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Sewing Machine Needles: An Overview
Learn to recognize the many types of standard, decorative, and special-purpose machine needles. This overview helps you understand the different features of basic and specialty 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…
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This is great information! I am going to share this with my children's sewing class!