Choosing the correct needle for a project can be a troublesome task. With a variety of sizes and specialist options available the choice can be overwhelming. Using the right needle for the job is important if you want to achieve professional results and avoid damaging your fabric.
So where do you start?
There are two things to think about when choosing the correct needle for the job, both of which are based on the fabric and/or thread you will be working with. The fabric and/or thread will determine the correct type and size of sewing machine needle the project requires.
What type of sewing machine needle do I need?
For everyday projects you should work with a Universal Needle, I personally use Schmetz needles but other brands such as Organ and Klasse are available.
Most brands offer needles to suit a variety of different fabrics and threads, the majority of which improve the sewing process and quality of work. However there are certain fabrics that require a specialist needle in order to avoid damaging or ruining the fabric.
What needle do I need for jersey, knit fabrics?
The most important time to change your needle type is when working with jersey, knit or stretch fabrics. Jersey fabrics are knitted rather than woven together and a standard needle with a sharp tip can cut the knit of the fabric causing snags and runs that develop into holes.
The specialist needle to solve these problems is a ballpoint or jersey needle. The needle is shaped with a ballpoint tip and instead of cutting the knit of the fabric, glides between the knitted yarns. The size of the needle must also be considered as jersey fabric comes in a variety of weights.
What needle do I need for stretch fabric?
Stretch fabrics can include jersey/knit fabrics as well as lycra, spandex and other elasticated fabric used for sportswear and swimwear.
A stretch needle works in a similar way to the ballpoint/jersey needle discussed above. However the stretch needle goes further to help prevent skipped stitches in elasticated fabric, perfect for use on swimwear and sportswear.
TIP: If you are working with a jersey/knit fabric and find the machine is skipping stitches I recommend changing the needle from a ballpoint/jersey needle to a stretch needle. This should resolve the problem; it normally occurs with very stretchy, lightweight jersey/knit fabrics.
Most needle companies offer a large variety of options to improve the sewing process with different fabrics and threads:
Leather – features an angled point that cuts a hole in leather
Denim – reinforced to prevent needle breakages, aids sewing thick fabrics
Quilting – tapered shaft aids sewing layers of fabric, reduces skipped stitches
Microtex (Sharp) – sharp point, perfect for sewing densely woven fabrics
What needle should I use for topstitching?
Working with speciality threads may also require a needle change. Topstitching threads should be used with a topstitching needle to avoid thread breakages and uneven stitches; the needle eye is larger than usual to cope with the thicker thread.
Do I need a different needle when sewing with metallic or embroidery thread?
The same applies to metallic thread and speciality embroidery threads. The embroidery needles and metallic needles are designed to cope with the thicker, fragile threads, preventing breaking and shredding of the thread during use.
Once the needle type has been considered it will also be important to look at the needle size. Most of the speciality needles will come in a range of sizes to deal with their specific fabric requirements. What size sewing machine needle should I use?