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Tapestry needles compared
November 14th, 2012

I thought it would be interesting to compare some different brands of tapestry needles. Is there a best kind? I looked at four brands: DMC, Bohin, John James, and Anchor.

There are a bunch of other brands — a quick search on Amazon turned up Dritz, Susan Bates, Colonial, Mary Arden, and Piecemakers. The needles I used were all brand new out of the package. I used size 26 because that’s what I like to stitch with (I know many of you prefer the smaller size 28, but I have trouble with the eyes breaking).

I took some measurements with a dial caliper accurate to 0.001 inches.

Most were about the same length, with the Anchor being a little shorter:

       DMC - 1.344"
     Bohin - 1.343"
John James - 1.354"
    Anchor - 1.283"

They were all exactly the same diameter: 0.0235″ (in the middle). This should correspond to some wire gauge (and probably does) but it’s nothing obvious like 26.

Next I measured the thickness of the eye (by which I mean the direction that the thread goes through). There was more variation here:

       DMC - 0.0180"
     Bohin - 0.0190"
John James - 0.0185"
    Anchor - 0.0150"

It’s true that these are tiny numbers but note that Bohin eye is 25% thicker than the Anchor eye!

I also measured the width of the eyes (going across the opening, in the middle). This affects how hard or easy the needle will be to thread.

       DMC - 0.0330"
     Bohin - 0.0365"
John James - 0.0315"
    Anchor - 0.0340"

The first three eyes are similar, but the Anchor eye has a weird kind of flange along the sides. Maybe this makes it stronger.

The Anchor needles were gold-plated. Unfortunately this does not seem to be a good thing. They use such a tiny amount of gold which they have to be careful not to polish off, so you can see individual specks of gold and the Anchor needles feel a little rougher than the others. But I could be imagining that just because they LOOK rougher. I couldn’t tell any difference in the smoothness of the other brands (which I believe are all nickel-plated).

I tried to get a sense of their relative sharpness. For a tapestry needle, blunter is better, to reduce the chance that you’ll split a thread. My unscientific method was to take two needles at a time, holding them together, and scratching them along a piece of paper, and looking at which made more of a scratch. My conclusion was that the sharpest was Anchor, followed by John James, followed by DMC and Bohin (I couldn’t tell any difference between those two).

Another consideration is how rough the inside of the eye is. It’s possible to see (under magnification) that all of the needles are not smooth inside, and I suspect it’s not possible to polish the inside of a machine-made needle. I don’t know if there is any difference, although I swear I have had needles that could have doubled as thread cutters. One might measure it by scraping a thread back and forth along the inside of the eye and count how many times it takes before the thread breaks but this seems like a lot of work for an inconclusive result (the pressure would probably vary).

This is not a great picture but you try taking a picture of the inside of a needle’s eye! You can see that all the eyes are rough(er) inside. The Bohin needle seems to have some roughness on the outside as well. Examined under a 9x jeweler’s loupe, I could see that all the needles have some marks on the outside of the eye, mainly on one side. This is apparently an artifact of the manufacturing process.

Regarding price (and this is just what I paid; your mileage may vary):

DMC is $1.25 for 6 or 21 cents each
John James is $2.00 for 6 or 33 cents each
Bohin is $11 for 50 or 22 cents each (or non-bulk, $2.12 for 6 or 35 cents each)
Anchor is $2.10 for 4 or 53 cents each (that’s the gold plating)

Other information:

The DMC package says nickel-plated steel, made in China, inspected and packed in England.

The John James package says assembled and inspected in England using needles imported by Entaco to our quality and specifications. Entaco is located in Redditch, England, but it doesn’t say where the needles are made. These needles are probably nickel-plated too. John James also makes gold-plated and platinum-plated needles.

My Bohin needles came in a tiny baggie so I don’t have the official package, but it is a French company and it seems that the needles are still made in France! The web site seems to indicate that the needles are nickel-plated.

The Anchor package says gold plated, made in India, Susan Bates Division of Coats & Clark.

The conclusion? Your preferences may be different than mine, but I like the Bohin needles a lot. They seem sturdy and well-made, and in bulk they’re very reasonably priced. The DMC needles are good too. John James has a reputation as a high-quality needle but I prefer a larger eye. I liked the Anchor least of all, with the spotty gold plating and weird and thin eye. The differences ARE small but in hours of stitching, they are not undetectable. I recommend that you experiment with different brands to see which you prefer.

22 Responses to “Tapestry needles compared”
  1. From Sue M.
    11 years, 8 months ago

    Love the Ramblings section of your website! Your research is quite interesting. I concur on the gold plated needles. I was given some as part of a gift and after a few uses put them away. They just didn’t seem to go through the fabric smoothly and the floss frayed at the eye. John James and DMC have been my choice for a number of years. The nickel-plated varieties are available at our local Michaels and JoAnn Fabrics but when I get a chance to buy the platinum needles I indulge myself, they are my absolute favorite. There is definitely a difference in the feel of the platinum versus the nickel and its small things like this that add to overall enjoyment of stitching.

