The Beader’s Needle
I'm going to start a regular feature called the Beader’s Lament. And my first post is about beading needles.
Here’s what they look like coming out of the package:
Bent needles (especially in that disctinctive S shape!) come with the beading territory. I don’t know any beader that doesn’t have a collection of these.
Some deal with it by using thicker needles but that means you may have trouble using smaller beads. Though small is relative. The rule for seed bead sizes is: the smaller the number, the larger the bead. The smallest size I work with is size 15, though I have a small stock of size 18 and even a few in the size 20-22 range I bought years ago and nearly went blind trying to use.
But needles are tools and you need the right tool for the right job. So here is my little primer on the kinds of needles I think a beader should have. And I mean the two-inch long ones generally known as English beading needles.
Size 12 – these are the workhorses of beading and can bead most beads. They are fairly easy to thread which is a relief and can handle most kinds of beading thread. Even so, beads this needle can pass through the first time may not be so accommodating the second time (and there is always a second time, believe me), in which case you pick up:
Size 13 – the savior needle, when you return back up a row and cannot pass the thread through a bead – this will generally do the job and if it doesn’t, opt for:
Size 15 – the emergency needle. These get bent just by breathing on them, and they snap easily, no surprise. So you only use them when circumstances absolutely require it and you take it off when that circumstance is dealt with or you will be the proud possessor of first, the bentest needle there is and second, a broken one. Also, you can go permanently cross-eyed trying to thread them, so use them sparingly.
A few years ago the Japanese company Tulip came out with a size 13 beading needle that could do the work of a size 15 with impunity. The catch was that a single needle retailed for $7.00. Ulp. But eventually, as I have a tendency to do, I broke down and bought a pair and have not regretted it. These are easier to thread and don’t bend so much, saving my precious stock of 15s for when all else fails. Little has failed with these beauties.
Two other kinds of needles I use a lot:
Sharps – by this I mean the short needles, a little over an inch long and durable, in size 12 or 13. They are great for when you want to take that last couple of stitches - which will finish your row so you don’t have to add more thread, but you end up with a shorter length to weave in – the sharps will let you do that.
And let’s hear it for the size 10 muscle needle. Sometimes the beads you have already stitched just won’t cooperate and this needle tells them where to go. It’s great for opening up a path for that difficult-to-reach set of beads, or shoving beads aside or flicking them into their proper position so you can clear the way for your working needle.
It also works well in pulling out thread when you make a boo-boo or many boo-boos, like an entire row that needs to come out. This is the most common way my needles get bent and I finally learned to call in the Brute Needle for this work. It also makes a useful little platform to skate your working needle across when you are stitching on a crowded surface and trying to avoid picking up an unwanted bead or thread – simply lay this down perpendicularly across the path of your working needle and it acts as a ramp to give you the elevation you need to take that stitch cleanly. So your working needle gets a little bent in the process, what of it? You nailed the stitch! YAY!