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From work basket essentials to choosing the right canvas, I’ve packed this handy little pocket guide chock full of tips and tricks that you can refer to over and over again. Just print it out, pop it in your project bag, and voilà… you’re ready to stitch!

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 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. 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” 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 needle when you begin a new project!

Stitcher's 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. 🙂

4 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!


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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.

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