Quick tips indeed!  I have found out the hard way over the years that while universal sewing machine needles work well, if you want to do the job right and have a more perfect finish then the right needle makes all the difference.  I’ve had so many needles break mid-job, or snag the fabric, or just plain look bad.  So if you’ve spent your money on your favorite prints from our many online shoppers (hint, hint), you certainly want to take care to do it right!

sewing machine needles

Here’s a photo I found at Threads Magazine.  It breaks down the basic anatomy of a needle.  I’m not sure I ever took the time to notice quite so much detail!

The key features of a standard machine needle are called out below. Their configuration varies from needle type to type.

parts of a needle

parts of a needle

Top of needle that inserts into machine; most often has round front and flat back, which seats needle in right position.

Body of needle below shank. Shaft thickness determines needle size.

Front groove
Slit above needle eye, should be large enough to “cradle” thread for smooth stitches.

Needle tip that penetrates fabric to pass thread to bobbin-hook and form stitch. Shape of point varies among needle types.

Indentation at back of needle. A long scarf helps eliminate skipped stitches by allowing bobbin hook to loop thread more easily. A shorter scarf requires a more perfectly timed machine.

Hole in end of needle through which thread passes. Needle size and type determine size and shape of eye.

Aren’t you glad you know all that now?  There’s more to a needle than just the eye!  I’m learning so much…

sale fabric

Sew..a needle pulling thread

Standard needles

needle types

needle types

The features of these needles is to the particular fabric to be sewn.

Universal needle
Uses: Safest needle choice for most fabrics.
Features: Has slightly rounded point and elongated scarf to enable almost foolproof meeting of needle and bobbin hook.
Troubleshooting: When fabric is not medium-weight woven, consider needle specifically suited to fabric. For example, size 18 universal needle works on heavy denim, but size 18 jeans needle works better.

Ballpoint and stretch needles
Uses: Ballpoint needle for heavier, looser sweater knits; stretch needle for highly elastic fabrics, like
Spandex, or Lycra.
Features: Both have rounded points that penetrate between fabric threads rather than pierce them. (Stretch-needle point is slightly less rounded than ballpoint.)
Troubleshooting: Test-stitch knits with ballpoint, stretch, and universal needles to see which doesn’t cut yarn and yields best results. If ballpoint skips stitches, try stretch needle.

Denim needle
Uses: For heavyweight denim, duck, canvas, upholstery fabrics, artificial leather, and vinyl.
Features: Has deeper scarf, acute point, and modified shaft to sew without pushing fabric down into needle-plate hole. Goes through fabric and meets bobbin hook better on dense woven fabrics.
Troubleshooting: If stitches skip when sewing very heavy fabrics, try larger needle and sew more slowly or walk needle through fabric (by turning hand crank).

Microtex and sharp needles
Uses: Sewing microfiber, silk, synthetic leather; precisely stitching edges; and heirloom sewing.
Features: Has an acute point.
Troubleshooting: Essentially trouble-free, but fabric may require a Teflon, roller, or even/dual-feed presser foot.

Leather needle
Uses: Excellent for sewing natural leather.
Features: Has slight cutting point.
Troubleshooting: On synthetic leather, unless it’s very heavy synthetic, cuts rather than pierces stitch hole and can tear leather. Most synthetic leathers require Microtex or sharp needle.


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