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Know Your Needles

12 August 2021

Using the wrong type of sewing machine needle is one of the most common mistakes sewers come across.

It can lead to needle breakage, difficulty working with the chosen fabric and poor stitch quality. You'll never have to experience these problems with our sewing machine needle guide! We've outlined the different types of needles available and the fabrics and threads they should be used with. Even if you're a confident stitcher and are in the know about needles its worth having a quick read. You might just surprise yourself and discover a life-changing needle you never knew existed!

Sewing Machine Needle Types

The first thing to know is that sewing machines needles are standardised. They are compatible across the range of brands, including Janome, Brother, Husqvarna, Elna, Pfaff etc. You can be safe in the knowledge that any sewing machine needle purchased from us will be compatible with any relatively modern domestic sewing machine.

The number of different types and sizes of machine needle can seem a bit bewildering at first. However, it's not that difficult to get a handle on the different types. We've listed the most popular needles and the techniques and fabrics they're used for.

Universal Needles

As the name suggests, universal needles are the most commonly used needle. They can be used with woven fabrics, synthetics, and some knit fabrics, although check the other needle types outlined below for specific types of knit fabric. The finer needles are mostly used for lightweight fabrics. Larger sizes are used on medium to heavyweight fabrics. Polyester / cotton or silk threads should be used with a universal needle.

Ball Point Needles

Ball point needles have a more rounded tip than a universal needle which pushes the fabric fibres apart rather than cutting them. This makes ball point needles ideal for working with rib knits, interlock, cotton knits, fleece, double knit and generally most knit fabrics because it prevents them from running or laddering as a result of stitching. Polyester and polyester / cotton blend threads are best for use with ball point needles and finer threads should be used for finer needles.

Stretch Needles

A stretch needle has what is called a 'scarf' which allows extra room for the hook to pass close by and prevents skipped stitches making it ideal for use with fabrics such as Lycra, power net, two way stretch knits, silk jersey, spandex, and highly elasticated synthetic fabrics or indeed elastic itself. Polyester or cotton wrapped polyester threads should be used. Stretch fabrics are renowned for being more difficult to work with and choosing the right needle is crucial to achieving a good end result.

Quilting Needles

Quilting needles are also designed to be used with several layers of fabric and wadding thanks to a reinforced shaft, beginners will most likely find a smaller needle such as a size 7 or 8 easier to use whilst more experienced quilters often choose a larger option.

Jeans Needles

No prizes for guessing which fabric these needles are designed for! Yes, denim is the most obvious choice, but these needles are also best for other densely woven fabrics such as heavy twill, canvas and heavy linens often used for workwear. Whereas stretch and ball point needles are designed not to cut the fabric, jeans needles have a very sharp point and a stronger shank to prevent needle bending or breakage and push through the heavy fabric. Threads such as synthetic or blends, 100% polyester, heavier top stitching threads and cotton wrapped polyester should be chosen when working with these needles and fabrics.

Leather Needles

Leather needles are often known as chisel point needles thanks to a point that looks and acts like a chisel when in use. Yes, you've guessed it, these needles should be used with genuine leather, suede and difficult to sew projects, but should not be used with PU imitation leather, ultra-suede or synthetic suede since the characteristics of these fabrics are quite different to their real counterparts.

Metallic Needles

If you're a bit of a magpie when it comes to thread and love a pretty metallic or rayon, a metallic needle is ideal when sewing or embroidering on woven or knitted fabrics. Metallic needles have an extra-large eye meaning these fancy threads feed through more freely and won't shred or split as a result of the sewing motion. If you ever struggle to thread your needle a metallic needle would be a good buy because it is also appropriate for general sewing and is much easier to thread due to the larger eye.

Embroidery Needles

Embroidery needles are designed with a wider eye to allow threads such as rayon, polyester or cotton machine embroidery threads to pass freely and easily when embroidering. Missed stitches can often occur when machine embroidering thanks to the fabric flexing up and down rapidly as a result of the fast-moving embroidery stitch. Embroidery needles have a pontoon scarf with an oversize bump which reduces the chance of this happening by reducing the amount of movement in the fabric.

Wing Needles

Used in conjunction with the special stitch options on your machine, wing needles will produce holes in the fabric to replicate drawn thread work. Fabrics made from natural fibres such as cotton should be used with these needles.

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