Choosing the Right Needle for Your Needlepoint Project

tapestry with colored thread

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The only suitable needle for working most needlepoint projects is a tapestry needle. This blunt-tipped hand sewing needle has an elongated eye that’s perfect for holding thick fibers or multiple strands of needlepoint thread.

The dull point of a tapestry needle makes it easy to slip through holes in the needlepoint canvas without catching or splitting the horizontal and vertical mesh threads.

Use the Right Tapestry Needle

Deciding to use the same size needle for every needlepoint design you stitch does not work well. To take out the guesswork and chose the right needle every time you stitch a project, just follow these two simple tips:

  • The tapestry needle size required for your project ​depends entirely on the canvas mesh size. A narrow needle should be used on fine-mesh canvas, while a thicker needle is used on canvases with larger holes and mesh sizes.
  • A good rule of thumb to remember is that the higher the tapestry needle number, the finer the needle. Finer needles match needlepoint projects with fine canvas mesh sizes.

Use This Chart to Select the Right Needle

Choosing the right tapestry needle for your project does not have to be difficult. Use this helpful chart every time you get ready to stitch a new design.

Canvas Mesh Size Tapestry Needle Size
#8 to #10 Size 16
#10 to #12 Size 18
#12 to #14 Size 20
#14 to #18 Size 22
#22 to #24 Size 24 to 26

As an added precaution, test the selected needle out on a small corner area of the canvas to ensure that it passes through the canvas smoothly and easily without distorting the mesh threads. If you do this, you’ll avoid excess wear on the canvas and needlepoint threads as you stitch.

Using Chenille and Other Needles

Chenille needles, which are similar to tapestry needles, can also be used, but these have a sharper point and larger eye ​generally better suited to other types of embroidery. When used in needlepoint, though, they, as well as small sharp needles, can help to secure couched threads for surface embroidery work.

How to Know If You Have Chosen the Right Needle

Use an empty tapestry needle and push it through the canvas like you are going to place a stitch. If it goes through without pushing the canvas threads apart, it is the proper size. If it spreads the threads too far apart and creates a large hole, the needle is too big and you will want to choose a smaller size.

On the other hand, if the needle falls through the canvas too easily, it is too small. You will need to pick a larger one.

Taking Care of Your Tapestry Needles

Although tapestry needles are inexpensive, you'll still want to take care of them just like you do with other needlepoint supplies. With constant use, the blunt needle tips can start to feel rough and may snag the needlepoint threads. They may also get discolored.

When this happens, it's time to do one of these things or your project may be damaged:

  • Clean your discolored and rough needles with steel wool and soapy water. Make sure to rinse and dry them thoroughly before using for stitching. A raspberry tool, used in cleaning and sharpening hand sewing needles, is great for keeping your tapestry needles in working order.
  • Throw them away and use new ones!