Needles. Seriously, so many needles.
If we are to start at the very beginning, let's start with needles. Before living in my fiber-infused world, I did not realize that a needle was anything other than a single type of thing. It's sharp, it has a hole to poke thread through. And certainly, this is true and if using any random needle works for you, that's fine! No need to nerd out with me here as I jump into the topic. But, if you enjoy utilizing tools designed with a specific purpose in mind, then please read on....
I will say that this should not be considered an encompassing treatise on The Needle. I'm just going to touch on certain types of needles one might use in embroidery.
Needles come in various sizes but one should know that the larger the number, the smaller the needle will be. Sharps, for example, are your standard hand-sewing needle. A very tiny sharps needle would be a size 10, 11, or 12. A larger one size would be a 3. However, please keep in mind that sizes are not consistent across needle types: A size 18 tapestry needle would find more in common size-wise with a size 1 embroidery needle. There is no size 1 tapestry needle.
Crewel or embroidery needle. As the name implies, these are the needles you are most likely to use for embroidery and crewel work. These needles sport a larger eye and are a tad longer than a sharps needle. The sizing of the needles differs slightly between the English and the French needles. The larger eye bulges out a teensy bit to accommodate the varying thread thicknesses used in embroidery work.
A milliners needle - aka straws needle aka bouillon knot needle. These are a longish needle that eliminates any width difference between the eye and the shank. In other words, it maintains a consistent thickness throughout the body of the needle. This needle is designed specifically for knotted stitch work to give the user a nice, streamlined pull through the knot. They're also great for basting. I love these.
Tapestry and chenille needles. I'll lump these together because size-wise, they are very similar. Their sizes span 18 - 28 (28 being the smallest) and both have quite large eyes for thicker threads or even some yarns. Chenille needles come to a sharp point whereas tapestry needles have a duller, rounded point. If you've ever done cross stitch, you've likely used a tapestry needle.
Darning and sashiko needles. Sashiko eyes tend to be larger to make enough room for sashiko threads. Otherwise, they're both quite long needles to help a stitcher with the weaving-like stitches each task requires.
Betweens needles. The first time I saw betweens needles, I thought they were darling because they are noticeably shorter than other needles. These needles are designed for fast, small stitches. They're primarily used by tailors for hems but quilters also use them for sewing quilts together.
As for needle manufacturers, I do think there is a difference in quality depending on where they're made. DMC needles, which I've never personally used, have fielded complaints about breakage and inconsistent eyes. Of course, they're inexpensive and probably the easiest to obtain so if they work for you, wonderful! I personally prefer needles made by Bohin and, if I'm feeling fancy, Tulip. Bohin is made in France whereas Tulips are manufactured in Japan. Bohins are usually $3 for a package of mixed sizes and even though it's twice the cost of DMC, I think it's worth the upgrade. Tulip needles are the most expensive of all BUT if you are someone who will stitch for hours at a time, you might find them the most comfortable to use over longer periods. There is something special about the way they glide through the fabric. Other brands that I've had little-to-no experience with include Sajou, John James, Clover, Foxglove...
If you'd like to discover your new favorite needle, consider purchasing one of my Needle Discovery Packs available in the shop!
As always -
Thanks for reading,