Stitch Pro: Which Beading Needle Should I Use?

Aug 1, 2013

"Which beading needle should I use?"

This is a common question from beginning beaders, but it's one that advanced beaders consider all the time, too. The answer? Choose a needle that's appropriate for not only your bead-hole size, but also for the technique you're using, and (almost more importantly) how comfortable the needle feels in your fingers. Here are a few points to think about:

Bead size

The most common beading needle sizes are 10, 11, and 12, moving from thickest to thinnest. When you first see these needles sitting next to one another, you can't really believe they are different sizes, but when you start working with them, their differences are very clear. For instance, a size 12 beading needle passes through size 15 seed beads much easier than a size 10 does, so if you're using tiny beads, use a thinner needle. When in doubt, I start my projects with a size 11 and then adjust accordingly.

At left is a size 11 sharp needle, on the right is a size 12 sharp needle

Technique

There are different lengths of beading needles, and, although perhaps imperceptible to the eye, just as many different shapes. For instance, an English beading needle is long and thin with a thin, long hole and a bead embroidery sharp needle is super sharp (thus the name) and has a more sturdy profile with a short, wide hole. As a rule of thumb, if the technique you're using requires a straight pass through the beads, like flat peyote stitch, use a long needle like an English beading needle. If you're doing a lot of weaving around and digging into beads, as you might do with sculptural beading or embroidery techniques, use a short needle like a sharp, short, or straw needle.

From left to right: Loomwork needle, long (English) beading needle, short beading needle, bead embroidery sharp

Preference

That last paragraph I wrote about matching needle types to techniques sounds nice in theory, but I've found that most beaders (including me) find a needle type they like and use that type for all the projects they do. Some people like to have a long needle to hold onto--it just feels better in their hands. I've always liked to use sharp needles, not only because I do a lot of sculptural work and like to be able to maneuver easily between beads, but because their stocky bodies don't bend and snap in my over-tight grip. That is, until I met Tulip needles! This brand of beading needle is a little more expensive than other brands, but after working with their long beading needle for the first time recently, I may be changing my favorite style. I got to try these while teaching at a week-long beading retreat and used the same Tulip needle for the whole week--that's a record for me! I liked not having to worry about whether my needle would break, and so enjoyed getting used to using a little longer needle. The point here, then, is to experiment with all types and brands of needles to find your favorite.

What is your favorite type, size, and brand of beading needle and why? Share your beading-needle experience with the rest of our readers right here on Inside Beadwork Magazine.

Happy beading!

Jean Campbell

Senior editor, Beadwork magazine


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Comments

joyisjoyful wrote
on Aug 1, 2013 9:53 AM

I really like Hobby Lobby's Big Eye needles.  They are super thin and flexable, but best of all, the entire middle of the needle is split for threading.  They pass through small beads, and are slightly flat so they don't roll in my fingers.  They have stood up well to some pretty hard use.

NancyG@83 wrote
on Aug 1, 2013 4:05 PM

Tulip 11s are my go to needles..A bit more expensive but they LAST! and don't curl, bend and generally become differently shaped.  8)  I find them to be a good general all-purpose needle and transition to John James or Tulip 12s when necessary for multiple thread passes through my size 15 beads.

NancyG@83 wrote
on Aug 1, 2013 4:05 PM

Tulip 11s are my go to needles..A bit more expensive but they LAST! and don't curl, bend and generally become differently shaped.  8)  I find them to be a good general all-purpose needle and transition to John James or Tulip 12s when necessary for multiple thread passes through my size 15 beads.

CryssT wrote
on Aug 1, 2013 5:23 PM

Tulip needles - I love them.  Have been using 10's and 11's  - they're great.  I got rid of my other needles.  

on Aug 2, 2013 1:07 PM

I hate to admit this, but I've been using the same set of 20 Tulip beading needles for the last 2+ years. In two years, I've only broken 2 of them, ever. I'd rather spend more on good beading needles that last than spending a fortune on beading needles that snap every ten minutes while I'm working on a project!

on Aug 5, 2013 11:43 AM

After trying everything from Pony needles to Big Eyes to sharps, I finally settled on John James size 10, and sometimes 12 (for use with 15s) needles.  Then the size 11s came out  and I was a happy beader!  I also used curved (and continue to use) needles for bead embroidery and beaded dolls for getting in  those  tight places. And then something happened to really shake up the beadweaving world!   The beading gods and goddesses decided we deserved something SUPER special -- and THE TULIP NEEDLE was born!  Folks, pull out your wallet and fork out the dough.  You will NOT be disappointed!

on Aug 10, 2013 9:52 AM

I was fortunate enough to be in the week-long class that Jean Campbell had and used the Tulip needles there for the first time.  Like Jean, I used the #12 needle all week and it barely had any bend in it by the end of the week.  If I had used any other brand of needles, I would have gone through several during the week.  One thing I found using the Tulip needles is that you bead faster and are less tired because the needles don't bend and cause the beads to slip easily off the needle.  This made a huge difference during the week  since it was non-stop beading all day and well into the night.  It was a wonderful class and the Tulip needles made it easier.  Thanks Jean.

artistavie wrote
on Aug 10, 2013 11:39 AM

I do a lot of size 15/0 seed beads weaving projects so for me the size 13 & 12 are the needles i use all the time and i don't like size 10 needles because they to big & hard to worked hit!

MAA61 wrote
on Aug 10, 2013 1:21 PM

Since I have "older" eyes, I like the big eye needles for peyote and regular seed bead stitching, but I end up bending these quite out of shape after a few uses.  For my bead embroidery, I go to sharps and usually have two sizes threaded.  I use fish leather and I need a really good sturdy needle and also need to get into tight spaces.  From the comments, I need to try the Tulips, my bead store just started carrying them.  Thanks for this valuable article.

on Aug 12, 2013 7:39 AM

My preferred brand of needles is the Miyuki beading needle.  I had a bad batch of tulip needles where the coating flaked off, snagged on thread, and I ended up wth tiny metal coating splinters.  I know it was probably just a one-off bad batch, but it has put me off.