When it comes to weaving, there can be a lot of tools and supplies that you need to get started. It’s not always that easy though. Almost everything that you will end up needing for your weaving project comes with it’s own set of possible options to choose from. Tapestry needles are one of those supplies that may seem simple, but you still have some choices to make.
Generally speaking, you can probably get away with any type of tapestry needle that you have or come across. If it fits your weft yarn, then you can probably make it work. That being said, different materials and sizes are better (or worse) at different things.
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How are tapestry needles different?
Tapestry needles are made specifically to be used with yarn because the eye of the needle is much larger than your normal sewing needle. Also, unlike sewing needles they have a blunt end so that they don’t puncture the plies of the yarn you’re using.
They come in different materials and lengths and what you choose to use will depend on your project, budget, and preferences.
Plastic needles are usually the cheapest option that you will come across.
Beyond the cheap price tag, the biggest advantage to the plastic needle is that it is flexible! If you have a smaller space to work then using a plastic tapestry needle that can bend a little could be advantageous.
The cons of the plastic needle is that it is, well, plastic.
Since they are flexible, they could be prone to breaking. Plus, depending on the type of plastic that they’re made from they may not be recyclable. So keep that in mind if you decide to go this route. Try not to break them because even though they’re cheap, they’re not disposable.
Also, you just may not want a flexible needle. They won’t be as strong as some of your other options and therefore may be harder to work with.
Metal tapestry needles are probably the most common ones that you will come across and are my personal favorite!
These needles are the strongest option that you will have and work for pretty much everything. Despite the fact that they’re more expensive than plastic needles – metal needles really aren’t a huge investment.
They are incredibly strong and can stand up to anything you put them through. You don’t have to worry about them bending or getting misshapen due to too much stress on the needle (in case you weave hard!) Plus, if your metal needles are steel and not aluminum then you can use a magnet to find them
if when you drop them on the floor, in your couch, under your desk, in a park…
You can also check out my post on weaving without a studio for more on magnets and other tips for when you take your project outside.
Wood tapestry needles are usually the most expensive needle option. You can get less expensive ones that are less finished or pay more for hand carved needles finished with wax to make that can be more comfortable to hold.
The wood needles are generally just as strong as your metal needles while using them. Just don’t try to bend it in half – although I’m not sure why you would do that anyway!
They tend to be thicker than plastic or metal and are usually flat. This could be an advantage if you have a hard time holding onto the smaller needles as there is more surface area. For that same reason, they can also be great for kids just learning how to weave.
If you get needles on the larger side they could potentially serve double duty as a pick-up stick or small shed tool! I admit to loving pretty much any tool that can be used for more than one thing.
The biggest disadvantage to these flat needles or any needle that is much wider at the eye is that they are not ideal for use when finishing your weaving. If you’re going to use a wood needle during your weaving, then I recommend having a backup metal or plastic needle to use for the other parts of your weaving process. More on that below.
Most types of tapestry needles will come in different sizes. The larger the number = the smaller the needle. So a size 28 tapestry needle will be smaller than a size 16. The standard size I recommend is a size 13 needle (third from the left in the image above.) They are usually good for just about anything you want to make, but you can mix it up depending on your project. THESE are the ones that I use personally and in my classes.
I also love having an extra long metal needle for when I am weaving a wide project. If I am weaving without a shed then having the extra length makes weaving go just a little bit faster and smoother.
It’s also good to have small needles around for use when finishing. Regardless of the material, you will want to have some of these lying around. These are helpful especially when weaving your weft tails back up their warp channels. You don’t want to try to fit a thick tapestry needle in your warp channels as this can distort your weaving.
Straight or bent?
A lot of tapestry needles that you find are straight, just like the sewing needles that you are probably used to. These straight needles are good for everything from weaving to finishing.
Then there’s the bent tip needle. These are perfect for weaving when you don’t have a shed to lift up your warps for you. Using the bent tip makes weaving just a little bit faster since you can use it to lift up your warp. Pair that with pushing down on your other warps and you can get across your weaving in no time. More about weaving faster HERE.
A disadvantage of the bent tip needle is that it is not ideal for finishing. It just won’t travel up your warp channels as easily as your straight needle.
Want to learn how to weave tapestry? It’s more than just imagery (although that can be a big part of it too!) Follow along with this self-paced online course that you can take from anywhere at any time.
More tapestry needle tips
You can keep all of your needles in one place by using old medicine bottles, eyeglass screw containers, altoid boxes, or purchase a dedicated holder. Some tapestry needles like these bent tip needles come with a screw-top holder that travels well and keeps your needles together.
When it comes to choosing a tapestry needle, the best thing is to have more than one kind and more than one size! They are good for different things and honestly, they’re pretty easy to lose… Let’s just say, I have a lot of tapestry needles for this exact reason. I usually buy them in bulk.
If you can only choose one? Medium straight tipped metal is the best overall needle you can use. It will do everything, last forever, and not cost a lot! This will get you pretty far in your weaving journey before you need to start branching out.
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