Types of Needles and Plans for a Needle Case

During a trip to JoAnn’s Fabrics yesterday, I bought several sizes of tapestry needles. Their blunt ends, I found out, work better with certain types of embroidery, such as blackwork. Since the tips aren’t pointed, they are less likely to pierce a thread.  My discovery was that in any type of counted stitch embroidery (example: 2 threads up and 4 threads to the left), you want your needle to go between the threads of the fabric rather than through a thread. The blunt ends push the threads aside instead of piercing it.

My next step in this journey is to learn what the different types of needles are better for doing. After all, they wouldn’t make different styles, sizes and types if there wasn’t a reason.

A large part of learning something new is discovering the un-obvious and learning those things you never knew mattered, or sometimes never knew existed. It’s not just about mastering those steps that you know of, but learning all those little details, new terminology, and minor bits about which you’ve never heard.  Sometimes it’s the little things, those things that no one thinks to explain because anyone who’s done it for any length of time knows, which I find frustrating. Types of needles are one of them.

When it comes to the basic needle, there are 4 aspects of needles that are important:

  1. Point type
  2. Eye type
  3. Length
  4. Width

Point Types

  1. Sharp
    • As the name implies, they have a sharp point. These are the most common type of hand-sewing needles used.
  2. Ball point
    • Good for knit fabric since it is less likely to snag the threads and un-do the knitted fabric.
      • Ball Point or Knit Needles
  3. Blunt
    • Used for projects where you go between the threads. The blunt point pushes the threads to the side so that it is not pierced.
      • Tapestry needles are blunt

Eye Types

  1. Small Round Eye
    • General sewing needles. Eye is large enough to fit normal sewing thread.
      • Sharps: general purpose sewing. Sharp with small head that is good for working with normal sewing thread.
  2. Long Eye
    • Better for sewing that uses multiple threads, thick threads or yarn.
      • Embroidery or Crewel Needles: have long eye and a sharp point
      • Tapestry Needles: have a long eye but a blunt point. Generally a little on the thicker side. Can pass through fabric without piercing the individual thread. Good for blackwork or other counted stitch sewing.
      • Chenille Needles: Large eye and thick like a tapestry needle, but with a sharp point. Used for going through thick, closely woven fabric with multiple or large thread, like ribbon or wool embroidery.


  1. Short
    • Work with tiny details
      • Quilting Needles: short and sharp. Good for small stitches used in quilting or going through thick fabrics that need small stitches, such denim or when hemming pants.
  2. Medium
    • General use. Most things you do can be done with a medium length needle.
  3. Long
    • They are made for hat making, but can also be useful in any circumstance where large basting stitches are needed.
      • Milliner Needles: long and sharp with a small eye. Since the eye is not much bigger than the shaft, it can also be used for beading.


  1. Thin
    • Light-weight fabrics so that the hole made is tiny and doesn’t affect the fabric much.
  2. Thick
    • In some work, like embroidery, you want the hole in the fabric big enough for the thread to pass through without a problem. Especially with using silk thread, you don’t want the thread to struggle being pulled through.
    • Some needles have a sharp point with a thinner body that tapers up to a larger head, even a diamond or triangular shaped head. These are good for getting through fabric that needs a sharp point and making a large enough opening for the thread to pass easily through.

Now what does all of this have to do with a needle case? Now that I have so many types of needles, I want to use the correct one for the correct circumstance. Thus, I need a way to organize them. Now, if Jo-Ann Fabrics had simply had a decent needle case yesterday, I would not be here. Since they didn’t, my need for a simple needle case has become much more complex. I now want a needle case that organizes my needles by type and size, has a pocket for my embroidery scissors and looks like it could be found in the 14 to 1500’s. It doesn’t have to be historically accurate, but I don’t want it to be glaringly modern.

That’s what I’m working one today. Pictures will follow.


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