Beading needles are essential tools for off-loom beadweaving and other beading projects. They look like regular sewing needles but are more flexible, thinner and have smaller eyes. Sewing needles should not be used for beadweaving.
What To Consider When Choosing A Beading Needle
Selecting the right size and type of beading needle will reduce the occurrence of broken beads and make beading more enjoyable. The smaller the number representing the size, the bigger the needle. For example, a size 10 beading needle is thicker than a size 13.
The size of the needle selected depends on the size of the beads that you are using and whether you will be completing multiple thread passes through the beads. When working with 15/0 seed beads or pearls with tiny holes, use a thinner needle such as a size 12 to make life easier and avoid ruining your beadwork.
Types of Beading Needles
There are a wide variety of beading needles:
English Beading Needles
These are the most commonly used type of needle with sizes 10 and 12 being the most popular. English beading needles are long, thin and flexible. In addition, they come in a range of sizes to fit even the tiniest seed beads.
John James English needles are a widely known brand in this type of needle.
Japanese Beading Needles
These needles are also thin and flexible but have a reinforced eye and a slightly rounded point. The rounded tip has the added advantage of decreasing the chance that you split the thread as you make multiple passes through beads.
Japanese beading needles are quite similar to English ones but are more durable and cost more. They do not bend or break as often as English needles do.
Tulip is a popular brand of Japanese needles.
Sharp Beading Needles
Sharps are shorter than regular beading needles. The shorter length makes these needles less flexible and therefore, they are not recommended for beadweaving. They can be used for bead embroidery on fabric, however.
Sharps are typically available in sizes 10, 11 and 12.
These are made of two pieces of metal soldered together at the top and bottom so the eye spans almost the entire length of the needle. The large eye makes these needles really easy to thread and for this reason, they are perfect for working with thicker stringing materials such as elastic cord.
Beadsmith and Beadalon brands are available in this type of needle.
Twisted Wire Needles
Twisted beading needles are ideal when working with wide stringing material such as ribbon. They are very easy to thread as they are made of twisted flexible wire that has a large loop eye. When the needle is passed through a bead, the loop collapses and secures the stringing material.
The fact that the eye closes after its first use means that twisted wire needles are not good for multiple uses. They also bend much more than regular beading needles. As a result of their flexibility, twisted needles do not work well for off-loom beadweaving. They are however, great for bead crochet and kumihimo.
These needles are available in fine, medium and heavy sizes.
These are slightly thicker with a rounder eye than English beading needles and are suitable for both loom and off-loom beadweaving and also, bead embroidery.
Glovers needles are sturdy, with sharp triangular tips that easily penetrate leather. They are typically used for attaching seed beads to leather and come in a range of sizes similar to English needles.
Threading Your Beading Needle
In order for your needle to pass through a bead as many times as possible, the eyes of beading needles are very narrow. This can make threading them a bit tricky.
When working with Fireline, Wildfire and Nymo, flatten the end of the thread using your thumb and index finger or a flat-nose pliers.
Don’t hold your needle out in front of you and pass the thread through the eye. Instead, try holding the thread between the thumb and index finger of your non-dominant hand with the thread barely sticking out. Then, using your other hand, slide the eye of the needle down over the thread.
Beading needles can literally make or break your beadwork. Use this helpful guide to ensure you select the correct one for your projects.