What Sewing Machine Needle Should I Use?

A range of needles are available to help you when sewing with different fabrics and threads. These may vary in the shape of the tip or the size of the eye. The main varieties available are detailed below.

The basic structure of the needle is:

structure of a needle
Structure

Universal

Ideal for most woven fabrics, some knits and synthetics. The universal needle has a slight ball point making it extremely versatile. It works well on most machines and is the most commonly used needle for synthetic woven and natural fibres. The finer needles are generally used on lightweight fabrics and the larger sized needles for medium to heavyweight fabrics.

universal needle
Universal

Leather

This has a cutting point and is used for leather, artificial leather and heavy non-woven synthetics. Do not use on knit or woven fabrics. It is often referred to as a chisel point needle as the point resembles and acts as a chisel in motion.

leather needle
Leather

Jeans

Ideally suited for denim fabrics, heavy twill, work wear, and other densely woven fabrics such as canvas and heavy linens. It has a very sharp point and a stiffer shank to resist needle deflection and allow penetration of dense fabric.

jeans/denim needle
Jeans

Ballpoint

Ideal for most knit fabrics such as cotton knits, interlock, rib knits, fleece and double knit. The tip is more rounded that of the Universal needle and is designed to push the fabric fibres apart rather than cutting them. This prevents the knit fabric from laddering or running after stitching. I used this type of needle when sewing my Alexander McQueen dress

ballpoint needle
Ballpoint

Stretch

Designed for two way stretch knits, lycra, power net, silk jersey, spandex and highly elasticised synthetic fabrics. It can also be used when sewing elastic. The stretch needle has a specially designed scarf which prevents skipped stitched and a medium ball point.

stretch needle
Stretch

Sharps

This is designed for use with silks, micro fibre fabrics and for penetrating densely woven fabrics. It is also useful for quilting. It has a very slim and acute point and a strengthened shaft which helps to reduce needle deflections as it penetrates multiple layers of fabric.

sharp needle
Sharp

Topstitch

The extra-large eye accommodates thick topstitching thread and the sharp point allows it to penetrate easily through all fabrics.

topstitching needle
Topstitch

Embroidery

The embroidery needle is designed for machine embroidery using Rayon, Polyester or Cotton machine embroidery threads. It features a wider hole to allow the thread to pass through easily. Additionally, it has a special scarf that reduces the chance of skipped stitches which occur when the fabric is flexing up and down rapidly with the fast moving embroidery stitch. It also has a light ball point. Additionally, the special scarf, widened groove and enlarged eye protect fragile threads and guard against excess friction allowing trouble-free embroidery and decorative stitching.

embroidery needle
Embroidery

Speciality needles

A range of needles are also available that can be used to enhance your decorative and topstitching:

Hemstitch/wing

The wing blade on the side of the needle cuts a narrow hole in the fabric to create decorative cut work. It can be used for heirloom-style stitching.

hemstitch needle
Hemstitch

Twin

Double needles have two needles mounted on one shaft and are used to create two rows of stitches simultaneously. Use two spools of thread and one bobbin thread.

They are used for practical sewing such as completing hems on stretch fabrics. They can also be used for decorative sewing such as pin tucks, seam finishes and topstitching.

Twin needles are available in standard, embroidery, denim stretch and ball point variations. Two numbers are shown on the packet one is the space between the needles. The second is the actual size of the needle.

Twin needle
Twin

Triple

Triple needles have three needles mounted onto one shaft and are used to create two rows of stitches simultaneously. They can be used for decorative topstitching. These are not available in as many sizes and varieties as a twin needle and are only commonly available in universal type. Also it is not common for a sewing machine to be able to hold the 3 spools of thread required for use with the triple needle, so one way to overcome this is to wind the third thread onto a bobbin and place it on top of the right spool of thread.

triple needle
Triple

Double hemstitch

This has one wing needle and one universal needle on a cross bar from a single shaft. It is used for decorative or heirloom stitching on tightly woven fabrics.

double hemstitch needle
Double hemstitch

Double eye

A double eye needle allows you to use two different threads for shading and texturing effects which can be used for embroidery and topstitching. It is a needle that has 2 eyes, one on top of the other.

double eye needle
Double eye

Spring

The Spring Needle is used for free machine embroidery. It allows for sewing without a darning foot or a hoop. When the needle is withdrawn from the fabric the spring holds the fabric in place preventing ‘popping’. It can be found in universal, sharp, quilting and stretch varieties.

spring needle
Spring

References

https://www.seamwork.com/issues/2015/01/the-vintage-inspired-hemstitch

http://www.klasse.com/en/range.php?ID=32

http://www.threadsmagazine.com/2008/11/06/sewing-machine-needles-an-overview

http://www.swatchandstitch.com/the-fashion-blog/2014/4/17/using-knits-when-the-pattern-calls-for-wovens?crlt.pid=camp.kEeq7qTAgbON