You can’t embroider without a needle.
Every time I say something like that, I pause and think about it. It sounds so definitive. After all, maybe someone out there does embroider (in the standard way we think of embroidering) without a needle.
But no. I can’t fathom it – not in an efficient, easy, comfortable way, anyway.
So I’ll stand by that statement: you can’t embroider without a needle.
You can get away with stitching without a hoop. You don’t even need scissors, since there are other things that will cut thread. But a needle? It’s pretty essential.
When it comes to needles, there are needles. And then are Needles.
Because I’ve gotten some inquiries about needles lately, it’s a good subject to revisit.
You probably won’t find it surprising that I’ve written about needles here on Needle ‘n Thread once or twice. I’ll link to some articles at the end of this post for those who are looking for more specific information about embroidery needles. I’ve got some good, sound tips available here on the website to help you to help you learn which needles to choose for different types of stitching and why.
Often, when it comes to choosing the right embroidery needle for a job, you can’t underestimate the value of experience. After you’ve been stitching a while, it’ll be much easier to reach for Just the Right Needle for a specific task. The weight of the thread, the type of thread, the type of fabric you’re using – many factors can influence your choice of needle. If you’re new to stitching, you’ll learn pretty quickly what needles you like best for different types of stitchery.
But needle choice isn’t rocket science (or brain surgery), so you really shouldn’t feel stressed over choosing a needle. Your best approach should always be try it. If it works well, if your thread behaves with it, if it glides nicely through the fabric, if it’s comfortable for you to work with it, hey! You’re good!
That advice sounds great, except when you don’t have a huge arsenal of needles to try. And that’s where some of the articles I’ve linked to below may come in handy.
Building Your Needle Collection
One thing I’ll say right off the bat is this: there are good needles and there are not so good needles. A bad needle can lead pretty quickly to a bad stitching experience. It is therefore worthwhile to invest in decent embroidery needles.
They don’t have to break the bank, though! In our modern world, needles are fairly affordable things. There are actually many decent brands out there, and experienced stitchers will already have their own favorite brands that they gravitate towards. Here, I’m just going to concentrate on three needle brands because I’m familiar with their quality and they are fairly widely accessible.
So, for the sake of keeping things simple, three reliable needle brands include John James, Bohin, and Tulip.
As far as widely available needles, John James can be found in most locally owned, small business needlework stores, but they can also be found in some big box stores. This means they are probably the most widely accessible brand in the list. The others on the list are more likely to be found in locally owned small business stores – needlework shops, quilt shops, and the like.
If you have a locally owned needlework shop, the best way to buy good needles is as an add-on to whatever purchases you make there. Occasionally, throw in a new package of needles, maybe a different type or brand or size you haven’t used before, to help you build a good collection of these valuable little tools. As your collection grows and you use a wider variety, you will learn a whole lot about what needles to choose and use.
The Rest of Us
Most of us don’t have access to locally owned, small business needlework shops. I don’t. And it would be silly for me to drive two hours in one direction to buy a pack of needles.
Luckily, ordering needles online is easy enough – especially if you’re already ordering other supplies. A packet or two of most types of needles is an easy add-on item that normally doesn’t increase shipping costs.
Some good online sources for needles include the following:
Your favorite online needlework shop, where you already shop. Undoubtedly, they carry needles. Even if they don’t have them listed on their website, they likely have them. If they are a brick and mortar store with regular operating hours, give them a call and discuss needles with them. If you don’t have a favorite online shop already, I like Needle in a Haystack (Alameda, CA) as a source for all kinds of quality needlework supplies, and they have an excellent range of needles on their website.
Needle ‘n Thread! Yes, I sell needles. I stock Tulip needles and specialty combination packs of Bohin needles (right now, their vintage Christmas pack). These two brands are my favorite needles for handwork. Tulip needles are definitely more expensive, but they are very, very nice needles to stitch with. You can read more about Tulip Needles in general here, if you want to see what makes them different. Bohin needles are excellent quality needles, and the combo packs offer a great good range of needles to have on hand. (Right now, I’m low on Tulip Needles, but I have more coming in soon.)
Anita’s Little Stitches: For a wide variety of Bohin needles, John James needles, and for Bohin needles in bulk, Anita’s Little Stitches has a good supply and a good range of types.
Colonial Needle – they have a wide range of John James and other types of needles as well.
Don’t Forget the Quilt Shops!
Most locally owned quilt shops have a notions wall, and you’ll normally find a good range of needles there. If you shop for fabric online through quilt shops, they also likely offer a range of decent needles.
Special Cases – Allergies and Threading Difficulties
If you have a nickel allergy or if you have threading difficulties, read this article. It will refer you to a great source for needles for these special situations.
More Needle Information
If you’d like to read more about needles, check out these articles:
John James Needle Guide – this is a PDF on their website, and it would be good to download to have on hand for reference.
If you want to explore more articles that are needle-related here on Needle ‘n Thread, here’s the list of previous articles that are tagged needle.