Product Education

Sewing Basics: Hand-Sewing Needles

January 29, 2013

Here’s a little know-how to help you choose the right needle for your project.

 When we talk sewing needles, we typically find that there’s a lot of confusion out there about which needle to use for which job.  Their names aren’t always logical (some by end use, others by key quality), and the sizing is a brain twist (a 9 is smaller than a 3?).  We’ll surely have many more posts about the beloved sewing needle, but today we’re going to cover some basics, to try and demystify these little pointed implements for you!

 How To Select Sewing Needles

First, it’s key to understand that hand sewing needles vary according to:

  • name
  • numbered size
  • length of the needle
  • shape of the eye
  • type of point

 These differences exist to help you achieve the best results on different projects.

 The name is determined by end use or by key quality. For example, Embroidery needles are usually used with decorative embroidery threads, and have a larger eye to handle the thread.  Sharps are – you got it – sharp!

 Size numbers indicate the length and size of the shaft of the needle. The larger the number of the needle size, the shorter and finer the needle will be. For example, a Size 11 needle is shorter and finer than a Size 7 needle. Choose the size for the weight of the fabric and the type of thread to be used.  (Remember: the finer the fabric, the finer the needle.)

Sewing Needle Sizes

Let’s apply what we just learned about needle size.

Packages 1 and 2 contain needles sized 3 through 9.  Needle Size 3 is the largest and Size 9 is the smallest.

The needles in package 3 are all Size 10.  You can see that these needles are shorter and finer than those in the other packages.

 Wondering what in the world a “Between” is?  Keep reading!  We’ll tell you below.

Eye size and shape varies to accommodate lots of different threads. For example, Quilting Betweens have small eyes. They use smooth cotton thread and need to make a small hole in the fabric.

The tip of the needle varies due to fabric needs. Knits require a rounded tip that will slide between yarns and not snag, thus Ball Point needles are designed for knits.

Sewing Needle Sizes

If you want to make sure you’re covered, you can always pick up a needle compact that includes a variety of needle sizes and styles.

Dritz® Needle Compacts house an assortment of needles. You can identify the needle size and style by using the guide on the back of compact.

Just twist the compact’s top to dispense – voilà!

Let’s talk about a few of the most basic hand sewing needles. These 5 styles will see you through most projects.

Ball Point Needles – Notice the slightly rounded tip in the photo. It easily slips between yarns on stretch and knit fabrics to prevent creating holes in the knit yarns when the fiber is broken.  Your knits will be happy you chose this needle!

Easy Threading Needles 

Easy-Threading Needles – As the name implies, this needle is very easy to thread – a relief for tired eyes! There is a slit in the top end of the eye so the thread easily passes through. These are basic sewing needles for a variety of projects. Who doesn’t like a needle that is easy to thread!

Embroidery Needles

Embroidery Needles – This sharp pointed needle is designed for smocking, heirloom sewing, embroidery and crewel, but it is also popular for everyday sewing. It has a longer eye than some other needles, so it can accommodate a variety of threads. For everyday sewing, that longer eye is easier to thread.

Quilting Betweens Needles

Quilting Betweens Needles – One of the stranger needle names, don’t you think? Actually, this small-eyed needle is designed to pass between the layers of a quilt, leaving only the smallest of holes. It is short, because traditional quilting uses short, even stitches. Considered a basic sewing needle, this style is perfect for detailed handwork.

Sharps Needles

Sharps Needles – if there was a generic sewing needle, this one is it. It is general purpose, with a nice sharp point for household sewing, dressmaking and appliqué. The short round eye offers strength for continuous use. 

 So, do you know which needle to choose for your next sewing project? Did you find this information helpful? We’d love to hear from you!