Sewing machine needles are available in a range of shapes and sizes. Choosing the correct needle will depend on the type of fabric you’re working on and the type of finish or decoration you want to achieve. Follow our handy guide to choosing the correct needles for your projects below.
It’s really important that you choose the correct needles for your project as picking the wrong type could result in needle breakage or damage to your fabric (eek!). Luckily, sewing machine needles are standardised so they can be used with a range of sewing machine brands.
The basic anatomy and types of sewing machine needle
With each category below, you’ll notice that each type of needle is available in different sizes and the thickness of your fabric will determine the size of the needle you’ll need to use. You can buy packs of sewing machine needles offering assorted sizes and it’s always a good idea to test your new needle on a scrap piece of fabric before diving into your project.
You’ll notice on some packaging the size of the needle will be referred to using two numbers i.e. 80/12 or 110/18. The first number represents the European size and the second the American size. European sewing needles range from 60 to 110 and American needles from 8 to 18.
Universal needles are the most commonly-used sewing machine needles and come in a range of sizes. This type of needle can be used to sew woven fabrics as well as some knit fabrics too. The size of universal needles ranges from 70 through to 110. Finer needles are used when sewing lightweight/more delicate fabric whereas the larger sized are used when sewing medium to heavyweight fabrics such as calico or canvas.
Ball Point Needles
When you’re sewing knitwear such as jersey, ball point needles work best as the rounded tip pushes apart the fabric fibres as opposed to breaking through them as would be the case with a sharper needle. Ball-point needles may also be referred to as ‘jersey’ needles and come in a range of sizes. Size 70, for instance, works best with lightweight knits while a size 90 would be used when sewing with heavier knit fabrics. Fabrics that should be sewn with a ball-point needle include double knits, fleece, rib knits and cotton knits.
As you might have guessed, stretch needles are best when sewing elasticised fabrics such as Lycra or stretchier knits. Stretch needles are similar to ball point needles but feature a slightly less rounded tip. As stretchy fabrics are more tricky to sew it’s a good idea to test your needle on a scrap piece of fabric to make sure its the correct one for your fabric type.
If you’re working with densely woven fabric such as silk, or sewing through several layers of fabric as may be the case with quilting, a sharps needle should be used. This type of needle which can also be known as a microtex needle, features an acute tip and a strong shaft so it can easily penetrate through the fabric fibres. Examples of fabrics that require a sharps needle include voile and microfibre.
If you’re eager to don your denims make sure you opt for denim or jeans needles when sewing. These needles are durable with a deep scarf and acute point allowing them to penetrate thicker fabrics. They can be used when sewing tightly-woven fabrics including denim, canvas, upholstery fabrics, artificial leather and vinyl.
To add decorative topstitching to your makes, such as on jeans, you can buy topstitch needles. These needles can be used with thicker, top-stitching thread and feature a acute point. The size of your needle will depend on the fabric you’re using.
Another decorative finish includes a twin needle stitch. As you might have guessed, this involves using two needles to stitch two parallel lines onto your fabric. You can achieve different measurements between needles ranging from 1.6mm to 6mm. Twin stitch needles are available with universal, stretch, embroidery, denim, and Metallica points.
We hope you found our guide to sewing machine needles helpful. Discover our range of sewing machine needles and haberdashery in the Simple Sew shop.
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