Tulip Beading Needles are manufactured by the Japanese company Tulip Co. Ltd. They're more expensive on average than other beading needles, but they carry some important benefits.
For this review, I purchased a set of four Tulip Beading Needles in Long size 10. This size is appropriate for use with most size 11/0 round seed beads and size 11/0 cylinder beads (such as Delicas and Treasures). The "Longs" are about 2 inches long, which is a comfortable length for most beadweaving projects.
The needles I bought are beautifully packaged in a small, rosy-purple cardboard box with a cut-out window on the front. Inside is a clear plastic test tube containing the four needles, complete with a cork stopper. The tube is labeled with the needle size. This is a fabulous feature for keeping your needles organized from the start.
Comparison With English Needles
When I compare my Tulip needles with my size 10 English beading needles, the Tulip needles definitely have a sturdier feel. It's almost like the Tulips are slightly thicker than the English needles, but on close inspection they're not. I think it's just that the Tulip needles have less give, so that when you put gentle pressure on the middle of a needle, it doesn't bend quite as much as the English needles do.
The sizes of the eyes of Tulips and English needles look about the same. The sharp ends also look and feel about the same to me; however, the Tulip needles reportedly have more rounded tips that make it easier to avoid splitting thread when you make stitches. (I'm undecided about that claim.)
As I mentioned before, Tulip needles are also more expensive than English beading needles. When I wrote this review, size 10 Tulips were well over four times the cost of size 10 John James needles, at nearly $1.00 USD per Tulip needle, versus about $0.21 per John James needle.
The Tulips also have high quality packaging, whereas the John James needles are often packed in small paper envelopes that do a poor job of containing unused needles once opened.
Finally, Tulips currently have a very important advantage over John James "English" needles in that many John James are now being manufactured in China instead of England. This has tarnished John James' reputation and led to quality concerns.
I have no complaints here. My Tulip needles slide through beads smoothly, haven't broken after many hours of use, and have become only slightly bent over time. My English needles become downright mangled and eventually snap and break. I don't know yet how long a given Tulip will last, and I haven't tried a size smaller than size 10 -- but so far, so good.
The rumors are true: Tulip needles are fantastic. Even though they are significantly more expensive than English needles, they're easier to keep track of (and therefore less likely to get lost) because of their secure packaging, and they do feel sturdier than English needles. I myself am a Tulip convert.
If you have unanswered questions about Tulips (or any other beading needles), please post them in this thread in the Beadwork forum.
Where to Buy Tulip Beading Needles
Stay tuned for a new Tulip vendor directory here on the Beadwork site. In the meantime, I recommend BelloModo or WhimBeads. Bead stores interested in carrying Tulips can contact distributor Carol Cypher.