English Needles also and division of McCrady Enterprises.

    1. I too have a heavy hand when it comes to drawing, hand sewing, etc. My needles all curve. Everytime someone recommends a “great” needle I buy them and try them, only to be disappointed. Dritz, Clover, etc is on that list. I stick to John James and Richard Hemming & Son. They may bend but so far I haven’t broke any. Sounds like when I use them up I’ll be having to find another company

  4. I used to use John James exclusively. But then I found Bohin needles…from, supposedly, France. They are absolutely wonderful!! Smooth as silk through the fabric. I highly recommend them!

    Debbie in Kansas

    1. Bohin needles ARE manufactured in France. The factory is in Normandy and they have now opened a museum telling the story about the Bohin factory.

  5. I am always sad when a manufacturer goes overseas. I am saving my English needles for special projects since we can’t get them anymore. The same thing happened with the PFaff sewing machines that were made in Europe. My old one was made in Europe, the new one in China. It is the way of the world, faster, cheaper, what have you done for me today?

    1. Oh you’re a Pfaff person! So am I. I don’t want the plastic ones though, and even after seeing so many videos with these sleek-looking plastic machines, I still don’t regret my e-bay purchase of an all-metal Pfaff from the 1950s. I was a bit annoyed that the bobbin wasn’t very easy to take out and put back in (a matter of habit really) but I saw a new machine from another brand that has exactly the same set-up.

  6. You are not nuts. I am working on an easy Quaker style sampler-all cross stitch

    I have snapped at least three needles. The latest one bent near the end and I bent it back. Very poor quality.

  7. I never paid much attention to needles until I found myself desperate for something to do and could find only one brand of needles, so I bought them. They are DMC so I thought, OK, good floss, good needles. Wrong. Every needle in that pack either had burrs or was dull. I will pay much closer attention from now on. Seems a pity that I missed out on stashing English needles.

    1. Virginia,
      The same thing happened to me. Burrs on every single needle. I was so mad, I sent an email complaining. Lo and behold, they emailed me back and said in a very polite way, basically, put up or shut up. So, I put up by sending the packet to them. About four (4!) months later, I get an envelope with two packets of their needles and you guessed it…all with burrs!! LOL!!

      Tracy in FL

  8. I broke a couple of needles putting in the eyes on my stuffed teddy bears, but I used old needles that were of no particular significance to stitching culture. I have noticed that some of the hand sewing needles I have bought lately seem to be more flexible than most of my older ones which I did not see as a good thing. I really love my gold tapestry needles and I have read that the new titanium needles are stronger, but as long as they aren’t rusty or “snaggy” and not making holes that are too big for what I am sewing, I don’t pay much attention to them. For embroidery, I have kept many needles that have come with kits and just stuck them into a pin cushion and would have no idea where they came from, although most of my machine needles seem to have German names and labels. I’m now going to go look and see what the actual packages say, although most of mine are probably in pin cushions and the packages ae gone.

    1. I love my gold tapestry needles too, mine are John James. I’m not sure about normal needles, I’ve only been sewing for 2 years so I’ve probably only used the newer, inferior quality ones. I do break them now and again, but I bend them often!

  9. Dear Mary and All,
    I am English and am appalled to read that Fine English Needles are no longer made in England. It sounds like a breach of the Trade Descriptions Act to me. I can only apologise to you all – I will see if I can take it further.
    Best wishes

  10. I beleive all of us will suffer eventually from all of our products being manufactured in other countries. All of this hand me down knowledge on craftmenship will be lost.

    Robin Marks

  11. Mary:
    I appreciated your musing on needles and their quality. I was frustrated for years by the cheap needles available at “regular” stores, and then starting ordering needles from Hedgeworks. I also change them much more often than I used to.
    Disposal of needles was brought to my attention a few years ago by a friend in the medical field. I hope all stitchers dispose of their needles properly – they are, after all, sharp enough to pierce through a trash bag. I now put my needles in an old film canister – but who has those anymore – or an old prescription bottle, with the lid. When it is full, the whole thing can be tossed much more safely than just tossing the needles individually.

    1. That’s an excellent idea… will do.
      I have a stash of needles that I inherited from my Grandmother and my two Moms. I’ve never broken or bent one, but some can’t be used with silk floss.

    2. Great of you to remind/inform others Jan….I use a large prescription bottle. I throw in all used/broken hand needles, sewing machine needles and X-acto blades. When it gets full, I use duct tape on the lid, label it CAUTION: sharp objects. I re-sharpen my rotary cutter blades-not sure what I’ll put them in when they get to the point I can’t re-sharpen anymore.

  12. Talk about timely — just yesterday I had to throw away a brand new beading needle from DMC because of a crack in the eye. The package clearly says made in China, assembled in England. I expect flaws will happen more often in future.

  13. Mary … no, you’re not crazy. I have bemoaned alot lately about the quality of alot of different things that aren’t made they way they used to be made. Yet, the prices seem to have gone up, as with everything else. It’s very frustrating. I did have an idea for you, though. If you can’t get answers from the needle companies directly, how about calling someone else who might know … like the Royal School of Needlework. I would think they would have an answer for you. Let us know what you find out.

  14. I own a small needleart shop and realized a year or two ago that the packaging for John James needles had changed from “made in England” to “finest quality needles”. I suspected the manufacturing had changed to a third-world country. Though I still carry John James needles, my personal preference now is for Bohin needles, which as far as I know are still made in France. They are the smoothest needles I’ve ever handled, and I can tell by the feel which are Bohins and which are another brand. They do not have the range of needles that John James has, but I believe the quality of the Bohins to be superior to any other brand.

    1. Yes, Miriam. I have mailed items out to the UK before and am happy to do so again. I have a website though it is by no means complete as my time for putting product online is somewhat limited. Let me know how I can help

  15. Dear Mary,

    I am glad you touched on this topic. I come from South Africa, we use John James needles, I recently discover the Gold’n Glide needles. They do not get stuck where the eye is when it is been pushed through the fabric, which happens to some needles, straw needles being the exception. These Gold’n Glide needles sew like melted butter. Easy on the hands and the embroidery, applique, quilting happens so much faster than one is use to. I had some John James fine needles which I bought about a year ago, they kept on breaking. Now I understand why. It must be because they are not made in England. It is funny how everything has to be outsourced elsewhere, when we are quite happy to have the product produced where quality is not let to suffer. I live in Canada now. Cold weather, makes me stitch a lot more.

  16. I just had a look – my beading and milliners needles are Whitecroft Brand – doesn’t say where they are made. So checked their website – manufacturers and suppliers of wirework, haberdashery…. So I poked around some more and found they also have John James as one of their products. We don’t manufacture much in England these days, so unless it actually says that the good are made in England or the U.K., they could be made anywhere!

  17. Hello. I was shocked to learn that English needles are no longer made in England! I mean is it really that costly to make a needle in England? How much does the company save by outsourcing them? I for one always look for things made in the USA even if it costs more. I think its deplorable that companies outsource their products and expect us to buy them when they take away American jobs. Geeze don’t we make anything any more. The inferior services and products tell us we are getting cheated because of greed. The services we get now days is really bad, just try to get your computer fixed,and try to understand someone who is speaking bad English. It is so frustrating. Good for you for bringing this to our attention.