  2. From Tanya2
    11 years, 8 months ago

    Agree with Sue; love to see new postings in Ramblings! And this is a particularly fun piece of science :-) I have always used DMC and just recently tried John James; still like DMC best. However, I have heard so many people give glowing reports on Bohin that I must try them some day.

  3. From Karen Milano
    11 years, 8 months ago

    This is all very good information. I never could really explain why I like Bohin tapestry needles the best, but I do. Being relatively new to the American market how did you not know there could be a better needle before they came along. I have always found gold needles to squeak. In anycase I appreciate your thorough examination of the needle.

  4. From Nancy Garcia
    11 years, 8 months ago

    Thank you for your curiosity in comparing the tapestry needles and for sharing your results. I found the information interesting and agreed that I, too, could not explain why I preferred the Bohin needles over all others I have tried. “They feel better” seems to be a strange way to describe a needle, but they do! At least I now have details to support my rationale!! :-)

  5. From Heather
    11 years, 8 months ago

    I found this article on the needles very interesting; I have not had a selection to choose from because where I live. I use the DMC tapestry needles, and will certainly try the Bohin. Thank you for the great information. and love the Ramblings section which is so helpful when I’m in doubt or looking for something specific. Great website!

  6. From Martha Jardine
    11 years, 8 months ago

    THANKS for the research on the needles. I never did know why I likes some needles better than others because frankly I only ever used what I could easily find (which is almost always DMC)…but sometimes (often) they would fray the threads…or bend or break and I would just assume I had gotten a bad batch. Now I am anxious for hunting down the Bohin brand since many seem to like those the best. Again….GREAT INFO from as far as I’m concerned THE BEST STITCHING WEBSITE ON THIS PLANET!!!!

  7. From BarBara Przeklasa
    11 years, 8 months ago

    I have “favorite needles” too, but can’t tell you what make they are. I have tons that came from kits and some I’ve bought, but they all get mixed up. When I find one that I like the feel of, I tend to use it for all the colors, instead of loading up a bunch of different needles like a lot of people do. I like a sharper needle (but not as sharp as sewing needles!)
    Now, can you tell me why a needle left in cloth for a long period of time rusts where it touches the cloth?
    :o )

    Well, I’m making this up, but… needles conduct heat, so are slightly cooler than their surroundings, causing moisture to condense there more than anywhere else. The moisture soaks into the fabric and over time the faintly damp fabric rusts the needle.

  8. From Pam Douda
    11 years, 8 months ago

    As a shop owner I was really interested in your great and thorough comparison. Now I know why once our customers try Bohins they rarely buy anything else!

  9. From Ruth Topp
    11 years, 8 months ago

    I found the ramblings very interesting. I use a variety of needles and have not really paid much attention to the brands. Although, over the years I have found that I am not at all impressed with the Anchor needles (which is all I could find several years ago). The Anchor needles tend to tarnish or break down quickly in some manner as I use them, just in one spot — right below the eye. I like DMC and John James when I can find them. I also like the ones that come with kits in the little cellophane – beats me what brand they are!

  10. From Susan Simko
    11 years, 8 months ago

    I’ve been using some DMC (available easily at big box stores) but mostly John James though I’m getting ready to switch over to Bohin. (just bought 200 needles a week or so ago.) Sounds like I made the right choice. Thanks for the interesting article!

  11. From rifestitch
    11 years, 8 months ago

    Great comparison! Since I figured out there were needles specifically for needlework (sharps and in betweens in those big multi-packs were my go-to needles for ages), I have come to prefer tapestry petites, so I use mostly John James 28 petites. I recently bought so me Bohins, because I have read so many people swear by them; they are very nice to use, I haven’t broken an eye yet (like I tend to do on an aged JJ), but being used to the petites, these are too long for me to work with for extended periods. If they made a petite 28, I’d buy them in bulk for sure! Because I do think their eyes are nicer, I will use them on silk threads, but for most everyday stitching, I stick with my JJ petites.

    I was looking for chenille needles a few weeks back, for ribbon embroidery, and as I was in Walmart, I looked through their needles, just on the off chance they had something I couldn’t pass up. I forget which brand it was, but WOW you could see the rough quality of the eyes – inside & out – without even picking the package up off the display. I find it hard to believe those ever made it to the packaging process, let alone onto store shelves :( Fortunately, I had to go to JoAnn’s Fabrics the next day, where I found some NICE ones (don’t ask me the brand, I have forgotten already)….

  12. From Meredith
    11 years, 8 months ago

    If you want Bohin needles in bulk (or packets, too) you can get them from Anita’s Little Stitches: I have posted about sources for bulk needles before but forgot to mention it this time.

