A tapestry needle is a hand-sewing needle that is useful to needleworkers who do a variety of different craft techniques: cross stitch, embroidery, sewing, crochet, knitting and others.
I’m writing this article from a crocheter’s perspective, with the goal of introducing tapestry needles to crochet enthusiasts; the discussion centers on information that is relevant specifically to crochet projects. I think this information would also be helpful for knitters; knitters might want to use tapestry needles to perform the same general sorts of tasks that crocheters would, using the same sorts of materials and supplies.
For other types of needlework, specifically cross stitch, embroidery, needlepoint, sewing and mending, this article might answer your questions and it is worth a read, but I’d also encourage you to check out the resources listed at the bottom of this page. I’ve linked to a variety of different resources that are specific to other sewing and craft techniques, and I hope you will find them helpful.
What Is a Tapestry Needle?
A tapestry needle is a blunt needle with a large eye. The large eye is useful to needleworkers because it can accommodate threads or fibers that are thicker than ordinary sewing thread. Most tapestry needles are large enough to accommodate crochet thread or embroidery floss, and many are large enough to accommodate yarn as well. Larger tapestry needles are even able to accommodate bulky yarn.
You can see an example in the picture at left. This tapestry needle is threaded with yarn. You’d have a hard time threading this yarn onto an ordinary sewing needle! But it’s easy to thread a tapestry needle with yarn.
Tapestry Needles vs Darning Needles for Use in Crochet Projects
Tapestry needles and darning needles are similar; both types of needles have blunt tips and large eyes. In some cases, there’s essentially no difference between what one manufacturer might call a “tapestry needle” and another might call a “darning needle.” In other cases, there is a difference in that darning needles can sometimes be a bit longer than tapestry needles are.
It’s difficult to conclusively say that one is better than the other. I’ve personally found that it is ever-so-slightly quicker to use a shorter tapestry needle for my crochet projects than it is to use a longer darning needle, which is why I recommend tapestry needles over darning needles. Please be aware that your experience with this may vary; many crocheters use darning needles to accomplish the same tasks.
Tapestry Needles vs Yarn Needles for Use in Crochet Projects
Yarn needles are also similar to tapestry needles. Needles that are packaged as “yarn needles” are sometimes made of plastic; you’d find them merchandised in craft store aisles with crochet hooks and knitting needles, whereas you most frequently find tapestry needles merchandised alongside of embroidery hoops and embroidery floss. Tapestry needles are usually made of metal.
In my experience, crocheters who prefer to work with yarn can usually use tapestry needles and yarn needles interchangeably. It comes down to a matter of preference. My opinion is that crocheters who use crochet thread would benefit most from using a tapestry needle rather than a plastic yarn needle.
In any case, I use both types of needles, but I prefer tapestry needles. If I had to buy only one package of needles to get me through all my crafting adventures, it would be a package of tapestry needles.
Ironically, in just about all the photos posted on this website; I’m using yarn needles rather than tapestry needles. The reason for that: my tapestry needles don’t photograph well; visually, they get “lost” in the project. Sometimes you can’t even see them in the picture at all. Whereas the yarn needles photograph well, and they are much easier to see in the pictures. So, for those of you who like to post your crafts online, or photograph work-in-progress, that could be a consideration for you when you decide which type of needle you’d prefer to use for any given project.
How to Use a Tapestry Needle (Overview)
It’s really easy to use a tapestry needle. You just thread it with the thread, floss or yarn of your choice, and then you proceed from there. What you do next depends on which task you are trying to accomplish. I’ve listed some options below, with links to videos and tutorials which will give you specific how-tos for whichever technique is most effective for the task you need to complete.
For threading the needle, it’s usually easiest to use a needle threader. A threader is helpful, but it isn’t necessary. To thread the needle without a threader, just stick the end of the yarn or thread through the eye of the needle and pull through a length of the thread or yarn.
What Is a Tapestry Needle Best Used For?
There are several tasks that crocheters (and knitters) use tapestry needles to accomplish:
Weaving in Ends: If you want to see both a tapestry needle and a needle threader in action, this video offers you a great opportunity to do so. In the video, our hostess Yvonne demonstrates the process of weaving in ends.
Sewing Seams; Joining Squares or Pieces Together: I usually use a tapestry needle to whip stitch seams closed, and to join afghan squares together.
This whip stitch tutorial will show you how to accomplish these tasks. Again, please note that I’m using a yarn needle in the tutorial linked here; if you choose to use a tapestry needle to accomplish these tasks, you’d use it in exactly the same way. Worth noting: there are ways to sew seams and join pieces that don’t require a needle at all; you can use a crochet hook for some joining methods. See also: how to join granny squares.
Cross Stitching or Embroidering on Your Crochet Work (Or on Your Knits): Some crochet stitches, such as afghan stitch and single crochet, are square enough that you can work cross stitch onto them instead of using a more traditional background of aida fabric. This is a useful technique to know about if you’d like to introduce interesting pattern designs and multiple colors into your crochet work, without having to resort to tapestry crochet techniques. Knitters and crocheters can both embroider onto their handmade fabrics using tapestry needles.
Beyond just crochet and knitting, tapestry needles are also useful for:
Embroidery: Tapestry needles are useful for embroidery techniques such as drawn thread work,? pulled thread work, and hardanger embroidery.
Cross Stitch: If you’re interested in learning how to use a tapestry needle for cross stitch, these cross stitch basics will help.
Needlepoint: If you’re interested in learning how to do needlepoint, check out these needlepoint basics for tutorials and more.
Tapestry Needle Sizes
Tapestry needles come in a variety of sizes; the needles are numbered, and you can use the numbers to get an idea of the needle’s relative size. Larger needles = smaller numbers; smaller needles = larger numbers.
Pictured Here: These needles are in sizes 13, 14, and 16 and are available on Amazon.
How to Choose a Tapestry Needle for Your Crochet (or Knitting) Project
For crochet and knitting, my general rule of thumb is to use the smallest needle that will easily accommodate the thread or yarn you’re working with. You want to avoid using a massive big needle on a dainty thread crochet project. You probably won’t physically be able to use a teeny tiny needle on a great big bulky project; if the fiber won’t fit comfortably through the eye of the needle, choose a larger needle. Avoid using needles that are too small, because they can damage or shred your fiber, weakening the project or possibly even ruining it.
Aside from these basic guidelines, I’m not convinced that it matters all that much which size tapestry needle you use. I haven’t come across any must-follow rules as far as what size to use; I tend to just grab whatever needle is handy and in the right general size range.
With cross stitch, needlepoint and embroidery, your choice of needle sizes will be critical to the success of your project.