Hand Embroidery Needle Sizes Explained [With Needle Size Chart]

Finding and using the best needle size can make a big difference in your embroidery. For a long time, I didn’t pay much attention to what size needle I was using. If I could thread it, I’d use it.

While this works, there is a lot of benefit to choosing a needle that is most suitable to the type and amount of thread you are using. It makes the process a whole lot easier and it sometimes even makes your embroidery look nicer! Choosing a needle is actually pretty straight forward once you understand how embroidery needle sizing works. This post will walk you through the basics and there’s also a handy needle size chart that you can save and use for reference.

Embroidery Needle Sizes

embroidery needle size infographic

Embroidery needles are available in sizes 1-10.

The smaller the number, the larger the eye, thicker the shaft, and longer the length the needle usually is.

The larger the number, the smaller the eye, thinner the shaft, and shorter the length of the needle is.

various embroidery needle sizes with different amounts of thread in them.

What Size Embroidery Needle To Use

You’ll want to choose an embroidery needle size based off of what kind of embroidery thread you are using as well as the size and amount of thread.

Stranded Floss

6 strand embroidery floss is the most common material to use for surface embroidery. When you are using this thread you can choose to use anywhere between 1 and 6 strands depending on what kind of style and look you are going for.

Perle (Pearl) Cotton

Another common kind of thread to use is perle cotton. This thread has a twisted appearance and is non-divisible. It generally comes in sizes (3, 5, 8, and 12). The sizes are similar to the way embroidery needles are numbered: the smaller the number, the thicker the thread. The larger the number, the thinner the thread.

When using larger amounts and sizes of thread, you’ll want to choose a larger embroidery needle and for smaller amounts and sizes, a smaller needle.

Embroidery Needle Size Chart

Note: The size suggestions in this chart are general recommendations. Some embroidery thread and needles may vary slightly in size between brands, so this chart includes some suggestions for what usually works.

embroidery needle size chart for perle cotton and stranded embroidery floss

Does Needle Size Really Matter?

Choosing the best needle size is important and very helpful if you want a better finished product and an easier stitching experience.

  • It makes it easier to embroider through the fabric. The needle creates the perfect size hole to fit the thread through. This means that the weave of the fabric will stay intact and not become torn or damaged. The thread will glide more smoothly through the fabric. It all around makes it an easier, more enjoyable process!
  • You’ll have better control over your stitches and will be able to fit in better detail. This will in turn improve the quality and look of your embroidery.
  • The needle will be easier to thread.
  • The thread will stay in place while you’re stitching – not more thread slipping out of the eye of the needle!
embroidery supplies

Choosing The Correct Needle Size

You may have noticed from the needle chart above that there is some overlap between sizes and how much embroidery thread you use. There isn’t necessarily one perfect size needle to use. In fact some brands of thread and needles can vary slightly.

If for some reason the sizing is different than what is suggested in this guide, play around with different sizes to see what works best. You can find the right embroidery needle following these guidelines:

  • The needle should be relatively easy to thread and the thread shouldn’t easily slip out of it while you’re stitching.
  • When you pull the needle and thread through the fabric, you should feel a slight “pop” but it should be relatively easy to pull through: you shouldn’t have to force anything.
  • There shouldn’t be any visible holes left in the fabric around your stitches.
  • You should be able to embroider near other surrounding stitches and it shouldn’t be hard to fill in areas densely so the fabric isn’t showing through.
size 3 needle with thread through it

Signs A Needle Is Too Small

  • The needle is really hard to thread or the strands are frequently catching while you’re threading it.
  • The needle and thread is catching / hard to pull through the fabric.
  • The needle is tearing the fabric.
  • The thread is breaking.

Signs A Needle Is Too Big

  • There are visible holes in the fabric around the embroidery floss.
  • You’re having trouble making your stitches even or find it challenging to makes stitches close to other surrounding stitches.
  • The thread is slipping out of the needle frequently.

Another factor to keep in mind is the quality of the needles you are using. Lower quality needles will be harder to work with. Check out this post that goes over several of the best embroidery needles to learn more.

If you’re looking for even more needle size guides, check out this post for chenille needle sizing recommendations as well as this cross stitch tapestry needle size guide.

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