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 Choose the Correct Hand Needle for Sewing (embroidery needles, sharps, betweens).

The nuts & bolts.

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 size of the shaft of the needle. The larger the number of the needle size, the 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.)

Dritz Hand Sewing Needles (in packages)

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 8.  You can see that these needles are finer than those in the other packages.

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

What about the eyes & points?

Eye and shape varies to accommodate many 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 or point 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.

Dritz Hand Sewing Needle Compacts

Needle compacts & assortments.

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!

The most common hand sewing needles.

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

Dritz Ball Point Hand Sewing Needle (stuck in fabric)

Ball point needles.

Notice the slightly rounded tip of the ball point needle in the photo above. 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!

Dritz Easy-Threading Needles for Hand Sewing

Easy-threading needles.

As the name implies, these needles are 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!

Dritz Embroidery Needle

Embroidery needles.

Embroidery needles are sharp pointed needles designed for smocking, heirloom sewing, embroidery and crewel, but they’re 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.

Dritz Hand Sewing Needle (in fabric)

Quilting betweens.

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

Dritz Hand Sewing Needle (in fabric)


If there was a generic sewing needle, it would be a sharp. It is general purpose, with a nice sharp point for household sewing, dressmaking and appliqué. The short round eye offers strength for continuous use.

MUST-KEEP needle reference guide.

Needle know-how can be confusing. Download our comprehensive How to Choose the Correct Needle guide and keep it with your sewing information. You’ll reference it again and again – promise!

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!


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