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  • Needles 101

    Sench side threading needle with threads

What are the differences between needles?

Why are some needles sharp and others are blunt? What are needles made from? How to select a sewing needle.

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Complete set o Spiral Eye Needles
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Sharps

Basic, general sewing needles. The points are sharper so they go into the material easily. Used for basic hemming, mending, quilting, embroidery work, etc.

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Chenille Needles

Chenille Needles also have a sharp point. They have a slightly larger eye for heavier threads. The also tend to have a larger diameter shaft, so they are stronger needles. Used for projects that use heavier threads or things like ribbon.

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Tapestry Needles

Tapestry Needles have a blunt point and are used for projects such as Counted Cross stitch where you want to make sure the needle goes between the weave of the material. Also use for paper projects where the whole is pre-punched as well as plastic grid projects & embellishing.

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Specialty Needles

The SE-1 was the original Spiral Eye design – it has a sharp point and does not have a taper eye into the shaft of the needle. Beading needles are a special needle made as thin of a diameter as is possible and have a blunt point.

sharps

Sharps

Used for basic hemming, mending, quilting, embroidery work, etc.

Sharps are the basic General Sewing Needles. The points are sharp so they go into the material easily. The eyes tend to be small so the hole created by the needle is small, too. Crewel needles, also called embroidery needles are basically sharp needles with elongated eyes to make them easier to thread several strands of floss. Everyone should have a couple sharps in their sewing basket.

spiral eye Chenille needles

Chenille Needles are also sharp

Used for projects like sewing on patches or burying stray threads.

While Chenille needles also have a sharp point, they can hold heavier threads than a sharp. The also tend to have a larger diameter shaft, so they are stronger needles.

tapestry point

Tapestry Needles

The point on a tapestry needle is blunt. It can be rounded or more angular, but it should not pierce through the fibers of the material you are working on, just go between the threads.

Choose the size of the Tapestry needle by determining the thread/yarn you are using and how big the hole it needs to go through.

beading needles

Specialty Needles

There are all kinds of tasks that require something other than a standard needle.

The SE-1 was the original Spiral Eye design – it has a sharp point and the eye portion is exactly the same diameter as the shaft. Good for tasks where you do one stitch at a time, such a burying a stray thread.

Beading needles are a special needle. It has the thinnest diameter as is possible to sew through the chosen beads.

Fish Baiting Needles are a special needle made out of stainless steel so they won’t rust in your tackle box and are a thin diameter so they injure but do not kill the bait.

Embroidery needle eye

Embroidery Needle Eye

This elongated eye allows for heavier threads to be used without making a huge hole while stitching.

Available in Tapestry needles, Crewels, Chenille and Yarn needles.

PONY needle eye

Traditional needle eye

Most common eye. Usually an oval or round eye.

Beading needles, Milliners, between, general sewing needles all have traditional eyes.

The Needle Lady's STAINLESS needle

The Needle Lady’s STAINLESS needles

Have more of a rectangle shape eye making them easier to thread.

Made from 100% surgical grade stainless steel, they are also hypoallergenic.

glover's point

Glover’s Needle Point

When piercing through material like leather, a cutting point is needed. A glover’s needle has a three sided piercing point on it.

Compare Materials

Needles are more than just a piece of wire with a point and an eye.

The material from which your needle is made matters. While the vast majority of hand sewing needles are made from nickel plated iron, there are other options. Here are the pro and cons.

Photo of SENCH side threading needle

Nickel Plated Needles

(pictured: the eye of a SENCH side threading needle)

Iron wire is cut to length and the eye is stamped into it. Because iron will rust, they plate the needle with another smooth shiny metal, most often Nickel. This works fine unless you have an allergy to nickel. Sometimes premium needles will be plated with with titanium or gold. But, the plating on any needle will wear off and the exposed iron will rust. Leaving rust marks on your material.

Iron also makes the needle more brittle, so it is likely to snap and break under pressure.

SENCH needles have the eyes plated with gold to help identify which end has the point and which end has the eye. Gold plating on the eye also makes the hole more slippery to aid in inserting the thread.

NOTE: In the “olden days” people would use the little strawberry hanging on the side of the tomato pincushion to knock the rust off of their needle and to sharpen the point. You cannot sharpen plated needles, but you can sharpen 100% stainless steel needles.

Spiral Eye Needles in three sizes

Surgical Grade Stainless Steel

Stainless steel needles are hypoallergenic and will never rust. They also tend to be stronger and not as brittle, so they do not snap and break like nickel plated steel needles.

Spiral Eye Needles (pictured) are made from Surgical Grade Stainless Steel. Surgical grade stainless steel needles can be sharpened without concern for rust because there is not plating to wear off.

The Needle Lady also offers a stainless steel needle with a traditional eye, also made for surgical grade stainless steel and PONY brand stainless steel needles.

gold plated needles

Gold plating and other things

Gold plating is used to make a needle more slippery as you stitch.This is especially popular with cross-stitching. The other benefit to gold plated needles is that those with nickel allergies don’t get the itchy fingers and red eyes associated with nickel allergies from sewing needles.

PONY brand also offers color coded needles for cross-stitch, the tops of the needles have a color specific for the sizes.

Side by side comparison of easy threading needles

Compare Self Threading Needles

What are the differences in easy-to-thread needles?

They go by all sorts of names. Self threading, easy threading, side threading, Calyx eye, French spring eye, Spiral Eye, SENCH, and the One Second Needle. What is the difference?

On the left: This is easy thread needle that has been around since 1850. In the medical industry it is called the French Eye. In the craft industry it is called the self threading or Calyx eye needle. You thread it by pulling a loop of thread down from the top and into the first hole. The second hole is created by the bridge they use to keep the needle eye stay closed as you sew with it. Unfortunately, your thread may shred as you thread your needle. It often times comes unthreaded as you sew. And the top points tend to hurt your finger if you push the needle when you stitch. They are made from nickel plated steel.

Next: is the side threading needle. SENCH brand side threading needles have a gold plated eye to help you know which end has the point and which has the eye. They are made from traditional needle manufacturing processes using nickel plated steel. They are easy to thread and stay threaded as you sew.

The Spiral Eye Needle is a side threading needle as well. The slot goes into a channel that goes past a “stop bump” that locks your thread inside the eye. It also is there to strengthen the eye. The Spiral Eye Needle is made from stainless steel which is less brittle than iron so it will bend rather than snap and break under pressure.

On the right is the One Second Needle. In 2010 Pam licensed the rights to her patent to Telebrands, the as seen on TV company, who sold a side threading needle called the One Second Needle. It was very large, made of unknown metal and the geometry was not kept so they tended to catch on your material. They was sold in all the stores and came with a small red box full of little notions. It has been discontinued.