Whether you’re new to embroidery or an expert in the practice, a few things are key to producing this kind of thread art. You need to know embroidery knots and embroidery stitches, and you need to have the right materials. Embroidery doesn’t require a lot of supplies—just thread, needles, a canvas, an embroidery hoop, and scissors—but you do want to make sure you’re working with the correct items.

Choosing the right needles for your embroidery project will set you up for success with flower blossoms, woodland creatures, or anything else you’re stitching!  

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Sewing Needles vs. Embroidery Needles

Embroidery needles work better with embroidery thread than sewing needles.

If you have standard sewing needles around the house already, they won’t generally work for this kind of crafting. Embroidery needles are usually less sharp than sewing needles, with a larger eye. These features make an embroidery needle better suited to embroidery thread, which has a tendency to break, snap or fray when being used with a sewing needle. 

On rare occasions, a sewing needle will be the right choice for an embroidery project. When you’re doing extremely detailed work, for example, you might find that different tools are required. Again—this is a rare occasion. 

Types of Embroidery Needles

Standard Embroidery Needles

different needles
With standard embroidery (or crewel) needles, the eye bulges out above the shaft.

Also known as crewel needles, basic embroidery needles are a great place to start your embroidery practice. The eye of an embroidery needle bulges out at the top of the shaft because the shaft is thinner than the eye. It has a sharper tip than other embroidery needles, which makes it an ideal option for most embroidery techniques.

Embroidery beginners should seek out a variety pack of crewel needles, since they come in a range of sizes. You should be able to find these variety packs at any craft or hobby store.

Darning Needles

Darning needles are longer than other types of needles and have a small eye. The added length makes these needles great for running stitch embroidery and huck embroidery. 

Tapestry Needles

threading needle
Embroidery artist Floor Giebels recommends tapestry needles to her students.

Tapestry needles have a sharp point but an eye large enough to accommodate multiple types of embroidery threads. This will make for smooth stitching.

Chenille Needles

The bulge at the top of a chenille needle is smaller than the bulge at the top of a standard embroidery needle, since the shaft is only slightly thinner than the eye. These needles work well for surface embroidery, crewel embroidery, and chenille embroidery. They also work especially well with specialty threads like chenille and metallic.

Ribbon Needles

As you can imagine from the name, ribbon needles are recommended any time you are embroidering with ribbon.

Huck Needles

Some embroiderers prefer to work with huck needles, which have rounded, curved tips that make it easier to grab and scoop fabric while stitching. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with a standard needle, try a huck needle and see what you prefer.

Milliner Needles

Compared to other embroidery needles, milliner needles (also known as straw needles) are longer. The other major difference is that there is no bulge at the top, because the eye and the shaft are the same thickness. Milliner needles make drizzle stitches, French knots, and other techniques easier, since they’re ideal for wrapping the thread around the needle.

Gold-Plated Needles

Gold-plated needles are pricier than their counterparts and are typically selected to avoid allergic reactions to other metals. Because gold holds up better to humidity and other environmental factors, though, these needles tend to last longer without damage. 

Give Them a Try!

As you can see, selecting an embroidery needle is sometimes about what you need for a job and sometimes about personal preference. It’s wise to have a range of needles on hand so you can test them all out and see what you like best.

Try Your Hand at Embroidery

Painting with Thread: Modern Embroidery for Beginners

Written by:

Alli Hoff Kosik