Do Hand Sewing Needles Get Dull?

With the invention of the sewing machine, sewing has become easier compared to when the only option was a hand-sewing needle. However, there are many areas of a sewing project that you must use a hand-sewing needle to finish. Most finishes with hand-sewing needles are what give your project a unique and exquisite look. They are a must-have for every project piece. 

These needles are made from different metals ranging from silver, aluminum, and nickel among others. A sewing machine needs a new sewing needle after every right hour of work because it takes that long to get dull. How long does a hand-sewing needle last before it gets dull? Does a hand-sewing needle ever get dull at all? Read on to find out.

Do Hand Sewing Needles Get Dull?

Yes, hand-sewing needles just like sewing machine needles can get dull. Hand sewing needles need approximately ten hours of sewing before they can get blunt. However, this time may differ depending on the thickness and type of material you’re sewing through. 

The time taken before the needle gets dull also depends largely on the quality of the metal of the needle. A needle made from low-quality metal will get blunt earlier than a high-quality metal needle.

To lengthen the lifespan of your hand-sewing needle, ensure you buy needles of high quality. If you are buying from an online store, check the review section to have an idea of the quality of the needle.

How Do I Know If My Needle Is Dull?

If you’ve ever seen a sharp needle, you can easily tell when the needle is full. But before your needle becomes completely full, there are some signs you’ll notice. These signs are indications that your needle is beginning to dull and will need a change. Some of these signs are;

  • Once your needle begins to dull, pushing it through the fabric you’re sewing on will become harder which wasn’t the case when you started. This difficulty you experience when pushing the needle will make your hand and wrist sore during and after sewing. It makes sewing harder and less enjoyable. Before it becomes even harder, you should consider changing to a new sharp needle 
  • A blunt needle will frequently snag the fabric you are sewing on. If you don’t change it in time, it’ll end up making your work rough which is not what you desire.
  • All hand-sewing needles are coated with metals like gold, platinum, or nickel. With time, these coatings wear off and the needle can begin to rust. A rust needle is sluggish and causes friction when sewing. You’ll also notice a metallic smell on your hand after sewing with a rusted needle. And this shows that it’s about time you buy a new hand and sewing needle.

A lot of quilters have shown concern when their hand-sewing needle bends. Some even dispose of the needle and get another one that doesn’t bend. A needle that can bend is one of the qualities and characteristics of a hand-sewing needle made from quality metals.

This bend enables you to sew through the fabric without the fear that your needle will snap. A good-quality needle bends without snapping and does not affect your sewing.

What Are The Types of hand-sewing Needles?

There are many types of hand-sewing needles each with a different size and purpose. Some of the major hand-sewing needles are;

1. General purpose

The general-purpose needles are sometimes referred to as “Sharps” because of their sharp points. They have medium lengths and are suitable for general sewing.  You can find the general purpose needle in sizes from 1 to 12.

2. Ballpoint

Ballpoint needles are available in sizes 5 to 10 and have a characteristic smooth round point. It easily runs through a piece of fabric without damaging it.

3. Quilters

This is a special needle designed for quilting and it’s available in sizes 1 to 12. They have a shorter length than the all-purpose needle. It is the best needle for detailed work specifically on heavy materials 

4. Crewel

It is similar to the general-purpose needle in length and points. A heavy thread and embroidery floss can pass through the needle eye.

It is a good needle choice for general stitches and embroidery. You can get crewel needles in sizes 1 to 12.

5. Tapestry

A tapestry needle is a distinct needle characterized by a large blunt point, thick body, and large eyes.

Although they were initially made for needle points, they work well with fabrics like burlap. It comes in sizes from 13 to 28 and is the most suitable needle for stitching hand knits.

6. Chenille

Chenille needles are similar to tapestry needles in having a sharp point, and the availability of size range. It also looks like a tapestry needle. It is not the best needle to use for a piece of soft fabric, rather it is the best needle to use for heavy fabrics and materials.

7. Milliners

Milliners are sometimes known as “straws” available in sizes 5 to 10. These needles were originally made to design hats. Later, it was discovered to be the best needle to use when pleats, basting and decorating. They have long features like the milliners but are longer.

