Guide to Tapestry and Chenille Needles

How to Choose the Right Needle for Needlepoint or Cross Stitch

Learn how to choose the best needle for any needlepoint or cross-stitch embroidery project, with a handy needle size chart for both tapestry and chenille needles.

Many beginning needleworkers don’t realize just how important it is to use the correct needle for any embroidery work. Using the right dimension and type of needle can make the difference between struggling through every stitch and ending up with a disappointing result, or stitching with ease and creating a beautiful work of art.

Tapestry needles are the preferred needle for every kind of needlepoint embroidery and most types of cross stitch embroidery. Chenille needles are similar in size and length to tapestry needles but have sharper points and larger eyes. They are a good choice for some kinds of cross stitch embroidery.

Dull-Tipped Tapestry Needles for Needlepoint and Most Cross Stitch

There are two reasons why tapestry needles are the needle of choice for needlepoint and most cross stitch projects:

A tapestry needle has a large eye to hold the thicker threads and yarns used in needlepoint and cross stitch. This keeps the yarn or thread from fraying as it gets pulled through the needle.

It has a blunt tip that glides through the openings in the canvas or evenweave fabric used for all needlepoint and most cross stitch work. This keeps the thread or yarn from catching on the material. For cross stitch on linen or waste canvas, though, consider a chenille needle instead.

Chenille Needles Have Sharper Points to Pierce Dense Fabrics

Chenille needles have sharper points than tapestry needles, which makes them better for piercing through tightly woven fabrics such as satin, cotton, or synthetic blends. A chenille needle’s sharp point can make cross stitching on waste canvas easier since the sharp point pierces the underlying fabric more easily than a tapestry needle would. Chenille needles are also used in a variety of other types of stitching:

  • Silk ribbon embroidery
  • Crewel embroidery
  • Candlewicking embroidery
  • Tying quilts with yarn
  • Stitching with Pearl cotton
  • Embroidering on coarse fabric

How Tapestry and Chenille Needles are Sized

Tapestry needles and chenille needles both use the same size numbers. In both cases, lower-numbered needles are thicker, with larger eyes and duller points. Higher-numbered needles are thinner, with smaller eyes and sharper points.

Tapestry needles are available in sizes from #13 to #28. A #13 needle is a very thick, rigid needle with a large, elongated eye and a blunt point, used primarily for needle pointing the thickest yarns on rug canvas. A #28 needle is a short, very fine needle with a small eye and a sharper point. It is used for very fine petit point work on gauze canvas.

Chenille needles are available in sizes #18 to #22.

Match the Needle to the Fabric Count or Canvas Gauge

Needlepoint canvas and evenweave cross-stitch fabric have a gauge or count that helps determine which needle to use. The fabric count relates to the size of the openings in the weave of the fabric. The lower the fabric count, the larger the openings, and the thicker the needle and yarn or thread needed to stitch on them.

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