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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All About Embroidery Needles – Types, Storage & Resources


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Hand embroidery is a relatively inexpensive and easy craft to take up, because, unlike most other hobbies, the basic tools required for embroidery are simple, few, and affordable.

While the woodworker needs saws and carving tools, the weaver needs a loom, the cake decorator needs bags and tips, the sculptor needs chisels and hammers, the potter needs a wheel, the painter needs a variety of brushes, and the magician needs props … what does the embroiderer really need, as far as tools go?

You can embroider without scissors. You can embroider without a hoop.

But one thing you can’t embroider without is a needle.

The needle is the Most Important Embroidery Tool for the stitcher. It is the one tool a stitcher cannot do without.

Because needles are essential to embroidery, if you’re interested in embroidery, the subject of needles is worth exploring.

Embroidery Needles - Types, Storage, Organization, Resources

Here on Needle ‘n Thread, we’ve discussed embroidery needles a lot.

Just in case you’ve missed any of our stellar discussions on this quintessential embroidery tool, here’s a round-up of pertinent articles that you’ll find helpful if you’ve had questions about embroidery needles, if you’re wondering about the different types of needles, or considering how to store needles or where to get needles.

Hand Embroidery Needles – An Information Round-Up

Feel free to peruse the list of articles below all about embroidery needles. If you have stitching friends, share the list with them! You’d be surprised how many stitchers have needle quandaries!

Types & Brands of Embroidery Needles

Bohin Needles – In this article, I’ll tell you why I like these excellent and affordable needles made in France.

Tulip Needles – Made in Japan, these needles are rather expensive, but they’re really nice. In this article, we look at what makes them different from other needles.

John James Needles – Here, we’re looking specifically at multi-packs of needles and how to “read” them, using John James multi-packs. John James are affordable, good-quality needles that are widely available.

John James Needle Guide – this is a link to a PDF from John James, that covers all their needles, their sizes, and how they are used. You can print it for your own resource, or you can save it to your computer for whenever you have a needle size question, and you’re working with John James needles.

Embroidery Needles by Pony – Sometimes, it’s hard to find very fine hand embroidery needles (sizes 11 & 12 crewel needles, for example. Pony makes them. This is an overview of them and some general discussion on needles, including why you shouldn’t lick your thread when you thread your needles.

Hand-made Japanese Embroidery Needles – What are hand made needles, and what are the advantages of using them?

Spiral Eye Needles – Do you have trouble threading your needle? You might consider the Spiral Eye needle. They’re now made in smaller sizes, too, for hand embroidery. This article is a review, with close-up photos.

Petites – What are petite needles and what are the advantages to using them?

Gold-plated Embroidery Needles – What are they, how are they different from other needles, and are they any better than other needles?

More on Very Fine Sized Embroidery Needles – A little more on Pony needles, plus other brands that come in fine sizes.

Curved Embroidery Needles – what they’re good for and why you need one!

Colored-Eye Needles – Colored eye needles can help you tell one needle from another. See them close up in this review.

Chenille Needles – What they are and why you need them!

Milliner Needles – What’s a milliner (or straw) needle, and why it is used for bullion knots and other wrapped stitches.

5 Things You Need to Know about Embroidery Needles – Some introductory information to embroidery needles in general.

On Needles that Break and the Needle Making Industry – Some general information on embroidery needles, as well as some surprises about “fine English needles” (that aren’t necessarily made in England).

How to Choose Embroidery Needles and Use Them – General information on how to select embroidery needles for the project you’re working.

Organization, Storage, and Care for Embroidery Needles

A Simple Felt Needle Roll – How to make a simple felt needle roll for storing lots of needles.

Taking Care of Embroidery Needles – Polishing needles with emery.

Further Information on Needles & Emery – a follow up, with questions answered and resources about needles and emery.

Organizing Needles – How I do it, and it isn’t all that organized!

Needle Tins – A decorative option for storing quantities of needles. I love these!

Instructions for Making Little Needlebooks – The little needle books (with pattern and instructions) in Lavender Honey & Other Little Things are perfect for storing needles for individual projects. They’re customizable, too – you can decorate and embellish the fabric however you wish, for a completely unique little needle book.

Coming Up on Needle ‘n Thread

There’s no doubt I’ll touch upon the subject of needles again in the future. There are a lot of tips to share when it’s come to needles, after all!

On Monday, I’m going to take you on a Grand Adventure, wherein we hunt treasure together, and wherein we discover some unsettling points about needle storage and pincushions.

See you then!


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(20) Comments

  1. Thank you Mary for all the articles about needles. It was a pleasant break from my Bavarian braces stitch project. I love my needles and just like you, I like them when they are a little bend. My best needles are the ones I find at archaeological digs. Bone needles are really magical. They are so smooth. You just want to try them. Alas, they are always broken…

  2. Yesterday I emptied out my cache of needles some still in the packages and most loose in the bottom of the bin. I was surprised by the number of tapestry/cross stitch needles I had accumulated. It was a trip down memory lane as I sorted.

