A Guide To Sewing Needles

Tired of confusing needle types and struggling to understand needle size charts? Ringing a bell seam-star?

Well, the good thing is you’re not the only one! It can be suuuper duper confusing, especially if you’ve recently started sewing.

But every day is a school day, which is why we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to sewing needles to help you navigate the world of needles.

Or if you’re a seasoned seam-star this is a great refresher to brush up on your knowledge.

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Choosing The Correct Sewing Machine Needle

Needle Sizes

Have you ever wondered why sewing machine needles have two numbers on either side of a slash? 

Both numbers reference the European and American metric systems. The higher number is European and the smaller number is American.

Longarm needles tend to have 3 numbers, both European and American as well as the Longarm sizes. 

When it comes to sewing machine needles, always remember the bigger the number(s) the bigger the needle.

However, the opposite is true for hand-sewing needles! The bigger the number the finer & smaller the needle will be.

Remember the thread on a sewing machine must sit fully in the groove of the needle without any movement on either side. This ensures the thread doesn’t unravel. However, the eye of the needle must be large enough for the thread to pass through with minimal friction. 

Keep an eye out as some thread manufacturers offer needle size and type suggestions, but others do not. 

We’ve made a sewing needle size chart! So remember to come back to it if you ever need a hand buying or picking needles.

Sewing Machine Needles

European SizesAmerican Sizes

Longarm Needles

12 80

Top Tip: When your sewing machine drops or skips stitches, it’s usually caused by needle damage. Or occasionally a mismatch between the size of the thread and the needle. Try changing your needle, this usually fixes the problem.

Different Types Of Machine Needles

Embroidery Needles:

These special needles have a big eye, are polished and are designed for rayon and polyester threads.

Making them ideal for all types of embroidery including crewel work, cross-stitch, pulled thread, needle point and many more types. 

Chenille Needles:

Another great embroidery needle is the Chenille needle, they are different to a regular embroidery needle.

Often referred to as a combination between a tapestry needle and a crewel or embroidery needle. They are sized the same as tapestry needles.

Usually starting at size 14 and all the way up to size 28 (which is the finest needle you can find).

Longarm Needles:

Longarm needles are stronger, they can withhold faster sewing speeds making them solid and durable and perfect for a speedy sew.

Metallic Needles:

Sewing with metallic needles is ideal if you’re using heavier thread. This needle has an enlarged, polished eye to prevent shredding and or splitting of thread.

Quilting Needles:

Featuring a strong, tapered shaft these needles have the ability to sew through multiple layers without breaking.

Ideal for those thick quilts and fluffy wadding!

Topstitch Needles:

Topstitch needles tend to have a very sharp point allowing for precise stitches.

They are ideal for woven fabric and they also have long eyes and grooves for thicker threads.

Universal Needles:

Universal needles aren’t as sharp as other regular needles. They are tapered allowing them to glue through the fabric without pulling threads on the weave.

They’re usually suitable for most types of fabric.

Denim Needles:

These are more heavy-duty needles designed to be used with denim.

As well as being suitable for machine quilting, or any sewing stitch where a strong needle is required.

Ballpoint Needles:

With a rounded tip, ballpoint needles are designed to be used on jersey, stretch and synthetic fabrics.

They are also great for sewing knit fabric.

Leather Needles:

One of the sharpest cut point needles. These are designed to pierce authentic leather, artificial leather as well as other thick non-wovens.

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Hand Needle Types

Sharps Needle:

Sharps handheld needles are often short to medium length with sharp points, used for a wide range of hand-sewing tasks.

Betweens Needles:

These are usually short, sharp needles used in hand quilting. As well as other sewing makes that require precise accuracy when sewing.

Embroidery, Crewel, Darning Needles:

Hand embroidery or crewel needles also have sharp points much like their counterparts. However, they also have eyes that are wider than the shaft of the needle. 

Embroidery refers to intricate stitches made with floss or thread. Crewel refers to the same stitches but sewn with wool thread. But the needle is the same in the embroidery & crewel techniques.

Straw/Milliners Needles:

These are long needles with round eyes, traditionally used for hat making. However, they can also be used for hand sewing.

They are often the choice of preference for those who prefer longer needles.

Tapestry Needles:

These needles are often used in needlepoint, petit point, counted cross-stitch and plastic canvas work. They have a large eye with a blunt, round point.

So that’s our ultimate guide to sewing needles! We hope you’ve brushed up on your knowledge and picked up on a few needle tips along the way.

Did you find this sewing needle guide helpful?

Let us know in the comments below!

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