When you are working with tiny seed beads, the needle you choose to use will make a big difference in your beading satisfaction.
You should avoid using regular sewing or embroidery needles when you are doing beadwork. They may be convenient and inexpensive but are thicker with larger eyes than needles that are made specifically for beading.
Types of Beading Needles
Selecting the right size and type of beading needle will make your beadwork more enjoyable and will minimize problems with broken beads and ruined beadwork. There are many different types of beading needles, learn more about the most common types: English, Japanese, bigeye, twisted, milliners, and glovers.
English Beading Needles
English beading needles are long thin flexible needles that come in a range of sizes to fit even the tiniest of seed beads. These are the most commonly used type of beading needles. They are used for loom beadwork as well as off-loom beading stitches such as peyote, brick stitch, herringbone, netting, and others.
English beading needles come in several different sizes. The most commonly used needle size is a size 10 or 12, both of which work well with size 11/0 beads.
English beading needles can be purchased at craft stores, local bead stores, or online bead suppliers. Brands to look for are Beadsmith English Beading Needles or John James English Beading Needles.
Japanese Beading Needles
Japanese beading needles are thin flexible needles with a reinforced eye and a slightly rounded point. They are a lot like English needles, coming in a similar range of sizes, but they are more durable (and more expensive).
Although Japanese beading needles are thin and flexible and therefore perfect for loom and off-loom bead weaving, they do not get bent or break as often as English beading needles. They are made by Tulip or Miyuki. The slightly rounded point makes it less likely that you will pierce the thread when making multiple passes through a bead.
Bigeye needles are needles that are super easy to thread. They have a giant eye down the entire length of the needle.
Bigeye needles are thicker than English beading needles since they are made of two pieces of metal joined together at the top and bottom. When the needle is pushed from the ends, the center bows out to reveal the single large eye that runs the entire length.
Available at most bead stores, bigeye needles are best for stringing projects, working with elastic cord, and other slightly thicker stringing materials. BeadSmith and Beadalon big eye needles are widely available. They are not well suited for stitches that require multiple passes through a bead.
Twisted Beading Needles
Twisted beading needles are made of flexible wire with a large loop eye. They are perfect for stringing pearls and gemstones on silk thread or ribbon cord. They do not work well for off-loom bead weaving since they are too flexible to follow a path through multiple beads.
Twisted beading needles are not easily reused since the large eye collapses around the thread once it goes through the bead hole. They also bend and flex considerably more than other needles.
Milliners needles are similar to English beading needles except they are more widely available in sewing supply stores.
Milliners needles are slightly thicker with a rounder eye than English beading needles. They are suitable for the same type of off-loom beadwork, loom beading, and bead embroidery.
Glovers needles are a special type of needle that is used for stitching seed beads to leather, suede, or other thick fabrics. They are sharper than other beadwork needles and have a triangle-shaped pointed tip that easily penetrates leather. Glovers needles come in a variety of sizes similar to English beading needles.
Threading a Beading Needle
Threading a beading needle can be tricky, particularly for a beginner. If you think you can just use a needle threader made for a regular sewing thread, think again—the eye is much smaller, and it will not work. However, there are a few steps that you can follow to thread your beading needle:
- Flatten the end: If you are working with a thread like Fireline, Wildfire, or Nymo, flatten the thread ends before trying to thread the needle. You can do this by running the end through your front teeth, or you can use a jewelry-making plier.
- Bring the needle to the thread end: Instead of pushing the thread through the needle, try bringing the eye of the needle to the thread. This is the opposite of how you probably think about doing it, but it works better.
- Be patient: Even the most seasoned beaders have trouble threading their needles from time to time. Be patient when trying to thread your needle the first few times.
- Get a specialized needle threader: If all else fails, you can purchase a needle threader made specifically for beading needles. You can find these at craft and bead supply stores and online sources.