How to choose a needle and a sewing thread
Table of content
- Anatomy of a needle
- Sewing Machine Needle Types
- Few more questions about needles
- Reference chart
Choosing the wrong sewing needle is one of the most common mistakes, especially for beginner sewers.It can lead to many problems such as your needle constantly breaking and not co-operating with you the way you'd want to as well as poor stitch quality.
We will outline different neddle types in this article such as – the universal needle, stretch needle, sharps needles, ball point needles, jeans needles, quilting needles, leather needles, metafil needles, triple and topstitch needles, wing needles and embroidery needles. As well as what the numbes on needles mean and how often you should change your needle.
Anatomy of a needle
Firstly we should start off with the “anatomy" of a needle here is a picture of a maching sewing needle
POINT - This is the part which cuts or pushes through the fabric while sewing. The shape of the point varies depending on the needle. For example – a ball point needle has a rounded point while a leather needle has a chisel shape.
EYE – This is the hole which you feed your thread through. The size of the eye varies depending on the needle size and what it’s designed for.
SCARF – The scarf allows the hook to get close to the needle eye to avoid missed or skipped stitches.
SHAFT – The shaft varies in its thickness, the thicker your fabric is the stiffer the shaft shold be to avoid breaking.
SHANK – This is the part that goes into your machine – it has a FLAT SIDE to avoid incorrect insertion of the needle into the machine. You should always pay attention to which side of the shank is flat and which is not flat when inserting the needle into your sewing machine.
Sewing Machine Needle Types
This is the most commonly used needle. They can be used with most fabrics such as some knits, woven fabrics and synthetics. The fine needles are used fo rlightweight fabrics while larger sizes are used for medium to heavy weight fabrics. We suggest using polyester or silk thread with these universl needles.
These needles are recommended for use when sewing you're sewing with highly elasticated fabrics such as lycra, two way stretch knits, spandex and silk jersey. It is also approperiate to use these needles when you're sewing just elastic. Stretch needles have a "scarf" which allows extra room for for the hook to pass close by and prevent skipped stitches, making it ideal for sewing elasticated fabrics or elastic. We recommend polyester or cotton wrapped polyester thread with these needles. You should always keep in mind that elasticated fabrics are harder to sew with so using the right needle is crucial.
Ball point needles
These needles are perfect for working with most knit fabrics ribbed knits, cotton knits, interlock, fleece ort double knit. The rounded “ball” tip pushes through the fabric rather than cutting it like a normal sewing needle, it prevents the fabric from running or laddering (these are very common probems when it comes to sewing with knit fabrics). Polyester and polyester/cotton blend threads are best with these needles.
As you can guess by the name these needles are recommended for denim fabrics but to your suprise you may also use these with densely woven fabrics such as heavy twills, heavy linens and canvases. These needles are often used in the production of workwear.
These needles are designed to cut through fabric unlike the stretch and ball point needles. These needles are designed to cut through fabric unlike the stretch and ball point needles. These needles are very strong and sharp it allows them to punch through the heavy fabric. We recommend using synthetic or at least blend threads with these needles. Polyester or cotton wrapped polyester threads will be perfect for these needles.
These needles kind of look like chisel due to the sharp point. These needles also work like a chisel when in use. As yopu may have guessed these needles are to be used with genuine leather and suede as well as hard to work with fabrics. Remember that these needles should NOT be used with PU imitation leather, ultra suede or synthetic suede since these fabrics are quite different to real leather and its characteristics. We recommend using strong nylon bonded thread.
If you're anything like me and you enjoy a bit of sparkle or even a lot of it then these needles are perfect for you. These needles are specially designed for work with metalic or rayon thread.
These needles are ideal for embroiderey on woven or knit fabrics. These needles have an extra large eye which mean that they are perfect for extravagant threads. They will freely feed through the large eye without shredding or splitting. If you struggle to thread your needle a metafil needle is would be a good buy because it is also approperiate for general sewing and is much easier to thread due to the large eye.
These needles are extra sharp, they will pierce through any type of fabric. The large eye allows for any type of thread to be used especially thick topstitching threads.
Twin and triple needles
These needles are used for decorating and pin tucking. They need to be used at a reduced speed. Unfotunately these needles are not compatible with every sewing machine so as always we recommend checking your manual before you purchase these needles.
These needles are used to reproduce drawn thread work as they produce holes in the fabric. These needles should only be used in conjunction with with the special stitch options on your sewing machine. We recommend fabrics with natural fibres to be used with these needles. Try using a 60 weight cotton embroidery thread or a rayon silk decorative thread if you're using this needle for decorative purposes. If you don't have a wing needle you can also use a universal needle such as the 100/16 needle for lightweight fabrics such as silk or the 120/19 needle for heavy fabrics such as thick linen.
These needles are designed to be used with many layers of fabric or wadding. The reinforced shaft but unlike the sharps needles they are much shorter which allows quilters to achieve a quick and even stitch. We recommend using size 7 or 8 needles for beginners while longer options are more suitable for experianced quilters. 40 weight cotton thread is what we recommend for these needles as it is heavier and it will show up better on the quilting pieces.
If you’re a quilter these needles along with the quilting needles will be perfect for you. They are perfect fr use with densely woven fabrics, because these needles have a stronger shaft they are perfect for working with several layers of fabric. The stronger shaft keeps the needle from bending or breaking. The sharp point allows the needle to easily penetrate the fabric. The eye is short and round adding to the strenght of the needle, really allowing it to work with many layers of fabric without breaking. These needles are also good for making buttonholes. All purpose thread works perfectly with these needles.
These needles are designed with a large eye so thread such as rayon, polyester or cotton can pass through. Embroidery needles have a pontoon scarf with an oversized bump which reduce the chance of missed stitches from happening by reducing the amount of movement in the fabric.
Few more questions about needles
There are a few more questions that you may have such as what do the numbers on needles mean and how often you should change the needle on your sewing machine.
What do the numbers on needles mean
Have you ever wondered what the numbers on needles mean ? Because I certainly have before i learned what they mean! These stand for the needle size which is very important when it comes to choosing the right needle for your project. There are two numbers on the needle - e.g. 100/16, one stnds for the european sizing and the other stands for the american sizing. FRom thinnest to thickest the European sizes range from 60 to 110 while the American sizes range from 8 to 18. It is not that hard to understand needles once you actually now what these numbers stand for. The 80/12 needle is the most standard and it's probably the type of needle that came with your sewing machine. It is the most common needle used for dressmaking.
Please refer to the chart provided with this post for what needle size you should use with what thread and fabric.
How often should you change your needle
It is generally recommended to change your needle after every project but most people don't do that (shh don't tell anyone!) but for perfect performance you should change your needle after every project.
A good visiual inspection of the needle should also be done after every project especially if you don't plan on changing your needle each time. If your machine jams you should also visually inspect your needle as jams usually lead to your needles bending. Bent needles result in poor quality stitches and no one wants that!
If you hear an unusual thumping sound while sewing you should must definitely change your needle as this sound indicates that your needle is more than likely bent.