Get Threads magazine!

Subscribe Renew Give a Gift

Sewing-Machine Needles: An Overview

Standard needles
Decorative needles
Special-purpose needles
Standard needles

Standard needles

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.

Standard needles

The configuration of these needles is based on the particular fabric to be sewn.

Universal needle
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.

Leather needle
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).

Handicap/self-threading needle
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.

Standard needles

1 | 2 | 3 > View all
ThreadsMagazine Threads Magazine, editor
Posted on Nov 6th, 2008 in tools & supplies, notions

Comments (1)

LebecEgirl LebecEgirl writes: This is great information! I am going to share this with my children's sewing class!
Posted: 10:53 pm on January 8th

You must be logged in to post comments. Log in.