Hand Sewing

A Guide to Hand Sewing Needle Sizes and Types

A Guide to Hand Sewing Needle Sizes and Types

A needle is a needle, isn’t it? If you ever take a close look at some your needles,  you’ll see that they are actually different. They have different names, sizes, lengths, eye shapes, and points. Choosing the right needle for the type of fabric and thread you’re working with can surprisingly make the job easier and move along more quickly. After you’ve chosen what type of needle that would work best with your project, you can next look at hand sewing needle sizes.

If you’re planning on doing a little hand sewing or need some on hand for mending, I love the hand needle variety packs. These have all the common hand sewing needles so you can try them all out and see which ones you like the best.

The front and pack of a variety hand sewing needle pack

@Stacy Fisher

Hand Sewing Needle Sizes and Types

Hand sewing needles are categorized by type as well as size. The type usually describes what the needle does and the size describes the length and size of the needle shaft. The larger needle size means the shorter and finer the needle will be. For example, a size 10 needle is much shorter and skinnier than a size 3 needle.

As a general rule, you’ll want to pick out a needle that describes what you’ll be using it for and then look for a size based on the fabric and type of thread you’ll be working with. The finer the fabric, the finer the needle you’ll need.

Below you’ll find the most popular types of needles as well as what sizes are available in each one. You should easily be able to choose the right needle for your hand sewing project.

Sharps Needles

Two packages of Sharps hand sewing needles

@Stacy Fisher

Sharps needles (also called applique needles) are general purpose needles and are the most common type of hand sewing needle. If you’re doing any mending or general sewing, you’ll want to get one of these. They have a sharp point and a short round eye.

Quilting Needles

Quilting needles (also called quilting between needles or between needles) are mostly used to hand stitch a quilt or add small details in hand sewing. It has a small eye so it can pass between layers easily and is short because hand quilting often requires short, even stitches.

Embroidery Needles

Packages of embroidery and tapestry needles

@Stacy Fisher

Embroidery needles (sometimes called Crewel needles) are used for hand embroidery. These needles have a long eye so it’s easier to use multiple strands of thread. They have a sharp point, so they can pass through a variety of fabrics quickly. These can also be used for general sewing and have the advantage of having a bigger eye over sharps.

  • Sizes 1, 2, 3: Use with embroidery projects that use several strands of thread or a thicker thread
  • Sizes 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. 9: Use with embroidery projects that use one or several strands of thread

Cross Stitch Needles

A woman cross stitching

@Caryolyn Tiry/Flickr

Cross stitch needles (also called tapestry needles) have a large eye so multiple strands of thread can go through and they have a blunt point since they will be going in and out of already made holes in the fabric. Cross stitch is done on Aida cloth and which type of Aida cloth you are using determines what size of needle you’ll want to choose. When you choose a needle you want to make sure that it doesn’t stretch the hole but that it also doesn’t slip through.

  • Size 22: Use with 6-count or 10-count Aida cloth
  • Size 24: Use with 14-count Aida cloth
  • Size 26: Use with 16-count Aida cloth
  • Size 28: Use with 18-count Aida cloth
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