Everyone knows that needles are integral to sewing; it’s one of the tools that executes your vision, along with the fabric and thread. Using the wrong needle for the project you’re working on won’t bring about fatal catastrophe, but you may end up with broken needles, screwed-up stitches, or sadness. This is our guide through the names, details, and types of sewing you’d do with some of the most popular needles out there.
Before you head to the store, make sure you know whether your fabric is knit or woven, and what material it’s made of. For most of these needle types, you’ll need to be sure that once you’ve selected the correct type of needle, you select the right size of needle as well, which will vary based on the heaviness and thickness of the fabric.
Sewing Machine Needles
- Universal Needles – This is your basic all-around champ for tasks that aren’t too special. Not too sharp and not too dull, this is a great choice for woven fabrics and synthetics.
- Ballpoint Needles – These needles have a rounded point made for knit fabrics. The rounded tip is meant to slip between the yarns and not rip or catch on them. Some examples of knit fabrics include anything jersey knit, fleece knit, or rib knit.
- Straight Point/Sharps/Regular Point – The biggest upside of this needle is—you guessed it—it’s sharp and sturdy. It will go through several layers of fabric, and is optimal for densely woven fabrics including silk and microfiber.
- Embroidery Needles – For this needle, it’s best to make sure you’re purchasing the right embroidery needle for the kind of work you want to do, so make sure you do your research on stitching speed, stitch counts, and the kind of fabric you’re working with. The defining characteristic of the embroidery needle is its wide eye, which allows fabric to easily slip through.
- Between Needles/Quilting Needles – Like the sharps needle, this is meant for a lot of layers of fabric, but it’s even better for quilting. It’s ideal because it leaves behind the tiniest holes.
- Denim/Jeans Needle – This one’s pretty self-explanatory—you use it for denim! This needle is technically an “extra credit” needle, because you can sew with a universal or topstitching needle if you have to, but you’re risking skipped stitches or mistakes.
- Leather Needles – Again, you probably only need one guess for what this is for. This “extra credit” needle is for genuine leather and suede, not imitations or fakes. Sometimes known as “chisel” needles, it’s got a blunter, wedge-like point.
- Twin/Double Needles – This machine-only kind of needle is actually just two needles that a machine can operate at one time. Make sure your machine has a double needle attachment, otherwise your machine won’t be able to do it.
Hand Sewing Needles
Although many of the kinds of needles will overlap between machine sewing and hand sewing, the needles’ characteristics are in different places, and so you’ll have to buy separate sewing needles for hand stitching, even though their points and eyes will often be similar to machine sewing needles.
- Yarn Needles – These are like the fun kids of the needle family. Usually made out of plastic or a similar material and without any sharpness at all, these are for hand sewing crochet projects or other fabrics made of yarn.
- Straight Point/Sharps/Regular Point/General Purpose – For hand sewing, the jack-of-all-trades general purpose needle is a sharp, not a universal needle (which is only for machine sewing).
- Cotton Darners – These are long, sharp needles with long eyes specifically for darning. Although it can be done by machine, it’s often done by hand. Warning: Owning darning needles will instantly make you feel like a homemaker in the early 1800’s.
- Crewel Needles – This is an “extra credit” needle, since Crewel is a specific kind of embroidery done by hand (or an embroidery machine) with wool yarn.
Hand Sew AND Machine Use Needles
In case you missed it, here’s an at-a-glance list of the needles that come in machine sewing style and hand sewing style:
- Ballpoint Needle
- Embroidery Needle
- Between/Quilting Needle
- Leather Needle
- Straight Point/Sharps/Regular Point Needle