I love estate sales, yard sales and rummage sales (if you've ever read this blog before, you know this). One of the things I buy frequently at these sales is sewing baskets. Sadly, a sewist passes on, and her family has no earthly clue what to do with her things. Often, whole sewing baskets can be found in these sales, fully stocked with all sorts of great tools and notions, left just the way the owner left it.
I've acquired neatly organized baskets, and ones that look as though the grandkids just pawed through it looking for only they know what. All have their charms and treasures within. One of the things I come across most frequently and abundantly are hand sewing needles.
I will never have to purchase another hand sewing needle at a conventional modern sewing store. I have hundreds (maybe thousands) of these gems. Some will remain in their wrappers unused, and others will be used in my work. Some will be passed on to others via Etsy.
Hand sewing needles come in greater variety than the uninitiated would think. Each needle is crafted for a particular purpose. The most common is the “sharp”, used for general hand work, with a round eye, a sharp point and a medium length. Applique and crewel needles are used in embroidery and surface design. Tapestry needles are used for needlepoint and other canvas work. Betweens are hand quilting needles. Milliners needles and beading needles are very long and are usually used for decorative work. Darning needles are long with blunt points and used in fabric repair and reweaving.
And, of course there are specialty needles for upholstery and leather work.
Each needle type comes in a variety of sizes. The size is indicated by one or more numbers on the manufacturer's packaging. The general convention for sizing of needles, as with wire gauge, is that within any given class of needle the length and thickness of a needle increases as the size number decreases. When a package contains a needle count followed by two size numbers such as "20 Sharps 5/10" the second set of numbers correspond to the range of sizes of needle within the packet, in this case typically ten sharps needles of size 5 and ten of size 10 (for a total of 20 needles).
The packaging of needles is also fascinating, from ornate needle books, to advertising premiums. Some of the packages feature great artwork, which seems so grandiose when you consider that the contents are but humble sewing needles.
I've been doing quite a lot of hand sewing lately for the Downton Dress. Between that and my estate sale habit, I have developed a new appreciation for the hand sewing needle!