  18. Sorry, Mary. It must be because it’s Friday, but The Broken Needle sounds like a great novel title or maybe a Soap. 🙂

  19. I find Piecework needles to be the best. I order them online from the Piecework store near Los Angeles. I believe they are made in Japan.

    1. I hear you on piecework needles, I tried them once and they are lovely, but I just can’t pay money to that company. Their politcal and religious message is just reprehensible. Personally, I’m dedicated to Bohins now!

  20. Aloha Mary,
    Eyes and finish of the steel is not what it used to be – in my humble opinion. I would second sending them back to the company if they break, have burrs or the eyes are not clean. Why support poor workmanship?
    Sorry for the rant.

  21. I took a class in Naples Fl last Sept. A list of needles was provided by the teacher. I went to Joanne Fabrics and found most of what I needed. You talk about lousy quality!!! Didn’t even realize that needle manufacture was such an important issue until I tried to use those new needles. Pure crap!! I love good needles and would like to hear what others have experienced lately.

  22. I use Pony needles exclusively and have been using them ever since I was a 5th grader well over 30 years. I have never had a needle break. And they do manufacture in India so the most easily available for me. The quality has remained the same over the years…

  23. I was born and raised in England and that is the only way I know anymore to say “I know I was made in England!” I buy whatever is available at my needlework shop and so far have not had a broken needle. I do not buy needles at the big name stores or thread either for that matter as I feel we should encourage our local needlwork shops to stay in busines.
    Thanks for the history.DEE

  24. Dear Mary, reading your blog about needles, I did some investigating into my needles. I also have some John James needles, but they are still carry the made in England logo. Then I have a different brand Halls Elephant needles, also made in England. I just love the latter. The size 10 feels a bit thinner than any other brand. The beauty of my story is a year or so ago, I was at a local fabric shop. Whilst browsing around I saw the shop was selling this particular brand size 9 and 10 at a reduced price. I could not believe my eyes because I could not find that brand for quite a while. Needless (Needles?:) )to say I bought a about all the stock and the price was even better about 10 American CENTS per packet. I think I have enough needles to last me the rest of my life 🙂
    Lots of love and enjoy your weekend, Elza. Cape Town xx

  25. Alas, I think you are right. The quality of “English” needles has gone down since they outsourced their production. I don’t know HOW one convinces manufacturers that QUALITY and QUALITY CONTROL counts for more than “cheapness” when it comes to certain things — like NEEDLES! A very important tool. And we are willing to PAY for this quality. I, personally, have switched to Bohin needles whenever possible (although I still have a hefty stash of older “Made in England” needles to draw from). Bohin are still manufactured in France and I absolutely LOVE the quality!!

  26. I used to use John James needles, but switched over to Bohin. What sold me were their beading needles. They are shorter and sturdier than any others I’ve used. As I go through my supply of John James, I’ve been replacing them with Bohin. I am fairly rough on my needles and they hold up really well while still being gentle on my silk fibers. They say they are made in France, but who really knows….

  27. I have *definitely* noticed a decline in the quality of needles- the sharpness, how long they stay sharp AND how long it is easy to pull them through the fabric. And the eye on my last needle wasn’t entirely centered which I wondered about. I’m not using particularly high quality needles, but not less than I ever did 30 years ago, either. I never thought about a needle as a disposable item before!

  28. Mary,
    I heard about the outsourcing of English needle manufacturing from Susan O’Connor during a class with her in Paris last February. She did say that there was some hope that they would restart manufacturing the needles in England again as there had been a great “outcry” (I think of this as “Woe, woe, what are we to do? No more English needles , whatever can we do?”) from embroiderers throughout the land. Guess we’ll have to wait and see. However, I highly recommend French needles made by Bohin. They slip through the fabric with ease, they are silky to the touch, and they are the needles I prefer.
    -Sharon in France

    1. I’m a relatively “new” stitcher, still counting myself less than 10 years in the “avid” category. Nevertheless, I’ve tried different needles along the way, usually because the brand I was accustomed to using was out of stock where I happened to be shopping. I started with John James as my preferred brand, moved to Piecemakers, and finally found Bohin. I knew I was in heaven.

      The first time I actually put Bohin needle to cloth, I was stitched with one strand of silk on 45 ct hand dyed fabric and hearing/feeling a squeaking sound every time I pulled the needle through the fabric. I switched to one of my brand new, bright and shiny Bohin needles and for the first time in my life, understood what people meant when they said, “It goes though the fabric like butter.”

      They seem to last well, the eye is smooth and they don’t bend easily. They are the only needle I buy anymore, and since they are available in bulk, I’m a happy stitcher.

  29. Like Debbie, I have switched over to Bohin for new needlepurchases after suffering breakage (mainly in the eye) with recent John James purchases.

    However, like Carol S, I have needles acquired over 20 needles ago & saved in an antique needle case — they’re going great — smooth, untarnished.

  30. I to have a fondness for well made English needles,but even those break and lately I have been finding that the “eye”holes seem to be grabbing at the thread I love receiving your newsletters and look forward to the nest ones Your work is so very special

  31. I agree. I want a quality needle. It needs a point suitable for the task and a thin strong shaft for my applique. Being a quilter, I expect the same thing from my pins. I think we would rather spend a bit more for needles and pins that are consistently well-made. Is that really too much to ask?

  32. I have used John James needles exclusively for the past 20 years. I have noticed a HUGE loss of quality over the past couple of years and have switched to Bohin needles when possible. I love the French ones and I just checked the package and it says Made in France. Funny you should mention this as I thought it was just me imagining things!

  33. I have also noticed a difference. I have had my thread frayed by the eye, which makes me believe the inside of the eye is not as polished or smooth as it used to be. I have commented on this to my friends, not knowing these needles (I also buy John James) were no longer made in England.
    I’m sorry to hear this!

  34. What a sad article about English needles! I do not embroider enough to know about needles, but the Fiskars I bought in the late 70’s, were made in Finland, and I have bought wonderful Spanish embroidery thread in the 60’s and 70’s which was made in Spain, and great scissors made in Toledo, and now, in Wisconsin, in my city, my local source of these things is Jo Ann Fabrics, which seems to stock, almost exclusively, items that are made in China. It is a great pity. The last batch of hand sewing needles I purchased there had a burr on most of the needle tips, and they sawed the sewing thread, as though the eye had a rough spot or something. I’m disgusted.

  35. I treasure my needles! And am very anal about storing and catagorizng them. Perhaps because I read something eons ago about an entire community that had to share 1 needle. Possibly urban legend, but the situation stuck with me.

    I was dismayed to learn that John James needles are no longer manufactured in England. My husband, a decoy carver, perfers Japaness or German steel for his tools. I’m intriqued by the comments on Bohin needles and thank the people who took the time to comment.

