Sewing-Machine Needles: An Overview
Learn to recognize the many types of standard, decorative, and special-purpose machine needles. Discover what each is best for, and how to troubleshoot problems.
The configuration of these needles is based on the particular fabric to be sewn.
Uses: Safest needle choice for most fabrics.
Configuration: Has slightly rounded point and elongated scarf to enable almost foolproof meeting of needle and bobbin hook.
Troubleshooting: When fabric is not medium-weight woven, consider needle specifically suited to fabric. For example, size 18 universal needle works on heavy denim, but size 18 jeans needle works better.
Ballpoint and stretch needles
Uses: Ballpoint needle for heavier, looser sweater knits; stretch needle for highly elastic fabrics, like
Spandex, or Lycra.
Configuration: Both have rounded points that penetrate between fabric threads rather than pierce them. (Stretch-needle point is slightly less rounded than ballpoint.)
Troubleshooting: Test-stitch knits with ballpoint, stretch, and universal needles to see which doesn't cut yarn and yields best results. If ballpoint skips stitches, try stretch needle.
Microtex and sharp needles
Uses: Sewing microfiber, silk, synthetic leather; precisely stitching edges; and heirloom sewing.
Configuration: Has an acute point.
Troubleshooting: Essentially trouble-free, but fabric may require a Teflon, roller, or even/dual-feed presser foot.
Uses: Excellent for sewing natural leather.
Configuration: Has slight cutting point (almost like an arrowhead).
Troubleshooting: On synthetic leather, unless it's very heavy synthetic, cuts rather than pierces stitch hole and can tear leather. Most synthetic leathers require Microtex or sharp needle.
Denim (jeans) needle
Uses: For heavyweight denim, duck, canvas, upholstery fabrics, artificial leather, and vinyl.
Configuration: Has deeper scarf, acute point, and modified shaft to sew without pushing fabric down into needle-plate hole. Goes through fabric and meets bobbin hook better on dense woven fabrics.
Troubleshooting: If stitches skip when sewing very heavy fabrics, try larger needle and sew more slowly or walk needle through fabric (by turning hand crank).
Uses: Enables easier threading for sewers with vision problems.
Configuration: Universal needle with slip-in threading slot at the eye.
Troubleshooting: Always pull sewn piece back away from needle before cutting thread so needle doesn't unthread. Needle works well on woven fabrics, but may occasionally snag knits, so test-sew to check for fabric and needle compatibility.