Choosing and Using Hand-Sewing Needles

Many projects will include some hand sewing as well as machine sewing. Choosing the proper needle for the job will affect the overall quality.

Many hand-sewing needle types and brands exist, each with a specific purpose. Hand-sewing needles vary according to eye shape (long or round), length and point. Some needles, such as crewel, are named for their principal purposes.

The following are the most common hand-sewing needles and what they are used for. Each includes a size range; the larger the number – the shorter and finer the needle.

  • Sharps – (sizes 1-12) are the most common. They’re medium length, with a round eye and are suitable for almost all fabric weights.
  • Betweens – (sizes 1-12) are also known as quilting needles. Their shorter length enables you to make stitches in heavier fabric.
  • Milliners – (sizes 3/0 – 12) are longer needles and work well for basting and any type of needlework that needs a running stitch.
  • Cotton Darners (sizes 1-9) are designed for darning with fine cotton or wool. They vary in length and diameter to accommodate most darning or mending jobs.
  • Calyx-Eyes (sizes 4-8) are similar to sharps except the thread is pulled into a slot rather than threaded through an eye.
  • Tapestry needles (sizes 13-26) are heavy and have blunt points. They’re used mainly for needlepoint and tapestry work. You can also use a tapestry in place of a bodkin.

There are many other types of hand-sewing needles. Select a needle based on the work being done, fabric structure, weight, and thread thickness. Generally, a needle should be fine enough to slip easily through the fabric, yet heavy enough not to bend or break when used. Whatever needle you chose, always work with a clean, well-pointed one!

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