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Tuesday Tidbits

Sent: June 24, 2008

Hi Stitchers –


This week’s edition of Tuesday Tidbits features one of my favorite things – a needle! We can’t stitch without it and the selection of the right needle can greatly enhance your stitching enjoyment or at the other extreme, can make you miserable. The worst thing ever is to get somewhere with all your stitching and find yourself without a needle. This has happened to me more times than I care to admit so now I always carry a package in my purse!


For most needlework projects, we use a tapestry needle. The tip of the needle is blunt and is designed to push aside the fibers of Aida or Linen fabrics instead of piercing them. The eye is large and oval to allow several strands of floss at a time. The shaft of the needle is wider than the tip, allowing the needle to make room for the thread to go through the fabric with less friction. Friction causes wear and tear on the floss and sometimes damages or breaks your threads. It can also “rough up” your threads. If you have either of these problems, you may be using a needle that is too small. The needle should be large enough to push aside the fibers of the fabric but not increase the size of the holes in the fabric. When needlepointing, your needle should be large enough to allow the thread you are using to be in the eye but not increase the holes of your canvas. On the other hand, if your needle "falls through" the hole easily or you are having a hard time pulling the thread through the canvas, you may want to increase the size of your needle.


Tapestry needles come in sizes from 13 (largest) to 28 (smallest). The larger the size of the needle, the smaller it is. Sometimes the size varies slightly by manufacturer as well.  The size used depends on the count of the fabric. The larger the fabric count, the smaller the tapestry needle that should be used. Typically, a size 24 or 26 is used on 14 ct aida, a 26 or 28 for 16 or 18ct aida, and 26 or 28 for 32 ct linen. For needlepoint, use a size 20 on 13-14 ct and a size 22 on 18ct canvas. Try several needles to find what you feel most comfortable with.


Some stitchers like gold-plated or platinum needles. The coatings are designed to make the needle slip through the fabric more easily. The gold needles are also easier to see and find if you drop them on the floor or the couch. If you have a metal allergy, be sure to change your needle frequently. If the coating is wearing off the needle, it’s worn out and should be tossed out as it will leave marks on your stitching. I usually lose my needles before this happens!


Petite tapestry needles are also popular with many stitchers. The only difference between petite and regular tapestry needles is the length. This makes stitching go quicker because there is less needle to pull through the fabric each time. Personally, I always use petite needles when cross stitching – I was SO happy when they came out with them as I have preferred smaller needles throughout my stitching career! I remember getting a free needle with a magazine subscription when I was in college and it was shorter than anything I’d ever used. I took it to every stitching store in San Diego and nobody had anything like it.


Chenille needles are basically a sharp tapestry needle. They also come in different sizes and have a large eye like a tapestry needle but a sharp tip like an embroidery needle. They are used for ribbon embroidery and candlewicking. I’ve also used them for stitching on waste canvas since it makes it easier to stitch through the fabric attached to the waste canvas.


Beading needles are used to add seed beads and embellishments to cross stitch designs. A typical bead needle is sharp, long, thin, and has a very small eye. There are several sizes of bead needles. My personal favorites are John James size 10 – they have a blunt tip (yeah, no poking myself), a round eye that is easier than most bead needles to thread, and they will go through petite as well as regular seed beads. I never use anything else for beading!


If you have any questions about needles, please feel free to email me or come in to the shop.


Happy Stitching!


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