Do I Need A Special Needle To Sew Denim?

The sturdy fabrics of denims have long been famed for being the stuff of nightmares for beginner home sewers. No doubt, you’re going to find it difficult if not near impossible to sew denims with the same tools used for normal fabrics. So, what exactly do you need to change? Is your sewing machine able to handle such projects or do you simply need a special needle for this type of fabric? I’ll be answering these questions in subsequent paragraphs.

Do I Need A Special Needle To Sew Denim?

Yes, a special jeans/denim needle is required to handle a denim project. This type of needle is longer, sharper, and features a bigger eye that allows it to accommodate the thickness of the thread used for sewing denim. Also, if your fabric is a stretch denim, then you certainly need a stretch needle. The sturdy nature of a denim fabric means normal needles would not be able to handle its requirements.

A needle is one of many tools you’ll need to sew denims perfectly on a regular sewing machine. The nature of their fabric means you can’t sew them with the same materials or style that you use when sewing regular fabrics like polyester.

What Type Of Needle Should I Use To Sew Denims

There are several types of needles meant to handle different fabrics and sewing types. You can’t possibly use the same needle for sewing polyester to sew denims. The denim fabric is stronger and feature several layers that only a special kind of needle can handle. The special denim needle possesses a strong shaft and sharp point. They can stitch through several layers without breaking.

Apart from denims, these kinds of needles can also be used on other strong, tightly woven fabrics like duck and canvass. Another important factor to consider before buying a needle to sew your denim is the needle’s size. You’ll find that there are two types of sizes separated by ‘/’. The European sizing is the larger number while the smaller number denotes American sizing. Your preferred needle size for any project should be based on the weight of your fabric.

The perfect needle size for sewing denims is 100/16. Using anything less would cause your needle to bend or break. Regardless of the kind of needle you buy, you need to change them once every 5 or 6 hours. It’s inevitable that your needle will wear out after several hours of usage, hence, the need to change them to achieve better results. When you start to notice snagging, bunching, and skipped stitches, then it’s time to change your needle.

Denim fabric is heavy and as such, should be handled with care. No matter the strength of the needle you use, sewing denims at a fast pace will ruin them quickly. It is, therefore, paramount to reduce your sewing speed when working on denims.

Tips to Make Sewing Denim Hassle-Free

The following are steps to take while sewing denims to ensure the process is as seamless as possible.

  • Prewash: Before sewing, you may want to prewash your denims to soften them and help make it easier for you to work with. In fact, it would actually be a great idea to wash and dry your denim more than once before sewing. Washing more than once prevents color transfer and also helps your denim from shrinking since they are made of cotton fibers. When buying your denim fabric, be sure to inquire from the store if the fabric you’re buying is Sanforized.

Sanforized denims have already been prewashed and treated to reduce their shrinkage to 1%. If your denims are Sanforized, you can go ahead to sew without prewashing. If you have to choose, raw denims are preferable. They come with deeper colors which are obviously more attractive. Sanforized denims are treated with chemicals that reduces the natural denim color.

  • Use Sharp Tool: Using a new blade and a pair of scissors on the rotary cutter will help you cut out pattern pieces a lot easier. If you’re working with a denim fabric that has multi layers, you’ll need to cut through a layer at a time. Also, if you find that your pins bend easily, upgrade to stronger pins that can handle the project.
  • Getting a Presser Foot: There’s no rule that says you can’t use your standard presser foot while sewing denims. Yet, a specialty presser foot is the way to go if you’re hoping to make your job easier. A walking foot can help prevent your fabric from shifting around as you sew. You may also want to try a jean presser foot, although it’s not available for all sewing machine types. If you’re lucky to find one for your machine, getting it is a no brainer.  if you’re going to add topstitching, buying an edge stitching foot will make your job much easier.
  • Getting a Quality Thread: The topstitching thread is the ideal thread type for sewing denims. If you can’t lay your hands on one, you may use a double spool of thread to get the thickness that’s perfect for denims. If your sewing machine has an additional spool pin, attach it and proceed to thread your machine and needle with the two threads from the spool.
  • Ideal Thread Tension: Thread tension refers to the control of how tight the bobbin thread and spool is pulled. On most machines, the thread tension is set manually. These machines have variable settings where you can choose from loose to tight. In your manual, you should find recommendations on setting thread tension for different fabrics. Denims and other thick fabrics require a high thread tension.

Can I Sew Denim With Regular Sewing Machine?

While sewing denims with your regular sewing machine can be challenging, it is not impossible. As long as your home sewing machine is not an overly cheap brand that’s hardly strong, a few tweaks can make it possible to sew them at home. To pull this off, you need to get needles and threads that are made specifically for sewing sturdy fabrics like denims.

Try not to sew many fabric layers at a time as your regular sewing machine can’t handle multi denim layers. The key is to sew at a slow pace. While this might be a bit frustrating for sewers who are used to sewing without the handbrake on, you have to accept that denims are not your regular fabrics.

To determine the ideal sewing speed, practice with a scrap denim fabric. Try to sew at different speeds and determine your optimal speed that isn’t too slow or fast. Usually, your speed will fall between 700 to 1200 stitches per minute. You can thus adjust your speed slider to match the pace that works for you.

If you’re sewing a denim fabric that has many layers, you’ll need an industrial sewing machine that is capable of handling such projects. Also, if you don’t have the patience to go through the process of sewing denims with regular machines, your best option is to get an industrial sewing machine.

Related Questions

How Do You Sew Seams When Sewing A Denim Fabric?

When using regular seams, you need to trim your seam to avoid bulk. Clip your seam allowance after every 1 inch especially if you’re working with a curvy seam. Be sure to grade your seam allowance as well.

Can You Sew Denims By Hand?

Yes, it is possible to sew denims by hand stitches, although it can be quite difficult. To pull this off, you need a quality thread that won’t break easily. Also, try to use a quality needle that is long, sharp, and has a big eye.

What Is The Ideal Machine Setting While Sewing Denims?

When sewing pieces of denim, set your machine stitch length to 3.5 – 4. You might need the turn of your hand wheel to navigate thicker seams.



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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