Cross Stitch Needles: How to Choose the Right Size Needle
Updated: Sep 6, 2019
If you've ever walked down the needle isle at your local craft store or done a quick Amazon search for a needle for your cross stitch or embroidery projects, then you know exactly how many different options there are. Which brand? What size needle? Blunt or sharp needle? Wow, it can get really confusing to find what you're looking for. So... let's break this down and tell you exactly what you need to know about NEEDLES!!
What type of needle do I need for cross stitch?
When working counted cross stitch you will need a blunt needle. These are usually called tapestry needles but you will occasionally see them called cross stitch needles. These needles have a longer eye (opening) which makes threading the needle easier for thicker embroidery floss typically used in cross stitch.
Why a blunt needle vs a sharp needle? Well, in cross stitch you are generally using an aida fabric or an even-weave fabric. These types of fabrics naturally have spaces where you will place your threaded needle, therefore a blunt needle is best.
Sharp needles are an excellent choice when splitting fabric fibers. Only in some specialty stitches is splitting fibers needed.
What size needle do I need for cross stitch?
First thing, it is important to understand that the needle size correlates inversely; meaning the larger the needle size (number), the smaller the actual needle. Then the opposite is also true; the smaller the needle size, the larger the actual needle will be.
Example: Size 18 needle is larger in physical size when compared to a size 24 needle.
There are only a few things to consider when deciding on the size of needle to use on a project.... width of the needle; length of the needle; size of the eye (hole) where you thread the needle. And generally speaking the smaller the needle... the smaller are these 3 factors.
The opposite is also true... the larger the needle... the larger are these 3 factors.
Alright, so now that that's behind us... how do you actually know what size needle you need?
One easy trick is to pass a threaded needle through an unstitched hole in the fabric. The needle should pass through with minimal friction. If the needle falls through the hole very easily your needle is probably too small. If the needle enlarges the hole, the needle is too big. Simple as that.
I always LOVE a good short cut... so I've come up with this good rule of thumb when choosing needle sizes for Aida fabric:
Fabric size 8 to 12: Needle Size 22
Fabric size 14: Needle Size 24
Fabric size 16 to 18: Needle Size 28
Should I be using a nickle or gold-plated needle?
Honestly, in most situations using a nickle or gold plated needle doesn't really matter. But it might matter if you have a nickle allergy... if so, I recommend going with a gold-plated needle.
Some people say gold-plated needles slide through the fabric better than nickle which might be helpful when stitching french knots or other decorative knots... but I think it's just a personal preference.
Where should I store my needles when they are not in use?
I recommend storing your needles in a small container with a magnet. You can find many different types of needle storage containers or pin cushions. I like THIS ONE. I always prefer a container with a magnet because I tend to lose fewer needles that way.
I advise against leaving your needle in the fabric because overtime it may leave a mark on your fabric. There is nothing worse than putting in the hours on a beautiful project, just to have it ruined by a needle.
If you really, really like storing your needles in your fabric... then I recommend working with gold-plated needles as they are less likely to leave a mark on your fabric.
How do I know when my needle should be replaced?
When you're buying new needles, most packages come with 5-6 needles. This is usually more than enough for an entire cross stitch project for those times when you might misplace or break a needle. But there are other not-so-obvious times when you should discard your needle.
If you ever notice a rough area anywhere on your needle where threads or fabric might snag and become damaged... throw it away and grab a new needle.
If you ever notice a crack or a break in the eye of your needle... throw it away and grab a new needle.
To summarize... for cross stitch you'll want a blunt needle (usually a tapestry needle) sized according to the fabric you're using (see simplified rule of thumb above). Nickle or gold-plated needles will work just fine. Store your needles in a container (preferably with a magnet) AND lastly, replace them when showing signs of wear.
Needles can seem overwhelming at first. But if you know what you're looking for, it surely can narrow down the search and maybe make it a little more fun the next time you're searching for a new needle.
Here is my affiliate link for the magnet needle bowl I used in this video... https://amzn.to/2LqmiJ7
Check out all the needle minders I have available HERE.
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