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Needle and Thread Sizes

Today I am going to talk about pairing the right needle and thread sizes together for needle lace. There are a few brands of needles that I think are better quality than others. It is however, most ideal to find a craft store that carries the needles so you can inspect the eye of the needle and size of the needle for yourself.

Tapestry Needles

These are the most important aspects you need to check when buying needles:

- Burrs (sharp edges of leftover material) around the eye of the needle. This will quickly shred your thread as it moves through the eye. In the past, the DMC brand needles all had burrs around the eye of the needle. I try to avoid this brand unless I can actually see a package in store to check for burrs.

- Plating all over the needle or around the eye of the needle. Tapestry needles are typically "gold" plated. The larger the needle size, the more likely it is to only find plating around the eye of the needle. Plated needle are superior to regular needles since it provides a slicker surface to make it easier to glide the thread through the eye of the needle and into loops of your work. This will reduce the wear on your thread, and the struggle to pull the needle and thread through your needlework.

These are the brands of tapestry needles I recommend for needle lace: John James Gold Plated Tapestry Needles, Golden Eye Tapestry Needles, and Gold Pony Tapestry Needles.

Cotton Threads

There are brands of threads that are easier to work with when making lace flowers and edgings. The most popular brand here in the US is Lizbeth mercerized cotton from Handy Hands. The best sizes to work with are their size 80, size 40, size 20, and size 10. If you do other needlework, you simply choose the size you are most comfortable working with. This is a great post by Tatting Corner's Lisa Adams on thread size:

The delicate, lace-like appearance often seen in needle lace comes from using finer threads. The thicker the thread is, the more it looks like knitting or crochet work as shown in the example below. The DMC perle cotton is much softer than the Lizbeth thread. You can also see a slight difference in the sheen of the thread between the different brands.

My suggestion for beginners is to start working with Lizbeth Size 10 thread. It is easier to see your double knots and untie the knots when the thread is thicker. Once you are more comfortable with the basic techniques of needle lace, size 40 and size 80 will be ideal for smaller, delicate, lace-like flowers and details.

The DMC Perle Cotton is a little more difficult to work with because the strands of the thread are soft and has a bit more tendency to unravel. I use this brand because I like having more color variety between DMC and Lizbeth. In some of my floral designs I use the thicker thread size and the same needle lace flower pattern to get size variation for my flowers.

Below are my recommendations for needle and thread size pairing:

- Size 24 tapestry needle with size 80 Lizbeth thread

- Size 22 tapestry needle with size 40 Lizbeth thread

- Size 20 tapestry needle with size 20 Lizbeth thread

- Size 18 tapestry needle with size 10 Lizbeth thread, DMC Perle Cotton #5

The thread should be easy to slip through the eye of the needle with a bit of wiggling. If the eye of the needle is too small, you won't even get the thread on the needle. It will also be difficult to adjust the needle on the thread, and wear or shred the thread. If the eye of the needle is too large, the needle will slide along the thread and make it harder to control pulling the thread through loops and tying double knots.

DMC creates a variety of different threads with different conditioning and sizes. I specifically included the type of thread from DMC because you can't really use any type of thread for needle lace even if it is from the same brand. The DMC Cebelia has a sticky quality to the thread that makes it tough to tie double knots and pull the thread through the loops. The DMC Embroidery Floss has too many kinks and falls apart easily. Please stick to the pearl cotton for this brand when you do needle lace.

There are a variety of different cotton threads and needle brands out there that I have never tried using for needle lace. If you happen to have any information about brands I have not mentioned in this post, please drop me a comment below.

Don't forget to check out the great selection of John James Gold Plated Tapestry needles, Lizbeth threads, and DMC pearl cotton in Lisa Adam's online store (Tatting Corner) here. She is a great resource for tatting and is very knowledgeable about thread products and needles! If you order from her shop, you can sometimes request thread samples if she has it available. Have a good weekend!

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