Choosing hand sewing needles sizes and finding the right type of needle is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack if you don’t know what to look for. There are a variety of sizes and specialty needles used for hand sewing and a guide to these different options will certainly help every seamstress to find the right needle.
Hand Sewing Needles
Hand sewing needles are used for hand sewing! No surprises there. They come in different sizes and shapes for different purposes so it is important to match your hand sewing needle to your project. Some have sharp tips for piercing tightly woven fabric and other have blunt tips to slip between the fibers.
Further Reading: Sewing Machine Needle Guide
Hand Sewing Needles – Types
Hand sewing needles vary according to:
- Needle size
- Shape of the eye
- Type of point
- And the purpose of the needle
Hand Sewing Needles – Size and Length
If you look at any hand sewing needles packet, you will notice that they are all numbered. Needles with a larger number are finer and shorter. (This is probably the opposite to what you would have thought!) And of course, smaller numbers mean the needle is thicker and longer.
Hand sewing needles come in packs and can be assorted or just of one kind but the number range in the pack will be written on the front of the pack at the bottom. There is a chart towards the end of this article with suggested needle sizes for different purposes.
Hand Sewing Needles – Shape of Eye & Point
The eye size and the tip size determine the kind of thread you can use and the fabric they are suited to. The eye might be small and rounded or long and open to fit thick threads. Points can be sharp to pierce thick fabric or blunt to go through holes when you are sewing tapestries.
A ballpoint tip is particularly suited to stretch knits while the thick curved needle is best for upholstery.
Hand Sewing Needles – Purpose
The purpose of the needle helps to determine what the needle is used for and the number length and shaft size, as well as the size of the eye, determine the type of fabric the needle is suited to. For example, the hand sewing needles may be suitable for tapestry, leather, upholstery or knit fabric.
Common Hand Sewing Needles Types
Sharps is the name of the general-purpose, medium-length hand sewing needles. Used for hand sewing, dressmaking and all household projects it comes in different sizes and also in multiple packs. Look for the sizes on the front of the pack. It is always best to have an assorted size pack in your sewing kit so you can pick and choose the best size for your current sewing project.
PROPERTIES – Medium Length – Sharp Tip – Small Eye
Ballpoints have a rounded end so that it does not damage the fibers of knit fabrics. The rounded tip allows the needle to pass through the fibers rather than snagging or cutting through them.
PROPERTIES >> Rounded Tip
Chenille hand sewing needles are used for embroidery and thicker yarn as they have a sharp point and large, elongated eye to enable you to thread several pieces at once. They are most commonly used for cross stitch and needlepoint embroidery. These can be used on tightly woven fabric embroidery since they have a sharp tip.
PROPERTIES >> Sharp Tip – Elongated Eye
Tapestry needles are also used for embroidery, but unlike the chenille needle, they have a blunt point. It is used on very open weave fabric where the needle can easily pass through the fibers without needing to pierce through it. Tapestry needles can be used for cross stitch on open-weave fabrics.
PROPERTIES – Blunt Tip – Elongated Eye
Crewel needles are also called embroidery needles and have a medium eye and a sharp tip.
PROPERTIES – Sharp Tip – Medium Eye
These curved hand sewing needles are used for sewing upholstery and furniture. They are perfect for sewing where you can only access the outside of the object.
PROPERTIES – Curved Shape, Sharp Tip
Quilting Needles (Betweens)
Needles used for sewing through thick quilts have very sharp points and are short and fine with a small rounded eye. The shorter length is designed to produce nice and even stitches on quilts. They can also be used for fine and precise stitching when tailoring
PROPERTIES – Sharp Tip – Short Length – Fine
Beading needles are used for sewing beads and sequins. Many are very fine to fit through the eye of small beads like seed beads. They are long as experienced beaders will thread numerous beads at once in a row. When sewing beads, it is best to use a strengthened or specialty beading thread with these needles since the inside of beads is often sharp and can cut regular threads.
PROPERTIES – Sharp Tip – Long Length – Fine
Bodkins are large flat hand sewing needles used to thread elastic through casings. It can also be used to thread ribbon and cord. Bodkins are an efficient replacement for using a safety pin to thread casings. Most have a rounded point so the end of the needle does not pierce the side of the casings making it get stuck. They are best with longer casings as they can be a little hard to maneuver in baby clothing.
PROPERTIES – Large Needle – Blunt Tip
Darning needles are for darning socks and mending. They have an elongated large eye for thicker thread or yarn and a semi blunt point. They are used for sewing knitted pieces together as well.
PROPERTIES – Large Eye – Blunt Point
Hand Sewing Needles Chart
The list below will give an indication of the name and size and some of the uses of different needles so that your search for the right needle is no longer an impossible task.
This list contains all the specialty needles excluding Sharps with normally come in packs of assorted sizes.
Hand Sewing Needles & Thimbles
No article about hand sewing needles would be complete without adding a little about thimbles. A thimble is a protective cover worn over your finger to stop the hand sewing needle from pricking your finger.
Hand Sewing Needles – In Conclusion
Now you are equipped with a comprehensive list of needle sizes and their uses looking for the right needle in the future should not be as confusing as looking for a ‘needle in a haystack.’
FRUSTRATION FREE TIP: To prevent all your needles from getting mixed up once you take them out of the packet, use a small dab of different color nail polishes to identify them.
More Handsewing Articles
Now you have the correct hand sewing needles sorted the next step is how to thread a needle! The other article that will come in handy for you is needle threaders. These little gadgets will help you thread a thick thread through a small hole in no time!
- How to Backstitch
- How to Sew a Seam by Hand
- How to Sew Blanket Stitch
- 6 Basic Hand Stitches
- How to Use a Needle Threader
- Blanket Stitch
- Buttonhole Stitch
- Chain Stitch
- Chevron Stitch
- Couching Stitch
- Cross Stitch
- Double Herringbone Stitch
- How to Embroider
- Faggoting Embroidery
- Feather Stitch
- Fern Stitch
- Fishbone Stitch
- Fly Stitch
- French Knots
- Hand Embroidery Stitches
- Herringbone Stitch
- Lazy Daisy
- Running Stitch
- Sashiko Embroidery
- Satin Stitch
- Seed Stitch Embroidery (Rice Stitch)
- Stem Stitch
- Straight Stitch
- Web Stitch | Embroidery Tutorial
- Whip Stitch