I'm not a great beader since I work mainly with wire and polymer clay, but once in a while I will incorporate cord into my designs. Since the end of the cord tends to fray and open up, I like using a large eye beading needle to thead the beads into the cord.
Unfortunately, it's hard to find good beading needles in the area where I live, and if I need to order them online at a time when I don't need to buy any other materials, I end up paying more for shipping than I do for the needles.
In a pinch I tend to make my own needles out of thin wire. It's simple enough and it works great so long as the bead is not too tiny: Cut a piece of wire, fold in two, twist the two ends together leaving a loop to thread the wire and you're ready to go.
The other problem is that if the beads are too small, the presure caused by the folded cord entering the bead can be too much for the thin wire and it will break but if you don't have many beads to thread it works fine.
Recently, however, I've found another alternative beading needle that I really like.
About a year ago, I woke up one morning to find I had a new canine tooth popping out. Considering that I was 38 this seemed odd. My dentist denied my suspicions of possibly turning into a vampire (a troubling thought since I tend to pass out at the sight of blood) and told me that my current canine was in fact still a milk tooth and the new one had finally decided to emerge (better late than ever, I guess).
The result was that I had to get braces to help the new tooth along (missing a tooth at this age is neither cute nor very sexy, I can tell you that much) and this led to my discovery.
Braces make it very hard to floss, so my sister-in-law recommended a thing called floss-threaders. They're basically thin plastic needles to help you thread the floss in between the brace wires. As soon as I saw them I thought "these would be great for beading!" and they are.
The eye is really large so threading the wire is a breeze and they're not even that expensive - they end up costing about 15 cents each. Plus, if you know someone who wears braces you can always share the cost and just keep a couple for yourself :)
I'm not saying they're better than metal needles but they certainly work for me, and best of all, they're easy to find.