Sharps, Betweens, and Straw/Milliners Appliqué Needles
A good hand needle is the most important tool for hand appliqué. Learn about the different types of hand sewing needles that are most popular for stitching appliqué.
The perfect needle for hand appliqué is one that fits comfortably between the fingers, pierces easily through several layers of fabric, and allows you to make the smallest, most invisible stitches possible.
Hand appliqué requires spending a lot of time with your needle, so it’s well worth trying several different types of the needle to choose the needle that works best for your style of appliqué.
Hand appliqué needles are available in a great variety of sizes, lengths, and thicknesses. Some needles are even coated with high-tech materials such as Teflon to make them glide more smoothly through fabric layers.
Understanding Hand Sewing Needle Sizes
Hand sewing needles come with a number on the package. The lower the number, the thicker and more rigid the needle is. The higher the number, the thinner and more flexible the needle is. A size 9 needle is larger than a size 12!
As a general rule, use the smallest needle you can for a given appliqué project, because a finer, smaller needle makes it easier to take the tiny, almost-invisible stitches that give fine applique work its beauty. Here’s a list of the three types of sewing needles commonly used for hand appliqué:
Betweens Sewing Needles for Fine Stitching
Betweens (also sometimes called quilting needles) are smaller, stronger, and slightly thicker than general-purpose sewing needles. They have a small eye that keeps the fabric from getting distorted as the thread gets pulled through. Betweens are the shortest needles commonly used for appliqué.
Sharps Sewing Needles for All-Purpose Stitching
Slightly longer than betweens, sharps are general-purpose sewing needles with short round eyes. They are easy to find at any sewing or crafts store and come in a range of sizes.
Straw (Milliner’s) Needles for Basting and Pleating
Straw needles (also called milliner’s needles) are long, fine needles with narrow shanks that help them glide smoothly through several layers of fabric. They are longer than either betweens or sharps. The longer shaft makes them good for basting and pleating.
Needle Accessories to Make Hand Stitching Easier
Two accessories can make hand appliqué (and any form of hand needlework) much easier on the hands and eyes:
- A needle threader helps get the thread through the small eyes on the finer appliqué needles.
- A thimble protects your fingers as you push the needle through the fabric. In addition to the traditional metal thimble, there are new thimble styles that hug your finger like a glove.
If you’re new to hand appliqué, it’s worth trying all three types of needles to see which ones you like the best for your favorite appliqué techniques.