How to Choose the Perfect Needle Type for Your Sewing Project

comments (2) June 4th, 2008     

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Shannon_Dennis Shannon Dennis, contributor
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Needles come in all types and sizes and knowing their attributes can make a huge difference in your sewing.

Needles come in all types and sizes and knowing their attributes can make a huge difference in your sewing.

Photo: Courtesy of Jooliree/Flickrz

When I first started sewing, I never knew how important needles were. I would sew for hours—months, really—on the same needle until it would break—so bad! But I have come a long way since I was seven years old. Today, I want to share with you some of the things I’ve learned about the most common types of needles.

  • Universal: Universal needles are the most reliable choices for most fabrics. Universal needles have slightly rounded points and slightly longer scarfs. When in doubt, use a universal needle in the correct size (check out my post on needle sizes here).
  • Leather: Perfect for sewing leather. It has a point designed to cut the leather as the needle sews. Before you use a leather needle on “leather,” make sure you aren’t sewing on synthetic leather. Synthetic leathers usually need a microtex or sharp needle.
  • Topstitching: Topstitching needles are my best friend. Not only are they perfect for topstitching, but they are also perfect for metallic threads. Topstitching needles have an extra pointy tip, a large groove for heavy topstitching threads, and an extra-large eye.
  • Wing: Wing needles are sometimes also called "hemstitching" needles and are typically used in heirloom work and embroidery on linen and batiste fabrics. The needle has “wings” on the sides of the shank that create an extra-large hole in the fabric when you sew. This needle is beautiful to use with decorative stitches in general but is especially eye-catching with entre deux stitches.
  • Twin: A twin needle has two blades suspended from one shaft. It is used mostly in decorative stitching but also in pin tucking and topstitching. There is usually a set of numbers on the needle package, ranging from 1.0 to 6mm that indicates the distance between the needle points. Be sure to use any safety features that you may have in your machine when combining decorative stitches and twin needles so that you don’t choose a stitch that (when combined with a twin needle) would be too wide for your stitch-plate hole.
  • Ballpoint/Stretch: Ballpoint and stretch needles are similar in the sense that they both have rounded points that penetrate between the fibers in the fabric rather than pierce them. This is the perfect needle to use for knits.
  • Sharp: Sharp needles have very sharp points. They are perfect for microfibers and silks.
  • Jeans: Jean needles have a deep scarf and a sharp point. They are best used on denim, heavy canvas, vinyl, and upholstery fabric.


posted in: leather, jeans, wing, universal, sharp, topstitching, twin, ballpoint

Comments (2)

ChildfreeTrophyWife writes: Thanks! I had never heard of the wing needle until now. I'm still looking for a good and safe way to discard old needles...any suggestions anyone?
Posted: 9:07 pm on August 26th
AmberE writes: Thanks, Shannon! Very helpful!
Posted: 6:13 pm on June 4th
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