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Hand sewing needles

Elisabeth | Posted in Equipment and Supplies on

This is a bit long but I wanted tell my recent hand needle story and to ask your opinion. I would love to hear your hand sewing needle thoughts and experiences since hand needles are such an essential tool for sewing.

I had been putting off buying new hand sewing needles. I kept sewing along thinking this needle is ok, I’ll get some new ones soon. Months passed. Then one day I was at my mom’s house and sewed on a button borrowing one of her needles. Wow! what a difference, the needle went through the heavy cotton waistband like air! Realizing what an idiot I had been I right away ordered that japanese sewing needle assortment we had talked about here.

When the new needles they seemed ok, I wasn’t as thrilled as I thought I would be but they were better than what I was using. Soon I was sewing happily along and then, snap, the needle broke. I was quite surprised but figured it was a dud or something and got another one. Two minutes later, snap, that one broke too. So I got a fatter one and it held up although I didn’t feel like I was stressing the smaller size that much.

I have used the wrong size needle many times in my life but I don’t remember breaking any really, although some must have. I asked my mom about her needle experience (70+ years of it) and she said she had never bought a hand sewing needle and couldn’t really remember breaking any. She had gotten lots of hand sewing needles from the older women in her family and those needles were the ones she was using now. She was also somewhat shocked that my new needles had broken so readily. My mom doesn’t sew that much now so she gave me a small collection of those several generation old needles including the magic one I sewed the button on with. These needles are so much better than anything I have found today! What has happened to the quality of a simple thing like sewing needles? Are there any as good as these old ones anymore?


  1. suesew | | #1

    I would also love to know the answer to your questions. I have purchased several pkgs. of nedles in the last year or so, even spending more money than I thought was reasonable hoping I would find good ones that wouldn''t break and that I could actually see to thread. Does anyone have needles they love?

  2. SewTruTerry | | #2

    Yes I have needles that I absolutely love and have bought them from Cynthia Guffee.  Anyone that knows Cynthia will tell you she is a big hand sewer and will only use the best.  At this time I cannot tell you the brand name of the needles but some insight about the reason you may be having the problems that you are with the needles that you are using. The first thing that comes to mind regarding your needles versus your mothers old needles is the type of metal that was used to make hers versus yours.  I bet the metal in yours had more steel or other type of metal that would cause it to be more brittle.  Also regarding the sharpness of the needle I bet anything that your mother has a needle "tomato" that has the "strawberry" that hangs off of it and always uses that to store her needles thereby not only sharpening them everytime they are inserted into the strawberry but also keeping them from rusting.  Even minuet amounts of rust will cause you to have trouble pushing that needle through even the sheerest of fabrics. Also if you are using the correct weight of thread for your needle then it will be no harder to thread the smaller eyes than the larger eyes.  Remember most sewing thread is made for machine stitching and therefore is heavier as it travels through the eye of the needle in the machine many times before being stitched into the fabric. I use Mettler Thread 100/3 for all of my hand sewing and have been able to thread the smallest of needles with this weight of thread.  I will have to look around and find the package that my needles came in and let you know what kind they are.

    1. Elisabeth | | #3

      Those are the kinds of things I have been puzzling over. I wonder about the metal, seems like poorer quality gets used in greater quantity these days. DH talks about the unsatisfactory metal in things like his newer chisles for woodworking and we compare notes on our tools. Old beats new quite often in material and workmanship. My twentysome year old Ginghers, for example, are a better tool than my newer ones. The old ones have slimmer blades, a more balanced feel, more comfortable finger holes, and better cutting action overall. The old needles my mom has would have been purchased in Norway and all I can think of is the famous swedish steel! I don't know that Sweden made any sewing needles though. More likely they were from the UK. As for the shapening strawberry type thing, my mom never had one! Perhaps better quality metal makes it possible to make the eye a bit bigger. You have to wonder about the needles that look like fat stumps with a tiny hole barely big enough to let light through. I'll look for the Mettler 100/3 thread today when I am in town at the independent shop, see what else they have too. And I'll see what brand of needles they might have thought to stock. If you find your needle package please do let me know what brand you are using, I would love to try them.

      1. Jean | | #4

        Look what I still have from my mother.....this must be circa 1940. Half of the needles are still there, but the finest ones are gone. Not a rust spot on any of them either.

        View Image

      2. SewTruTerry | | #5

        Well Elizabeth I know that it has been a while but was away from the sewing room and the computer for a short time as I was getting ready for my dsd's graduation from high school.  But good news is I found the package of needles.  They are called Fine Embroidery Needles by Wendy Schoen Design and the package says they are #11 sharps.  These are really fine needles and as the package says they are sharp.  I use them to sew in zippers by hand and do not use a thimble.  Hope you are able to find them.

        1. Elisabeth | | #6

          Thanks so much for letting me know. I shall look around and see if I can find some.

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