I've got some fun things to share. I attended a class last week on, "The History of Needles." When I left I had two full pages of notes, a large selection of needles of all sizes and for many different things, and my head was swimming with all the info. I hadn't felt like that since college, lol.
I'll try to hit the highlights to share some of what I learned. The teacher was Susan Greening-Davis and she literally travels the world teaching classes about needles, needlework of different kinds, as well as hosting seminars and retreats. So needless to say, she knows her stuff.
She said that she feels the best quality needles by far are John James. (She has no affiliation with John James. This is just what how she feels after spending years working in the needle industry.) And considering she used to be DMC's Teacher of the Year - she said the only DMC needle she will use is their Chenille needle. They have a special process they use for those needles alone that is the best in the industry. But for all others, John James is the best and she didn't like DMC. The brand Mary Arden is also good - but both Mary Arden and John James are owned by an English company called Colonial Needle. She also said that all John James needles are actually still packaged by hand. Some of the last steps of closing the package have become automated, but the needles themselves are still placed in each package by hand.
Needle sizes and storage - She said you should always store your needles in a wool needle book of some kind. Never leave them in the package after you get them home and never leave them stuck in your work. Needles are actually made with the assumption that when you get them you will be storing them in a wool needle book. This is considered "proper storage" for your needles and is the method that will help your needles last the longest amount of time. Also, never store stick pins in the same needle book or pin cushion as needles. They are made of two different kinds of metals and will react with each other and can cause loss of finish and rusting.
Sizing - when doing cross stitch, the smaller needles have become quite popular in the past several years. Many stitchers routinely use a size 28 or 26 for their regular stitching. This is not the correct thing to do. You need a needle large enough to "open" the fabric enough for your threads so they will go through without snagging or causing wear that you can't simply see with the naked eye. She said that size 28s should be used for beading and backstitching, not regular work. Size 26 should be used for backstitching as well. And size 24 - is what you should use on your normal work. (Unless you are working on a very fine linen.)
She also said that judges of needlework in shows are trained to be able to tell when a stitcher has used a size 28 needle on the work and that is a major thing they count off points for! So if you're stitching to turn your work into a show, stick with a size 24 needle or it could count against you.
We received 13 different needles in the class and were given a description of each one and what each is used for. It was a really good class and I learned so much. I never knew there was so much to needles!