How to Use a Wing Needle

Try not to be too distracted by the pale pink, multi-layered cake… what I really want you to take notice of is the napkin sitting under the sweet looking slice.

See that delicate stitching that runs across the lower part of the linen?

Throughout this post, I’ll show you how to use a wing needle to create this beautiful, decorative stitching that can enhance just about any fabric.

wing needle napkin group

This type of hemstitch is often associated with heirloom items like handkerchiefs and vintage clothing.

As you can see, it looks wonderful on napkins too.

I saw a similar 4-set of linen napkins at Williams-Sonoma  HERE  for $40.

Well, after you read this post, you’ll see how easy it is to make a beautiful set yourself… at a fraction of the cost.

wing needle stitches row

The hemstitch technique creates continuous tiny holes that are wrapped with a box-stitch.

At the heart of this distinct and elegant presentation is one simple and inexpensive sewing tool.

definition of hemstitch

wing needle package

Enter the uber-fabulous WING NEEDLE … even though it looks more like a spear to me.

A wing needle literally punches a hole into your fabric while the sewing machine stitches around the piercing.

You can find wing needles at your local fabric store in the notions aisle right next to the other assorted sewing machine needles.

mitered fabric corners

OK, let’s get started.

Of course, you’ll need a set of napkins.

Buy some or if you want to make your own… check out my easy, napkin tutorial which also includes steps on how to miter fabric corners.

NOTE: Hemstitching is also a nice way to add a little flair to those old napkins you have stuffed into that drawer or cabinet.

wing needle machine

That hem line on the napkin is important because that’s what you’ll use to help guide your wing needle placement.

Also, position your napkin under your sewing machine so that you’re stitching on the FRONT of the napkin to get the full effect of the stitched design.

The backside of this stitching looks OK but you want the most decorative stitching to appear on the front of the napkin.

box stitch screen

To create the heirloom pattern, you’ll need to use a box stitch so that the holes created by the needle will be covered by thread on four sides.

If your sewing machine has decorative stitches, you’ll most likely also have a box stitch.

Just search through your stitch options to find it.

wing needle on sewing machine

After the wing needle punches a hole into the fabric, the box stitch wraps all sides of the hole to seal it.

This technique is easy but I strongly suggest you stitch a few practice lines to get the hang of it before applying the stitching to your good napkins.

A box stitch is not a straight stitch and the machine will feel like it’s backing up on you. Please practice first.

Also, the corner-turns on the box stitch are especially important to practice so the perpendicular corner stitches line up perfectly.

wing needle piercings

I think the trickiest part of this technique has to do with matching your corners so that you get a perfect point where the two ends meet.

This is where you need to pay close attention to the needle position.  When you get close to the end of a row, make sure the wing needle is in the down position in the UPPER RIGHT corner of the box stitch.

Then, turn the fabric to begin the new row.  At this point, the new box stitch in the new row will overlap the old box stitch in the old row and the corner stitches will line up perfectly.

I know that may sound a little confusing but if you practice a few times, it will make sense.

wing needle stitches

Imagine how pretty this stitch would look across the bottom of a little girl’s dress (or along the bottom of your own garments), near the edge of a throw pillow or even across the edge of a pillow case.

You could also add a double hemstitch line for a more dramatic presentation.

There are a ton of creative possibilities and before you know it…  you’ll be searching for ways to put your wing needle to beautiful use.

Check out how how I added a hemstitch to embroidered pillowcases in a previous post HERE.

wing needle flowers

OK, I know… these flowers have nothing to do with using a wing needle.

I just thought I’d throw them into this post for good measure and so you could see some of the props I used for this shoot.

Oh, I also made the pink icing cake specifically to help show off these wing needle napkins.

That’s the kind of prop my kids love for me to use.

wing needle napkins

You could also add an embroidered monogram to your napkins if you want to personalize them.

I think this hemstitch presentation is one of those techniques that people admire on a garment (or elsewhere) but never  realize it’s something they can create themselves.

I hope you’re inspired to give it a try.


Thanks for stopping by.

See  you back here next time. 