    Doreen from Maine

  36. After reading many comments here, I visited both eBay and Amazon, and saw John James needles that were made in England. I’m not so sad now.

  37. No I don’t think you are nuts! Hand needlework products in general have declined in quality and reliability as they are outsourced to maintain or increase profit margin. My bone of contention is a good thimble. Yes I have read all the postings here and elsewhere about thimbles, but there is not one thimble I can see or find that matches the one precious thimble that was handed down to me (accidentally in some leftover needlework) from my grandmother. In fact I did have two, but I prised one from my clutched, spasmed hand, and in a fit of generosity, gave it back to my aunt (her daughter). she could not find a thimble that fit her. I have also noted a particular lack of quality in hand sewing needles, as well as little selection when it comes to the eye of the needle. I like a largish one. Unless I specifically seek out my local needlework shop (not convenient to do for every need) I find the eyes of needles to be rough and poorly finished. I too have a stash of Good, Quality Needles that I hoard jealously.

  38. I agree with you!!! I want to know where things are made more than ever these days and not just needles. Things made in other countries are not necessarily made with the same pride or even knowledge as when the owner of the product is involved in the manufacture. It represents a loss in my opinion. And let’s not even talk about fruits and vegetables!

  39. Mary, like you have often wondered. Being English it bothered me more than most. Fortunately I do have a stash of needles that I am very stingy with. However, I found a brand of needle by chance from France (Arch enemy of England). They are Bohlin I think. And I must admit I don’t feel guilty about buying them!!! Larraine Leonard

  40. Hi Mary- I have a rather large collection of needles, some from my Mother in Law. I found a package of #10 Richard Hemming & sons #10 Crewel needles, Made in England. The price is still on the packet.$1.50.

  41. Having had the same experience as many of the other posters, I took a look at an old John James needle (really made in England) and a new John James needle under a high power microscope, and was shocked at the difference: the eye of the old needle was completely smooth; the eye of the new needle was very rough. The same was true of the tips. No wonder that my silk thread had frayed, having to pass through all those rough bits! And don’t even get me started on straight pins!

    I have switched to Bohin, and am very happy with them. I also treasure my Japanese made silk pins for sewing, and have recently tried Bohin pins. The Japanese pins are finer, but the Bohin pins are also very good.

    I’m not surprised by this development (I’ve seen it happen in the world of knitting needles as well), but it is sad. I’m just happy that Bohin is there, and hope that they will expand their line soon to include things like curved needles.

    1. Bohin does have curved needles. Go to http://www.anitalittlestitches.com
      She gave me a package of Bohin tapestry needles as a gift to try. I have not used any other needle since. The needles are available in bulk, 25’s and 50’s. She has a good selection of Bohin needles, including curved needles. Besides needles, she has scissors and chalk pencils for quilting, also made by Bohin. Hope this helps!

  42. I’ve been really mad lately. In a week’s period, I have had a whole (20) package of curved needles, John James brand brake on me while beading.
    The pkg of these Fine English Needles, certianly are not what the pkg claims to be.
    Tools and utensils used in our work are loved, appreciated and taken care of. Certainly when they do not perform in their usual manner or brake while being used is very frustrating and sad.
    Thank you for telling us, now we know what to expect from imperfect needles.

  43. “the idea that the needle I was wielding came from that great land that has produced so much beautiful embroidery”
    This made me think of the gorgeous silk embroidery that the Asian countries (where the manufacturing has presumably shifted) are known for… wonder what needles they use? There must have been quality needles manufactured in China to create all of that. The issue is not the country of origin but the drive to lower costs and increase profits, and as you say, the lack of pride of workmanship and ownership that tends to result from outsourcing.

  44. Bohin needles ARE made in France. In fact some of the equipment used to manufacture needles is from the 1800’s. I asked the owner of Bohin why he uses such old equipment and was told, “Because it works very well.” No need to fix what isn’t broken.

  45. I noticed on the last couple of projects I have worked using John James needles that they seemed to have burrs. That is so aggravating. I think I will try those Bohin needles someone mentioned.

  46. Bohin needles are made in France. The factory is an interesting place. Next year they hope to open a Museum at the factory.
    Bohin needles are polished longer than any other needle made and you can tell that when you sew with Bohin needles.

  47. I recently started embroidering again after many years of not doing so and bought a new package of John James needles. After using one a while, I wondered what all the hoopla about English needles was about because my new needle was not smooth at the eye and was shredding my embroidery thread. My package doesn’t say “Made In England” either. Now I understand why it was inferior.

  48. I’ve yet to find a brand I’m loyal to, but I do notice the ‘cheapie’ packs are inferior quality – burrs are common, and the eyes are not a consistent size.

    Quite distressing to read about this. Not only because outsourcing is a huge economic problem unto itself, but now the quality sucks too!

    I’ve never used Japanese needles, and I wonder if they’re still being produced in Japan?

  49. I’ve been very happy with Piecemakers needles. They’re made in Japan and I don’t tarnish them as I do with other needles. They are super smooth with a tapered end and the eyes are a bit larger so they are super easy to thread. Have NEVER broken one either! Bohins are nice too, but I can’t find those locally. I buy regular hand and machine needles at quilt and sewing machine stores.

  50. Up until about 2 years ago I would not have noticed the difference between one needle or the next. Needles were needles as far as I was concerned. I was attentive to the size I needed but really did not pick one brand over another. Now since I have have been doing more embroidery work, I do notice that some needle eyes tend to fray the thread. I have had needles bend and a few have broken. It seems the Bohin needles are getting the most praise, so those will be my next purchase….maybe as soon as I finish typing this comment!
    First they quit carrying coton a broder threads and now it is quality needles that are disappearing from the marketplace.
    Thank you for bringing this to our attention, we can now start hoarding quality needles when we find them.

  51. Thanks for your well-written blog. I believe that there is a assumption about English products and their quality. Good marketing over centuries and availability of products have instilled the perception of quality with most people, like english tea or beef.

    But the beautiful embroidery in other countries that had no needle trade with England have produced gorgeous materials. Countries like Japan, China, most of Asia, India,etc.

    I have always believed the phrase “the finest —- available has meant just that.

  52. Hi Mary,
    I switched to Bohin needles 2 years ago and try to use nothing but. They are hard to find if you are not looking for Tapestry. I have ordered some from Australia because I could not find the Bohin Milliner’s in the sizes I wanted. Love the Bohin Needles.

  53. Oh! what a world – what a world … Seems like almost everything is outsourced, cheaped down or slipshod nowadays. The whole issue is but another facet of the philosophical discussion from last week on value, cost and price. Unfortunately, for most manufacturers, the concept of purpose does not really pertain in the wold of embroidery. We all know that a good needle does not shred the fabric, snap, bend or rust on contact with the air. But for many producers, the purpose of the needles they produce is to satisfy their shareholders – and if the consumers uses them up at a prodigious rate- all the better. Call me cynical? Perhaps, but that’s way I see the sad state of manufacturing in general today.

