Have you ever been sewing and wondered why your thread kept breaking, or wouldn’t sew through your fabric?
The culprit could be that you’re using the wrong needle!
When buying sewing machine needles, it might seem like they all do the same thing.
I mean, come on, they’re all just pointy with a hole for thread, right?
Wrong! Different sewing needles actually serve different purposes, and today we’re going to give you a handy guide to the 14 best needles to use for your sewing projects so your stitching always looks beautiful and seams always come out clean!
Sewing Needle Anatomy
First, let’s get to know all the parts of the sewing needle. Here’s a quick glossary, so you know what you’re dealing with.
Shank – This is the top, thicker half of the needle that goes into your sewing machine.
Round Side/Flat Side – One side of the shank is rounded, and the other is flat. When inserting your needle into a sewing machine, the round side should be facing you and the flat side should be towards the back.
Shoulder – This is where the needle transitions from the shank to the shaft, basically where the needle tapers from the thicker top half to the skinnier bottom half.
Shaft – This is the main body of the needle and is typically more slender than the shank. The size of the shaft determines the needle size/number.
Front Groove – This slit runs the length of the needle on the front and keeps thread in place while stitching by cradling it above the eye of the needle.
Scarf – This round indentation in the back of the needle allows the bobbin thread to hook smoothly.
Eye – The hole in the needle where thread passes through.
Point – The sharp end of the needle that pierces fabric as you sew. If the point is dull, it can cause your thread to keep breaking while you’re sewing.
Yes, those little numbers on your needle pack actually do mean something! Different sized needles are created for sewing on different fabric weights and types.
The number indicates the size or thickness of the needle. The higher the number, the thicker the needle.
You’ll probably see two numbers, something that looks like 12/80. The smaller number is the American measurement, and the larger is the European or metric size.
For general sewing, you’ll probably want to start with a 12/80 or 14/90 sized needle, and adjust up or down from there.
Thinner needles are good for delicate fabrics because they can pierce through easily without leaving big holes. Thicker needles are obviously better for standing up against heavier fabrics without breaking.
Before you just throw any old needle in your machine and get sewing, here’s a handy reference guide from My Childhood Treasures of which size needle is best suited for your project!
The Top 14 Best Needles for Sewing
- Universal Needle
As the name denotes, the universal needle is good for pretty much all basic sewing. In fact, this is the needle that comes with most standard sewing machines.
This general needle features a slightly rounded point making it good for woven and knit fabrics. For sewing on any regular cotton projects, the universal needle is your best bet.
Pro Tip: It’s always a good idea to have an extra pack of universal needles on hand! There’s nothing worse than having your last needle break right in the middle of a project, and the universal needle can be subbed in for most needles.
Best for: Woven fabrics, knits, cotton, poly/cotton, silks, linen, nylon, polyester, tulle, velour, organza, wool and fleece.
- Ball Point Needle
The ball point needle has a rounded point that allows it to slip through the yarns and threads of fabrics without cutting them.
The rounded end basically allows it to slide between fibers rather than through them, so it helps you avoid snagging, runs or creating holes while you’re sewing.
Best for: Cotton knits, jersey, polyester, poly/cotton, rib knits, double knits, interlock knits, spandex.
- Stretch Needle
If you’ve ever tried sewing on stretch fabric and wanted to send your machine sailing out of a window because your thread keeps breaking, skipping or tangling, don’t blame yourself, blame your needle.
A stretch needle is designed specifically with a larger scarf that creates bigger loops in the stitches to avoid broken or skipped stitches.
This needle is a must for 2-way stretch fabrics (like the kind that bathing suits are made of) and makes installing elastic much easier too!
Best for: Stretch knits, lycra, spandex, elastic, silk jersey, dance and swimwear fabric.
- Jeans/Denim Needle
This needle is made for, you guessed it, sewing heavier fabrics like jeans and denim.
The shaft of the needle is super sturdy and thicker, and the point is really sharp with a slender eye. This allows the needle to pierce through heavy fabrics without breaking.
