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Sewing Machine Needles: 10 Popular Types

For some reason, sewing machine needles don’t get as much attention as fabrics do. But the needle you choose can have a huge impact on how your latest sewing project turns out.

You know what’s great about sewing machine needles? You can find the perfect needle to suit just about any need.

  • Want to make a quilt?
  • Want to use denim?
  • Want to use metallic thread?

There are sewing machine needles designed to make all of the above as easy as possible.

On the other hand, if you want an all-purpose needle that can handle many different kinds of sewing tasks, your bases are covered there too.

Having so many sewing machine needles to choose from can be a little overwhelming, at least at first. But, strange as it sounds, knowing what’s available can actually help ease some of the confusion.

With that in mind, here is a list of ten of the most popular sewing machine needles.

1. Universal Needles

The rest of this list is in alphabetical order. But it’s hard to list the different types of sewing machine needles without starting with the universal needle.

Whether you’re new to sewing on a sewing machine, or you have years of experience, this is the needle you’re probably most familiar with.

There are many different specialty needles out there designed to handle specific sewing projects. The universal needle, on the other hand, is a sort of all-purpose sewing machine needle.

It can be used for a wide variety of sewing tasks, especially everyday tasks like repairing a ripped shirt or sewing on a button. You can also use universal needles for beginner projects with simple patterns and fabrics that are easy to work with.

You can use a universal needle with both natural and synthetic materials. And, unlike most sewing machine needles, universal needles can be used on knit fabrics and woven fabrics.

This needle has a point sharp enough to pierce woven fabrics. However, the point is also slightly rounded, which makes it relatively safe to use on some knit fabrics.

On the downside, universal needles don’t handle multiple layers well. They also don’t tend to work well on thick fabrics with high thread counts.

2. Ball Point Needles

Ball point sewing machine needles are best suited for knit fabrics, especially those that are heavy or coarse.

The tip of this needle is more rounded than the tip of the universal needle. Instead of piercing your fabric, the ballpoint needle goes between the threads of the fabric, which keeps it from causing damage to the material.

If you’re working with a fabric that can snag or run, you should probably choose a ball-point needle over a universal needle.

3. Denim or Jeans Needles

One of the first real challengers a sewer faces is trying to work with a thick fabric like denim. Luckily, a denim needle can make working with this material easier.

These sewing machine needles are strong and thick, so they can handle thick, heavy and tightly woven fabrics like denim, imitation leather and canvas. This needle is also a good choice when you need to sew multiple layers of fabric, as you do when making a quilt.

4. Leather Needles

Working with leather is more challenging than working with denim. But leather sewing machine needles can handle the job.

The point of a leather sewing machine needle is wedge-shaped, which allows it to pierce thick materials like suede, vinyl, leather, and faux leather. The wedge-shape also prevents the needle from tearing the material.

A leather needle leaves a permanent hole in your fabric. But a skilled sewer can make these holes seem like an attractive part of the design.  

5. Machine Embroidery Needles

If you want to do embroidery with a machine rather than by hand, you’ll need an embroidery machine, and a nice selection of machine embroidery needles. These needles, with their large eyes, are specially designed to work with machine embroidery threads.

Threads used in machine embroidery tend to be fragile, and can be easily damaged. Embroidery needles are designed to protect the threads from said damage.

6. Metallic Needles

If you’re working with a metallic thread, you’ll want to be using a metallic sewing machine needle.

Metallic threads can be prone to damage. Metallic needles have certain features, like unusually large eyes and very sharp points, which keep the thread from shredding or breaking.

7. Microtex Sharp Needles

These sewing machine needles are the way to go if you’re working with finely woven or high thread count fabrics, like silks, microfibers and batiks. You can also use these needles for jobs that require your stitches to be perfectly straight, like topstitching, edge stitching, and heirloom stitching.

These needles are extremely thin, and have an extremely sharp point. They are also very fragile, and tend to need replacing more often than other needles.

8. Quilting Needles

Quilting involves sewing through two or more layers of fabric. This can be a challenge for some sewing machine needles, especially if the fabrics are thick.

Quilting needles, which are specially designed for machine quilting, have sharp, tapered points that can handle those layers. Using a quilting needle will help keep your stitches even, and will prevent or eliminate skipped stitches.

9. Stretch Needle

Stretch sewing machine needles work well with lightweight knit fabrics that are highly elastic, spandex, silk jersey, and other stretchy materials. And if you’re using synthetic suede in your project, consider using this needle.

Many sewers working with knit fabric for will grab for a ball point needle. But if you’re using a ball-point needle on a knit fabric and are getting skipped stitches, try using a stretch needle instead.

10. Wing Needles

The wing needle (also called the hemstitch needle) can be used to do decorative stitching on tightly woven fabrics, like linen. You can use this needle to do things like hemstitching (of course), openwork, and heirloom stitching. 

Wing needles are extremely sharp, and should be handled with care to prevent injury.

Of course, these aren’t the only types of sewing machine needles available to you. And, depending on the sewing projects you intend to do, you won’t need all of these needles in your collection. But when you’re contemplating your next sewing project, and you want a sewing machine needle that will help you get the best results, this list is a great place to start.

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