I am no expert when it comes to needles however I do have a good feel for the ones I use frequently. I also know that I have purchased very cheap ones and basically thrown them away immediately. They were tarnished, very harsh on the fibre and broke way too easily. The needles I use exclusively now are from Ashford in New Zealand. These needles have been reliable and affordable and I see no reason to change from them at this stage. My favourite sizes are what I call my Fab Four.
Size 32 triangle
The size 32 triangle would have to be one of my most favourites as it works very well on core wools and gets the job done really fast and furiously, especially when I’m creating larger projects. It’s an aggressive needle and very strong in comparison to the finer needles. It does leave big holes in the sculpture but this does not matter at the beginning stages of work.
Size 36 spiral
Next on my list is a 36 spiral which is a great all rounder and not only works well on core but also aids in the smoothing and finishing with the spiral action taking fibre in from many different angles. This needle is a little longer and bendier so care needs to be taken when using it and if bent, do not try to straighten it. They can be handy as a bent needle and still felt along the surface very well.
Size 38 star
The complete all rounder is the size 38 star which has four edges (hence the star) and is a short needle. This needle is in all of my kits and is the needle I would choose if I could only have one. It is strong and effective enough to use on the core wool and has enough finesse to use on a fine topcoat with out leaving too many holes. Especially if it’s used along the surface of your work rather than straight in and out.
The final favourite in my Fab Four is the reverse needle. This has grooves facing the opposite way and actually pulls the fibre out rather than pushing it in. This is possibly the most versatile of all needles as it has so many applications. Many of my sculptures have the reverse used on them at some point along the way. Whether it’s to create fur, attach fur or limbs and blend colours.
Size 40 triangle
Then there are a few needles that I use rarely but wouldn’t be without, one is the 40 triangle. This needle is very fine and has it’s grooves quite close to the tip which means you can do very shallow, gentle pokes and is wonderful for using on those finer fibres like silk tussah and the finest merino. I use this one mostly for finishing and smoothing. As most of my sculptures are fury creatures I don’t use this one that much.
Finally I feel the most valuable advice I can give you about needles is to experiment and mix them up regularly. After years of experience I have now learned to predict which needle it will be that gives me the result I want and I’ve also learned that at different stages the same fibre will respond better to different needle sizes. Try a few different ones if you are not getting the results you want at first and then change half way and change back again.
These are not hard and fast rules, only guidelines so just keep stabbing.