How to Pick Cross Stitch Needles

You might reasonably think that you could skip this section on cross stitch needles. After all, if you have needles and such around the house, you don't need any more of them. You'd be wrong. Don't skip this very important section!

Blunt needles work best

However, since you might be familiar with other types of needles, even have a favorite, we need to take a look at the traits of some of these and choose the best ones for the job. Or, if you want to "get to the point," just see the Katherine Recommends note highlighted below.

It's easy to get lost in the haystack of needles at your local craft or sewing store. But since we'll be using needles with specific traits, it's quick and simple to pick these up and cross them off your list.

How to buy cross stitch needles

Typical sewing needles vary in length, thickness, sharpness and eye size. Walk right past these. Any sewing store that sells embroidery supplies will display the needles you want with the floss instead of with standard sewing needles.

There, you will find the three types used for embroidery: crewel (or embroidery), chenille and tapestry. Curiously, even with the tremendous popularity of counted cross stitch, you may find it difficult to find something labeled as a "cross stitch needle." Some of the ones I've found do not work well for cross stitch.

The specific needle to choose depends on the embroidery technique, the floss or yarn used and the fabric being stitched. A number represents the size of the needle: the higher the number, the smaller the needle. All of these types have larger eyes than regular sewing needles, a must for using with floss.

Crewel (embroidery) needles are sharp pointed and range in size from 1 to 10. These are used for standard embroidery stitched on common fabric such as stamped designs on pillow cases, towels, etc.

Chenille needles are also sharp pointed and range in size from 13 to 26. Longer, thicker and with larger eyes, these make a good choice for embroidery with heavier yarn.

Tapestry needles also range in size from 13 to 26. Blunt rather than sharp, these make an ideal choice for counted cross stitch. They receive my nomination for the title, "cross stitch needles."

The purpose of a cross stitch needle is to open the weave of the fabric so the floss can easily pass through. If the needle is too small, the floss will fray a little more each time it is pulled through the cloth. On the other hand, too large a needle can can distort the small holes in any even weave material (such as Aida cloth) with a thread count higher than 18.

I use Tapestry needles, size #26, almost exclusively. The blunt tip works perfectly for "finding" the hole by feel. Sharp needles so easily pierce the fabric that I typically keep stitching and do not realize the mistake until I come back and stitch adjacent to it. The blunt tip of the tapestry needle helps avoid this problem.

Try to avoid the frustration of having multiple needle sizes to sort through when stitching. Since I most often use cloth between 11 and 18 count, I've found the #26 needle to be the most versatile choice. I also keep a few of the next larger #24 on hand to use when I have too many strands of floss to easily thread through the eye of a #26, or when using specialty metallic floss.

atherine Recommends "Get several blunt-tipped needles, approximately 1-1/2" long, with large eyes (tapestry needles, size #24 and/or #26) and a couple of sharp-tipped needles, approximately 1-1/2" long, with large eyes (chenille, size #24 and/or #26)."

You may be able to find Boyce counted cross stitch needles in a combo package with four #24 and four #26 needles. Buy one package to start. (Ignore the notation on the package that says, "For 18 and 22 Count Fabric.") Since your hand size and dexterity may also affect which feels most comfortable, work with them and settle on the size you like best.

Dritz offers the same combo of 6 needles as the "Dritz Tapestry Hand Needles 24/26." You can find them at Joann's or other sewing and craft stores.

I've noticed that children like the larger needles. They start with the smaller fabric counts (hence larger holes in the fabric), so larger needles work fine for them.

Then, buy lots of them.

If you're like me and stitch in almost any room (not to mention taking small projects along with you outside the house), you'll never believe how many cross stitch needles you can lose. You'll be even more amazed at the places you'll find them!

It's also a good idea to keep a couple of #24 and #26 Chenille needles on hand. (Remember, these come in the same sizes but have a sharp point.) Sometimes a design will call for stitching on top of stitching (backstitching for an outline, a french knot for an eye, etc.). A blunt-tipped needle can make it difficult to pierce an area of dense stitching, especially if it lands in the middle of a stitch instead of in the holes. When this happens, just switch to a sharp needle.

Check here for Chenille size 24 needles.

Now that you've put cross stitch needles on your list, it's time to add a needle threader, too. Yes, you do need one.

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