Threading the Needle: Embroidery Basics Lesson 1, The Needle

Crafting & DIY Tutorials

When you want to start learning needlepoint the first supplies are fairly simple – needle, some type of thread and something to stitch on. These are all simple things but with so many different types of each, starting out can be intimidating (even when I go to a thread shop I get overwhelmed by the sheer number of choices!!) The Threading the Needle Series will cover the basic questions that I get from beginners and questions I remember asking myself.  The first lesson is…The Needle!

The needles in these free hotel kits are great!

Your needle is a staple in all types of hand sewing. I have so many but really only use about 1-2 in each project except for specialty stitches. Needles are easy to find and pretty cheap. In fact my favorites are the needles that come in hotel mending kits…and they’re free!

Needles come in different thickness and the rule of thumb is the bigger the number the smaller the size (when I mean smaller I am talking about thickness, not length). Thickness is important in embroidery because this is what makes the hole in your material. For fabrics this doesn’t mean much but if you are stitching on leather or plastic you want to walk the fine balance of keeping the whole small and not hurting your thread (this isn’t hard, just takes a bit of practice). I actually have no idea what size needle I use! I bought a multi pack at Joann’s and I use the tiny one for single strand of thread, a middle size for 2 and a thick one for 3+. If I find that pulling thread through my fabric takes too much effort I will move up to bigger needle and vice versa.

Needles will be either sharp or blunt. For embroidery you will almost always use a sharp needle; you need it to poke through the fabric. For cross stitch (and weaving type stitches) you will need a blunt needle because your fabric already has holes in it.

There are many types of needles and their varioususes.  I have listed the top 5 that I use in most projects:

1. Embroidery or Crewel – Sharp with a medium eye. These are the staple and if you have to pick just one type of needle this is it!

2. Tapestry – Blunt with a long eye. These are for cross stitch, needlepoint or weaving with the thread where you don’t want the needle to catch on the working thread or the fabric.

3. Chenille – Sharp with a long eye. These needles are great for larger threads or threads that fray or in general just unruly (like metallic thread!)

4. Milliner or Straw – Sharp with a short eye. These needles are longer and have an eye that is the same thickness as the shaft which is perfect for bullion knots and french knots.

5. Beading – Sharp with a short eye but VERY thin and long. These are a must for bead work. Their size allows you to go through a bead with thread more than once.

Threading a Needle
This may seem self explanatory but there are a couple different ways to thread a needle.
1) Simply put the ends of your thread through the eye. on the other end you can either knot it (like me!) or leave it free and sew over it with you first few stitches.
2) If you are going to two strand of floss (or any even number) you can fold a single strand in half, put the free ends through the needle and the use the loop to make a slip knot to start your stitching. This is my favorite!
3) Same as above, start with a single strand folded in half but instead of putting both threads in the eye only put one end through and run your needle to the middle of the thread. This will leave your needle on the thread without dangly tail. This is great for metallic or satin thread!
4) f you are working with a single strand you thread the needle only about 1-2 inches. Then poke the needle through the thread and tighten gently. This locks the single strand to the needle.

Note: I rarely use 3 or 4 because I found that if I mess up I like to take my needle off the thread to pick out stitches adn if the needle is attached to the thread I have to cut it off and this annoys me.  I will, however, always use #3 for metallic thread because it is just the easiest way to tackle it.

Tips and Tricks for Needles

My fav five…You can see the bend in my thin embroidery and beading needles!

1) You don’t need a giant variety. I mainly use an embroidery needle and a beading needle for special projects.
2) You will get a favorite needle! I have a very thin sharp embroidery needle that is now bent to for my fingers from use over many hours. Don’t be alarmed if you get a bend, this makes them even better!
3) You can use the little strawberry that is attached to the tomato pin cushion to sharpen your needles 🙂
4) They have gold (and even platinum) coated needles. I have found a pretty negligible difference in using them. For about 2-3 times the cost I just don’t find them worth it but some people really love them.
5) If you need to do a weaving stitch and don’t want to find a tapestry needle just use the eye end of the needle to weave or put the whip into your whip stitch!
6) Needles are magnetic, keep a fridge magnet in your sewing box to keep pesky runaway needles contained.

I hope this information was helpful to you! Next post will go over different types of thread.

Comment below your favorite needle tip!

Have a creative day! Alicia B.

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