Definitely use one of these needles if you’re hemming/altering jeans or working on thicker fabrics. It’s far better than the frustration (and cost!) of breaking a bunch of thinner needles.
Best for: Denim, canvas, twill, topstitching heavy fabrics.
- Sharps/Microtex Needle
This needle has a super sharp point that allows it to effortlessly penetrate fine, densely-woven fabrics.
It’s also ideal for detailed topstitching, appliques and creating button holes since the sharp point gives you precision and accuracy while stitching.
Best for: Vinyl, silk, densely-woven fabrics, synthetic leather/suede, microfiber, taffeta, sequined fabrics, appliques.
- Quilting Needle
When you’re making a quilt, you’re sewing through multiple layers of cotton and batting, and you need all your beautiful and hard work to stay in place.
The quilting needle is designed with a long, sharp point that allows it to go through multiple layers at once without disturbing them and keeps your stitches straight and uniform.
Best for: Quilting, sewing through or topstitching multiple layers of fabric including batting.
- Embroidery Needle
The embroidery needle includes a larger eye that allows thicker threads, like those used in embroidery, to pass through without tangling or breaking as you sew. The scarf also protects threads from fraying or breaking when sewing at high speeds.
It also features a super sharp point to penetrate fabrics – or multiple layers – easily so you can show off your amazing decorative stitching skills with ease!
Best for: Decorative stitching with rayon, polyester, cotton, acrylic or specialty embroidery thread.
- Topstitching Needle
Like the embroidery needle, the topstitching needle has a large eye to allow thicker threads to pass through. The difference is that it has a slightly longer, sharper point so it can easily go through medium to heavyweight fabrics or several layers.
Best for: Topstitching, decorative stitching.
- Metallic Needle
Creating decorative stitching with metallic thread can be tricky, but it’s easier when you have the right needle!
A metallic needle has a large eye, long scarf and sharp point, all of which work together so you can work with thick, metallic threads without them breaking.
Best for: Metallic or monofilament threads.
- Leather Needle
If you’ve ever tried sewing through leather with a regular needle, you know it can be almost impossible to do without your thread breaking.
Make things easy and get a leather needle. It has a unique chiseled, sharp point that cuts as it sews so it can go right through super heavy fabrics.
Best for: Natural leather or suede. DO NOT use with synthetic leather, suede or vinyl!
- Self-Threading Needle
A self-threading needle?! What is this wizardry?
It is as good as it sounds. It’s basically a universal needle with a slit in the side of the eye. Instead of breaking out the magnifying glass and thread wax in an attempt to get the end of the thread through the tiny eye, you simply slide the thread down the needle until it pops into the eye.
Honestly, why don’t they just make all needles like this?
Best for: Wovens, knits, synthetic leather and suede.
- Wing Needle
Used mostly for decorative and heirloom stitching, the wing needle has flares on each side of the shaft which produces bigger holes.
Best for: Heirloom stitching.
- Twin Needle
The twin needle is actually a fun little shank that holds two needles side by side so you can create perfect double rows of stitching.
You can use this for hems, topstitching or decorative stitches. Throw an extra spool pin on your bobbin winder to hold a second spool of thread, and get to double stitching!
Best for: Creating double rows of stitching. Can be used with universal, denim, stretch, embroidery or metallic needles. You can also use it with one universal and one wing needle.
- Triple Needle
Like the twin needle, the triple needle is a single shank that holds three needles. Use this to create decorative top stitching or embroidery.
The triple needle can typically only be used with universal needles, and you should also make sure your sewing machine is triple needle compatible.
Best for: Decorative topstitching or hemming.
Hooray! Say goodbye to the headaches of broken threads, skipped stitches, busted seams and going through tons of snapped needles!
Now you know how to find the perfect needle for every sewing project so you stitch like a master and sew like a pro!
Did you discover a new needle that will make your sewing easier? (So did we!) Tell us which ones you’ll try using on future projects in the comments section!