How To Choose the Right Embroidery Needle Size

Embroider machine at work

If you are attempting to learn embroidery, the first step is to know how to choose the correct embroidery needle for your project.  The correct embroidery needle prevents the fabric from being snagged or entangled.  It also prevents the thread and needle from breaking, allowing you to work faster and cleaner.

Here are some tips to help you choose the right embroidery needle for the task.

  1. Know your fabric.  Determine first whether you will need a blunt or sharp needle by knwoing your embroidery fabrics.  Tight weaves such as cotton and synthetic blends tend to need sharper needles.  On the other hand, loose weaves like needlepoint canvas and linen will need a blunt needle. Note that tapestry needles have blunt points, while chennile needles have sharp points. 
  2. Know your thread.  They sized of the thread will help you determine the size of the needle's eye that you'll need.  As a rule, the smallest possible eye is often used so as to avoid having large holes in your embroidery collection.  Embroidery yarn is usually used with crewel embroidery and needlepoint.  Pearl and embroidery floss are typically used in cross stitch projects.
  3. Know what you're doing.  Knowing the type of project you intend to do will also determine the size of the embroidery needle you will be using.  Typically, thicker projects will need longer needles.  Counted cross stitch and needlepoint will normally need a blunt tapestry needle.  Embroidery needles are used for stamped cross stitch and floral embroidery. Crewel projects will need either crewel or embroidery needles.  A beading needle is best for attaching beads to other fabrics or embroidery work.
  4. Know your needle.  Once you have determined the fabric, thread, and project you will be using, you can start picking the size of your embroidery needle.  Note that embroidery needles have a longer eye, a feature that differentiates them from other sewing needles.  The longer eye also makes it easier for threading the needle.  As stated earlier, you should always use the needle with the smallest eye to avoid damaging your project.  The size of the eye becomes smaller as the number goes higher. A No. 13 needle is generally used for sewing the thickest yarns onto a rug canvas.  A No. 28 needle will be better for very fine point work on gauze canvas.  Some embroidery fabric, like needlepoint canvas and cross stitch fabric, have a gauge or count.  This tells you the size of the openings within the fabric.  The lower the count, the larger the openings.  Larger openings would mean it is best that a thicker yarn or needle be used on it.  10-count fabric would use a No. 18 needle, for example.  Meanwhile, a No. 22 needle will be just right for 18-, 20-, and 24-count fabric.

There are really no hard or fast rules in choosing the right embroidery needle size for your project.  While at times some needles are labeled for a specific use, feel free to try different needles to see if it will work well for you project even if at first it does not seem to be the proper needle for it.  Experiment to see what works best for you.


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