This was part of a recent discussion on the SRESafeHaven mailing list at Yahoo Groups. It has been reprinted her with Marie's explicit consent. Click on the photo to see a larger version.
I was going to reply to Melinda directly.....but thought others might find the info helpful too.....so am cutting/pasting and excerpt from a Class Guide that I had prepped for an SRE course:
The following list corresponds to the needles that will be seen in the photo :
Chenille needles are the most commonly used for SRE, as they have a sharp tip and a large eye. These factors are critical to ribbon performance: the sharp tip pierces the fabric easily and cleanly, then the large eye makes a hole of sufficient size to allow the ribbon to glide through without stress.
If the needle used makes a hole that is too small, the ribbon tends to buckle and fray at the edges. If you find this happening, remove the needle and replace it with a larger size.
Chenille needles are commonly available in sizes 13 - 26. (The lower the number, the larger the needle.) The following list indicates ribbon size and the appropriate needle size to use with that ribbon to avoid fraying:
Tapestry needles are available in the same size range as chenille needles. This needle has a blunt tip and a large eye. It is used for woven and wrapped stitches, as the tip does not tend to catch on fabric or ribbon.
Milliners or Straw needles are used to add traditional stitches. They are long and thin with a sharp tip, uniform barrel and a small eye. This needle is best for bullion thread work.
Beading needles are very long and very fine and used to add beadwork to ribbon work (floral centres and secondary flora).
Crewel, Embroidery Sharps and Darning needles may also come in handy for adding traditional stitchery in floss or other threads. They vary in shape/size, and are readily available in the notions department.
My only other comment to add to this.....I think the easiest way to learn what each type is....is to learn to identify their characteristics. That makes it easier to know which is which. As you may have noticed from descriptions of most of the above...there are many distinctive features of any needle type.
A few of the members have shared needlebooks in the past that have separate pages for each type of needles they use....and this might also help you to keep them straight!
(Edited for style only.)