  3. Dear Mary

    A really useful and comprehensive list on the subject of needles and like you I have a stash of needles but I do prefer Bohin needles as they are small and smooth to stitch with. Thanks for the list of articles on needles as this is so important to the embroiderer and it’s very useful to have your views on the different types of needles available on the market. I can’t wait for the grand adventure and treasure hunt sounds exciting. Have a great weekend.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  4. What an interesting topic! I’ve just checked on all of the needle types – interesting and very informative. Great review Mary – you do this sort of stuff VERY well and I always learn something new, so thank you!


  5. Great info here. I have a question, I was recently told that some needles are burnished in lengthwise manner and some in a rolling manner and that the lengthwise burnishing would make the needles glide easier. Just wondered if you had any info on this.

    1. I’ve heard something similar, Sue, I doubt machine made needles are burnished particularly along the shaft. If you look here on the Bohin website, you’ll see the process of making needles, and that the needles aren’t necessarily fed a certain way through the various stages of the process: http://www.bohin.fr/en/pageLibre00010aab.html With hand-made needles, I would imagine the direction of the burnishing can be controlled, but I don’t know if that’s the case with machine-made needles.

  6. Hi Mary
    You didn’t mention double-ended needles – or I missed it. They are fantastic for when you have one hand on top & one underneath the cloth.
    Made in England by John James, tapestry size 24 – 3 needles to a pack, No JJ698DE. My local supplier had another size as well – either 26 or 22, not sure which. So I don’t know if they come in more sizes than just these two.
    The one I have been using most has developed a definite bend in it, but still works well, and it certainly makes things quicker and easier, not having to turn the needle around each time. The total length of the needle is 5.5cm or just over 2inches. The eye is 1cm long. So although it is a long needle, it has the advantages of a short one for stitching with a short end of thread.
    I’d send you a picture if I knew how to attach it to this!

  7. Someone was needling you for more information on needles, weren’t they Mary? That’s why you posted this sharp article for us. Thanks for your pointed links!

  8. I’ve used your website for reference for several years. Somehow I didn’t notice the articles were regularly-written blog posts. I subscribed about 3 weeks ago and I look forward to your charming writing every day. I’ve already learned many interesting things I’d never even have thought to ask.

  9. I have been thinking about making a little needle book. I got rid off awful tomato thing a while ago, yuk! Ick!
    I started using Bohin needles about a year ago and now I find it very difficult to use anything else. The steel is so smooth and I find them easy to thread and to hold as well. They are just perfection to me.

  10. Hi Mary
    Just came across John James Twin Pointed Quick Stitch Needles.
    Have you used these and are there any demos on how to use them.
    I suppose if you are using a seat or floor frame, they would come in handy. Must take a lot of getting use to though. I know this sounds snobbish – and it is not meant to be so – I only use John James needles. Was introduced to them at a class I went to some years ago and since then have only them. Many thanks for all your videos, will send you a pix of piece of embroidery I completed thanks to you.
    Meanwhile take care
    Ilana – London UK

    1. Hi, Ilana – I think they work best if you’re using a floor stand and both hands while stitching. They also work best on counted work and needlepoint – they’re not so useful for surface embroidery.

    2. Many thanks Mary, have you used them? I think I would have to get used to using a frame first, and then see if I could get used to using this type of needle. Once again many thanks

    3. Yes, I’ve tried them, but I never got really comfortable with them -but then again, I don’t really do a whole lot of counted work. I think with practice, they’d be good to use.

  11. The color coded needles sound neat. I would love to see color coded tips for being more accurate in back stitching. I have a real problem. 1/16, 1/8 and 1/4 would be great. Maybe you could suggest to this company.

  12. I have been Embroidering all my life (my Grandma taught me how when I was a little girl ). I never knew the information about the needles that I read about in this article. thank you very much. I so enjoyed learning about the needles. I know I have favorite needles to use and when I am up at church in the craft group that I belong to and I have to use their bad needles I always wish I had brought my needles with me. As they do make a difference .Thank you again for that good article.

  13. I’ve read that storing needles in wool felt is good for them–that the lanolin gives them a bit of slippery-ness and protects them from moisture–but how much lanolin remains after the felting process? I’ve also read that felt holds too much moisture, which will lead to rust unless you’re in a very dry climate. What is your experience? Because I’m an absolute sucker for a cute needle book, I need to know what to make the pages out of for my next dozen needle books.

    1. I use felt. I’ve never had a problem with it. I don’t think there’s much if any lanolin in regular colored wool felt. However, you can buy felted blocks to store needles in, that are made with less processed wool.

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