Monday, May 21, 2007

QUICKTIP: 2 kinds of sewing needles

After watching various knitters over the past several weeks stuggling to sew seams, or to work in ends, here's a TECHknitting QUICKTIP.

There are two kinds of long-eyed sewing needles which knitters are likely to meet: dull and sharp. The smaller dull ones are properly called "tapestry" needles and the larger dull ones are called "darners," while the sharp ones in all sizes are called "embroidery" or "crewel" needles.

Dull needles are used when you don't want to pierce your yarn, such as when you want to seam together the pieces of a sweater, or create duplicate stitch embroidery on the surface of a knitted fabric. LaurieM (a reader of this blog) points out in the comments that dull needles are also best for the kind of Kitchener stitch done with a sewing needle. (Thanks LaurieM!) Sharp needles are used when you do want to pierce your yarn, such as when you want to work in ends, or embroider through a thickness of knitted fabric.

Using the wrong kind of needle for the wrong kind of work will only slow things down and make you unhappy.

Addendum, December 2011:  While it is true that using the wrong kind of needle will make you crazy, here's a brand new tip from Patti in Canada--a reader who wrote in with a swell idea to avoid the need for needle switching.



Katy said...

Can you please explain how to use a sharp needle for weaving in ends? I don't really understand and would like to.

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Katy--I'll do an illustrated post on it one day REAL soon, OK?


LaurieM said...

Dull is also best for kitchener stitch.

--TECHknitter said...

Hi LaurieM--Thanks for writing. I changed the text of the post to reflect your comment.


Katy said...

TECHknitter--It would be great to see an illustrated post someday about using the pointy needle, but no rush. I'm sure that whatever you post will be informative.


Kelly said...

Would you be able to indicate the advantage/disadvantage of the blunt needles with the bent tips? I've always wondered why they're bent...

TECHknitter said...

Hi Kelly--the bent tip is considered more "ergonomic" because you don't have to flex the wrist as much to catch a strand of yarn. If you were sewing or darning all day long, this could make a substantial difference to your bodily comfort, but for the amount of sewing/darning most knitters do, the ergonomic advantage is outweighed by the disadvantage of having to practice harder to learn just where that bent needle tip actually is. In other words, if you know how to use a straight needle, and have no wrist discomfort with it, then you may safely ignore the display of needles with bent needle when you next go shopping for sewing needles.

(Now, an UPHOLSTERY needle is not just bent, but completely curved, and this is because one cannot sew a flat tensioned surface with a straight needle where the bottom of that surface is inaccessible, but this is a completely different case than darning or sewing or working the ends in on knitting.)