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  • How to Select a Needle...

What kind of Project will you be doing?

  • What task/project are you going to do?

    The task determines the type of needle you will need.

What kind of thread do you plan to work with?

  • What type of thread will you be using?

    The thread can also determine the type of needle you will need, too.

    • All purpose thread is used for most general sewing and mending tasks.
    • Embroidery floss is used when embellishing or embroidery. It comes as six threads bundled together. A person might want to use only a single strand for a thread painting project, or all six to give impact to a leaf or flower. Cross stitch and Needlepoint also use Embroidery floss.
    • Cross-stitch is done with embroidery floss or Perle Cotton
    • Needlepoint is usually done with a wool or yarn. The brand and type of thread can determine exactly what size tapestry needle you need. The Aida or mesh count will also play a part in your decision as to size of needle.
    • Beading requires thin , strong thread. Some people use fishing line. the tiny eye of a beading needle is the biggest challenge any sewer encounters.
    • Quilter’s have many tasks. For piecing and basting they may use all purpose thread but want hand quilting thread for the actual quilting.  Sew on bindings with embroidery floss or high quality all purpose thread. Embellish with Redwork using embroidery floss. Tie them with yarn with or Perle Cotton.
    • The Spiral Eye side threading machine needle can only do standard all purpose thread. The slot is only 5000th of an inch wide so heavy threads will not fit in the slot.

Some Helplful “Pointers”

Just Want to Sew on a Button?

General Sewing Needles are also called “Sharps“. They are the go-to needle for basic mending tasks. They have a sharp point and a thin diameter.

    • Personal preference dictates the length and diameter. If you only get one needle, get a size 6 or 7 Sharp.
    • Needle sizes are just the opposite of what you would expect. A size 8 is smaller than a size 6. A size 12 is really thin and short, while a size 4 is long and thicker.
    • Needle sizing fact: The size of a needle is directly related to the size of the diameter of wire used to make the needle. This means a size 6 was “drawn” or stretched 6 times to make its diameter and the size 12 was “drawn” 12 times, making a smaller diameter needle.
    • Chenille and Tapestry needles start out with a much thicker wire, so the size 24 Chenille is closer to the size 6 sharp even though the number still represents the number of times that wire was drawn. A 24 Chenille is a smaller diameter than the size 18 Chenille.
    • Different brands vary slightly in diameter and length and shape of the eye, but for the most part: a size 6 or 4 or 12 is about the same size no matter the brand.

Embroider Pillow Cases or Towels?

Embroidery work on cotton material using two or more embroidery floss uses a “Sharp” needle. But if you want more than a few strands of embroidery floss or use the heavier Pearl Cotton thread you might want an Embroidery Eye Needle or a Chenille Needle.

  • Most people like a size 6 or 4 Sharp for this task. The size 4 is a little longer and easier to hold with arthritic fingers.
  • Mary Corbet has a wonderful article on choosing Embroidery needles HERE.

Cross Stitch?

You want a blunt point on the needle for tasks where you want to make sure the needle does not split the threads of the material. Blunt needles are called Tapestry Needles. The size of the holes in the material generally dictates the size needle you want.

Aida is a common material for Counted Cross stitch.

  • Use a size 22 Tapestry Needle for size 8 and 11 count Aida
  • Use a size 24 Tapestry Needle for 14 count Aida (This is the most common size)
  • Use a size 26 Tapestry Needle for 16 and 18 count Aida
  • Use a size 26 Tapestry for 20 count Aida or for Hardanger projects

Beading?

Sewing Seed beads requires super thin needles. The diameter needs to be smaller than the hole in the bead. Beading needles are blunt, but if you are sewing your bead onto cloth you will want a Sharp.

Because threading such tiny eyes is a problem, there are even beading needles that have a slit n the center of the needle that can expand to allow larger thread into it. Spiral Eye Beading needle has a small slot on the side of the eye for the thread to slip into.

  • Size 15 seed bead uses size 12 or 13 needle
  • Size 11 seed bead uses size 12 needle
  • Size 8 seed bead uses size 8 or 10 needle
Beading needles with seed beads

Quilting?

Quilting requires a variety of needle types.

