What Type of Needle Should I Use?

by Gary Walker

Machine-Needle-DiagramWe can’t stress enough how important it is to choose the correct type and size machine needle to achieve optimum stitching results.

Most sewers are aware that needles vary in size to accommodate different fabric and thread weights. Universal needles, the most common, vary in size from find 60/8 to thicker 20/120 and larger. A find needle is required for delicate fabrics ie, Batiste and Voile and is used with fine thread such as 80 weight.

  • Thread weight runs in the opposite direction to needle size ie, the larger the number the finer the thread).

At the other end of the scale, where several layers of heavy duty canvas are being seamed, a thicker thread will be used and a much larger needle will be required. For general purposes a size 80/12 needle is most commonly chosen.

An important detail in the design of a needle, and one that is often overlooked, is the shape. As you can see in the diagram, each section has a function to perform. Some needles may only have one change to the standard design while others may have several. By changing just one section of the needle to suit different fabric types eg, the point, many stitching problems can be solved.

As technology increases, so does the variety of fabrics and threads available and machine needle manufacturers are busy keeping up with the demand to solve any stitching problems that may arise. And they are certainly doing good work as the variety of needles available is truly amazing.

It is only possible to show a limited variety here, however it may help you to be more aware that different needles are designed to perform different tasks. Many stitching problems could be solved by changing to the type of needle best suited to the fabric, thread and sewing technique intended.

  1. Shank – The top of the needle help by the needle bar
  2. Shaft or Blade – Extends from the base of the shank to the point
  3. Long Groove – The groove on the rounded side (front) of the needle provides a protective channel for the thread to sit in as the needle penetrates the fabric
  4. Eye – Carried the upper thread into the bobbin case
  5. Point – The tip that penetrates the fabric
  6. Scarf – Short indent on the flat side (back) of the needle. Allows the hook of the bobbin case to get close to the needle eye and catch the thread
  7. Ballpoint (BP)

For Knit, Jersey and Interlock. To eliminate runs and ladders the rounded tip pushes the fibres apart instead of cutting through them.

Metalfil Needle (MN)

Designed for sewing with metallic and fine decorative threads. An enlarged eye allows the thread to feed freely and a special shaped scarf protects the threads from shredding as the needle penetrates the fabric. Also suitable for general-purpose sewing and the larger eye is a bonus if you’re having difficulty threading the needle.

Sharps / Microtex (S/M)

The sharp point is designed for stitching tightly woven and synthetic fabrics such as Microfibre. Also giving a very straight stitch which is ideal for Top-Stitching.

Quilting (Q)

A fine sharpened point to pierce layered fabric and give a straighter stitch. A reinforced shaft reduces needle deflection.


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