Sewing tools of note (12): tiny needles


The more I sew, the more I realise how essential it is to have the right needle for the job in hand. Whether you are hand sewing or machine sewing, the work can become twice as long and difficult, or even impossible, if you don’t use the appropriate needle. I am still learning, and I’ll try and share more about this as I go, for those of you who are as confused as I was (and still continue to be, sometimes).

But I wanted to share one of the lessons I have learned.

For ages I have ignored those teeny-tiny needles… you know, the ones you see and think, how can anyone even pick that up off the table, let alone thread it and sew with it? Well, I’ve discovered that not only can I pick them up (and thread them, most of the time!) they have actually become indispensable.

This teeny needle is a Sharps 10. Sharps are medium length needles with a sharp point, for general sewing. The smallest size Sharps needle is a 12 (the higher the number, the smaller the needle)

A year or so ago, I read someone, somewhere recommending Sharps needles size 10, 11 or 12 for hand stitching shapes when English paper piecing. At the time I was really frustrated with how hard I was finding it to pick up just a couple of threads of fabric when sewing hexagons together (one the essentials for beautiful invisible piecing), so I thought I would check them out. When they came I was stunned – they were SO tiny. But I quickly realised (obvious really) that they are brilliant for doing tiny invisible stitches wherever you need them (stitching binding, sewing turning gaps closed, hemming a floaty skirt, you know the kind of thing). And if you get a good brand, they just glide through the fabric with minimal effort, and stitching seems to fly by. The needles that I used to use seem heavy and clumsy in comparison.


So once you have plucked up the nerve to take up the tiny needle, you need to make sense of all the brands… and it seems there are as many recommendations as there are stitchers. Bohn, Clover (especially Black Gold), John James and Tulip all have their fans – here’s a fab little article at Sew Mama Sew about the search for the best hand sewing needle – so it makes sense to experiment until you find something you really like. I spotted Kerry recommending the Foxglove Cottage range from Jeana Kimble, so I thought that was a good a place as any to start, so I bought this little taster kit, which I’m still using, and I’m really pleased with.

As usual with sewing, one purchase leads to another, and I’ve had to increase the size of my tool kit still further… these little needles can really give you a sore finger as you push them through the fabric, so a thimble has become a necessity. And the reading glasses too, so I can see what the heck I am doing!


Do you have particular favourite needles? Or do you just reach for the nearest that looks about the right size for the job? Can you make head or tail of the different sizes and names  – Sharps, Betweens, Straw? I’d love to read your experiences.

This post is another in my ongoing bloggy series on my favourite sewing tools… Sewing Tools of Note.

19 thoughts on “Sewing tools of note (12): tiny needles

  1. I consistently go for a thin darning needle using them fresh and sharp for wovens and keeping blunt ones for knits, as they are so easy to thread with their long eye. I have some tiny needles, bought by mistake via the internet due to my needle ignorance and they looked bigger in the picture! I will give them a go – might speed up my currently slow invisible hand hemming with any luck. Thanks Ali for another really useful article.

    1. Threading them is pretty tricky, I admit. There’s a brilliant story of Lucy Boston (of Patchwork of the Crosses fame) getting all the children in her village to come and thread needles for her on their way to school in the morning. 🙂

  2. I still just pick up any old needle. Then regret it when it doesn’t go through the fabric as it should. I have a pack of merchant and mills needles which I imagine are lovely – I’m too scared to open them incase I lose them haha!! Maybe you’ll give me the kick up the bum to just use them!!

  3. I’m a total believer that the right nredle can make a huge difference- it impacts on hand strain as well as the quality of your stitches, although I struggle with the v short ones! It’s all about finding the right ones for you

    1. Absolutely – I struggle with the tiny size 12 Sharps, but I really like the 10s. I wish I had mentioned the issue of hand and wrist strain, thanks for reminding me of that, such a great reason for making sure you use the right needle.

  4. Thanks for this, Ali. I must buy myself some tiny needles. As for the glasses, my optician issues a special prescription for my needlework as I hold it much nearer than I hold a book. It’s the one thing my varifocals are not very good for!

    1. I went to the optician recently, and he asked me why I was holding that little reading card so close to my eyes. I told him I was holding it where I would hold my sewing! I think I have will have varifocals myself in next couple of years, although that’s interesting that they’re not that great for sewing. Good to know!

  5. I LOVE my beading needles. Also V hard to thread though. Now if only I can successfully hide them from my daughter who reaches for the closest needle to hand. Aaaargh bent needles! My brilliant husband recently bought me a floor standing magnifier with a daylight bulb – best it of equipment ever for cosy dark winter evenings of stitching with teeny tiny needles.

    1. I wondered about beading needles too – must give them a try. I have a floor standing daylight lamp too, but sadly it’s down at my studio. Need to get another one for home, maybe Santa will oblige 😉

  6. I do so agree regarding the small needles. I use Clover Gold Eye size 12 quilting needles for hand quilting and size 12 appliqué needles for needle turn appliqué, as recommended by my quilting teacher. I now find that other sizes seem far too big and difficult to handle so I use the smaller ones for most sewing tasks, except when using heavier threads or thick material.
    A very small quilters needle threader is necessary as a standard size threader is too big to go through the eye.

    1. Hi Jean – thanks for your comment. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to the tiny needles isn’t it. I am using a chenille needle at the moment to do some wool applique, it feels enormous! Nice and easy to thread though. I definitely have to investigate needle threaders.

  7. I’m gonna buy all that stuff! Thanks…though I suppose I should gather up my needles in one spot to see what I have…I think I once bought teeny needles cause they were so cute…ha!

  8. I do find when I stitch dark fabric I can see my hexie stitches , time for smaller needles I think . I’ve never mastered a thimble and I definitely need the reading glasses

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