With so many types of beading needles, choosing the right one might seem a bit confusing at first, but once you understand the differences, you will know what you need to use depending on your project and what works for you.

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Types of Beading Needles

In general, beading needles are different from sewing needles because they are much thinner and the “eye” of the needle is pretty much the same width as the needle, making it very small.

English Beading Needle

Probably the most common beading needle is the English Beading Needle. They are long, thin & flexible. They come in a variety of lengths and sizes. The English Beading needle might look like a sewing needle at first glance, but they are much thinner and the “eye” of the needle is the same width as the needle.  That makes them difficult to thread, but it also helps the thread to “stay put” once it’s through the hole.

John James English Beading Needles

If using a size 10 or larger, they tend to flex and bend less than other needles, like a wide-eye needle. Size 12, 13 and 15 bend rather easily, because they are so thin, however very small beads require very thin needles.  Size 10 and 12 are the most common sizes. You can see in the photo above that the size 12 is slightly thinner and shorter than the size 10.  The size you need will depend on the size of the bead you are using and the number of passes you will have to make through the bead.  Some netting projects require multiple passes through a bead, so a thinner needle is required to get through the bead with all the thread that’s already going through it.

These needles are relatively inexpensive which is another reason why they are so popular.  The most popular brand is John James English Beading Needles, but there are other brands as well.

Japanese Beading Needles

Japanese Beading needles are very similar to English needles.  The big differences are that they are stronger and therefore don’t break as easily and they have a rounded point.  The rounded point stops the needle from piercing back through the thread.  I especially have this problem when I use smoke Fireline and I have to rip out rows.  Ripping out a project degrades whatever thread you are using, but in my own experience the smoke Fireline fans out into individual threads and I am constantly piercing through the thread.  This is annoying because the bead will not then sit properly and you have to un-do it.  It becomes a viscous cycle.  I will try the Tulip needles next time and post an update. 

Because of these advantages, they are also more expensive.  These needles are made by Tulip and Miyuki.

Big-Eye Needle

For those of us that just can’t thread those tiny little holes, there are  big-eye needles.  Big eye needles are 2 pieces of metal joined at both ends, leaving an eye down the entire length of the needle.  Pushing in on both ends opens up the eye, however those ends are sharp so it might be best to just pull the two sides apart.  These needles work great with thicker threads like elastic or nylon.  Fireline or Wildfire will easily fall out of it.

They are also a bit thicker than other needles so they can’t be used on small beads or beads that are going to require multiple passes.

big eye needle opened

Twisted Beading Needle

As the name implies, this needle is thin wire that has been twisted together leaving a rather large eye at the end.  It is very easy to thread and because it’s made from thin wire they  are very flexible.  When you put the needle through a bead, the eye will collapse, securing the thread in place.  That makes it difficult to re-use these needles because you would have to pry open the eye to get the thread out.

These needles are great for pearl knotting, stringing pearls and gemstones, bead crochet, kumihimo and for projects using silk or ribbon cord.

Because of their flexibility, they are not suited to off-loom bead weaving.

These needles are available in fine, medium and heavy sizes.


Glovers Needles

Glovers needles are used for stitching seed beads to thick fabrics such as leather, suede or plastic. They are sharper than other beadwork needles and their triangle-shaped pointed tip easily penetrates leather. Glovers needles come in a variety of sizes similar to English beading needles.

Milliners Needles

Milliners needles are slightly thicker with a rounder eye than English beading needles and are suitable for both loom and off-loom beadweaving and also, bead embroidery.

Sharp Beading Needles

Sharps are regular beading needles, only shorter. They are typically used for bead embroidery on fabric.  Because they are more rigid, they are not particularly useful for beadweaving, unless you have a very short piece of thread at the end of your project that needs to be woven in.  The alternative is to put your needle through the beads and then thread it with your “short” piece of thread.

Sharps are typically available in sizes 10, 11 and 12.

THREADING YOUR BEADING NEEDLE

Beading needles have very small eyes so that they can pass through small beads multiple times.  This makes threading them difficult at times. 

  • When working with Fireline, Wildfire and Nymo, flatten the end of the thread using your thumb and index finger, a flat-nose pliers or like me, use your front teeth.
  • I’ve heard that you should bring the needle to the thread, instead of the thread to the needle.  This doesn’t work for me, perhaps it will work for you.
  • Use a needle threader that is made for beading needles.  Regular sewing needle beading threaders won’t work.
  • Try a pair of magnifying glasses and make sure you have good light to see better.

Did you know you are supposed to change your needle with each project?

I hope you have a better understanding of the different types of beading needles and when to use each one.

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