  54. I can tell a needle that I’ve used for awhile out of a haystack full of new needles because it has a distinctive bend in it. I prefer those well-used and well-loved needles over a new needle of any kind from anywhere. Eventually that distinctive bend becomes too great, and the needle snaps. Then I have to start all over again, breaking in and bending a new one.

  55. Oh here is a subject close to my heart, broken needles. As a teacher of needlework I try to have the best equipment. This is especialy true when teaching children but now I find that what I thought was the best quality, John James needles, are breaking. I also tried to find where they were manufactured and reached a dead end. So now I am trialling other needles to see if I can find something better. Bohin from France seem to do the job.

  56. Hi,
    This is an interesting thread(!) and very close to my heart of late. I was embroidering butterflies on my daughter’s wedding veil last month, and had reached the last couple of butterflies when I lost my needle. Being close to the end, I thought I would be very careful ( you don’t want problems when you are that close and the wedding is a few days away) so reached for a new pack of Bohin tapestry needles.
    Now, I have always found Bohin needles to be lovely to use, but to my horror when I started to sew the first stitch, on tulle, the needle did not pass through the holes in the fabric easily. Strange, says I, and tugged a little harder. Aaaaaaaargh – the eye of the needle had been broken and made a slight hole in the tulle. You would not know the hole was there to look at, but I knew it was there. To cut a long story short, every single needle in the packet was broken at the eye. Not noticeable unless you were looking for it and not noticeable when threading the needle, but enough for the needle to catch on the fabric as it moved through.
    I am careful with the storage of my needles and the problem may have just been due to some carelessness in the transport and handling of the product and not in the actual production. But I have seriously reconsidered my allegiance to Bohin.

    Mary, you may not want to post this as it is somewhat critical of a particular product, but it was an experience I had never before had in over 40 years of embroidering and has made me very aware of yet another potential problem.

    Thank you for a wonderful website

    1. Hi, Jenny – You should definitely return the pack of needles to Bohin (you can find their website online). They stand behind their products! ~MC

  57. Mary. I know people say, “It’s only a needle, why do you care so much? Well, I do! I have always been pickey about the needle I use. I always used JJ , though they always felt too thick in my fingers. I use tapestry needles, because my love is counted cross stitch. About a year ago, someone gave me a packet of Bohine size 28 tapestry needle. I love them. I don’t sew with anything else now. They are thin, flexible but do not break and glide through my linen like butter. And, they are Made in France! I know it’s not England, but it is, at least, Europe. I would like to try the Hemming and the other one I can’t think of the name, but I can not find them smaller than a 24. Since I stitch mostly on 36 and 40 ct linen, they are too large. I don’t know why nobody carries them smaller than a 24! Surely they make tapestry needles smaller than that! That’s my treatice on needles, I can’t sew without a good needle!

  58. Well I am coming in at having read 50 comments. I have been interested by what everyone has had to say. One thing has surprised me….no one has mentioned emery. I too have a small hoard of English needles. I use them for my fine embroidery. Needle painting, crewel, whitework, drawnthread, etc.
    I do use the other needles I bought before I knew what was happening for redwork, embroidering on my grandchildren’s clothing, dish towels, and heavy duty things. Yes they have burrs, but find your strawberry emery and polish them off. I also after noticing the eyes were eating my threads began to polish the eyes. You are not going to be able to get them super smooth, but put both ends in the emery one at a time and roll the needle between your thumb and pointer finger for several minutes until it will go through a tight embroidery twill without catching. Simple enough, and it will save you a lot of frustration. Also, to storing your needles. Long ago I made a needle book out of wool felt. This was in the 80’s when wool felt was just becoming available again. I lined it with pages of Dr.’s Flannel and embroidered the top of each page with a kind of needle…..sharps, betweens, quilting, crewel, millinary, etc. When I am done with a project, I sharpen my needle in my emery and put it in the correct page. I have no idea how old some of those needles may be. They are good english needles though. I have never looked on my needles as disposable. I don’t cry when one breaks because I know I have taken good care of it and it has lasted well. When the inferior needles hit the market I made a new needle book. I did not want to mix up the good with the inferior. I know they break more often, but that does not mean I am not going to take care of them. We live in this diposable world. I refuse to just throw things away. I got some inferior needles? Well I’m going to try to fix them up so they sew a little better. If one breaks 10 minutes into my sewing, I’ll know that the stitches that it did make did not tear up my ground fabric or my thread like they would have. To the person who said you were supposed to change needles after every project. That is for sewing machine needles, and you can do the same thing with a sewing machine needle as a hand needle. It just needs to be sharpened. By the way after going trough all of the strawberry emeries I had inherited I found a wonderful kit for one at Bird Brain Designs. It makes a huge strawberry emery.

  59. I am so very tired of outsourced products. When will manufacturers learn that there are many people who simply will stop buying their product if we learn they are made in China or the like? I will try the Bohin, as someone previously suggested, thank you very much!

  60. No, I do not think you are nuts about caring about quality and truth in marketing. No shading of the truth by manipulation of a phrase on a package can ever replace the fact that they were once “produced to an industry standard” that met the needs of the customer instead of the shareholder and banker. The integrity of humanity suffers again when business chooses to ignore the genuine needs of the customer.

  61. Haaa! My dears
    I do agree with most that is written…BUT there IS such a thing as metal fatigue. Not just for airplanes but all metal. With our needles it is no different. It is subjected to heat and stress. Plunging is different to weaving through fabric to the degree of stress applied to the metal. Big no, no to straighten a bent needle as the metal is weakened and becomes more likely to snap. Therefore it is a wise piece of advice to change needles if they are bent. Each time you start a new project or at least 20 to 25hrs of work. You will see what I mean if you have or try a test of getting a piece of wire and bend it back and forth until it breaks. That is stress. Stressed from the friction of the action. It is heated and weakened.
    The subject of Name Brands and where they are made and how we are fooled by clever marketing.

    In Australia we have had a lot of complaints re just this matter of Brand Name confusion.
    I have recently bought a few packets of Sullivan’s needles and the packets are very descriptive as to where they are made. On the back it states Made in China under quality controlled license for Sullivans International P/L. Now if you believe that you believe in the tooth fairy. All we can hope for is that the item will last to the recommended distance. Each needle is not going to be individually inspected. One or 2 are possible taken from the run and inspected. Now are they subjected to the strength test or whatever other test than, looking at them and saying they look OK and off they go?! Who knows. It is a matter of trust. There are 3 distributors noted, 1 Australian, 1 NZ and 1 USA Chicago.

    Anything Japanese was once considered rubbish. After the WW2 they took business very seriously and lifted their game. When you look to buy certain products you look for Japanese as they are leaders in somethings. Once for metal goods, tools, appliances small goods the USA was excellent I can attest to that personally. I bought a GE clothes dryer 40 years ago and it is still going. It had faultered after 30 years and I had to fibre glass the little fan as the plastic started to crack. For me I think it is the best but I would not buy a GE today and expect it to last as most items have a age component in the wear and tear. If you get 10 years of heavy work you are doing well.
    Reason …companies are in the business to make money and if everything is like my dryer how would they get the money?
    We consume too much and companies love that, it makes money for them.
    Germany was noted for its steel. Once were considered the best instrument makers of, medical & scientific goods.
    The British were excellent steel makers.
    It is now cheaper to out source and get a bigger profit.

