Types of Beading Needles and How to Use Them

Beading can be a very fiddly craft and using needles is the only option when it comes to smaller beads such as seed beads. If you have ever tried threading seed beads by hand onto cotton or beading wire, you will know how tricky it can be. Beading needles are a must when you are creating beaded projects, but which ones do you need and when should you use them? Read on to find out more about beading needles.

Different types of beading needles

There are multiple types of needle made specifically for beadwork and each of these follow a similar suit. Beading needles are thinner and more flexible than sewing needles and they remain the same width from point to end, this makes it easier to go through beads multiple times. Below are some of the most popular beading needles:

English beading needle

English beading needles are thin & wire-like and vary in length and size. They have a very small eye meaning that the needle remains the same width all the way along. The smaller eye is harder to thread but this is very good for holding thread within the eye whilst beading, so it is less likely to come out mid project.

These needles are great for longer term use as they tend to flex and bend less than a wide-eye needle. You are also more likely to find these needles relatively inexpensively priced in comparison to other beading needles.

There are a few needles which are very similar to English beading needles, but which are used for different purposes:

  • Japanese beading needle
    • More expensive than English beading needles
    • Stronger than English beading needles
    • Rounded point/tip
  • Milliners needle
    • Found in sewing stores
    • Thicker than English beading needles
    • Rounder eye
    • Suited to bead embroidery
  • Glovers needle
    • Triangular point
    • Made for leather, suede and thick fabrics

Big/Wide-eye needle

Big-eye or wide-eye beading needles come in short or long sizes – 2” are most common but they can also be found at 5”. What makes this needle different from the English beading needle is that is splits along the length of the needle making a really big eye which is super easy to thread. A downside to this larger eye is that thread can pull out of it much more easily. Also, these needles tend to only last a for a couple of projects as they are very flexible and can become bent pretty easily.

Another thing to be aware of is that both ends of a wide-eye needle are pointy which can be troublesome during use. You may find that these needles are more expensive to buy than English beading needles.

Bead spinner needle or J-needle

The bead spinner needle is curved at the point, forming a ‘J’ shape and is designed to be used with a bead spinner. A bead spinner is a bowl or dish contraption which can be spun quickly by hand and is usually used for seed bead projects. The curved needle is put into the bead spinner and beads are picked up – jumping onto the needle. Longer J-needles are great for picking up more beads before you need to push them onto your thread. This needle is great for making fringe trims or long rows of beads quickly.

A spinner needle is normally wide-eyed, which means you can thread them super easily, taking even less time again for your beading project!

Twisted beading needle

This needle has a large round eye at the end which makes it very easy to thread. Twisted beading needles are very flexible and fine and once the first set of beads have been threaded over the eye, it will collapse and hold onto the thread quite nicely.

These needles are great for pearl knotting and for projects using silk cord. Twisted beading needles are not really suited to using for more than one project due to the collapsing of the eye and how flexible they are.

Different sizes of beading needles

The size of a needle indicates how fine it is and how long it is. With beading needles their sizing is gauged from 10-15, where 10 is thicker than 15 – needles with higher numbers are finer. Needle sizes are usually 10, 11, 12 (12 is usually shorter than 10s and stiffer), 13, 15 (both really fine for looping back through beads multiple times).

The number on a needle is really helpful when you need to know which beads you can use, as the numbers on the needle are very similar to the numbers on beads:

  • Needle size – 10 – 11/0, 8/0, 6/0 (larger beads or Swarovski beads)
  • Needle size – 11 – general all round, 13/0, 15/0
  • Needle size – 12,13 & 15 – 13/0, 15/0 (very small beads)

This is just a rough guide though, because different types of seed bead can often have varying hole sizes – Czech seed beads of 11/0 may have smaller holes than that of an 11/0 Toho seed bead.

When to use beading needles

Depending upon your beadwork project, you will want to consider which needle you use carefully. Since needles come in multiple styles, sizes and lengths, it can sometimes be a little hard to know which one to use. A lot of the time it can be down to personal preference, but here’s some more info to help you out:

English beading needle

  • Bead weaving
  • Bead looms
  • Small holed beads
  • Fine beading thread

Wide-eye needle

  • Thicker threads e.g. silk or nylon
  • General beading/stringing
  • Medium to larger holed beads

Twisted beading needle

  • Beads with larger holes
  • Projects which need a flexible needle
  • Curved beads

Extra beading needle info

  • Longer needles are called “longs” and they are most often used for bead weaving and threading.
  • Shorter needles are called “sharps” and are most often used for embroidering beads onto fabric. They are also great for tying off a project which has more limited thread left over and make is easier to create half-hitch knots.
  • Always read the information on the packaging, you will be able to find the suitable needles, threads and beads for your projects much more easily if you pay attention to the information.


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