featuring guest authors; crafting tips and projects; recipes from food editor and sleuthing sidekick Cloris McWerther; and decorating, travel, fashion, health, beauty, and finance tips from the rest of the American Woman editors.

Monday, January 3, 2011


Every go into a panic when you need to buy something, but the choices are so confusing that you stand in front of the shelf, unable to make a choice? Which brand of cereal is best for your kids? Which shoes go better with that outfit? What color paint will look best on the living room walls? Does this brand work better than that brand? 

It's enough to drive anyone to the brink of a panic attack! And guess what? Whether it's cereal or wall paint, we're generally bombarded with too many choices. Often it's a simple matter of taste, but more often than not, other factors come into play. Educating yourself about products helps you make better choices, right? Well, the same thing is true with craft supplies and tools.

Using the proper tools is essential in any craft. Needles are no exception. No matter what the thread or material, there’s a needle to suit the job. However, sometimes the choice can be overwhelming. Many stitchers are confused as to which needle to use for which kind of stitching project. There’s a specially designed needle for each specific type of sewing and needlecraft, and it’s important to use the right needle to obtain the best results.

To confuse matters further, many types of needles also come in a selection of sizes. When dealing with size, a good rule of thumb is to choose a needle that does not open the weave of the fabric any more than necessary as the needle passes through it. A needle that is too large will create gaps in your fabric as you work, and a needle that is too small will cause your thread, floss, or yarn to fray as you stitch. This is true whether you’re stitching by hand or machine. Always test your needle, thread, and fabric combination before beginning a project.

Here’s a handy guide that should help in selecting the appropriate needle for your work:

Crewel needles, also known as embroidery needles, are medium-length needles with sharp points for piercing closely woven fabrics. They have long oval eyes for easy threading of multiple strands of yarn or floss. Use these needles for most embroidery projects, including cutwork, pulled thread, stumpwork, candlewicking, and smocking.

Chenilles are similar to crewel or embroidery needles but are larger in size for stitching with heavier threads and fabrics. They work well when using tapestry wools or multiple plies of Persian wool. Chenilles are also ideal for fastening the ends of couched threads.

Tapestry needles are heavy needles with blunt ends and large oval eyes. They're used when stitching on evenweave fabrics when you want the needle to slip between the threads of the fabric, rather than piercing the threads. This makes them ideal for counted cross stitch, Hardanger embroidery, blackwork, shadow appliqué, and trapunto. They are also used for stitching on canvas for needlepoint and Bargello and for plastic canvas.

Beading needles are very thin needles with small eyes that allow the bead to slide down the needle onto the thread. Use them for doing counted bead embroidery or other beading projects.

Sculpture needles are very long needles used for making soft sculpture dolls and stuffed animals. Their length enables you to stitch through stuffed sections.

Sharps are medium-length needles with round eyes and sharp points. They’re used for hand sewing.

Milliners are similar to sharps, except longer. These needles are useful for basting as well as for pleating and smocking.

Betweens, also known as quilting needles, are short needles with small round eyes and sharp points. They’re ideal for making short, even quilting stitches.

Darners are long, large-eyed sharp needles used primarily for mending. They’re also ideal for dollmaking.

Do you have a favorite tool you can’t be without? Let’s hear from you. Post a comment this week to be entered in the drawing for a book from our Book Club Friday guest author. -- AP


Witch of Stitches said...

Millines are also perfect and recommended for bullion knots because the eye is not larger than the rest of the needle. Another reason to have them around.
Very nice compilation, thank you. I'm going to print it out and keep it with my stitching stuff!


Thanks for the additional info, Witch of Stitches!