What are the Different Types of Embroidery Needle?

Terrie Brockmann

There are several types of embroidery needles that allow needleworkers to embroider by hand or with a machine and choose appropriate needles accordingly. A person's preferred needle style depends on the type of fabric he or she is working with; the yarn, floss, or thread used; and his or her personal preference. Some of the most used embroidery needles include the tapestry, crewel, and chenille type of needles. Often a needleworker picks the type of embroidery needle that he or she finds to be most comfortable rather than going by the name or traditional use.

Needles used in embroidery machines are sharper and have longer eyes than those used by hand.
Needles used in embroidery machines are sharper and have longer eyes than those used by hand.

When choosing a needle, a needleworker usually considers the fabric's texture and weave if using a woven fabric. A sharp-tipped needle, such as a standard embroidery needle or a chenille needle, pierces the threads of the fabric and is especially useful for French knots. The blunter points of the tapestry needles and the needlepoint or cross-stitch needles will not pierce the threads without force. This enables the embroiderer to work quickly as the needle slides between the fabric's threads. Other fabrics, such as leather, require specialty needles.

A beading needle may be used to add beads to an embroidery project.
A beading needle may be used to add beads to an embroidery project.

The thread choice affects the needle selection as much as the fabric. Most embroidery needles have large eyes to accommodate the thick yarn or multiple strands of floss, but others, such as beading needles, have small or narrow, long eyes. Various small-eyed needles include the milliner's needle and the quilting needle. Although most embroiderers do not use quilting needles for embroidery, some needleworkers choose them. Needle eyes that are too small usually fray the thread, and ones that are too big might leave noticeable holes in the fabric.

A person chooses the size of an embroidery needle by a number system. Generally, the larger the needle-size number, the smaller the needle. The higher the thread count equals smaller holes and needs a smaller needle size. For example, most experts suggest using a size 24 needle for size 11- or 14-count fabric and a size 28 needle for 18-count fabric. When choosing a machine embroidery needle, the opposite is true: the smaller the number, the smaller the needle size.

Machine embroidery needles are slightly different from hand embroidery needles. Generally, they are extremely sharp with elongated eyes that help to pierce the fabric without marking a large hole in the fabric. Embroiderers usually choose ballpoint needles for knits and stretchy fabrics and wedge-shaped ones for heavy, dense fabrics that are nonwoven, such as leather, plastics, and suede. Most metallic threads require a special needle to prevent fraying and breakage.

Tapestry, needlepoint, and cross-stitch needles have a blunt point and large eye, and needleworkers use them on even-weave fabrics. Many embroidery projects require a sharp needle. The embroidery, chenille, and crewel needles are sharps, meaning they have a sharp tip. Most embroidery sharps have large or elongated eyes to accommodate thick thread or multiple strands of floss.

A needleworker may choose a specialty embroidery needle. For example, a beading needle is a long, thin sharp with a long, narrow eye that a person uses to add beads to an embroidery project. Its unique size usually helps it to slide through the small holes in a bead. A double-eyed embroidery needle has two eyes that may accommodate different types of floss or two or more colors. A milliner's long sharp has a small, round eye that is typically longer than an ordinary sewing needle that people typically use to make Bullion and French knots.

Cross stitch uses a blunt-tipped needle.
Cross stitch uses a blunt-tipped needle.

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Discussion Comments


I found some silicone coated embroidery needles and they're great. They slide in and out of the fabric so easily, and don't catch on anything. I also like silicone coated dressmaker's pins for the same reason.

If the needle is coated, then there aren't any burrs to catch on material and fray it. I also think it helps keep the points sharper, because they aren't constantly being worn against the fabric -- there's a barrier in place to keep them from fraying it. That's one of the best innovations in needlework in a while. You pay for the privilege, but I think it's worth it.


I do hand embroidery and I look for needles that have sharp points, aren't too big around and have long eyes that will accommodate embroidery floss.

I really like good, sharp embroidery needles. I usually embroider on pillowcase-type cotton, and I need sharp needles that will get through the fabric cleanly. I also like the needles with the gold eyes. I think it makes it easier for me to get the floss threaded through the eye when the eye is gold. It provides a better contrast, I think. I've used blunt needles for crewel, and that's definitely what you need when you're working crewel.

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