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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Embroidery Needles for Newbies – and Beyond!


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Good morning and a Happy Monday all around!

When it comes to hand embroidery, the needle is really the most important tool that you have.

Sure, a hoop is nice. But you can embroider without a hoop. Scissors are nice, but you don’t need them to embroider. (That said, I think it would be somewhat difficult – and inadvisable – to cut embroidery threads with your teeth…)

But you can’t really embroider without a needle. Something has to transport that thread in and out of the fabric, after all.

I’ve written many, many articles about hand embroidery needles over the years…

Embroidery Needles for Newbies and Beyond

…and while I may not have covered Every Single Aspect of the embroidery needle, the different types of needles used for hand embroidery, and different brands of needles, I’ve covered enough to give the newcomer to hand embroidery a good foundation in the choosing and using of embroidery needles.

Especially for the newbie – but as a refresher for advanced stitchers, too – start your exploration of needles by reading this general overview of different types of needles we use in hand embroidery: Hand Embroidery Needles: How to Choose Them & Use Them.

Then, to delve into more thorough information about brands, types, sizing, organization, and so forth, I’ve recently updated my main article All About Embroidery Needles here on Needle ‘n Thread, adding new links to articles I’ve written since then, plus other resources. This article is the Hub for all kinds of information about embroidery needles.

One of the items I added recently to the list of resources on that article is the John James Needle Guide (to type, length, and size), which is a handy PDF from the John James company that you can download and print for your own use.

So, for those looking for more information about embroidery needles, check out these articles above. If you go through the various resources in the articles, you will master the whole notion of what needle to use when!

Finally, keep in mind that the best way to figure out which needle you like best is just to try it. See what works for you! With practice and experience, you’ll figure out what suits you and your own stitching style.

I hope your week is off to a great start!


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(6) Comments

    1. Yes, I use the ball point beading needles for silk gauze petit point. They don’t really have a ball on the end. They’re just blunt. I like them for that kind of work.

  1. Morning Mary, Thank you for this article with it’s links to other articles, I enjoyed re-visiting them this morning.
    My needles, both machine and hand stitching, are all stored in one smallish drawer most of them from variety packs and some of them more than 40 years old. Some are craft specific such as doll making, beading and upholstery. Loathe to get rid of any of them though as you never know when you might need just that one odd sized needle. If I have a long term project, I’ll make a needle holder out of a piece of cotton quilt batting sandwiched by some pretty cotton fabric, light colored so I can see the needle. I’ll just zig-zag the four edges into a decent size oblong and then trim down to size with mum’s old pinking shears (which desperately need refurbishing, they’re as old as me). This holds a couple of needles and a few pins and is kept with the project in a baggie along with the threads. All my thread snips, scissors, shears and rotary cutter are kept in a gathering spot on my sewing table and picked out as needed when I pick up a project, and no, you may not ‘borrow’ a pair of scissors to open a bag of frozen veg, or slit the tape on an Amazon delivery box, there’s a pair scissors and a box cutter in the kitchen bottom drawer for that.
    Happy stitching – Brenda

  2. Dear Mary

    The needle size is so important when embroidering a project and your article on all about embroidery needles is a great help when choosing the right needle to the project in hand. Thank you for this update on the types of different needles available to the embroider. Thank you for sharing with us the importance of the needle and for the links to the different needles and their uses.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  3. Hello! I checked every article listed here, and I couldn’t find the answer to what I am confused about. I apologize in advance because this is going to be very specific, but I can’t organize my question otherwise. I am having the absolute WORST time trying to figure out what in the world is going on with needle packaging. Specifically, I’ve been using DMC needles, since they are the most accessible to me. I had picked up a size 3-9 variety pack, but it was missing a size 6, and that was the only size I needed at the time. That was confusing enough, so I decided to organize my needles before I tried to buy more. When I grabbed my size 1-5 DMC pack (pack #2), I noticed the size 5 needle from pack #2 had a larger eye than pack #1. Then I saw my group of size 3 needles had two different sized eyes as well. I checked my needle ID card to see if I had made a mistake, and then I noticed there were two sides to it: English crewel needles and French crewel needles. The English needles were sized 1-12 and the French side had size 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10. Is there a difference in function between French and English? Does the size of the eye matter, if the shaft diameter and length are the same? If the eye size does matter – why would I choose one size over the other?

    1. I think you might be overthinking it. If a project calls for a six, and a six can’t be had, you can probably do whatever you had to do with a seven. Or a five.

      There’s no difference in function between the French and English needles. It’s simply a difference in size, because of their manufacturing approaches. Once you’ve stitched for a while, you’ll probably find out that you have a size that you pretty much use for everything, except the occasional specialty stitching. I always reach for a seven, because it’s pretty much a universally useful size.

      I am not sure what the problem is with DMC needles and their packaging and sizes in their packaging, but I do know that they are generally not very good quality needles. If you have a local quilting store (as opposed to a general hobby / craft store that carries quilting fabric), you might find decent needles on their notions wall. John James is a good needle that’s pretty widely available.

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