Hand Sewing Needles
Part 2 – Hand Sewing Needles………. If you sew with a machine, then why bother learning about hand sewing needles? Well, on any project, there may be areas that need hand finishing. Every project, however, is more attractive and professional looking with hand finishing. Hand finishing is often the finesse which takes your project from just okay to exquisite! And to complete the appropriate hand finishing, you need the correct hand sewing needle. Also, if you quilt, you should be informed about hand needles!
Some General Rules About Hand Needles
The sizing numbers in hand sewing needles differ from machine needles. Just like machine needles, the size indicates the diameter of the needle. However, on hand needles, the larger the number means the SMALLER the needle. NOTE: This is the opposite of machine needles! So a size 12 hand needle is smaller than a size 5 hand needle.
Hand needles are a much simpler design. A hand sewing needle has an “eye” at one end with a point at the opposite end. The length of a hand will vary between type and size. Typically, a larger needle is longer than a smaller needle. The size and shape of the “eye” will also vary between types.
Just like machine needles, the success of your project depends on selecting the correct needle for the fabric, the thread and the type of hand sewing.
Types of Hand Sewing Needles
Sharps – often referred to as general purpose hand needles. These needles are medium length with a round eye and sharp point. The points are very sharp, so take care with delicate or thin fabrics. This is a good general sewing needle. Can be used for a variety of sewing tasks. It’s similar to the universal machine needle.
- Sharp Point
- Available in sizes 1 to 12
- One of the thinnest needles
- General Purpose
Quilting/Betweens – specifically designed for quilting. These needles are short, shorter than Sharps, and feature a smaller, rounded eye. You will find you can easily create more precise stitches, more quickly with this needle. Also, this is a good needle for detail work, especially on heavier fabrics.
- Sharp point
- Available in sizes 1 to 12
- Similar to a Sharps needle
- The best needle for hand quilting
Ballpoint – for knit fabrics. Ballpoint needles have a rounded smooth point that will pass between the threads of knit fabrics. The ballpoint protects knit fabrics by preventing runs or damage to the fabric.
- Available in sizes 5 to 10
- Smooth point
- Typically medium length
- For doing stitch work on knit fabric
Cotton Darners – just as the name says, these are for darning. This is a long needle with a long eye and sharp point. Perfect for mending woven fabrics. Also comes in “long”, which is the same needle only in longer lengths.
- Available in sizes 1 to 9
- Sharp point
- Long needle
- Use on woven fabrics
Embroidery/Crewel needles – have the same length and point as a Sharps. These needles feature an elongated eye to accommodate thicker thread and embroidery floss. In addition to embroidery, try this needle for general stitching that requires a thicker thread.
- Available in sizes 1 to12
- Sharp point
- Medium length
- Elongated eye accommodates heavier threads, floss, and specialty threads
- Also, may be used in place of a Sharps when heavier thread or specialty thread is called for
Less Common Hand Sewing Needles
Tapestry – distinguished by it’s large blunt point, thicker needle body, very large eye. Originally designed for needlepoint, they also work well on fabrics with a loose weave like burlap. Plus, this needle is great for stitching hand knits. Note: you should not compare this size-wise to an Embroidery needle or a Sharps !
- Available in sizes 13 to 28
- In addition to needlepoint, this is a great needle to seam your hand knits
- Large eye accommodates multiple strands of thread, floss, tapestry wool, plus knitting yarn
- Large blunt point
Chenille – similar to a tapestry except is has a very sharp point! A chenille needle looks almost exactly like a tapestry needle. Beware – the chenille has a very sharp point and could damage some fabrics. However, it is a great needle to use for applying a decorative edging to polar fleece. Also, a good choice for decorative finishing on heavier fabrics, especially upholstery fabric.
- Available in sizes 13 to 28, sized the same as a tapestry needle
- Large eye which easily accommodates specialty threads and yarns
- Large sharp point
- Great for Ribbon embroidery
Milliners – also known as “Straws”. Originally designed to make hats, this needle is also used for pleating, basting, and decorative work. Although very similar to a Sharps, Milliners are extra long. Milliners also feature a small, rounded eye and very sharp point.
- Very similar to a Sharp
- Extra long body
- Available in sizes 5 to 10
- In addition to hats, great for basting, pleating, and decorative work that requires long stitches
Specialized Hand Sewing Needles
Leather – also called “Glover’s” needle. The noteworthy feature with this needle is the unique point. It is triangular in shape and made to cut as it enters fabric. Thus, this needle will also easily pass through vinyls , suedes, “pleather”, and soft plastics. Plus, the unique point prevents damage to these materials.
- Available in sizes 2 to 10
- Best needle for leather, vinyl, and other manmade leather like material
- Similar in size and length to a Sharp
- Eye is slightly more elongated than Sharp
Beading – long, very thin needle. In addition to using this needle for bead work, it’s also great for hand sewing sequins and pearls. Beading needles are the thinnest needles available. Because they are so thin, they easily bend. This typically is an issue when using beading needles with thicker fabrics. Some beading needles may be made from wire!
- Found in sizes 10 to 15
- Do NOT compare in size or length to Sharps
- Great choice for using super fine threads for hand finishing on wovens
- Point is similar to a Sharp
Upholstery – notably thicker and longer than other needles. Although most are very long and straight, you can also find curved upholstery needles. While meant to stitch on upholstered furniture and mattresses, also a good choice for hand tying quilts.
- One size, purchase by length . Straight are usually found 3″ to 12″ long, but the curved are typically 1 1/2″ to 6″ long.
- Most common type has sharp point. However, blunt points are also available.
- Do not confuse with “Doll” needles
- May be used anytime you are working with extremely thick, heavy fabrics or layers
Doll – used for sculpting fabric dolls. While Doll needles may look similar to upholstery needles, there is a big difference. Doll needles are thinner than upholstery needles. Also, Doll needles have a finer, sharper point. These needles are great for adding “sculpted” features to faces and bodies of soft fabric dolls.
- Typically one size so look to buy correct length
- Usually available in 2″ to 7″ length
- Somewhat sharp point
- Great for adding features to stuffed animals and other fabric toys
Tips for Hand Sewing Needles
- Since most types of hand sewing needles are inexpensive, use a new one with each project.
- Store and sort your needles by size and type in a segmented, multi colored pin cushion. Also, make sure to label each section on the pin cushion with a permanent fine point marker. This will remind you what each section holds if you forget what color you assigned to which type and size needle.
- Best to buy new rather than try to sharpen needles, especially when they are so inexpensive. Replacing also means more fun time to stitch!
- Run your thread through beeswax AFTER threading the eye to help strengthen it. This also prevents thread tangles while giving the thread a smoother pass through fabric.
- Remember to choose the correct type of needle first, then the choose the right size for the fabric and thread.
- Use a Thimble with hand sewing needles. This will protect your fingertip and make hand sewing easier plus more comfortable! Best tip for using a thimble it to make sure it fits. A thimble fit rights if it’s just snug enough to keep from falling off.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with a variety of threads as well as various needle types.
Congratulations, you just completed a course in “sewing needlology”! The next time you stand in front of the sewing needle display at your local store, you won’t be so confused!!!
Rocky Mountain Sewing and Vacuum
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