 I’m linking this How to Use a Wing Needle tutorial to the following:

Stone Gable

Savvy Southern Style

Home Stories A to Z

The Melrose Family


Craftberry Bush

Tatertots and Jello



  • Jennifer

    Thank you for your beautiful and insightful post. I’ve been sewing all my life but never knew about the wing needle or what this stitch was called until now. I was recently given a tea towel that used this technique and I wanted to try it on some window toppers I’m making but didn’t even know what to call it! Unfortunately, although I love the metal gears of my 1960’s sewing machine, it doesn’t have a built in box stitch; is there a way to do this without the automatic box stitch? Thank you again for sharing your expertise!

  • Colleen

    I have a wing needle. Haven’t used it in, omigoodness, decades. Now that we are all pretty much stuck at home, I need something new and different to occupy my time. I have some linen. And with your incredibly clear instructions and photos, I have great faith that something beautiful will come of this. Thank you so much for this post.

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Oh, Colleen, I do hope you try this project.
      Before you try out your wing needle, be sure to practice on a scrap piece of fabric.
      There is a very small learning curve to figure out how to line up the decorative stitching.
      Practice a few times and you’ll be good to go.
      Please let me know how your linens turn out. Send me a photo if you remember. I’d love to see your finished peices.
      Good luck and stay safe and well.

  • Arlyn

    Thank you so much. Beautiful idea.

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Good luck with your sewing projects, Arlyn.
      Let me know how you like using the wing needle.
      Happy day to you.

    • Shellia Ventura

      Very interesting and elegant! I never knew there was such a needle. I just love learning new things. Thank you so much. I subscribed and I’m looking forward to more of your blogs.

      • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

        So glad you found me, Shellia.
        You’ll love using the wing needle. Don’t forget to practice on a test sheet of fabric first.
        Have fun and I’d love to know how your project turns out.
        Keep me posted.
        Happy weekend to you.

  • Sandy

    Is there another stitch I can use if I dont have the box stitch on my machine?

  • Barbara

    So beautiful. Thhank you!

  • Mary

    Dear Lisa,
    I have a wing needle but I have never used it before,
    now I’m to much curious to try it,
    thanks to your great post,
    and thanks also for the lovely pictures and your wonderful blog.

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Thanks so much, Mary.
      I’m so glad that you’re willing to give your wing needle a little “workout”.
      I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
      Do practice on a piece of scrap fabric first before you use your final napkins.
      Good luck and please drop me a line and let me know how it works out for you.

  • Denise

    On your photo above, these stitches are awesome with the wing needle too:
    11-43 and 11-44 entredeux stitch
    11-40 pin stitch
    11-42 daisy
    11-27 honeycomb
    And even more.

    If you have a uneven stitch, you can stitch off the hem and continue starting at the edge. Looks like a + in the corners.

    Another fabric I. Love to work with is osnaburg. I love the wing needle! Thanks for sharing your technique!

    You are making tomorrows heirlooms!


  • Helen

    Have you ever use a candlewicking needle?

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Hi Helen, I’ve think I’ve seen candlewicking on pillows before but I’m not familiar with the needle used to create that kind of stitching.
      Is this a needle used by hand or can it be used in a sewing machine?
      I’m definitely intrigued-lol.
      Have a wonderful day.

  • Nancy M.

    This is terrific! I love to make & embroider napkins for all sorts gifts and occasions. I can’t WAIT to get this needle! Thank you so much!

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Thanks Nancy. Let me know how this works out for you.
      Don’t forget to stitch a scrap piece of fabric first to get the hang of it.
      I’ve used the wing needle to dress up quite a few projects and I think you’ll enjoy using it.
      Happy weekend.

  • Barbara

    This is a beautiful stitch. I’ve been sewing for many years (making clothes) and no one has ever mentioned or shown me this stitch. I’m now just getting into home decor and love the napkins that you’ve created. What type/weight of linen do you use for napkins?
    I think this stitch would be lovely at the edge of a blouse/top neckline or sleeve as well. Thank you for sharing your wonderful talents and information!

    BTW…I’ve been sewing on my dining room table for many years and I love it. 🙂

  • Stacey @ The Sugar Coated Cottage

    You’re right, the cake is pretty distracting :-). I really love this tutorial. I have a sewing machine packed away in the basement and this made me want to dust it off and give the wing needle a try. This stitch made the napkins jump from ordinary to designer. BTW, your site is really exceptional. Its like looking through a beautiful magazine. Take care.

