Sewing With a Personal Touch: Key Features That Classify the Different Types of Hand Sewing Needles

February 10, 2022

You've been into sewing recently and have decided to start learning the basics. You're currently getting into the nitty-gritty details of sewing needles when you realize there's not just one, but two—no, more than ten types of them! As a beginner in the sewing department, this can be overwhelming information for you.

Moreover, you're not even sure of the exact number of the types of sewing needles because various sources enumerate them differently. Some discuss ten types or less, while others stretch over to 16. It might take some time for you to get around them, but here's a better way to learn: knowing the key features that make each type different from the other.

Generally, hand sewing needles come in various sizes and shapes. The sewing needle you'll choose depends on your sewing project, the fabric being sewn, and your needle preference. However, those are not enough. More factors can help you differentiate them better, such as the needle's components. This blog post will explore some key features of needles to help you determine which hand sewing needle is right for you. 

But There Are Sewing Machines Now. Do You Still Need Hand Sewing Needles?

When you think of sewing machines, this might come to you as an afterthought: do we still need hand sewing needles for hand sewing?

Yes, these sewing needles are still needed because many sewing projects and techniques will still require work by hand. For example, tough fabrics like leather or heavy materials such as thick wool need to be sewn together using hand stitches for precision.

More examples of sewing techniques or tasks done by hand are: tacking fabric layers, attaching embellishments, whip-stitching, finishing coat linings, darning knits, and overcasting fabric edges. No matter how advanced a sewing machine can be, some sewing procedures are still done best by hand.

hand sewing needles for handsewing - different needle sizes on white background image

Key Features to Classify Different Types of Needles for Hand Sewing

Needles are classified according to their components. The difference could be either at the core or shaft of a needle and might come straight or bent at different angles. But one thing's for sure: a needle must be sharp enough to pierce through fabrics easily, accurately, and efficiently when stitching by hand. Otherwise, it's a defective needle.

Let's discuss what specific components differentiate one needle type from another.


Needles for hand sewing have two basic building blocks: the shaft and the point. What makes them different? It's the material they're made of. Some are gold or platinum-plated, while others are from high-carbon steel with nickel plating. There are also needles made of unplated stainless steel.


Each type of needle for hand sewing caters to a different technique. For example, sharps are designed for general sewing tasks, while chenille needles are for embroidery. Betweens are made for quilting, and ballpoint is for knitting. If you want to try various sewing projects or techniques, you have to use a different needle for each of them.


The size of sewing needles varies not only in type but also within each type. So when you get a set of needles, you'll find size options that go over 10‒20 variations. Usually, these numbers are indicated on the packaging like this: 5/10, 70/10, or 3‒9. Some packages may also indicate every single size they have on the package. Finally, there are "universal" needles for sewing on almost any fabric.


The length of hand-sewing needles can be long, short, or anywhere in between. It can also depend on the shape and size of the needle's eye. For example, betweens are shorter, so they work faster on large projects but are more delicate. On the other hand, Sharps are longer than betweens, while milliner needles are longer than sharps. Length helps you accomplish a specific sewing technique.


The thickness of sewing needles is directly linked to the fabric or sewing material. Thin hand stitching needles, for instance, are suitable for fine fabrics like silk and satin. In contrast, medium needle thickness works well on cotton or linen materials. Meanwhile, thick hand sewing needles are great for heavy-duty fabrics like leather and thick yarns.

hand sewing needles heavy duty - sewing tools and white cloths and face masks concept image

Caution for Allergies

You can get allergies from sewing needles because some are made from materials that trigger allergic reactions. So if you're allergic, ask the store attendant first if they know what type of needle is best for you. It would also help if you could do some research beforehand or ask your sewing class instructor for advice.

All Sewing Needles Need Replacement

No matter how great your needle threaders and needles for hand sewing are, they will eventually need a replacement, especially those pretty, gold-plated needles. They will wear out and become dull in time. Consequently, they become far more dangerous than new, sharp needles. So prepare for an extra supply, and always be mindful of early signs before they cause further damage to your sewing projects.

The Common Types of Needles for Hand Sewing

As mentioned, you might find yourself in a pool of so many types of needles to choose from. It can be confusing, but you don't have to take all the information in. If you're still a beginner, there's no need to rush on this. Eventually, you'll get into these types as you try different tasks and techniques in your sewing journey.

For now, here's a starter on the most common types of needles for hand sewing.

  • Sharps: medium-length general purpose needles
  • Chenille: embroidery needles with a very sharp tip
  • Ballpoints: needles with rounded tips for knitting fabrics
  • Betweens: short and sharp needles designed for quilting
  • Tapestry: needles with a larger and thicker construction (blunt point, needle body, and eye) used for needlepoint (canvas embroidery)
  • Darning: longer needles used for darning and mending woven fabrics
  • Beading: thin and long needles used for sewing sequins and beads
  • Crewel: needles similar to sharps' length but with a longer eye for embroidery
  • Milliners/Straws: needles similar to sharps' construction but slightly longer, used for sewing hats, pleats, and decorative stitches

It Takes a Touch of the Hand to Sew Something Great

Hand stitching needles play a significant role in your sewing project. There are specific sewing procedures or techniques that will require you to sew by hand to get the best results. Hence, it is best to discern the appropriate needle for a specific sewing project before starting.

However, choosing the right needles can be challenging. There are so many types, but it will help if you know which parts make them different. From there, you can classify each type and find the needle that fits your specific needs. We hope the list outlined above helps you with your selection. So take your sweet time, focus on what you're doing, and enjoy the process. Happy sewing!

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