I succumbed to the temptation to try Tulip needles many months ago, despite what my Prudent Self told me.
And my first experience? It was the greatest, even before I took my first stitch. I’ll tell you about it!
But first, I’ll explain why I never planned to try them. Then I’ll explain why I did try them, what went wrong, why I gave them a second chance, and finally, a more balanced perspective about them after using them for many, many hours of stitching.
I’ll also explain a big problem that they solved for me. If you have the same problem, they might go a long way towards solving it for you, too!
Tulip needles are made in Japan. They’re called Hiroshima needles. I don’t have any affiliation with the company and I bought my own needles to try, just so I could venture an opinion on them.
I’ve received requests from readers to review Tulip needles, but the Prudent Side of Me always told me, “Don’t spend that much money on needles.”
In my mind, Tulip needles are dadgum-golly-wow expensive, clocking in at over $1 each, on average. And I already have a good supply of Bohin, John James, and several other brands of needles on hand.
What, I asked myself, could make one factory-made needle worth more than $1 each?
I don’t really like to recommend products that I consider expensive, when other products will do the trick – and sometimes, will do the trick better.
But how could I say, objectively, I like this needle better or It’s not worth spending that kind of money on needles, if I didn’t actually try the needle?
So I finally succumbed, so that I could objectively say whether or not it’s worth spending $8.50 for a tube of 8 needles.
My first foray into the world of Tulip needles was not perhaps the greatest.
With my first purchase (from a shop on Etsy), the tube of needles arrived completely crushed into shards inside a bubble mailer. No box – just a crushed tube and some needles in a bubble mailer.
I was not tickled.
During the following months, I kept receiving occasional inquiries about Tulip needles.
I also discovered at some point that my tube should have arrived in a neat little outer box.
Tulip needles normally come in a clear plastic tube with a small cork in it. The tube is labeled, and it is situated in a very nice little folded box held closed by a tiny length of red silk. The tubes are held in place inside the box by a card insert and the whole presentation is quite classy.
At that point, reason took over, and I decided to fault the original seller I purchased the tube from rather than the needles themselves.
I gave them a try.
And then I bought more.
I liked them! But I didn’t know if I liked them because of that one particular size and type of needle (it was a #9 embroidery needle), or if it really was the needle itself.
So I bought a tube of #8 embroidery needles (it’s the size I use frequently – I love it for floche) from a different shop. A little while later, when the budget allowed and I found a better deal on them, I bought a few combination packages – including a tube of assorted sizes of embroidery needles, a tube of milliners in various sizes, and a tube of tapestry needles in various sizes.
The whole time I was pursuing these needles, I kept asking myself, “Would they really be that different from other good quality needles?”
Over the following several weeks – and some 120+ hours of stitching – I used Tulip needles all the time.
And this is what I found:
A Sharp Tip – and More
Tulip embroidery needles have Very Sharp Tips. The needle passes into and through the fabric with very little resistance. Apparently, this has to do not only with the sharpness of the tip, but also with the way in which the needles are processed and polished. Most needles are polished around the shaft. Hiroshima needles are polished down the length of the needle.
I use linen backed with cotton on most of my embroidery projects, and these two fabrics are stretched taut on a frame when I stitch. The linen I use has a close weave.
When you’re doing surface embroidery as opposed to counted work, the needle must pierce the linen threads. It doesn’t pass between them. It pierces right into them. And when two layers of fabric are stretched taut on a frame, the linen surface becomes somewhat hard, making it a little more difficult to pierce with the needle.
Often, you even get slippage on linen threads that are stretched taut, if you don’t put some effort into getting that needle into the fabric. The needle sort of slips off the linen thread, rather than going right in where you want it to on the first attempt.
To counteract this slippage, you end up gripping the needle more firmly and pushing the needle with more effort, to make sure that it’s going to break into that fabric at that exact spot.
With Tulip needles and their very sharp tips and ultra-smooth shafts, the resistance on entering the fabric is not noticeable. They slip effortlessly into the fabric, right where you want them, on the first attempt.
