Choosing The Right Needle For Your Project
Why Choosing the Correct Needle Is Important
Imagine you are starting your next project – you have sourced some beautiful fabric, matching thread and you have all the materials and tools ready to go. However, have you checked you have the correct sewing machine needle too? It can be argued that ensuring you pick the right needle is just as important as all the other materials and with good reason. Stitch quality relies on using the correct needle to suit your fabric, thread and the type of stitch you are using. Working with the wrong needle can make the stitching pucker, skip or break the thread, which in turn could hinder the success of your project. With so many needle sizes and options on the market, it can be a little daunting to know where to start – so our guide is here to help!
How Do I Choose The Correct Needle?
If you are using a specialized thread or sewing technique, such as embroidery, quilting or topstitching, this should determine your choice of needle. However, if your project involves general sewing, then the qualities of your fabric will lead your needle choice. Start by selecting the type of needle you require for your project, then choose the right size needle to work for your fabric.
Consider The Qualities of Your Chosen Fabric
There are different sizes and types of needles for different fabrics, so start by examining your material. Check the fabric’s weight, weave type and density (whether it is woven or knit and has a close or loose weave) as well as the fabric composition (whether it is made from natural or synthetic fibres).
Sewing machine needles use a numbered sizing system. The European metric system measures sewing machine needles from 60 to 110, whereas the American Imperial system numbers from 8 to 18. With both size guides, the low numbers denote a finer needle and the needle size increases along with the number. Usually you will find both metric and imperial sizes on the needle package. As a general principle, light-weight fabrics require a smaller needle size and as the weight of the fabric increases, so should the size of the needle.
Match Your Thread Composition To Your Fabric
You also need to consider the thread you will be using as fine, delicate threads will require a smaller needle to ensure good stitch quality. Matching the composition of your thread to your fabric can help, for example using a polyester thread if you are working with a synthetic fabric, a cotton thread if you’re using a cotton fabric. Most importantly, check whether you need a specialist thread for your sewing purpose, such as seams, topstitching, quilting or embroidery.
Different Types of Needle and Their Purpose
Universal needles have a slightly rounded tip or ballpoint, allowing the needle to pass easily through the weave of knits and woven fabric. These needles are suitable for woven fabrics, most knits and synthetic fabrics.
Ball Point Needles
Ball point needles are ideal for cotton & rib knits, interlock and most knit fabrics. The rounded, ballpoint tip allows the needle to slip between the yarns, without snagging, piercing or breaking the yarn fibres.
Stretch needles are designed for knits with a two-way stretch, such as swimwear, lingerie and elastic. The needle can pierce through thicker fabrics without skipping stitches.
Jeans needles are ideal for denim, canvas and other tightly woven fabrics. The needle has a sharp, strong point designed to pierce thick fabrics, reducing issues with breakage and skipped stitches. Jeans needles are also a great choice for top-stitching woven fabrics.
Leather needles are suitable for leather fabrics. Some needles can also be used with vinyl, however check the product details before purchasing. Leather needles have a chiselled point to enable easier piercing and to avoid creating large holes in your fabric.
Quilting needles are designed for penetrating and quilting layers of cotton fabrics with batting. The needle’s longer, sharper point pierces layers, whilst keeping straight stitches.
Embroidery needles are ideal for decorative stitching on various fabrics working with rayon, polyester, cotton or acrylic embroidery thread.The needle’s larger eye allows smooth thread movement at higher speeds and avoids breakage.
Metalfil needles are suitable for decorative sewing on various fabrics, using rayon and metallic threads. With a larger eye, the needle can accommodate speciality threads, allowing them to pass easily at higher stitch speeds and avoid shredding.
Topstitching needles have a sharper point designed to pierce medium to heavy-weight fabrics and are ideal for sashiko and blanket stitching. The needle’s large eye allow thick topstitching to pass easily and smoothly, without breaking.
Twin Needles have two needle points fixed in a nylon block. These needles are ideal for heirloom sewing, hemming and topstitching. Twin needles are usually available in other needle types such as universal, ballpoint, stretch, jeans, embroidery and metalfil. The needles are more sensitive and should be used at slower speeds for shorter sewing periods.
Overlock needles are specifically designed for overlock stitching and working with medium weight fabrics.
How To Care For Your Sewing Needles
As a rule of thumb, sewing machine needles should be replaced after 8-10 hours of stitching time. You may need to change the needles more regularly when stitching synthetic fabric, appliqués or machine embroidery, to avoid skipped stitches, shredding and fabric pulls. Always change the needle after hitting a pin, as a bent or blunt needle can damage your fabric. If the stitching is uneven or producing skipped stitches, double-check you are using the correct needle for your fabric and thread type. Machine needles are designed to break to avoid permanent damage to your sewing machine, however if your needles keep breaking it is usually a sign that the wrong needle is being used for the fabric, thread or sewing purpose. If you hear a popping sound whilst you sew, this is a strong indication that the needle is bent or damaged and needs to be replaced immediately.
When changing your needles, it can be worthwhile placing a small piece of paper over the dresser foot area to avoid dropping the needle into the machine. Insert the new needle with the flat side facing towards the back of the machine. The needle should sit all the way up inside the clamp and the clamp should be securely tightened, so the needle will stitch properly.
Check out our full range of machine sewing needles for your next project, including premium brands such as Klassé, Milward and Hemline. We also stock a complete range of sewing machine accessories, from bulbs and belts to machine oil and bobbins.
I did learn this during Needlework at school but definitely needed a refresher. Thank you for the detailed information.
Please could you advise me which needle I should use for sewing paper? I make journals and I don’t want to damage my machine but I would love to add stitching to my pages.
Thank you, Carol
So glad I found your website. All my questions have been answered – I think it’s time I bought all new needles!!!
Really helpful advice from those who know. I started sewing last year and really needed more info on needle types and uses, so this was really great to find online after reading your newsletter. Thank you.
It’s nice to see such good information, some times only learnt over years , maybe putting some new sewing members
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