Yesterday I had a few questions about needles so I thought I'd write a post on the subject.
There are a bazillion needle manufacturers out there ... and I never exaggerate. But my favorite needles are from Jeana Kimball.
If you know anything about marketing, you would label me as a "brand loyal" sort of person. Jeana's got needles for all my sewing needs, the quality is really nice, I never have trouble with them, I can find them locally ... and I love the cute little cases they come in.
I have four types of needles in my sewing arsenal...
(not including the curved upholstery and super long soft sculpture needles from a bear-making class I took some 15 years ago)
... each for different uses. Sharps, Straws, Betweens & Embroidery. (Keep reading for an explanation of each.)
As with other manufacturers, Jeana's needles are sized according to length. I don't know why, but the bigger the number, the smaller the size. I'm sure there's a very logical explanation for this nomenclature ...
Also, it's important to know that a #size of one type does NOT translate to the same size in another type.
For example, see the difference between a size 11 Straw and a size 11 Betweens?
Does Size Really Matter?
That depends. ;) Lemme 'splain.
If you find yourself trying a new sewing method and aren't sure what size needle to use, I know Jeana sells Sampler Packs - an envelope with one of each size of that type of needle. The fact that Jeana and other manufacturers actually SELL Sampler Packs should tell you something. I suggest getting one of these packs and trying out the different sizes. Some people don't care. But I've found that most stitchers who spend a lot of time with a needle in hand will develop preferences based on everything from the task to the size of their hand to their technique.
This is my "go-to" needle for general things like mending, reattaching buttons, that sort of thing. I'm not really picky about size with these ... whatever I have on hand usually does the job.
Although you can bet I've used Straw needles to hem pants and Betweens to sew on a button ... most of the time my mending needle is the first one I pull out of my pin cushion! Major bonus for me if it's already threaded with the right color. ;)
Currently I have a package of size 9 Sharps in my drawer.
I seem to go through a lot of these. Not sure why. I think there's a needle black hole somewhere in my house. My husband used to find them with his feet ... a lot. But since becoming a mom I'm better at keeping track of them ... sorta.
I only use these for applique. They are thinner and tend to bend - which is a good thing for applique work. I like size 11.
I've heard more than once these work great for hand-stitching quilt binding.
These are designed for hand quilting. Whereas Straw needles are very thin and long and therefore bendy, Betweens are thicker and shorter and much less flexible because they need to endure a lot of pressure from the thimble and being loaded with multiple, heavy stitches. And after a lot of use, however, my Betweens will still develop a slight bend.
Again, size 11 is my preference.
I used to buy 11s but now I find my poor aging hands are more comfortable with the slightly longer 10s.
I've used 3 of my 4 needle types just for this one project:
Embroidery for the embroidery ...
Straw for the applique ...
and Betweens for the hand quilting ...
I only know about these needles because I've taken applique, hand-quilting and embroidery classes ... and used them all ... a lot.