    So you see it comes down to buyer beware and knowledge of a few other factors when your needles start to break. It is not always the manufacturer though but the user of the item at times.
    I personally use a weekday system for my needles. I use a piece of foam and have marked 1 through to 7 at the top. I use that as a needle holder. I load all the needles I will need for a project and work my way through each day’s set of needles and when I get to 7, start over again. I use a coloured pin as a signal to where I am up to so I don’t get the day mixed up.
    Works for me and I am not using the same needle over and over again. I also have a piece of paper with date of start pinned on the holder.
    Call me a fuddy duddy but I get good wear out of my needles. Any I bend, I toss and replace.

    I might add this stress factor also applies to machine needles.

    The world is changing my dears and nothing is a it was or will be again.

    1. I also have several needle groups. 🙂 I have only had three needles break on me since I began embroidering as a child in the 80’s.

    2. I also have several groups that I rotate. 🙂 They are in old fashioned lipstick (?) tubes with earplugs in the lid and bottom. So most of my needles are “on vacation” most days.

  62. Dear mary, I too use the many Pkgs. of John James needles that I have in my sewing box, however I also have grown to love Clover brand needles and also pins which are in my humble opinion the “gold Standard”. I really get upset when a needle snags or isn’t sharp. Very interesting thread.

  63. I do not do much hand sewing any more, but I still use a machine, and where I live in Australia I cannot get even half-way decent dress-making pins; they bend as I touch them so are totally useless for the purpose for which I bought them! Here we do not have the choice of brands that you do, we have to take what we get, and the only way to try and stop this is to return the goods and demand out money back on a large scale, provided we still have the receipt. Its unlikely that the large franchise fabric stores will even listen.
    In the meantime, if anyone has any ideas as to what to do with 4 boxes of bendy pins, I would love to know!

  64. Despite the non-existent quality which has become most all manufacturers’ standards since the 1980’s, I have always tried to purchase quality made products. There is definitely a difference between what was once American or English made and the inferior, ‘throw away’ products we are now forced to purchase. Needles which once use to withstand long use, now routinely break, bend, or have flaws which catch the thread.

    I remember warning people about buying the ‘cheap’ products, but never dreamed that this type of ‘quality’ product would end up being what American companies would almost exclusively sell.

    Far from being romantic about what I was once freely able to purchase with my hard earned dollars, I’m quite incensed about the junk sold on every shelf in every store, crafts related or otherwise.

  65. Hi Mary,
    I too have noticed a difference in the needles of late. I find that not only do they break more readily, I also find more needles with unclean” eyes. They have a burr in them which wears down the fibers I am stitching with causing more fraying. I which companies would stick to the proven methods they have been doing for years. Do you know of any REALLY GOOD needles manufactured today? I don’t mind paying for quality, it costs more in the end if your fibers fray from “burry” needles and you need more threads to complete your projects.

  66. Oh, Dear, how very disappointing. I have a supply of older John James and S. Thomas needles that were Made In England so I hadn’t realized. ( wondered why I had bought so many, now I know, I was planning ahead!) Like Terry Sue, I sharpen mine with a strawberry emery so hadn’t needed to replace mine. Perhaps if we make enough loud noises one of the English companies will reconsider making them again or else make greater demands on their supplier to make quality needles. Thanks to you for the article and to everyone who has responded with their ideas, too.

  67. What a great thread! (pause for groans)

    Seriously, the best way to get improvements in a product is to GRIPE. Don’t just change to another supplier, write to the first and tell them WHY you changed, and what they would have to do to get you back as a customer.

    A few years back, Nestea put sucralose in their major instant tea product. I stopped buying immediately (and probably cut their profit by half–I loved that stuff! LOL) and wrote emails at least twice a year to them, telling them that not only was I upset, but that I had friends and friends of friends who had also switched brands.

    About a year and a half ago (?), the sucralose vanished from their product. I still read every label carefully, because I don’t trust them now, but I’m at least willing to try it again.

    YES, it’s worth taking the time.

    YES, everyone here should email the makers of their ‘English needles’ that don’t say ‘MADE IN ENGLAND’, and let them know that drops in quality are unacceptable.

    By the way….

    How do you ‘assemble’ a needle, for crying out loud?

  68. When I’m lucky enough to find a good set of needles I tend to buy lots of them and stash them away, lol. I have to admit I do get sad when my needles break, it’s like the loss of a friend who was there by my side working tirelessly on a major project. I do pay them respect in a way similar to the Japanese – Hari-Kuyo (meant to bring rest to the needles and wrap them with tenderness and gratitude).

  69. hola Mary ,,,que gran tema ..la aguja para nosotras..es la yave de nuestro trabajo…yo me acostumbre a una y la tuve por 4 años,una aguja ,aqui no llegaba una igual y no se si ahora llegara
    ojala siempre haya alguien que siga la tradicion ,,cuando son productos buenos
    un abrazo

  70. Two years ago, after 8 years off from needlework, I was shocked that the new needles I’d bought kept snapping in my fingers. I switched to gold. They cost more, but I had to try something. The two that I bought over a year ago are the same two I use now. Thanks for bringing up something that’s been on my mind. Don’t get me started about the quality of bias tape.

  71. I haven’t purchased new needles lately, so haven’t noticed a decline in quality, but I do think that a needle marketed as an “English Needle” should be manufactured in England.
    I also think that the title of the “English Needle” is misleading, particularly as it was manufactured in England and now is not.

  72. Mary I am trying to inform.
    The next section I cut and pasted.
    It is out there for all the world to see.
    I was looking for “needles” subject to your recent blog. The name of a new needle I have not seen before and was very interested in for it says made in Japan on the front of the pack.
    All I can say is that maybe some are and some are definately not. WHICH.

    “This Sewing Needles wholesaler is wholly responsible for regal hand sewing needle listing and contents.
    DHgate is a fast trading wholesale marketplace which supports purchase order transactions. DHgate Factory is born to target traditional offline global trading markets, and to make them more efficient for you. On DHgate Factory, you will be able to browse millions of products from Chinese factories and contact manufacturers and suppliers directly to get the best deal.”

    Supplier Details

    Yixing Butterfly Needle Co., Ltd.
    [Jiangsu,China ]
    Business Type: Manufacturer


    So investigate for yourself.
    Scan through the entire needle list that is displayed.
    Don’t blame them for the deception they are just trade to make a dollar. It is always the middleman that gets the biggest bight.

    The real Japanese silk needles are very dear as they are supposed to be hand made. Makes you think I hope.

  73. Yes, I’ve the same phenomenon. I’ve had two needles break on me in two days, one of them a John James needle. Two in two days is a record for me. Previous I’ve had needles break on me that were purported to be from France.