  13. From Laraine Harris
    11 years, 8 months ago

    I use 26 because when I us 28 I seem to have some split threads. On 18 ct aida size 26 I do not have any split threads. The stiches do not seem as flat as they are on 14 count aida. I think I will try 20 ct aida. Let me know if you have used 20 ct and liked it. Several years ago I got some lineaida that was so wonderful to work with, and I was able to grid with my blue marker, but they do not seem to have any that you can use a blue marker to grid on anymore. I want my stitches to be flat and not so crowded, but at least I do not have any split ends. I have a collection of most all brands of tapestry needles. I have used Bohn exclusively for the past two years. I do WISH that Bohn had a shorter needle. I do prefer petites. Let me know if Bohn does decide to offer petites. Thank you for a wonderful wedsite. I do wish you had some more modern paintings made into patterns. Laraine Harris

  14. From denise
    11 years, 8 months ago

    Thanks for the great comparison – I’ve used the John James petites for a while, before that DMC. I’ve gotten so used to the petites that a regular needle is hard to use for an extended time. The quality on the John James seems to be good, but I do tend to use them until the eyes break …….
    if I find one that feels good, I’ll use it exclusively!

  15. From Judy
    11 years, 8 months ago

    I found your comment that some “prefer the smaller size 28, but I have trouble with the eyes breaking” spot on. I liked the feel and penetration of the slimmer needle as I usually work 18 to 25 count, but I almost always had the blasted eye break on at least one needle per project, often 2 or 3!) so have given up and use #26 exclusively now.

  16. From Karol at Fiberworks
    11 years, 8 months ago

    Interesting comparison on the needles. Have you felt any difference when stitching with them? I had a customer ask for Piecemakers and when I got them in I tried one. It went through the fabric much smoother than any needle I had used before. Enough to stop stitching and go “wow”. I haven’t analysed the other areas of that you did here but they so “stitch smooth”. I hear this makes you less tired since it is less work to pull the needle through the fabric ;) .

    I couldn’t really tell much difference in the smoothness except for the Anchor, but I didn’t spend much time stitching with them. I have a couple of Piecemakers but in size 24 so I didn’t include them in the review. Maybe I will get more kinds of needles and expand this.

  17. From Janet
    11 years, 8 months ago

    Thanks for doing the research on needles. I much prefer to use 28 needles and have found major differences in the stitching, feel and longevity of the different brands. I do like the feel of the Bohins, but have found the 28s bend very easily. Piecemaker 28s feel and stitch just as smoothly, are a little harder to thread (maybe the eye is not as wide?), but do not bend. The eyes in DMC break easily in my experience, and are not as smooth so they rough up the floss. And John James needles also bend easily. With 26 needles, I haven’t seen much difference in bendability between Bohin and Piecemaker. The DMC definitely has a rougher feel and is harder on floss. Overall my preferred brand is Piecemaker.

  18. From Cindy
    11 years, 8 months ago

    Interesting comparison. I used only John James needles for years, and also had a couple of packets of S. Thomas & Sons. I was told that this is a subsidiary of John James, English-made, but with hand-polished eyes. I didn’t really notice a difference, and the S. Thomas are no longer available to me. I am now exclusively using Bohins for both needlepoint & cross-stitch. They are so smooth, don’t fray, and seem durable. The one exception I found was in a recent needlepoint ornament – I used Flair & basketweave, and the combination made for use of a hemostat as needle puller – I bent & broke about a dozen needles on this one! Very unusual; one needle lasts for several months as a rule.

  19. From Dede
    11 years, 8 months ago

    I love the Bohins that I purchased. They are so smooth. I would love it if they were petite too. Next favorite is the Piecemakers-petites, then John James. ONce you get a good needle it becomes and old friend until it wears out then I am on the hunt for the next one! LOL hate it when they give up on me.
    Interesting article–thanks for doing the research. I will share it with my stitching friends.

  20. From Patty
    11 years, 8 months ago

    My favorite needle is just that: “My Favorite Needle!” that was manufactured by Mardina Enterprises. Sadly these “petite” needles are no longer available so I guard the few that I have like they were made of solid platinum. For those of you who have never stitched with a petite needle, they are approximately 1 1/8″ long. There are petite needles that are manufactured by other companies, but they just are not the same as the ones that were made by Mardina.

  21. From Sharon Crescent
    11 years, 8 months ago

    I used to swear by Piecemakers and while they are still a very nice needle, once I tried Bohin’s, I never looked back. The eye is smooth, it travels through the fabric smoothly and they don’t tarnish or break. I use size 26′s as I’m a 28/32 ct stitcher. As an aside, I used the Bohin Chenille needles for my wool applique work and they are fantastic. Very strong eye.

  22. From Rita
    11 years, 8 months ago

    GREAT article! It was interesting to see the comparisons, because my favorite has always been DMC. I never heard of Bohin, so can’t compare, but I do agree with the gold plated needles. Nice idea, but it does flake off eventually. I don’t need fancy needles with which to stitch, just something easy to thread and to last. Thanks for taking the time to do all this research!

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