How To Successfully Curve A Sewing Needle

The best needles to use when sewing a Coptic stitch are curved needles. The curve enables you to hook as you see and makes the stitches tight. There are a few curved needles in the market and sometimes you may not find them easily. You can make your own curved needles from straight needles. Use quality straight needles and the size of your choice (I personally love to use needle size 1). However, use a needle that can allow different sizes of sewing thread.

Use a plier to bend your straight needle slightly at an angle a bit larger than 90°. Light up a medium size candle and hold the bent needle above the heat. After a few seconds, take it away from the heat and place it on a heat-resistant surface to cool down. After cooling down, clean it with a block of mild soap and water to remove the soot formed during heating.

Looking for a how-to that is more visual? Below is a step-by-step guide on extending the use of your pack of needles. 

10 Facts About Hand Sewing Needles To Know

There are a lot of questions about hand embroidery needles both from beginners and professional stitchers. Below is a list of ten facts you must know about hand-sewing needles.

  1. Needles rust in high humidity. When sewing, the contact between the sweat and oils in your hand can cause rusting. Another surprising cause of rusting is the saliva you use in licking the thread when putting it into the needle hole. Everyone is guilty of this including me. This saliva will eventually cause your needle to rust
  2. Back in the day, needles were not as cheap compared to recent years. Due to the mass production of these needles by manufacturers, you’ll get good, quality needles for a cheaper price. 
  3. Modern-day needles can break easily unlike older needles. But considering how much cheaper they’ve become, we can easily replace a broken needle.
  4. You can sharpen your needles with emery by rubbing the needle on the emery board.
  5. Rusted needles can cause fraying and cause a fabric or sewing thread to lose its sleekness. Moreover, it doesn’t feel nice to use at all. You’ll need a replacement.
  6. Hand-sewing needles come in different shapes and eyes. The top five hand Sewing needles are tapestry, crewel, beading, milliners, and chenille needles.
  7. Needles are made in various sizes. The needles with higher numbers are finer, with a narrow shaft and short length, and vice versa.
  8. You don’t have to buy all the needles there are in the market. Choose the needles that best fit your sewing niche. For example, if you work with big surface embroidery, the best needles for you are milliners or Crewel needles.
  9. Pick a needle size that matches the type and size of the needle you are using. The type of needle you will use is determined by the type of embroidery you wish to make.
  10. Invest in different collections of hand needles. It will provide you with more tools to practice your craft.

And don’t forget to keep your needle collections in a good/safe space, preferably a needlebook or needle case. Keeping them at random places can make you lose the needle.

In a worse case, a needle can get stuck in your foot. Sort the needles by type and size to allow you to locate each needle with ease when the need for it arises.

Tips For Using A Hand Sewing Needle

Here are some useful tips I’ve learned in my years of experience using hand-sewing needles. 

  • Needles are cheap, it will save you a lot of stress when you use a new needle for any new project.
  • Always use the right type of needle together with the right size of fabric/thread.
  • Arrange all needles in order of size so you can easily access them when need be. You can label every section with some sticky paper to remind you of the type of thread to use with each type of needle.
  • Why bother to sharpen a needle when it gets blunt or dull? They are inexpensive and will cost you a few dollars or less to buy.
  • Protect your hands with a thimble. In addition to protecting your hand, the right-fit thimble makes sewing more comfortable and easy.
  • Explore different types of needles with different types of thread. You never know, you can make a discovery.
  • Always thread the end of your thread to keep it in place.
  • Run your thread with beeswax after threading to strengthen it, prevent it from tangling, and make it pass through a piece of fabric easily.

How Can I Clean A Tarnished Hand Sewing Needle?

Needles are mostly plated with nickel metal and can tarnish over time. Although hand-sewing needles are cheap and easily dispensable, you can get so used to your needle that you don’t wish to replace it.

The best way to clean the tarnish on your sewing needle is by applying a Brasso metal polish. Bring back the spark to your needle without any bumps. You will have a clean, tarnish free and sparkling needle to continue your sewing.


Hand sewing needles are equally important as a sewing machine needs and can get dull with long hours of use. A needle made from quality metal will dull slower than a needle made from substandard metal materials.

The thickness and type of material you are sewing on will also determine how fast or how slow your needle can get dull. Once your needle begins to have friction when pushing through the fabric, or you notice rust.

A blunt needle will snag your fabric and ruin your beautiful project, and to avoid that, get a new needle and continue creating your gorgeous masterpiece.