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This guide was written by embroidery tutor Jen Goodwin.  Visit her website for more useful guides, patterns and kits. 

Choosing needles to use for hand embroidery


Choosing needles for embroidery

The job of a needle is to guide your thread from one side of your fabric to the other. By choosing a needle that is too small for the thread being used that thread will be damaged. You can tell your needle isn’t big enough if you need to really ‘tug’ the needle through to the other side - this is the thread catching the fabric as the eye meets the fabric. By choosing a needle that is too big you may end up with little ‘holes’ in your fabric which will detract from your embroidery. Always choose the smallest needle that you can for the job you are doing.

So here is a little guide to the needles I most commonly use.

Tapestry Needles

These needles have a rounded point and a good sized eye. These should be used with open weave fabrics and are often known as cross stitch needles. The open fabric has a defined warp & weft, which the rounded point of the needle easily slips through. A sharp needle could catch and snag the base fabric, which would prevent a clean stitch being achieved. This is very important if stitching counted work as these techniques depend on all of the stitches looking an even size.

These needles come in lots of different sizes - I stick with 24’s & 26’s.

Sharp Needles

These needles have a sharp point as the name suggests and they also have fine eyes. These needle are great for fine work and I personally use this type the most often. The sharp needle is best used on closely woven fabric. It is great for goldwork and silk shading. These needles come in lots of different sizes, I stick to 10’s & 12’s.

Which needles to use for embroidery 

Embroidery Needles


These needles are the most commonly picked up needles. Whenever I have an intro to embroidery class I start people off with a 7. Embroidery needles have a sharp point and a more generous eye than a sharp. These are usually used on closely woven fabric.

These needles come in lots of different sizes, I stick to 7’s.

Chenille Needles

These are chunky needles with a sharp point. Traditionally chenille needles would be used on heavy fabric like linen twill. The sharp point pierces the fabric easily but the more rotund body of the needle creates an easier path for the chosen thread to pass through. Often this chosen thread would be crewel wool which is easily worn, which is why an easier path is needed.

These needles come in lots of different sizes, I stick to 20’s & 22’s.

There are lots of other types too; these are just the ones I commonly use in my kits. I use different styles as needed. Curved needles are ever so useful & my bracing needle is essential when I’m framing up fabric before stitching!

Lastly, remember to discard old needles -hanging onto them is false economy! Needles tarnish easily. I can tarnish several a day and as I do I pop them in a little tin marked sharps. A tarnished needle will wear the fabric unnecessarily and they can also mark your fabric. Why would you choose to spend hours on a special project but scrimp on the basic tools?  I hope this helps when you're sitting down to start your next project. I will get around to writing up what is in my tool tin next!

Visit Jen's website for some free downloadable patterns to get you started.