  74. Hi Mary,
    You are definitely not nuts to care about where the needles are made. I am totally with you. I have a love affair with English needles as well. I use beading needles in my work and I am still able to get Beadsmith needles made in Worcestershire, England..but, the DMC needles are now made in China. I would love more choices both from England and the USA, and I do hope that some of the pride in manufacturing in England and our own country returns along with the plants and workers. Thank you for a great post.

  75. This is not good news – I’d just assumed needles were still made here (I’m in England), and it’s sad to find that’s not the case.

    I thought one place that might know is the Forge Mill Needle Museum (http://www.forgemill.org.uk/), so I’ve emailed them to ask if they have any information. Maybe others might like to get in touch too?

  76. Hi Mary. I hear you.

    I always mourn a favourite broken or bent needle.

    I love the Japanese custom of the Hari kuyou which is a memorial service for old sewing needles and pins held every year in February.

    Maybe we should start a memorial service for our fast deminishing needle manufacturers 🙂

  77. Hello Mary,

    My mum told me of your and Trish’s conversations on needles. I would like to add that I too have contacted Entaco regarding the fact that English needles are being made in China on English machinery and whether they can confirm or deny that they are still using the same stringent standards of the past – which according to their John James website, they are. I too have had no reply to my emails which is sad because as you well know – our students look to us for our advice.

    I would like to state for the record that my favourite needles are still Entaco needles – both Richard Hemmings and John James needles – the only needles which break on me are #28 Tapestry needles – which I have always broken at the eye, English made or otherwise – the downside of being a tight stitcher that holds onto her needles for dear life (my #10 crewel needles are always bent).

    While I always start a new project with a new needle – I always keep the old ones and especially the bent ones which are great when you want a fine curved needle!

    Keep up the good work!

    Alison Cole

  78. Of course if you do not mind spending the money there are still the wonderful handmade Japanese needles. Although not cheap they come in all sizes and are especially wonderful for very fine stitching. Because they cost so much more one tends to be more careful when using them.

  79. I appreciated your piece and found it very instructive. I favor #28 needles and use them almost exclusively. In the past, they appeared to be uniform in size among manufacturers, if not uniform in quality. That is, the “breakable” ones felt the same size as I ran my fingers over them as the “quality” ones; the difference lay primarily in their relative life expectancies. Today, I find that, except for Bohin needles, they feel unstandardized. Within the same package, one needle may feel “thicker” than another. And many #28 needles feel like #26’s to me. I used to wonder if I was imagining this, but now I am beginning to think that my problem with needles has a basis in reality!

  80. I am not up to date re needles, but where I do a lot of crafts, I do have my specials, that I will not give up on. Keep looking.

  81. How sad, my husband used to work in Studley. He passed the John James factory many times, they used to pride themselves on the quality of their needles. There was a story, not sure whether its true or not, that they received ?the smallest needle that could ever be made. The tale went – a smaller needle was made and pushed the eye of the foreign needle, it was then returned.
    As I said before, not sure if thats true or not. Would be lovely if it was!
    I always try and buy English or at the least British products, I will be sad if my lovely needles are no longer made in our beloved Country.

  82. I’d say I like your rhythmic writing skills detailing your passion for what might be deemed an other wise lost and dying art.

    Your newsletters alone inspire me. 🙂
    Kind regards.

  83. Hi Mary, I’ve sent an email to Entaco Limited which is a needle making company previously in Studley, Worcestershire and the parent company of John James Needles. They are now in Redditch, Worcestershire. Their website at http://www.entacolimited.com/History.html gives some interesting history. I hope to hear from them before too long with confirmation, one way or another, of where there “Finest Quality English Needles” are actually manufactured. I have to say I do love my John James needles. I must be one of the lucky ones to never have had a broken or bent one.

  84. I’ve been using John James needles for 10-15 years, but in the past year or two have noticed a difference in quality. I tend to be hard on my needles, so I had chalked it up to that or my own imagination. So glad to know it wasn’t all in my head! I’ve been stitching for 25 years, and I think I’ve had more needles break in the past year or two than in the previous 20. I’ve noticed a particular difference in the eyes – which seem to catch on my threads quite regularly. It is frustrating. I will certainly be giving the Bohin needles a try in the near future.

  85. I haven’t had that needle problem, but I have noticed the difference in sewing thread.

    I have used Coats&Clark for many years with no problems. Lately,,the tread comes off the core, or breaks constantly. The quality has gone
    downhill so much that I discouraged to sew anything. I have been sewing many many years, and have worked in and managed fabric stores, and always recommended Coats&Clark. I can’t do that anymore.

    Has others had this problem, or is this an issue
    with my sewing machine?

    Pat/ Central CA

    1. Same thing with DMC threads. I noticed that my old skeins has a certain sheen that is beautiful compared to the new ones that are bland and doesn’t look good. Wish I have hoard so much more than 10 years ago.

  86. Thank you so much for bringing this up Mary and to all the people who wrote such interesting comments so far. I have run into several needles lately that seem to lose their outside finish – annoying, but I hadn’t given any thought to where they were made. Undoubtedly the ones I’ve been using have been made ‘elsewhere’ where the quality hasn’t been kept. I will have to check into where I can get some Bohins and test them out.

  87. I too always bought John James needles thinking they were good quality but have recently bought a new pack and have found they have broken easily.

  88. English needles should be made in England (being from there I have been inordinately proud of the fine-ness of these important, tiny tools of embroiderers). I am dismayed by what I read in your newletter, but, like you, still have a stash of needles purchased over many years and trips to England. I now live in the US and have purchased rubbish needles here thinking they would be good. Finding a size 12 has been impossible and I began to wonder then if things had changed.
    I will be very careful what I buy in future. John England are my favourites, but I haven’t bought any lately, so I’m hoping mine are truly “Made in England”.
    I’m going to contact the Royal School of Needlework for their input and see if I can find out which needles they use and their availability.
    Thank you for an always thought-provoking and well considered newsletter.

  89. Well, I think there quality is the same issue as in every tool industry – they make it breakable to pursuit you buy more. My granma has fridge from soviet union times, it is impossible to buy a new fridge and hope to pass it to your grandchildren 🙂 I am joking. But this si sad true about needles (as beader) they brake too easy and sometimes their eyes are sharp, uneven and etc. No matter what brand is printed on box.

  90. Aren’t there any needle makers in the the good old USA? I always prefer to use American made if at all possible. I have never had a needle break on me. I have a huge package of older James needles that has lasted me for a long time. Why do we always seem to think if it’s European, it’s better? Let’s bring goods and manufacturing back to the USA.

    1. Hi Annette – no, I’m afraid there aren’t. There are plenty of distributors, of course, who get their needles elsewhere… I’m all for buying local and supporting home industry, no matter what country one lives in. There aren’t many ground-up needlework-related manufacturers in the US, though.

  91. I completely agree with Annette, we really should all support our home country’s industries and perhaps the world economy may be better as a whole… from needles to politics/economics! I didn’t think I’d ever put those together :O)

  92. My local needleshop sells the Millard brand. Once I bought a package and several months later when I wanted to use them they were rusted!

