Over the past couple of months, I have enjoyed experimenting with a Wing Needle. Let me share with you what I have learnt.

What is A Wing Needle?

At a 100/16, a Wing needle is a larger needle that we typically use for everyday sewing. Its shape is similar to a standard needle but has tiny wings on either side of the spine. The wings start below the shaft and end at the bottom of the eye. The purpose of a wing needle is to push apart the fibres in the fabric to leave a small hole. The thread holds the fibres in their new position. The effect is lace-like.

What is a Wing Needle Used For?

The lace-like effect is used to finish and decorate hems. In the early 19th Century, workers achieved this by removing fibres from the fabric weave, and they created holes with a hand stitch to secure the fibres apart. We can do the same on modern sewing machines using a wing needle.

How Do I Set Up My Machine?

A wing needle commonly fits any domestic sewing machine using a regular needle plate – always check the sewing machine manual. Thread a wing needle in the same way as an ordinary needle, but do not use the needle threader as the wing needle may break it. For my wing needlework, I used my regular/zig-zag foot. An applique foot could also be used as it is cut away underneath to allow any thread build-up to travel more smoothly under the foot. I didn’t find it necessary to change the foot I used. There is also no need to alter the sewing machine tension.

All in all, the setup for a wing needle is straightforward. A finer thread is best to use for this work. I used a 50wt cotton in my examples, but a 60wt or 80wt would be ideal. Traditionally the thread colour is matched to that of the fabric.

Which Stitch Should I Use?

The needle creates the ‘holes’ by repeatedly going through the fabric in the same place. It is unlikely to make a hole if the stitch progresses with each movement, such as a straight stitch. On the other hand, holes will be evident when a triple stitch is selected as three straight stitches are sewn in each pattern through the same point in the fabric. The best stitches to use with a wing needle on my machine are pictured below. They are part of the Heirloom Stitch Group. Experiment with the stitches on your sewing machine to find what works for you.  

How To Get The Best Results?

The best results are achieved using a looser weave fabric than everyday cotton fabric or quilting cotton, and I used a linen fabric in my samples. A more open weave is easier for the wings to push apart. As you start using a wing needle, keep an example of the same stitch on different materials and record and remind what works well.

What Else Can I Try?

I made beautiful napkins using a wing needle to edge them. The effect looks great on garment hems as well. I am currently waiting for my double wing needle to arrive, which is a wing needle paired with a single needle. I will let you know how I get on.