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Stacey, you’re oh-so sweet. Thanks so much for your kind words about my site. I truly hope you’re inspired to dust off your machine and get back to using it regularly.
      This wing needle project is so simple, it would be a great way to get back into the sewing habit.
      Have a lovely day.

  • Jeanne

    I’m inspired. The photos are stunning and your directions are simple and clear to follow…can’t wait for a break (from crazy work) so I can try this! Thanks

  • KariAnne Wood

    I wish that you lived next door to me! Seriously. You are one of the most talented people that I know!

    Thanks for sharing this and inspiring me today!

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Wouldn’t that be fun?
      I could help you with little-known sewing needles and embroidery machines and you could help me with home decorating. I’d love it-lol

  • cindy

    Oh Lisa…this is simply beautiful…I truly am so excited that you shared this!!! I’m totally pinning and book-marking this blog post! Thank you so much!!!! And you’re right…I was totally distracted with the beautiful pink cake:D I LOVE SWEETS!

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Thanks so much for pinning this, Cindy. Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t have made that cake look so delicious-lol.
      Glad you got past it to see what I really wanted you to see (smile).

  • Nancy

    Oh, so that is what a wing needle looks like!! Oh my! I have to get one of those!!
    does your machine thread for you?? or do you have to thread your machine?? It looks like you have a Brother machine (so do I)
    Those napkins are super !!!

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Hi Nancy, yes I do have a Brother machine that self threads but only on some needles. I just go a head and thread it myself when I use the Wing Needle because of it’s irregular shape. Please do get yourself a wing needle and try it out.

  • Puja Darshan

    Superb tutorial!!!

  • Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    You have me craving to dig my sewing machine out and start sewing. My main problem is since we downsized I don’t have a room where I can sew. I know we should have never bought the smaller house. For 30 yeas plus I’ve been promised a sewing/craft room. I have a Husqvarna sewing machine — it is old but I does have lots of stitches I can switch out. I am dying to make the napkins. Thank you for another kick in the rear — you never fail to inspire 🙂 Hugs!!

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Oh, Marisa… go get that needle, dust off your machine and set it up in the kitchen if you have to-lol.
      Don’t let a little thing like space get in the way of a good wing needle. I know you’ll love the outcome and it will feel so good to get back to sewing again.
      Have fun and please send me a picture of your napkins after you make them. Happy to provide a little inspiration

  • Jeanne

    Beautiful napkins and an amazing tutorial! Pinning to my sewing board. ?
    Thank you!

  • [email protected] Designs

    Oh I love this Lisa!….now tell me what type/brand of sewing machine do you have?…Then again, I shall send my napkins up to you!!!!…LOL!!!!

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Thanks Shirley, Just so you know, a wing needle will fit just about any machine. You just need to make sure you have a box stitch in your stitch selections.

      I have a very old Singer and a decade old Brother ULT 2002D which is an embroidery machine. I actually have a post coming up soon on how to pick an embroidery machine. If you like the wing needle… you’re going to love what I have to say about embroidery machines-lol.

      Also, thanks for your help on the sidebar info. I figured it out-yay! Hope you had a lovely trip.

  • Joanna Mills

    Thank you for the beautiful idea for napkins. I am inspired to give it a try right now! Just lovely.

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Oh, I hope you try the technique, Joanna. Thanks for stopping by. Drop me a line after you make your own and let me know what you think.

  • mcm

    Just lovely! Thank you for your hint – who knew this was so (almost) simple?!

    Also, I appreciate the prep work you go through to style your shots. You are too talented! 🙂

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Thanks so much for your kind words, MCM. Hope you pick up a wing needle and take it for a spin to see how it looks from your own hands. It’s simple so, I think you’ll be pleased.

  • Karen in OH

    Your napkins look perfect! Thank you for showing the directions. I’ve often admired this stitch on vintage items, and never knew what it was called. Now I will have to give it a try thanks to your great directions!

    • Lisa Tutman-Oglesby

      Thanks for stopping by, Karen. I think a lot of people don’t realize this is a perfectly easy stitch that anyone can duplicate. I hope you give it a try and let me know how it turns out for you.

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