Curved needles are an essential component for any well-stocked sewing box. They are convenient for many types of repairs or creative stitching. Although they are certainly not a new invention, it’s surprising how many sewers know little about how they’re used or what they’re used for.
Don’t let fear of the unknown keep you from using this versatile sewing tool. Today’s information highways contain plenty of tutorials to help you expand your sewing skills to include using curved needles, especially for common home repairs.
Choosing and Using Curved Needles
There are two basic types of curved needles, though not all packs are so labeled. Half-circle needles are just that, a semi-circular curve. A round-bodied needle is not so sharply curved but is more of a gentle arch.
These needles come in light to heavyweight thicknesses and from 5-25 cm in length. They also are available with round or triangular points. Triangular points are usually for leather or similar materials. Tri-points are sometimes razor-sharp for cutting new holes or fitting easily through existing ones.
Curved needles can be purchased in packs or individually. I recommend buying a variety pack to start. You can purchase individual needles later on if you find you use a specific size quite often or need to accommodate a unique project.
My first curved needles came in a package with both straight and curved shapes for general repair. If you’re considering curved needles for embroidery or quilting, these can also be acquired in sets consisting of finer weights and shorter lengths. There are also specially curved needles for beadwork.
Using a curved needle can be awkward at first. It can’t be treated like a straight needle, or it will bend or break. Straight needles are pushed straight in and pulled straight out. A curved needle should be used with a curved motion. I found one excellent tutorial to help you get the hang of it, but I’m sure it’s not the only instruction available online.
What Curved Needles Are Used For
Repairing Upholstery or a Mattress
Curved needles are so useful for repairing furniture coverings that they are sometimes called upholstery needles. You may also find them referred to as mattress needles for the same reason. Curved needles are handy for any repairs on items with seams that cannot be flattened or fit through a sewing machine, such as lampshades, furniture, mattresses, or rugs.
When upholstery seams come loose or the fabric is damaged, repairs are almost impossible with a straight needle. Upholstery is traditionally repaired with a curved needle. You’ll need to choose a heavyweight needle and thread or cord appropriate for the job. Nylon thread can also be used, as it blends in with any color, but it’s a little more challenging to handle.
Repair or Replace a Lampshade
If you have a fabric lampshade coming loose at a seam or one end, a curved needle can come to the rescue when making repairs. If the original shade was sewn, resewing it will restore the original look and quality of the fabric better than an adhesive could.
The same is true if you’re remaking a lampshade in a vintage style. Hand stitching will also hold up better to the heat generated by the lamp and accumulated dust. Sewing a custom lampshade to the frame is much easier with a curved needle.
Pillows and Cushions
Have you ever tried to repair the seam of a fluffy pillow or square-edged cushion with a sewing machine? It doesn’t work well, does it? Curved needles were created for just this kind of thing. Use an invisible slip stitch to hide your repair work.
If you are repairing a rip in an upholstered cushion, trim any frayed edges and use a seam sealant to prevent further damage. You’ll have to pull the two sides together with a small seam allowance, so the repair may not be completely invisible, but your upholstery will be saved to last a while longer.
If your upholstery is real or faux leather, you’ll want to use a tri-tipped needle and heavy thread or fine twine to repair seams. Use existing needle holes when you sew to prevent further damage. Use a curved needle in the same way to repair loose car seat seams. However, damage other than an open seam in leather will require a different type of patch.
Curved needles can be used to repair many types of space rugs. The shape of the needle enables stitching through thick materials while they’re lying on the floor. You’ll need to research the best way to repair specific types of rugs. Such repairs usually require a large curved needle and heavy thread or twine.
Embroidery or Quilting Work
Some types of embroidery work, such as hand-stitched monograms, are much easier with a curved needle. It may take a little practice to learn how to stitch smoothly and with just the right amount of tension. Curved needles also work well for tight, even stem stitching.
Look for small-sized needles when quilting or embroidering. A size 10 is great for most embroidery projects. A fine curved needle will add consistency to your stitching and, with practice, even help the work go faster. A curved needle works well for large hand quilting projects or quilting repairs when the weight of the material makes it more difficult to control.
Use a curved needle when mounting embroidery work on a board for framing. Use a large size and heavy thread or floss for a sturdy stitch to hold the work in place as you frame the piece.
Curved needles are common among beadworkers. Beads are easier to control and keep together on a curved shape. A round-bodied, or arched, shape works well for small projects. Special beading needles with curves at one end of a long, straight stem are excellent for making jewelry or more extensive creations.
Less Common Uses for Curved Needles
Curved needles have several less common professional and crafting uses.
- Wig making
- Medical uses
As you become more experienced in using a curved needle, you will begin to rely on it for many home repair and craft projects. I will also mention that curved needles can be much less painful for challenging or heavyweight projects. Correct use can make repairs more doable for those with arthritis or other disabilities.