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Which Needle Should You Use to Sew Delicate Fabrics?

Don’t be afraid to read about the different types of sewing machine needles in this post. A 12 universal sewing needle can be used for general sewing, and an 11-sharp sewing machine is available for embroidery. It is nice to have options.

The sewing needle is the cheapest part of your sewing machine and the one you think about the most. It is worth far more. Imagine what it could do if it was not worn, bent, or damaged.

Needles Are Available in Many Distinct Sizes

Needles Are Available in Many Distinct Sizes

The right size needle will make sewing easier and prevent thread breakage. There are two standard sizes for needles: American and European.

Schmetz needles were made in Germany. The European size is listed at the top, with the American size below. You can choose from 60/8 or 110/18. The needle shaft will be thinner if the number is lower than it should be.

70/10 needles can sew lightweight, fine fabrics such as chiffon, satin, and organza. Consider fabrics for formal wear.

For lightweight fabrics such as lawn, faille, and georgette, 80/12 needles will work well. For blouses and dresses, think lightweight, flowy fabrics.

When you’re starting to sew medium-weight fabrics such as poplin, broadcloth, and muslin, 90/14 needles will be a great choice. Consider printed quilting cotton.

These three sizes are included in the standard Schmetz universal needles pack, which is a great way to get started.

Change Your Fabric to Change Your Needs

To work with your fabric, always change your needle. Small holes are made in delicate fabrics with thinner needles. The needle will not damage the weave by being thin. This eliminates snags along the stitch line.

Heavy-duty fabrics require thicker needles to make large holes. Thicker needles will cause larger holes than those with thinner shafts. The shaft thickness guarantees the needle can penetrate all layers without breaking to create a strong stitch line.

Schmetz creates specialty needles for fabrics like stretch, metallic, and vinyl. Specialty needles have needle points that are specifically designed for each fabric. They have rounded tips that slip between the fabric’s weave. Jersey/Ball-point needles are used to sew knits. 

Because leather is not woven, leather needles have a cutting edge to cut through it. Specialty needles can be used with any fabric to create strong seam lines. It is worth spending extra to find the right needle for your project.

Types of Sewing Machine Needles

First, you need to understand that sewing machine needles have been standardized. They can be used with various brands, including Janome and Brother, Husqvarna, and Elna and Pfaff. We can assure you that every sewing machine we sell will work with any domestic machine.

Seeing all the different sizes and types of machine needles can be confusing. It’s not difficult to learn the differences between different types. We have listed the most common needles, as well as the techniques and fabrics that they are used for.

1. Universal Useless

Universal Useless

Universal needles, as the name implies, are the most common type of needle. These needles can be used with both knit and synthetic fabrics.

However, you should check the other needles below to see specific types of knit fabric. Finer needles best serve lightweight fabrics. For medium- to heavyweight fabrics, larger needles are needed. It should be used for silk or cotton threads.

2. Ballpoint


Ball point needles are round than universal needles. They push the fabric fibers apart rather than cutting them. Ball point needles are ideal for working with rib knits and interlock as well as cotton knits, fleece, double knitting, and most other knit fabrics.

This prevents them from running or laddering due to stitching. It works best with polyester and cotton blend threads. Finer threads should only be used for finer needles.

3. Stretch Needles

Stretch Needles

The scarf” is a stretch needle that allows for more room for the hook to pass by. It also prevents skipped stitches. This makes it perfect for fabrics such as Lycra and power net, two-way stretch knits, silk jersey and spandex, highly elasticated synthetic fabrics, or even elastic.

It is more difficult to work in stretch fabrics, so choosing the right needle to achieve the best result is important. Use polyester or cotton-wrapped polyester threads.

4. Shapes


A sharps needle is recommended for quilters who work with multiple layers of cotton or wadding and those working with densely woven materials such as silk and microfiber.

This needle is designed to work with multiple layers of fabric. It has a stronger shaft that prevents bent or broken needles. The sharp point allows it to penetrate the fabric and create smooth buttonholes. A shorter round threading eye gives you more strength when sewing.

