Choosing the Right Needle

Choosing the right needle

Last time, we chatted about choosing threads for your canvases so, today, we’re going to talk about needlepoint needles. A tapestry needle is the needle of choice for working needlepoint. It’s a blunt-tipped hand sewing needle with an elongated eye. The large eye can hold thicker needlepoint yarn or multiple strands of needlepoint thread. The rounded end allows the needle to slip between the canvas threads without piercing the horizontal or vertical mesh threads.

Guidelines for Choosing the Best Needle for Your Project

A tapestry needle really has two purposes. First, to carry the thread and second, to open up the canvas just enough to allow the thread to slip through without catching or pulling on the canvas mesh. Canvas can be rough and, if you’ve ever had your thread shred or fuzz, you were likely using a needle that was too small for your project.

The size needle you use for your project directly correlates to the mesh size of your canvas. A helpful tip to remember is the higher the number assigned to a needle size, the smaller the needle. For example, a size 24 tapestry needle is smaller than a size 18 tapestry needle.

That same “rule” applies to canvas mesh, too – the higher the mesh count, the finer the mesh. Match needle size to canvas mesh size, so finer needles go with finer mesh canvas and larger needles go with larger mesh.

If your thread continues to fray with the appropriate size needle, try one size larger. For example, if you’re working on 14 mesh canvas, try a #18 instead of a #20. Just a wee bit larger, it will open up the hole a little more and allow your thread to glide through more easily.

What About All Those Needles Stuck in Your Pincushion?

If they’re bent or discolored, throw them out. Tapestry needles are relatively inexpensive and there’s simply no good reason to use damaged tools. And here’s a little trick to help you determine whether or not one of those “pincushion needles” is a good choice for your project. Insert the tip of the needle into the canvas hole and let go. If the needle falls through, it’s too small. If you have to really tug at it to pull it through, it’s too big. The “just-right” tapestry needle will stop when the widest part of the eye hits the canvas and, when you pull it through, will open up the canvas threads ever so slightly.

Always use a new tapestry needle when you begin a new project!


Stitcher's Tapestry Needle Guide


As always, I want to hear from you! Please tell me what your biggest take-away from this post is in the comment box below. Have a question? Ask away! I read all of your comments and would be happy to help. 🙂

10 thoughts on “Choosing the Right Needle”

  1. Thankyou…..could not sleep last night and found your site. I love knitting crochet quulting and canvas and cross stitch. Not enough time in the day. So uf i cant sleep i make little things. Loiking forward to learning more. I am self taught in all things.

    • Hi Jennifer! Welcome to my brand new Serendipity Needleworks website. : )
      I’m so glad you found me – and that you left me a note. It sounds like you’re a gal after my own heart…I love crochet and canvas, too! I’ve tried my hand at quilting just a little, but I’m definitely a “newbie”.

      I’d love to have you join our Serendipity Needleworks Circle of Friends Facebook group. You can request to join here:

      And I have a weekly newsletter, too, so let me know if you’d like to sign up for that! Looking forward to sharing lots of “stitch-y” fun with you!

  2. I have been stitching off and on (many uncompleted projects) but only have used the continental or basket stitch predominantly. Also did not know about needle size. I am willing to learn all I can and want to investigate choosing threads. Thank you. I think I will find your site informative.

    • Hi Diane!
      Thank you so much for taking the time to write. I’m delighted you found me. 🙂
      There’s so much you can do with painted canvases – the new threads are truly amazing! Please reach out if you have any questions. And I invite you to follow along on the 2019 Winter Threadventure. It’s my blog series that features a new “wintry” stitch each week. We’re currently on week 4 with three more weeks to go.
      Have a terrific rest of your day and happy stitching!

  3. I have tried needle point in the past but now retired. Was given printed pattern on Penelope canvas – believe 10-20. It came with DMC regular floss but in trying to do the background in gros pointe it does not cover the canvas (using 6 strands). Have tried doubling the floss (12 strands) but not coming out even. Have thought of replacing the background floss with wool floss but No local store (box store or craft store) caries anything but regular DMC floss. So, wondering what is the best floss, floss weight and type, and needle to use for this project.

    • Hi there!
      You have a terrific question – and I completely understand wanting to switch to a different thread for working the gros point stitches on your canvas. Do you live near an independent needlework retailer?
      Looking forward to hearing from you soon…
      Ellen 🙂

  4. Thanks so much for this information. I’m trying to return to needlepoint, finishing a 22 count Christmas ornament I started years ago. While untangling my yarn, I managed to lose my needle.

    Where to go for help??? The shop where I bought this ornament is almost 2000 miles away and one can find very little needlepoint for sale in my area.

    This guide is a lifesaver–or an ornament saver. Once armed with a needle, I hope to actually top our tree with a needlepoint star one of these years !

    Thanks again.

    • Hi Rebecca
      Thank you for your note. I’m so glad you found the info helpful. 🙂
      I hope you were able to get your hands on a needle and that you’re working on a new project for this year’s tree.
      Sending you lots of love and encouragement to keep going…
      PS: Chandail Needlepoint in Houston, Texas and The Wool and The Floss in Grosse Pointe, Michigan both offer mail order services. 🙂

    • Hi Janet
      I don’t think Sudberry has a box that is exactly the size you’re looking for. You might call or write to them (their website is to double check, though. Wishing you luck in your search.
      Happy Stitching!
      Ellen 🙂


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Serendipity Needleworks

Hi, I’m Ellen. A needlepoint teacher and author dedicated to helping motivated but overwhelmed stitchers at every stage find exactly what they need to stitch with confidence. Whether you’re just dipping your toe into the needlepoint world or you’re ready to take your skills to the next level, I’ve fine-tuned a learning experience just for you.

Recent Posts

Get Your Free Guide: Ellen's Tips & Tricks

Please enter your name.
Please enter a valid email address.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.
Don`t copy text!