Liberty Lifestyle Blog: What Size Needle and How Many Strands?

Ever go to the craft store, stand in front of the needle section and then feel like you want to turn around and run out of the store? We have! With so many needle options out there, the choices may seem overwhelming but have no fear…this blog post will help you figure out which needle to use and how many strands of embroidery thread to use!

There are 5 Types of Needles used for Hand Embroidery:

Crewel or Embroidery needles are medium length with a sharp point and a narrow eye. They come in numbers 1-12  and 6-8 are the most commonly used. They can be used for surface embroidery, crewel work, whitework and goldwork.

Tapestry needles have a blunt point and a large eye and are generally used for cross stitch and counted thread embroidery. They come in numbers 13-28 with 28 being the finest.These can be used for whipped stitches where the needle goes under the thread rather than through the fabric. These are suitable for children to use with Aida or Binca fabric.

Milliner needles are commonly used in the Millinery trade. They are very long and thin with a shaft that is the same thickness as the eye.They are really useful for decorative stitches such as Bullion and French knots where the thread is wrapped around the needle several times. They come in sizes 1-10, no.5. is generally my go to.

Beading needles are the thinnest of all the needles so that they can pick up and travel through the tiniest of beads. They are very long and bend out of shape very easily, are very sharp and have a really small eye. They come in sizes 10-15 and are made from the finest steel wire.

Chenille needles are the same as tapestry needles except they have a sharp point rather than blunt. They come in sizes 13-28 the same as tapestry needles and are often used for crewel work because the eye is easier on the wool thread. Useful for metallic threads and ribbon embroidery.

What Type of Needle Does Liberty Stitching Company Use?

The Embroidery Needle is the type of needle we use in our kits and will be talking about in this next section. They’re a solid go-to choice for general embroidery projects, especially if you’re a beginner. The Embroidery Needle comes in sizes 1 to 12, with 1 being the largest and 12 being the smallest; sizes 6-8 are the most commonly used sizes. We use size 8 in our embroidery kits. 

The golden rule when it comes to needle sizes is: the larger the number, the smaller the needle. So, a size 8 needle is smaller than a size 6 needle. A size 12 needle is really thin and short, while a size 4 needle is long and thicker. 

Needle eye size is determined by a few things. If the diameter of the needle is thinner, the eye will be smaller. If the diameter of the needle is thicker the diameter will be bigger. So the higher the number the smaller the eye. 

The type of fabric is also another factor to consider. The needle size depends on the fiber count of the fabric you’re stitching on and the thickness of the thread you’re using. If your needle is too big for your thread then you will leave large holes in your fabric and your stitches will be loose and wobbly. If your needle is too small then you will hear a pop as you pull the eye and thread through the fabric. This is a harder way to work and wears your thread as it squeezes through a hole that is too small for it to pass through without resistance.

How Many Strands of Thread Should I Use?

A skein of embroidery floss consists of 6 individual strands that can be combined or separated to achieve the right amount of thickness for your project. There are many brands of embroidery floss, we use DMC Embroidery Floss commonly sold in most every craft store. DMC Cotton Embroidery Floss, made from long staple cotton and double mercerized for a brilliant sheen, is the most recommended floss in the world. We believe it’s the highest quality floss available!

Choosing how many strands to use in your embroidery project is a lot like choosing which size marker to use…a fine tip or a Sharpie. If you want a fine tip to work on small areas, you would use 1 strand. If you want a Sharpie to fill in a big area or create a bold outline, you would use 3-5 strands. The more strands you use, the bolder and more raised and dimensional your stitching is. You also will need less time to work on a design. And the lesser the number of strands, the more delicate and “flat” your stitching is. However, you will need more time to work on the same element.

Below is a picture of 6 different stitched lines using a backstitch with 6 different strand widths. The first line shows what the width of 1 strand looks like, the second line shows what the width of 2 strands look like and so on. 

In our kits, we tend to use 1-2 strands depending on the design. All of our kits are worked primarily in Satin Stitch, which typically works best using just 1 strand of thread, but when we have more room to cover our kits call for 2 strands. Some of our kits have a French Knot in the design and we use 4 strands for that. 

Our kits with larger images like the I Love the United States Tote Bag and the 8″ Northern Cardinal Hoop, call for using 2 strands of embroidery floss because there is less detail and more room to cover…

Our kits with smaller and more delicate images like our Lucky and Blessed Hoop and Northern Cardinal Necklace call for 1 strand of embroidery floss.

Some of our kits use French Knots to detail the design, like our Christmas Ornament Collection; these directions ask for 4 strands of floss for the knot. 

Bottom line to choosing a needle size and thread width…it is personal preference! The guidelines above are just that, guidelines. They are great to start with if you’re a beginner but after you have been stitching for a while, you’ll find what your favorite needle size is and generally how many strands you like to use. Take some risks and try some new techniques, the best part of embroidery…you can always cut the stitches out and start over! If you have any questions please leave a comment below, as other stitchers may have the same question!

Until next time…Happy Stitching! 

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