Which Needle is Which?

     In my last two posts, I aimed to take some mystery out of the various fabrics on today’s market. Once you’ve decided on the fabric type and count that will work best for you, you will want to grab a needle and start stitching. But what needle to chose? Just as we learned that fabric count dictates the size of the holes per inch, the number (and thus the size) of holes will give you a clue to which needle is best for your project.  

     There are many different needles/ makers on the market so where do you start? Your goal is neat tidy stitches- so choosing a needle that will give you what you hope is important. You want a needle that will easily find its way through the holes of your fabric. To achieve this ease of stitching, the most commonly used needle is one with a blunt end- better known as a tapestry needle. Unlike a sewing needle - referred to as a “sharp”, this blunt end needle will not split your fabric and has a larger eye to accommodate the floss thread(s) you will be using. There is only one rule of thumb here: the bigger the holes the bigger the needle / the smaller the hole- the smaller the needle. Easy, right? Well it is once you know the equation of size listed on the needle package. The size listed = the thickness of the needle shaft. You don’ t want to use a needle that is too large(or too small) for your fabric count. Too large and you run the risk of stretching the holes in your fabric. Too small and you might find yourself getting frustrated by needles that slip out of the holes too easily. Below are suggested fabric/ needle sizes:


     11 ct Aida - sz. 22 needle      

     14 ct Aida/ 28 ct Evenweave or linen - sz. 24 needle 

     16 ct Aida/ 32 ct Evenweave or linen - sz. 26 needle 

     18 ct Aida/ 36 ct Evenweave or linen - sz. 28 needle

You can size up or down from these suggested sites if you like the feel of a larger or smaller needle, for example a sz. 26 needle can work equally well on both a 14 and 16 ct. Aida. There are a few disadvantages of smaller eyed needles which include more wear and tear on your floss. Smaller eyes can also be more fragile and susceptible to breaking. But as with all “rules”, there are exceptions. 

Metallic threads as well as some specialty flosses need a larger eyed needle to reduce their tendency towards fraying. 

Projects that use perforated paper ( such as Mill Hill kits) use a sz. 24 needle due to the size of the holes. A sz. 22 needle could also be considered. 

Types of Needles


While the most common needles on the market are made of nickel, some have a gold plating. These gold plated needles are a bit thicker than the equivalent sized nickel needles due to this plating, but makes for a smoother finish which reduces friction while stitching. One downside is that they tend to be more expensive than their nickel alternatives.


Petite Needles are shorter in length but runs the same as far as width. Petites also have a larger eye, making them easier to thread. Another advantage ( other than a feel good factor for those with small hands) is the ability to use that very last bit of thread!


Beading Needles. Beading needles are just that- used to add beads to projects that include them in their stitching. They are longer and quite thin as the beads used tend to be small.


Sharps. Although I did note that sharps are not the best choice for cross stitching, they can be a good choice if your project requires any partial/ specialty stitches or backstitching. These stitches might require the piercing of the already stitched pattern. 


 Most stitchers have no problems using their tapestry needle, but if you find yourself having difficulties splitting your stitches consider using a Sharp. 


Needle Choices

Here are some common brands of needles to look for: 



          John James



Don’t be afraid to try several brands of needles to find the one you like the best. Not everyone likes the same needle. Your needle needs to feel comfortable to you so you’ll enjoy your stitching time. The best needle for you is the one that feels “ just right”!


Last thought- remember, needles don’t last forever. Discounting the ones you’ll loose in the carpet or stitching chair, needles do wear out. If you find your stitches are not lying as neatly as you’d like or you start feeling rough patches (burrs) it is time to change your needle. Also- consider a Needle Minder. The less you poke your needle through your fabric (or your shirt!) for safekeeping, the longer your needle can last. They are also a fun accessory to your stitching project and can become a collection all their own!!


I hope this look into needles has given you some useful information. As always, if you have any questions or a comment to share, please leave it below in the comment section.


Happy Stitching!



Great tips!


Thanks, I’m a new stitcher and this is most helpful.

Elizabeth Linn

Very informative.

Mary Ash

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