Sewing machine needles are one of the most important parts of a sewing machine, but they are often overlooked. Using the wrong needle can lead to breakage, poor stitch quality, and damage to your machine in the long run.
In this article, we are going to talk about types of sewing machine needles along with their uses to help you in selecting the right needle for your sewing projects.
Types Of Sewing Machine Needles
Although there are many makers of sewing machine needles, the types and sizes are actually standardized, which makes it easier to identify them across all the brands and machines. Let’s take a look at some popular types of sewing machine needles below.
1. Universal Needles
Universal needles are commonly used for most sewing projects, mainly because they work well with many types of fabrics, from woven cotton, knit fabrics, to synthetic fabrics. When using universal needles, you only need to adjust the size of the needle to make sure you have the right one for your type of fabric.
2. Ballpoint Needles
Ballpoint needles are aptly named – instead of sharp tips, they have rounded ballpoint tips that allow the needle to go in between the threads in the fabric instead of puncturing through the thread. This is ideal for knit fabrics since it won’t cause laddering (which usually happens to the knit fabric when you use universal needles).
3. Stretch Needles
Stretch needles are designed to work with stretchy fabrics like lycra or two-way stretchy knits. These types of fabrics are difficult to work with because regular needles tend to work against the stretchiness, skipping stitches and causing issues with your machine. Stretch needles have a special design that can prevent these issues.
4. Sharp Needles
Sharp needles are perfect for quilters who regularly work with several layers of fabric at once. These needles have a stronger shaft and a sharp point to help avoid bent or broken needles when working with thicker fabric or several layers of fabric.
5. Quilting Needles
Similarly, quilting needles are designed to be used with various layers of fabric, which is the most beneficial for quilters. They are generally shorter than the sharp needles and are designed to allow faster and easier stitching.
6. Jeans Needles
Although they work well with denim, jeans needles are also best used for other heavy fabrics such as canvas and cotton. Jeans needles are very sharp with a thick shank, allowing you to easily puncture through the thick and sturdy fabric without breaking or bending.
7. Leather Needles
Leather is a notoriously difficult material to hand-sew, mainly because leather doesn’t heal – meaning the holes don’t close after you have punctured the material, which means it’s much less forgiving than other types of fabrics. Leather is also very thick and difficult to puncture, so regular sewing machine needles won’t be able to sew with this material.
Leather needles are often referred to as chisel point needles since they have tips that resemble a chisel, which allow them to puncture leather easily.
These needles can also work well with similarly thick materials such as suede, but they won’t work with PU leather or any synthetic materials because these materials don’t share the same characteristics as real leather.
8. Metafil/Metallic Needles
A metafil needle is ideal for sewing or embroidering on knitted or woven fabrics. They are also specially designed to accommodate metallic thread. They have larger eyes that allow the threads to feed through more freely. This makes them easier to thread and is ideal for working with thicker threads, which is why they are great for embroidery.
9. Embroidery Needles
Similarly, embroidery needles have larger eyes that allow them to work with thicker embroidery threads. Embroidery needles are superior to metafil needles, however, because they have a special design with a pontoon scarf with an oversize bump that prevents skipping stitches.
10. Topstitching Needles
Topstitching needles are similar to universal needles, but they usually have very sharp points that allow them to easily puncture stubborn fabrics and large eyes that allow for easy threading.
11. Twin/Triple Needles
Twin/triple needles are used for pin tucking and other decorative stitches, usually at a reduced speed for greater precision. They are not compatible with most machines, however, so you should check whether your sewing machine will work with this type of needle.
12. Wing Needles
Wing needles, or hemstitch needles, are used in conjunction with the “vanity” stitches on your machine to create holes in the fabric for replicating the drawn thread work. Wing needles usually work best with natural fabrics.
Sewing Machine Needle Sizes
Sewing machine needle sizes may seem intimidating, but the numbers printed on the sewing needles are actually quite significant, especially if you are working with stubborn fabrics. Using the right size will help make sewing a lot easier, helping you avoid skipping stitches, damaging the fabric, or causing problems with your machine.
Some machine needles are color-coded with different colors to identify the type of needle. However, different manufacturers don’t use a color code consistently, so you shouldn’t rely only on color to identify the type of needle.
Sewing machine needles also come in different sizes, often indicated on the side of the needle with two numbers such as 90/14 (or the reverse, 14/90). These numbers tell you the size of the needle in both the American and the European sizing systems.
American needle sizes range from 8-19, while European sizes range from 60-120. The higher this number is, the larger the needle is.
The European size is actually very straightforward – it tells you the diameter of the needle in millimeters. So, a 60 needle is 0.6 millimeters in diameter, while a 120 needle is 1.2 millimeters in diameter.
The most versatile sewing machine needle size is 80/12, which is the size that automatically comes with most sewing machines when you purchase them. This size works well with most types of medium-weight fabrics, but if you have finer or thicker fabrics, you will need to switch to a different needle size to match the fabric’s needs.
How to Choose the Right Sewing Machine Needle
The right sewing machine needles can make all the difference when it comes to ensuring that your project flows smoothly without any problems and the final product will look as beautiful as can be.
When switching a needle size on your sewing machine, it is recommended that you test your needle and thread with a scrap piece of fabric to make sure that it will work well with the intended fabric.
Some fabrics are less forgiving than others, so making sure that you have the right combination of needle size/type and thread size before sewing will help you avoid any mistakes later. Here are some of the things you should consider when picking the right sewing machine needle for your project.
Depending on the thickness and weight of your fabric, you will need to find the right sewing machine needle size to match.
You can probably get away with using the standard size (80/12) for most types of medium-weight fabric, but if you are sewing several layers of fabric, or if you are sewing a thicker fabric such as denim, then this standard size won’t cut it for you.
Small size needles won’t be able to puncture through a thick layer of fabric, and your needle will break or bend easily, causing issues with your machine.
If you have a thicker fabric or several layers of fabric, it’s best to go up a size or two when picking the needle size so that you can sew smoothly and effectively.
Understanding the characteristics of the fabric you are working with will also help you decide the type of sewing machine needle to use. This is true especially for stubborn fabrics such as stretchy knit fabrics or unforgiving fabrics such as leather or suede.
As we have mentioned above, there are many different types of sewing machine needles that are designed to work well with special fabrics, so if you have a tricky fabric, it’s best to opt for specialty needles to make the process easier.
Sewing, quilting, and embroidery all have different characteristics that can cause problems with your machine when you are not using the correct needle size.
For example, quilting requires you to work with several layers of fabric at once, while embroidery requires you to create precise stitches with a thicker embroidery thread.
There are different types of sewing machine needles that are designed to avoid skipping stitches or breaking in these instances, so matching the needle type to the purpose is definitely a best practice.
Sewing threads also come in many sizes, from very fine threads to thick embroidery thread. If you use a fine thread with a large needle, you will find that the thread can easily slip out of the needle, but if you use a big thread with a small needle, you won’t be able to thread the machine for sewing.
It’s a best practice to match the needle size to the thread size to make things easier.
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