The name, “Quilting needles” usually refers to short thin needles that quilters use to do the “rocking stitch.” Quilting Needles are also called “Betweens”. A size 12 Between is a short size 12 sharp

To bury thread tails, you will want a side threading needle. If you bury lots of threads, you will want a sturdier Chenille size 24 Chenille Spiral Eye Needle. If you only bury a few tails, bury them using a size 6 Spiral Eye Needle.

Sew on a binding? Use a Sharp needle that feels great in your hand. Often times that is a size 8 or 10. Some people like a size 12. I personally like a size 6 Spiral Eye Needle.

Photo of old quilt

Yarn Projects

Yarn needles have much larger eyes to accommodate the heaviness of yarn. Yarn is made up multiple threads that fray as you try to put it into the eye so there are tricks to threading into that hole. Or you can try a Spiral Eye side threading yarn needle. It has an opening on the side of the eye, so the fraying is not an issue.

Yarn needles on a grid project

Machine Sewing Projects

Yes Spiral Eye makes a Sewing Machine needle that is just as easy to thread as Spiral Eye hand sewing needles.

Size 80/12 Universal.

A machine needle threaded closeup

What’s Your Thread Type?

The eye opening must be large enough for the thread you choose.

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Types of thread
1

General Sewing Thread

General sewing thread is around four thousand’s of an inch thick. The typical eye of a needle will easily accommodate it.

2

Embroidery Floss

Embroidery floss typically comes in sets of six strands. You can get two or three strands at a time in most general sewing needle, but to use all 6 strands you need a bigger eye…which might mean a bigger needle.

3

Quilting thread

Often times hand quilting thread needs a bigger eye. The Needle Lady’s Stainless Steel needles have slim diameters yet big eyes with extra sharp points. Many quilters like them for piece work and that rocking stitch if you hand quilt. And they will never leave a rust.

4

Metallic threads are slippery and can fray. They take a steady hand to thread into a traditional eye. Side threading needles are much easier to use with this. But if you want a traditional eye needle try the PONY stainless steel needle set of 6 needles.

5

Thick braided thread

need a bigger eye and often times a sturdier needle to get it through the material: try a size 4 or even a chenille needle size 22

General Sewing Thread

General sewing thread is around four thousand’s of an inch thick.The typical eye of a needle will easily accommodate it.

Embroidery Floss

Embroidery floss comes in sets of six strands. You can use two or three strands at a time in most general sewing needle, but to use all 6 strands you need a bigger eye.

Buttons, Blue Jeans & Metallics

Button thread, blue jean thread, heavier metallic thread…these need to have bigger eyes to allow the thicker threads into the eye.

Perle Cotton

Perle Cotton is a heavier thread that comes in balls instead of on spools. The size of the needle needed depends on the size of the Perle Cotton thread.

Yarn

4 ply craft yarn will fit in the size 13 needle

Ask Yourself these Basic Questions

Do You Have Special Requirements?

Are you allergic to nickel? If your fingers itch and peel and your eyes get red when you sew a lot, chances are you have a reaction to the nickel plating in your needles. Look for Hypoallergenic needles like the 100% surgical grade stainless steel needles.

Do you leave your needles in your projects for long periods of time? Traditional needles with eventually rust and leave marks in your project. Stainless steel needles will not rust.

Do you have depth perception issues? Side threading needles are so easy to thread you can do it blindfolded.

Do you have low vision, macular degeneration, presbyopia…or just struggle to see that tiny hole in a needle? Either pick needles with larger eyes, like embroidery needles or Chenille needles. Or go for the side threading threading of Spiral Eye Needles or SENCH needles.

Have arthritis or have difficulty with holding onto the needle? Try a longer needle, like a size 4 Sharp or 22 Chenille.

Do You Care if it is Made in America?

Not everyone wants to pay the cost of an American made product. Pam’s Original Spiral Eye Side Threading needles are the only hand sewing needles made in America. Made by a small family run business (Dad owns it, Mom does the books, son runs the shop and the dog answers the door.)

Do You Even Need an Easy-to-Thread Needle?

If your vision and dexterity allows you to thread a traditional eye needle, you might be happy with the PONY brand traditional eyed needles.