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Hand Sewing Needles

Hand Sewing Needles for Your Quilting Projects

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Hand Sewing Needles

Quilters can choose from a large array of hand sewing needles, and each type of needle is designd with unique characteristics that help it accomplish a specific task. But although needles are commonly associated with a certain technique, you might find that choosing one needle (over another) has advantages for your own particular style of sewing. The good news -- hand sewing needles are inexpensive, giving us the opportunity to experiment with them without spending a fortune.

Anatomy of a Hand Sewing Needle

  • The hole at the non-pointed end of a needle is called its eye.
  • Needles are made with different eye shapes and sizes, each designed to suit the type of thread, yarn or other material you're sewing with (enabling the threaded needle to pass through the piece being sewn with as much fluidity as possible).
  • The long portion of a needle is called its shank.
  • Needle length and thickness decreases as size designations increase. For instance, a size 12 needle is shorter and thinner than a size 9.
  • Two needles often used by quilters, betweens and sharps, are available in sizes 1 through 12.
  • Some types of needles are self-threading, with slots that allow you to pull thread through the eye rather than insert a strand through the eye.
  • Needles are typically coated with a metal (that differs from their core construction) to help them glide more easily through fabric, and to help prevent corrosion.

Betweens (Hand Quilting Needles)

Quilting Needles Betweens
Betweens by Clover

Betweens are short, sturdy needles that are designed for hand quilting. Their short stature and small eye allow betweens to push easily through multiple layers of a quilt sandwich (although some betweens have a larger eye to help us actually thread them). New hand quilters sometimes assume they must use the tiniest betweens (size 12) in order to achieve short quilting stitches, but I recommend you purchase a packet with multiple sizes and experiment with the larger sizes first (try a 9) and become accustomed to the quilting process before you move on to the teeny betweens.

Betweens to Try
Roxanne, Size 10 (Buy Direct)
Clover Betweens, Sizes 9-12 (Buy Direct)
John James Betweens, Sizes 5-10 (Buy Direct)
Dritz Betweens, Sizes 3-9 (Buy Direct)
Compare Betweens Brands (Compare Brands and Prices)

Sharps (for Hand Applique and Other Tasks)

John James Sharps Needles
John James Sharps Needles

Sharps are thin needles with a round eye, versatile needles that are somewhat longer than an all-purpose style. They are popular for hand applique and for general hand sewing tasks -- think of sharps as a "universal" needle that should always be in your sewing kit. As with betweens, it's helpful to purchase a multi-size packet of sharps and experiment a bit with handling different widths and lengths. I tend to grab this needle (or a milliners, below) when it's time to sew binding to a quilt, and always use it for hand applique.

Sharps to Try
John James Sharps, Sizes 5-10 (Buy Direct)
Clover Gold Eye Sharps, Size 10 (Buy Direct)
Clover Black Gold Sharps, Size 9 (Buy Direct)
Dritz Sharps, Size 10 (Buy Direct)
Hemmings Sharps, Sizes 5-10 (Buy Direct)
John James Sharps in Flip-Top Case (Compare Brands and Prices)

Milliners Needles (Also Called Straw Needles)

Clover Milliners Needles
Clover Milliners Needles

Milliners needles, also called straw needles, are very similar to sharps, but longer. They work nicely for applique and basting tasks and can be a good choice when hand-sewing binding to your quilt.

Milliners Needles to Try
Hemmings Milliners, Size 10 (Buy Direct)
Clover Milliners Needles, Sizes 3-9 (Buy Direct)
Dritz Milliners, Sizes 3-9 (Buy Direct)
Compare Brands of Milliners Needles (Compare Brands and Prices)

More Hand Sewing Needles

Dritz Bodkin
Dritz Bodkin

There are many additional types of hand sewing needles, but most of the others used for a quilting project will probably fall into the embellishments category -- needles used to add beads, embroidery or other decorative elements.

  • Embroidery needles are very similar to sharps, but their elongated eyes are designed to handle strands of floss.
  • Beading needles are very long and thin, handy for sewing beads onto fabric.
  • Chenille needles have a large eye and a sharp point, and can be used to add silk ribbon embellishments to your work.
  • Bodkins are hefty, with a large eye and blunt "point" (thread elastic or another material through the eye and pull it through a casing).
  • Basting needles (sometimes called longs) are usually 3 to 3-1/2 inches in length and are used to hand baste a quilt to prepare it for quilting.

Needles to Try
Clover Gold Eye Embroidery Needles, Sizes 3-9 (Buy Direct)
Beading Needles (Compare Brands and Prices)
Dritz Ball Point Bodkin (Buy Direct)
Roxanne Basting Needles (Buy Direct)
Chenille Needles (Compare Brands and Prices)

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