What would you do with a sewing machine without a needle? That fancy machine with all the levers, wheels, hooks, bobbins and whatnot is a piece of junk without a needle. Going a step further, you also need the right sewing machine needle for each job otherwise you might not get any stitching done.
How to Identify Sewing Machine Needles
Sewing machines needles can be identified with size, design, purpose and other properties. However, there are about nine or so standard and special-purpose types that are used across sewing machines regardless of the brand. Some of the common sewing machine needle types across all categories include universal needles, quilting needles, jeans needles, ballpoint needles, wing needles, among others.
You will need a specific needle fitted on your sewing machine depending on the job you are doing or the type of fabric you are working on. For instance, a jeans needle is designed to stitch tough jeans fabric while quilting needles are even stronger in design and can be used to join two or more fabric together while quilting.
Using the wrong needle type and even size can cause problems either with the stitching or worse, the machine so how would you know which one to use? Here are 9 of the most common needles you might use and a where or how to use them on any sewing machine.
9 Common Types of Sewing Machine Needles
Universal Sewing Needle
A universal needle is every designer’s friend because it can be used for anything and any fabric. From denim to cotton fabrics, woolen fabrics to velvets. A universal needle is designed for general stitching jobs that don’t need a lot of detail. As a result, they are safest to use If you are a beginner or are not sure of the needle to go for.
In terms of design, a standard universal needle will have an elongated scarf, a bobbin hook and a rounded point. They come in different sizes, so be sure to choose the right one based on the job or material you are working on. Universal needles are the most available type of needle and usually found on most needle kits. That said, you should always find a specialized needle if you want the best results unless you have limited options or you don’t mind improvising.
Every designer or tailor will find themselves having to do some quilting from time to time. Since quilting involves joining multiple fabrics, you will need a specialized needle that is designed and sized to handle the job. A quilting needle, as the name suggests, is designed for quilting and stippling jobs, either on a standard sewing machine or a specialized quilting machine.
In terms of design, a quilting needle has a distinctively reinforced and tapered shaft, shorter than standard needles. Quilting needles can be identified by their weight and thickness. In addition to quilting and stippling, some designers prefer to improvise and use quilting needles for tougher fabrics and materials such as leather when making bags.
A Jeans needle offers the strength and toughness needed to stitch jeans/denim fabric. You can easily identify a denim needle by its looks. It has a reinforced blade, a slightly longer scarf and a special shaft. Some brands usually use a blue-coloured band on the shank to show that it’s a denim needle and different colors below it to denote the size.
You may find yourself using once denim needles for all jobs regardless of the thickness and type of denim you are stitching. However, denim needles, as with every other sewing needle, do come in different sizes starting from 70/10 all the way to 40/100. For heavy denim or very thick threads, you are better with a bigger needle like a 100/16. Finer denim can be handled with a smaller sized needle.
Ball Point Needles
A ballpoint sewing needle gets its name from the shape of its tip. It’s called a ballpoint needle because of its rounded tip perfect for stitching coarse or tightly woven fabrics such as casement cloth, cheesecloth, chiffon fabric, some corduroys and cambric fabrics. The rounded tip ensures that you don’t create any holes or cuts through these tightly woven fabrics. Ballpoint needles come in all sizes starting from 70/1- to 100/16.
Wing Needles/ Hemstitching Needles
The Wing needle has wing-like flanges or “fins” on the sides that will create a hole on the fabric which is later sustained by a stitch. As the name suggests, wing or hemstitching needles are used for decorative finishes on borders. They can also be used in embroidery and other decorative projects on special material such as batiste or linen. Wing needles can be bought as size 100/16 all the way to 120/19 depending on the size of the decorative holes to be created.
A spring needle is equipped with a special spring around the shaft that replaces the sewing machine’s presser foot. The spring allows the needle to press into the fabric much like the presser foot does and releases it when the needle moves in the opposite direction. Spring needles are used for free-motion quilting and special embroidery jobs. You will find spring needles on most embroidery machines.
Sharp Needles/ Microtex
As the name suggests, a sharp needle has a rather sharp tip perfect for striking through thin layers of soft fabric when quilting and sewing thin and delicate fabric such as synthetic leather, microfiber and even silk. Its sharp tip allows you to create very tiny, almost invisible holes on the fabric, preserving its structural integrity and aesthetic appearance. A sharp needle requires a bit of skill to use and should not be used on heavy fabric.
A Microtex needle can also be used for topstitching and heirloom stitching. They come in all sizes starting from 60/8 all the way to 90/14. Be sure to choose a good size depending on how finely woven a piece of fabric is.
The name has nothing to do with the material used to make this needle. Instead, metallic needles get their name from the type of thread used on them. A metallic needle is used with metallic thread. They have a large eye and a very sharp and strong tip to ensure the metallic thread goes through the fabric unimpeded. The needle has a specially designed scarf meant to protect the metallic thread that can easily break.
Also known as a handicap needle, this one is designed for those who may have vision problems and cannot thread a needle. Instead of a standard eye, the handicap needle has a vertical slot on one side of the eye that allows you to insert a thread with relative ease and bring it through the other eye. It’s is basically a standard needle with a twist for those with vision problems.
How Do I Know What Sewing Machine Needle to Use?
Choosing the right sewing needle can make your life easier as a tailor. Use the type of fabric as the first criteria when choosing a sewing needle if you are looking for a specialized needle. However, the project you are working on also dictates the sewing needle you go for. For instance, a wing needle will be the natural choice if you are working on a hem or any decorative finishing project.
Can You Use Any Needle for Every Sewing Machine?
Sewing needles are made to work on any sewing machine. You shouldn’t have any trouble using any modern sewing needle with any sewing machine. However, some older antiques may be incompatible with certain types of needles, especially special purpose needles such as spring needles. Be sure to read through your machine’s manual to know which sewing needles are recommended for your particular model.