    I also have had a DMC beading needle break at the eye but it is understandable imho that after a good deal of use, the metal gives away because it is so thin at the eye. It would have to be made of platinum to take all the stress without breaking.

    Some needles I’ve used a lot end up losing their nickel plating and become tarnished and no longer run smoothly through the fabric.
    I like keeping a needle that has given me good service. When see it I remember what I did with it.

    Leon Conrad was very enthusiastic about hand-forged Japanese needles. I would like to try these some day.
    My stash of needles is mostly Bohin and DMC. No complaints with these.

  93. Of the various embroidery needles I have, my favorite are the small, overpriced (though perhaps not, since I love the so much) Sajou needles I got from the Purl Soho website last year. At the time, I had just discovered Sajou online and was trying to figure out if there was any way I could swing that lovely set of all of their “Retours Du Nord” embroidery thread (I spent a lot of time on the English version of their website calculating exchange rates and horrified by the cost of shipping to the U.S. from France!). I even tried to think of anyone I knew who might be going to France and asked one friend of my mother’s if she would have time on her next business trip to Paris to go out to the Sajou headquarters (she didn’t). I finally ordered a selection of individual thread cards from Purl Soho, along with some of the Sajou linen, and the packet of embroidery needles. I love the thread, though I still haven’t tested it’s color-fastness and have only used it on a few small cross-stitch samples that will never see water. I love the colors and the sheen of the thread, and the fact that it is extremely easy to separate the 4 strands (they are barely twisted together). I love that they come wrapped around a card – no need to card a skein!

    I was a bit disappointed that the pack of needles was not printed as nicely as I expected from the photos, the pack is simply a small card with one fold and no “lock” and the 6 needles (“Aiguilles a broder”) which come pierced into a a small scrap of black grosgrain ribbon were rather insecurely attached by one small staple (the ribbon unraveled quickly and came loose from the staple). Yet, for using the “Retours Du Nord” to cross-stitch on linen, these needles are a joy to use. The packet reads “Fabrique en France”, so I assume that they are, indeed, made in France as are Sajou’s gorgeous scissors (high on my wish list!). The whole company is devoted to preserving the dying needlework supply industry in France, so I can’t imagine them out-sourcing to Asia. At some point I will try to order other needles and products from them – if I can justify the cost.

    One funny note – before I posted, after reading these posts regarding needles, I clicked on the ad for “The French Needle” site – and couldn’t find a single needle on the whole site!! LOL! I would love to order from them, but they don’t have as much of a selection of Sajou products as Purl Soho. Sajou is such a lovely idea of a company – I really think that if I could find a way to import their products to sell in the U.S. I would have a nice business… and I’d get to finally hold and examine those lovely reproduction thread cards and gorgeous scissors up close!

  94. Dritz Quilting needles are still made in England. and I like Roxannes, however, the tube does not say where they are made. I will have to check the external packaging next time I buy. These two have worked well for me in the past. I confess I do not have a “Favorite” I just know what has worked for me in the past. Thanks to this article, I will be checking the fine print when I buy in the future.

  95. I have ordered many packages of 25 needles from John James and the label says: ” packed and inspected in England using needles made in China to Entaco’s quality and specification”
    So they are not made in England…seems…
    I’m having trouble with those needles as I’m allergic to nickel; do you know any company that makes a good range of nickel free needles ?

  96. I noticed about 15 years ago (about when I was really getting seroius about embroidery) that needles seemed to be changing–for the worse. Not so much breaking as rough eyes breaking the thread. We did a lot of antiquing and I began buying packets of antique needles. Some had rust but most didn’t and I found they were very much better than needles I was buying locally. Then I found John James and bought piles of needles from them (every size millners and crewel plus a smattering of others–I love having the right needle for the job!). My packets are pretty old now–which appears to be a good thing. More recently I’ve been buying Bohin needles. The quality is great, but I have to find them at shows or mail order them. Reading your post makes me very happy that I have my basket crammed full of older needles. I should be set for a few lifetimes. I agree that DMC needles are awful–I bought a pile for some kids projects that needed tapestry needles. Very rough eyes and shanks.

    1. I’ve been a stitcher for many years having grown up in a household where it was the norm to have either a hand made dress or a knitted sweater. I try and keep up with the family tradition although nowadays it’s more likely to be cross stitch. I have numerours packs of needles in my sewing box, including DMC and John James. I haven’t tried Bohin needles but I believe they are out sourced from a different country and also from John James.

  97. I looked at a new package of John James curved beading needles that I just purchased. There is nothing on the front of the package, but on the back of the package it says “Made in England.”

  98. Hi All, I received a response to my enquiry about where JJ Needles are manufactured…

    Dear Shona Warwick
    Thank you for your email regarding our brand of John James needles. We welcome all communication and we do appreciate you taking the time to email us. Please be assured quality is extremely important to us and that our brand name of John James continues to be known throughout the world for quality.

    Our needles consist of a range which we manufacture in England and those which we outsource to our partner in the Far East. The needles we manufacture in England are dependent upon our production requirements and whilst we concentrate upon specialist needles we have the capabilities to manufacture all variants of hand sewing needles within our range. For needles manufactured by our partner these are manufactured in custom with Entaco/John James quality and specification.

    We regularly receive quality compliments from all over the world and in particular the highlight of 2011 was when we were selected by the BBC to participate in the TV programme, THE ONE SHOW. Filming lasted 5½ hours, the film crew covered all aspects of needle manufacture to assembling the needle into packs and filmed every stage of the needle process. The programme went to air in the later part of 2011 and was broadcast nationally to hundreds of thousands millions of viewers in the UK.
    Kind regards and Happy Stitching

    Karen Parry


    1. Karen at Entaco sent me the EXACT same email. Obviously a “cut and paste” answer. I was also told that they have gotten several emails lately that were “rejected” (bounced back by the server) when she tried to send responses. They suggested trying alternate email adresses if you have one.

  99. I was suprised as I read your article that you said you “throw the broken needle in the trash”. Please Please Please pass along good habits as far as needle safety is concerned. I use a plastic pill bottle (ask a pharmacist), and put my old broken and used needles and rotary blades in it. When full, glue top shut and then dispose. Why? No one can catch something bad off a sewing needle! No. But any needle stick is treated as potential danger and the person stuck lives with the possibility of illness for a six month waiting time. It isn’t fun people. And they don’t know if its a medical needle or a sewing needle. Please dispose of properly. THe exoense is added to your garbage bill- blood tests, possible injections etc.

  100. I bought some gold needles from Cumbria Sewing & Crafts on Crellin Street in Barrow-in-Furness. They are from Permin in Copenhagen and are really smooth and lovely to use. Sandra the owner of the shop is very helpful and supplies things by post if anyone else is interested in them. I do not know about shipping abroad. I have used Permin kits previously and always been satisfied with their products. Hope this helps someone

  101. I liked your article. I do not like English needles which are not made in England and find that needles do break often after very little use.

