Beading needles look like normal sewing needles except they are more flexible, thin and have much smaller thread holes (eyes). The higher the number, the thinner the needle to match the size of seed beads. It might be helpful to remember that seed beads, beading needles and wire all follow the same rule: the higher the number, the smaller the bead, needle or wire is. So a size 12 needle is smaller than a size 10. For example, a size 10 bead works well with a size 10 needle.
While all manufacturers produce needles that become smaller as the guage rises, not all similarly sized needles by different companies will be exactly the same. If you are using a new brand of needle, it’s a good idea to test the needle to make sure it will easily pass through the opening of your beads.
- Beading Needles: They are thin needles with narrow eyes and range in size from 10 (thicker) through 15 (thinnest). Size 10, 12, and 13 fit the popular 11/0 seed bead (and more). Size 15 will fit the smaller 15/0 seed beads and some of the antique tiny beads (18/0 to 22/0).
Sharps Beading Needles: They are a beading needle like the ones mentioned above, only shorter.
- Comparing between beading needle and a Sharps beading needle: The difference is in length and can be a matter of preference and comfort. With the longer needle you can string more beads at one time, for example when picking up many beads for fringes or passing through a wide bracelet. Some prefer the sharps for bead embroidery work. You might also consider you are saving time and effort on all the times passing the longer needle through all the stitches.
- Twisted wire: Twisted beading needles do not have a sharp point and are very easy to thread. This needle is usually sold with pearl knotting cord on paper cards. This needle is made of twisted wire with a hoop (eye) at one end. When the needle is passed through a bead, the hoop collapses and the stringing material is firmly attached and pulled through.
- Big-eye: It has a long eye that extends down the center of the needle with a blunt point at each end. They are usually available in a couple of lengths from 2 1/4 to 4 1/2 inches. It is easier to thread this needle. The eye is constructed with two thin pieces of metal welded together at the ends and it opens in the center. You will need to treat these needles more carefully than you would a regular steel needle.
- Curved Beading Needles are lean curved needles with narrow eyes the same thickness as the needle shaft. Curved needles are produced by many makers, come in many sizes and lengths for all kinds of thread work and repair.
- Glover’s: a sturdy needle with a very sharp triangular tip used for beading, sewing and piercing leather.
- Nymo thread is recommended for seed bead stitching. Size D works well for light weight beads, size E-F for medium weight, and size F-G for heavy weight.
- Waxed thread slides more easily through beads and is less likely to fray and break. Beading thread can be purchased pre-waxed, or you can purchase beeswax to wax your own thread.
- You can also use a thread conditioner like Thread Heaven. See our informational sheet for more information on Thread Heaven.
Tips for Threading a Needle
Threading a needle seems to be the hardest part of beading. Here is some information and tips from The Beading Answer Book by Karen Morris.
In order to fit through a bead as many times as possible, the eye of a beading needle is designed to be very narrow. The same goes for the shorter needles called sharps. The eye is nearly as narrow as the shaft. When sewing on fabric, a needle can push the fibers aside to make more room for the eye. But glass beads have a finite amount of space inside and for some stitches, you will pass through the same bead a number of times. To accomplish these stitches, you need a needle with a slender eye.
Beading needles are available in various sizes, from 10 (the largest) to 15 (the smallest). In general, you want to use the largest needle that works for your project, because it’s stronger and easier to thread. Always keep a few smaller needles on hand in case you reach a tight spot. When you can’t pass through a bead, its more likely that it is the width of the needle and not the thread. You can use chain nose pliers to help gently ease the needle through a tight bead, but it is better to stop and change needles then to break your bead.
Here are a few tips to thread a needle:
1. Stretch the thread between your hands to flatten the thread and remove stretch and then use a sharp scissor to make a clean angled cut on the end of the thread.
2. Moisten the tip of the thread (usually by licking it). You can also try moistening the eye of the needle.
3. Flatten the tread tip. Some people do so between their teeth, others use their thumb and index finger.
4. Hold the thread between the thumb and index fingertip of your dominant hand with only a small amount of tread visible (about 1/8”) and the flat side vertical.
5. Hold the needle with the other hand so the eye is turned toward you and you can see into the eye.
6. Slide the tip of the thread into the eye of the needle. Or slide the needle onto the thread. Try it both ways and see which works better for you. A white background helps.
You may find beading needles a little easier to thread than sharps, because the longer needle also has a slightly longer eye. If you do find threading needles difficult to master, there is an ultrafine needle-threading tool available that works with needles up to size 13 and thin threads. Regular needle threaders are too large. Keep practicing and it will get easier.
- Why is the needle sometimes easier to thread from one side than from the other? It is a trade secret that needles have two different sides. The eye of the needle is created by stamping a hole through the needle shaft. Even in the best English-made steel needles, this results in a hole that is smoother on one side than the other. So if you are having trouble, flip it over and try the other side.
- You can save time by threading many needles at the same time, so you can just pull one out when needed.
- You may want to use long lengths of thread to reduce the number of times you need to thread a needle, but use a length only as long as your arms reach. Using longer lengths takes more time and effort to pull through the project and tangles more easily.