Flexible, without Keeping the Bend
Tulip needles have a flexibility to them that makes them comfortable to hold, but not flimsy or noticeably bendable. They remain rigid, but they “give” a little as you stitch with them.
It may seem odd that flexibility in a needle is a good thing. Too much flexibility would be a bad thing – it would make it hard to stitch with. But when you hold a needle and move it around and work it under other threads, it’s a good thing if it has just a little give to it. If a needle is too rigid, it’s uncomfortable to use.
However, despite the give in these needles, they don’t seem to develop a permanent bend.
I can’t tell you how many of my needles develop permanent bends from long hours of use. The two Tulip needles I’ve been using consistently for hours and hours of stitching haven’t bent, but they do have enough of a comfortable give in them to keep them pleasant for stitching.
A Problem Solved
Over the past two years, I’ve developed really noticeable hand fatigue when I stitch.
Over the past weeks, I’ve put in over 120 hours of stitching, and I’ve done it with these needles.
I’ve noticed that my hands haven’t tired as quickly and they haven’t hurt from gripping the needles and putting effort into breaking through the fabric. It seems to take a lot less effort to stitch, and I am pretty sure this is why my hand fatigue and finger pain is considerably less bothersome. I rarely notice it now.
I don’t want to say absolutely that the current state of relief in my beloved phalanges stems from the use of these needles, but it seems to make sense that at least some of the relief is due to the fact that it doesn’t require as much effort to stitch when I’m using them.
So, that’s something to consider, if you have hand fatigue when you stitch. It could be the effort required by the needle, if the tip isn’t as sharp as it could be and isn’t breaking into the fabric with ease.
(I’m not making any medical claims here – I’m just giving you something to consider and maybe try, if you have a similar problem.)
After a rocky start, I’m a fan of Tulip needles!
As strange as this sounds, I’ve experienced a noticeable increase in pleasure in stitching when I use them. They feel good. They’re comfortable. They’re easy.
Would I pay for them again? Well, I have a pretty good stock of them right now. But yeah, I would.
How do they compare to my other favorite needles, like Bohin? Bohin needles are excellent. And they are much more affordable. You get more needles for a lot less money, and they are good quality needles.
But when switching between the two brands off and on to see if there was a noticeable difference, I kept switching back to the Tulip needles and sticking with them.
But I won’t give up my Bohin needles, either, or my John James. They’re decent needles. But there is something about the Tulip needles that makes for a different stitching experience, and I like them!
Tulip Silk Needles
Update, 2022: This year, I discovered Tulip’s Silk Needles in size #10. These have been an eye-opener! If you stitch on fabrics with a firm, close weave, like silk (dupioni, shantung, silk satin, etc.) or high count linen, or even cottons like Kona cotton, these needles are a whole new kettle of fish. They have an extra-tapered tip, which makes them slide into fabrics with close weaves very easily. Eye-wise, they equate more to a sharp (small round eye), but that tip is something extra, it’s nice! I’ve been using them for goldwork and all kinds of surface work on finer, close-weave, high count fabrics, and they’re just fabulous!
Where to Find Them
Update, 2022: After several years of using Tulip needles, I’ve decided to stock my favorites in my shop. You’ll find them listed under Embroidery Equipment.
Here’s the list of the types & sizes I carry:
Embroidery Needles (also called “crewel needles”): Assorted Thick (2 each in sizes 3, 4, 5, 6)
Embroidery Needles: Assorted Thin (2 each in sizes 7, 8, 9, 10)
Embroidery Needles #10 (8 per tube)
Embroidery Needles #8 (8 per tube)
Milliner (Straw) Needles
Silk Needles* #10 (8 per tube)
*Silk needles have an extra-fine tapered, sharp point and a small round eye, like a “sharp.” They are ideal for hand sewing on fine fabrics like silk, high count linen, fine cotton, and the like. The extra-fine tapered tip of the needle slides into these tightly woven fabrics very easily. I love them for stitching on silk, silk satin, cotton batiste, and high count fine linen.
What About You?
Have you used Tulip needles? What’s your take? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences! Feel free to chime in below!