Embroidery Needle Types, Uses, and Tips

Embroidery Needle Types

Embroidery transforms fabric into art with vibrant threads and intricate designs. The key to mastering this craft? Embroidery needles come in various shapes and sizes, each tailored for specific techniques and threads. This article will explore the different types of embroidery needles, their uses, and how to choose the perfect one for your project. So, grab your embroidery hoop, and let’s dive in!

What Makes an Embroidery Needle?

Embroidery needles differ from regular sewing needles in several ways. They have larger, oval-shaped eyes to accommodate multiple strands of embroidery floss. This design feature makes threading easier and prevents thread abrasion. The needles are typically longer and sharper, suited for various fabrics and stitching techniques.

Why Needle Size Matters

Needle sizes can be confusing. The larger the number, the finer the needle. This rule is crucial for matching needles with specific threads and fabrics. For example, a size 10 needle is finer than a size 3. The chosen size should match your thread’s thickness and the fabric’s weave to ensure smooth stitching.

Types of Embroidery Needles

Chenille Needles: The Workhorse of Textured Stitches


Chenille needles are known for their large eyes and sharp points. They are perfect for working with thicker threads and creating textured stitches. Their sharp points allow them to pierce through tightly woven fabrics like silk or satin effortlessly. The large eyes make threading easier, especially with specialty threads like metallics.

When to Use

These needles excel in surface embroidery and crewel embroidery. They come in sizes 13 to 28, with 13 being the largest and 28 the finest. Chenille needles are also great for projects requiring a large needle eye for thicker threads, making them a go-to choice for detailed designs.

Milliner Needles: Perfect for Knotty Stitches


Milliner needles, also known as straw needles, have a small, short eye that is the same width as the shaft. This unique design allows the entire needle to pass smoothly through thread wraps, ideal for knotty stitches like French knots and bullion knots.


These needles are perfect for stitches that involve wrapping or looping the thread around the needle. Their longer shafts provide more room to wrap the thread, making stitches like cast-on stitches and drizzle stitches easier to execute. Milliner needles come in sizes 1 to 11, with additional sizes 15 and 18 for larger projects.

Tapestry Needles: For Counted Thread Work

Tapestry needles, also known as cross-stitch needles, have a blunt point and large eye. These features make them ideal for working on looser weave fabrics or for techniques that involve multiple thread strands​. The blunt point prevents fabric yarn splitting, ensuring a smooth stitching process.

Best Uses for

Commonly used in counted thread work like cross-stitch, needlepoint, and blackwork, tapestry needles come in sizes 13 to 28. Higher numbers indicate finer needles. The large eye accommodates thicker threads, facilitating intricate designs and patterns.

Beading Needles: Delicate and Precise

Beading needles are long, thin, and have a small eye and sharp end. They are specifically designed for sewing beads and sequins onto fabric. The small eye is perfect for threading tiny beads, and the longer length makes it easier to thread multiple beads at once.

These needles are essential for projects involving beads and sequins. They come in sizes 10 to 15, with the smaller numbers indicating larger needles. Beading needles are perfect for adding delicate accents to your embroidery, ensuring even the smallest beads can be threaded and sewn onto your fabric with precision.

Crewel Needles: Versatile and Sharp

Crewel needles, sometimes called embroidery needles, have sharp tips and medium-long eyes. They are versatile and can be used for a variety of embroidery techniques and detailed work. Their sharp tips are ideal for piercing fabric, and the medium-long eyes accommodate multiple strands of thread.

These needles are perfect for surface embroidery, crewel work, and any technique requiring a sharp needle to pierce the fabric. They come in sizes from 1 to 12, with smaller numbers indicating larger needles. Crewel needles are a staple in any embroiderer’s toolkit due to their versatility and ease of use.

Curved Needles: For Tricky Angles


Curved needles feature a medium-long eye and a curved shape, used for securing threads on the back of embroidery. They are especially useful when the fabric is taut and the backs of the stitches are small and tight​.


These needles are great for finishing techniques where a straight needle won’t work. They come in various sizes, with larger ones used for upholstery and finer ones for delicate embroidery threads. Curved needles are also handy for passing in and out of areas that are difficult to reach with a straight needle.

Choosing the Right Needle: Factors to Consider

Fabric Type

When selecting an embroidery needle, consider your fabric type. Tightly woven fabrics like cotton or canvas may require larger needles to penetrate fibers without damage. Delicate fabrics like silk or organza need smaller needles to prevent snagging or puckering​​.

Thread Weight

The weight of your thread also influences needle choice. Thicker threads require larger needles, while finer threads pair with smaller needle sizes for precise stitching. Ensure the needle eye is large enough for your thread but not so large it leaves visible holes in your fabric​.

Stitch Type

Certain embroidery stitches require specific needle sizes. For example, knotty stitches like French knots and bullion knots are easier with milliner needles while counted thread work like cross-stitch is best done with tapestry needles. Consider the stitches you plan to use when selecting your needles​.

How to Choose Needle Sizes for Embroidery

As a rule of thumb, larger needle numbers mean finer needles. For most embroidery projects, sizes 7-10 are ideal for finer threads and detailed work, while sizes 3-6 are better for medium-weight threads and general embroidery​. For detailed guidance on choosing the right needle size, check out our comprehensive guide on what size needle for embroidery.

Tips for Finding the Perfect Size

  • Test the Fit: The needle should pull the thread through the fabric easily without causing abrasion or resistance.
  • Check the Hole: The needle hole should be just large enough for the thread to pass through without leaving a visible gap.
  • Listen to the Sound: If you hear a loud zipper noise as the thread passes through the fabric, the needle might be too small​.

Specialty Needles: When and Why to Use Them

Unique Needle Types

Besides common needles, there are several specialty needles designed for specific techniques. For example, curved needles are excellent for securing threads on the back of taut fabrics, while beading needles are perfect for adding intricate beadwork to your embroidery.

Situational Usage

Understanding when to use specialty needles can enhance your embroidery projects. For Example, use curved needles for hard-to-reach areas and beading needles for tiny beads. Each specialty needle has a role that makes certain tasks easier and more efficient​​.

Practical Tips: Caring for Your Needles

Storage Solutions

Proper storage of embroidery needles is crucial to keep them in good condition. Use a needle case or magnetic strip to prevent loss or damage. This also helps you quickly find the needle you need.

Maintenance and Replacement

Regularly inspect your needles for any signs of wear or damage. A bent or dull needle can cause fabric damage and make stitching difficult. Replace needles as needed to ensure smooth and precise embroidery work. Keeping your needles in top shape enhances your embroidery experience.

Final Words

Mastering the use of different embroidery needles can significantly improve your embroidery projects. By understanding the unique characteristics and applications of each needle type, you can select the perfect needle for your fabric, thread, and stitch type. Whether you’re working on delicate silk or robust canvas, using the right needle will make your stitching process smoother and more enjoyable.

Embroidery is an art form that combines creativity with technique. With the right tools and knowledge, you can bring your designs to life with precision and beauty. So, next time you start an embroidery project, take a moment to choose the right needle and see how it transforms your work.

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