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  • Needles 101

    needles 101

This video shows how traditional sewing needles are made.

Notice: traditional eye needles are made using pieces of wire that have a point put on one end and the other end is stamped flat. The eye hole is also stamped (or punched out).

 Spiral Eye Needles are not made the same way. 

Spiral Eye Needles have a patented slot and channel that go into the eye. They also have a shaft that expands as it gets to the eye. This helps the material pass over the opening without going into the slot. Since the needle shaft is not an equal diameter the eye cannot be stamped.

What are the differences?

Pictured below are Spiral Eye Side Threading Needles. The unique geometry cannot be made by simply stamping an eye in the end. And the patented slot and channel that goes into the eye is a multi-step process. It takes a very specific geometry to make it work. Because I wanted to fix everything that was wrong with traditional needles, I also make them out of stainless steel so they will never rust. In America. By a small family run business.

That slot allows you to put thread into the hole you cannot see!

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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.

Why so many types of needles?

Spiral Eye Needles, like traditional needles, come in a variety sizes, diameters, and points. Each needle has its own purpose and it falls into categories such as Sharps, Chenilles, Tapestry, and Specialty.

needle points
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. Crewel needles, are basically sharp needles with bigger eyes.

yarn
Chenille Needles

Sharp point, large eyes, heavier diameter.

Used for projects like sewing on patches or heavy denim. 

Chenille needles can hold heavier threads than a “sharp”. The also tend to have a larger diameter shaft, so they are stronger needles. Some people with larger hands prefer them because they are easier for them to hold Chenille needles.

tapestry point
Tapestry Needles
The point on a tapestry needle is blunt. It should not pierce through the fibers of the material you are working on. Cross stitch and Needlepoint use Tapestry needles.

Choose the size of the Tapestry needle by determining the thread/yarn you are using and the weave count of your Aida or Mesh.

beading needles
Specialty Needles

The SE-1 was the original Spiral Eye design  Good for  burying a stray thread.

Beading needles are long, thin needles.

Betweens are short, thin needles.

Double eye tapestry needles have two eyes..

Fish Baiting Needles are used to sew your hook to bait.

Glover’s needles a special cutting point for leather.

sharps
Hypoallergenic Needles

Stainless Steel–  Not all stainless steel is equal. Spiral Eye and PONY stainless needles as well as The Needle Lady’s STAINLESS needles are all surgical grade stainless steel. No Nickel plating.

Gold Plated–  Gold plating is put on to make a needle smoother and more slippery. It has the additional benefit of being Nickel free.

So many choices…how do you choose?

Size: Length & diameter are more of a personal preference. People with arthritic fingers often times choose a longer needle. People with bigger hands like the thicker needles.

Eye: Traditional eye or side threading? Teeny-tiny, elongated, or just big? If you struggle to thread a needle you might want the side threading feature. If you are using thick thread you will want a bigger eye. If you are using multiple threads you may prefer an elongated eye or a side threading needle.

Metal: Nickel plated? Gold plated? Stainless steel? Color coded? Allergic to nickel…go for stainless steel or gold.

Point: Sharp, blunt, or tri-pointed? Sharp is the standard. While you can use a sharp needle to cross stitch and needlepoint, most people doing those projects prefer the blunt point. Tri pointed is a cutting point used for leather.

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.

Spiral Eye Needle eye close up

Side Threading Needle Eye

Thread this patented eye by moving a tight loop of thread into the slot and channel. Multiple threads, like embroidery floss will naturally follow into the eye effortlessly.

Spiral Eye needles are 100% surgical stainless steel. Available in Chenille, Sharps, and Tapestry points.

SENCH side threading needles are nickel plated. Available in sharps only.

PONY needle eye

Traditional needle eye

Most common eye. Usually an oval or round eye.

One side will have a bit more indentation to aid in getting the thread inside the 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 the eye slightly larger and 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.

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.

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.