  102. I went and looked at my John James Needles and yes it said Made in England. So as I knew they had been on one of the TV shows over here I contacted them. AND I got a reply – I’d enclose the reply but a precis is that they still make the specialist needles in Redditch and from the sounds only send the mass production lines to China. As the programme was fairly comprehensive I am fairly sure that they do still have a production line in the UK.

    Also there is rumour that some manufacturing is being brought back to the UK from China because of costs over there. So read the small print – “English Needles” is just a name it must state “Made in England” or we can go to Trading Standards and get them to put a rider on the packet. Power to the Embroiderers!
    I have always bent my tiny fine needles used for long n short. The only needles I have broken were beading needles when I was sewing small beads onto a stretched canvas – if I missed the space between the canvas threads it was a devil to get the fine needle thru!

  103. Mary,
    It’s frustrating when a needle breaks, especially if I’m stitching away from home and don’t have spares with me 🙁

    Rather than tossing needles in the trash, I take them to a community recycling collection that takes steel. I keep a small container to collect things like metal hangers, staples, bent pins and paper clips, the cutter from dental floss, as well as bent/broken needles. I keep a magnet handy to check whether items are steel.

    My contributions may be small, but if more people do it, that’s less in the landfill, and less raw materials needed.

  104. I bought every Mary Arden Embroidery needle package in a local quiltshop years ago believing they were really made in England. Now I am wondering if that’s true. Were you able to find out about this brand of needle…whether or not it’s made in England? I love the needles and have found them superior to some of the other brands.

  105. Am very interested to see all these comments about John James needles, not because I do much sewing but because John James was my great great grandfather and my great grandfather and grandfather carried on the company, until it merged with other needle companies. It is very sad so many great English manufacturing companies are outsourced overseas or have been sold off overseas. While I treasure my John james needles for sentimental reasons, I will make doubly sure to look after the English-made ones.

  106. I’m using John James, still better than many of the rubbish out there, but I’ve noticed I’ve been going through a lot lately. They bend very easily, and the needle eyes somehow seem to wear out fast. They also tend to rust now.

    I’m not trying Bohin needles.

  107. Better late than never – I use the John James Tapestry Petites 28 – it says on the package they are made in England. Of course that doesn’t mean anything about their other sizes. Disappointing they didn’t get back to your enquiry.

  108. I have used John James needles and used to prefer them above any other – until I tried Bohin needles. WOW! You can really feel the difference. They are very smooth and glide through the fabric easily. The eye is also very smooth, with no rough bits to snag your thead. The only problem I have is finding a supplier in the UK. Even when you purchase from Amazon they are dispatched from USA, and they are expensive. A french product from USA??? But worth the wait.

  109. Hi Mary,

    I came upon your site when I searched for needles “Made in England” and “Made in India”. Like you, I have a preference when it comes to needles. I was devastated when I came to know that my favorite needle (Pony) here in the Philippines is no longer Made in India, that instead it is made by another country. So what I did was I went to all the stores here who sell cross stitch materials, specifically, tapestry needles, and asked if they still have in their stock “old needles”. Sad to say, I just found one store that has still 12 packets of Pony. Pony is the only cross stitch needle being sold here in our country.

    So, you are not nuts to really care about your needles. If you are, then count me in, we’re now two.

    Thanks for your very interesting post.

    Warm regards,

  110. I definitely have found that the tensile strength and durability of so-called ‘Fine English Needles’ has declined with moving the production overseas.

    I sold hand sewing, quilting and embroidery needles for 15 years in my now-closed brick&mortar quilt shop … and the changes came on quickly. 😛

    Just yesterday I broke one of the new Tulip (Japanese) brand needles right in half as I was working on an English Paper Pieced project. Sigh!

    🙂 Linda

    1. Has anyone tried Scarlet Today needles? I love the # 8 and 9 on the red felt matchbooks. Great for hand sewing quilt binding down. Smooth and glide easily through fabric

  111. The John James factory is a few miles from my home and supplies and makes needles on an industrial site with many employees.

    Sew yes (so) they do make needles in England.

    But the Chinese are famous for producing anything with a brand name and fraudulently claiming to be original.

    I imagine you have been the victim of a copy merchant and if you want Genuine John James needles you oder them on line at there factory shop in Redditch they deliver all over the world


    1. Hi
      I don’t really know where you get your information from.
      Having worked at Needles industry and Entaco for a number of years in a very senior post I can assure you that majority of the needles are imported from China

  112. I have a huge quantity of old Milwards needles still in new packets made in Redditch England. ( they came from a closed down sewing centre and date pre 1960s). The majority of them are “Betweens”. So I am not sure where they fit into your needle info. Does anyone know what “Betweens” mean? Some are Betweens 3/9,3/7,4/8 and others Betweens 6 plus a few other sizes.Would like to to know what they are meant for.Thanks Sue B

  113. I have read with interest your article on the quality of needles. A number of members of the Embroiderers Guild Victoria, Australia, have also found that needles today are inferior to those produced some years ago. I emailed the John James company and received the attached reply which you will no doubt find interesting. Their reference to the number of years which some employees have been with the company is interesting, but I believe that these employees are not responsible for he

  114. I buy John James tapestry needles 28 petite and 28 regular in packages of 25. Recently I’ve ordered the same from 3rd seller and received needles in clear plastic packages but quality was not JJ. Needles were shorter and wider, very rough on outside. They were so poorly made that there were loose sharp metal on some of them and circular lines on the tip of the needles. I thought that perhaps they were not JJ needles at all. Has anyone else encountered anything like that? JJ website does sell needles by thousand without a package, but I can’t imagine that quality would differ so horribly from thouse that are packaged.

  115. Hi,
    I read with interest your comments regarding the origins of some of the so called
    English manufactured needles.
    I started my courier with Needle Industries back in 1972 and then to Entaco
    Progressing to a Production Directors position until I was laid off in 2006 .
    Today all I can say that it’s sad to say that most of the needles are imported from China,
    Specifics answers can be responded if requested

  116. I’ve found eBay has many listings for vintage needles most are made in England or France. Some are full unused books and not bad prices. So I’ll be stocking up for sure. Try searching under vintage sewing needles or new old stock sewing needles.

  117. Wow!! I’ve been saying this for years. I have some original English needles which I must have bought around 45 years ago (!) (I was a teen then). They were cheap then, readily available, and I paid about 50p for them in Woolworths.
    When I compare them to the rubbish available now made in India/China etc they are a completely different product, a thing of absolute craftsman beauty.
    The factory that made them in Redditch was demolished and there is a cheap hotel on its site. Every time I use one of these beautiful needles (and I use them all them time) I want to cry at the thought of what we have lost!
    So your answer is, yes there is such a thing as an ‘English’ needle, I have several of them, and they are very, very good things.

  118. I worked for a company that took parts out of one box and put them in anothet box that said “ Made in U SA” Hint large jet engine company in Cincinnati!

  119. Hi
    I worked for ENTACO some years ago
    But now all the needles are made in China packed in another country then sent back to England for dispatch and that’s how they can say ( English needles )

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