5. Quilting Responses

Quilting Responses

A reinforced shaft allows multiple layers of fabric or wadding to be stitched with a quilting needle. However, the needles are shorter than the sharps, enabling quilters to do quick and accurate stitches. A size 7 or 8 is the most common for beginners, while a larger option for more experienced quilters is available.

6. Jeans


There are no prizes for guessing what fabric these needles were made for. Denim is the obvious choice. However, these needles can also cut densely woven fabrics like canvas, heavy twill, and linens that are often used for workwear.

While stretch and ballpoint needles do not cut fabric, jeans needles have a sharp point and a stronger shank that allows them to push through heavy fabric. These threads should only be used with synthetic or blended fabrics, 100% polyester, heavy top stitching threads, and cotton-wrapped polyester.

7. Leather Needles

Leather Needles

Chisel point needles are leather needles. This is because the point looks and acts just like a chisel when it’s in use. These needles can be used with genuine leather, suede, and hard-to-sew projects. However, they should not be used with PU imitation leather or ultra suede, as these fabrics have different characteristics.

8. Metafil Results

Metafil Results

A metafil needle is perfect for sewing on knitted or woven fabrics. It is suitable for general sewing and makes it much simpler to thread. Metal needles are more flexible and will not shred or break due to the sewing motion. A metallic needle is a great choice if you have ever had difficulty threading your needle.

9. Embroidery Needles

Embroidery Needles

The eye of embroidery needles is wider to allow threads like rayon, polyester, and cotton machine embroidery threads to flow freely when embroidering. Machine embroidering can lead to missed stitches due to fabric stretching and flexing rapidly. The pontoon scarf for embroidery needles has an oversize bump that reduces the likelihood of this happening.

10. Top Stitch Neces

Top Stitch Neces

Top stitch needles are extra sharp and can penetrate all types of fabric. The large eye also allows for thick topstitching thread to fit in the eye.

11. Twin Needles and Triple Needles

Twin Needles and Triple Needles

These needles can be used to do pin tucking or decorative stitches. They should only be used at a slower speed. These needles are not compatible with every machine, so check your manual before using them.

12. Wing


Wing needles can be combined with special stitch options to create holes in the fabric for drawing thread work. These needles should only be used on fabrics made of natural fibers like cotton.

Five Tips for Sewing Delicate Fabrics

We have compiled a list of useful tips to help you sew delicate fabrics.

  • Cut your fabric: Use a spray fabric stabilizer to treat it. You can layer muslin and tissue paper underneath to prevent your fabric from slipping out your shears. This will make your fabric stiffer and easier to cut and sew.
  • Needles: Make sure to use a brand-new, high-quality sewing machine needle. A 65/9 or 70/10 needle is good for chiffon.
  • To prevent fraying and stretching, stay-stitch any curves or diagonal edges. Zinnia requires that you stay stitch all side seams. They are cut diagonally. Make sure you trim the hem before sewing. Light, loosely woven fabrics are more prone to stretching and distorting.
  • Pressing: Use a low-setting iron to press seams and pleats. You don’t want to get water spots if you are using silk.
  • Hemming: A narrow, rolled hem foot is a good choice for finishing hems. You can also roll hem with a serger if you own one. Or use our technique for a turned hem.

What Does the Size Number of Sewing Machine Needles Mean?

You might be curious about the meaning of numbers such as 110/18 or 80/12 on sewing machine needles. You don’t have to wonder any longer! One is European size, and the other is American. The European sizes are thinnest to thickest and range between 60 and 110. American sizes range between 8 to 18. It’s pretty simple, right?

An 80/12 needle is generally used for dressmaking. This will likely be the needle that you received with your machine. 

How Often Should We Change the Needle?

After every project, we recommend that you change your needle. Needles are inexpensive, so you won’t have to spend a lot and can rest assured that your needle will perform as expected.

If your needle is jammed, it can cause the needle to bend. This can have unexpected consequences, such as poor stitch quality. You should replace your needle if you hear it making an unusual sound when it penetrates the fabric.

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