Fabrics and yarns get all the love, but needles? Not so much. Those tiny, skinny little things are easy to overlook, but it's super important to choose the right one, whether you're sewing, quilting or embroidering. The type you use will make a huge difference in how your project turns out.
Keep the following in mind whenever you reach for a needle.
A general rule of thumb is to use the smallest needle possible for the job. In sizing, the higher the number (90/14, 80/12), the bigger the needle — and the larger the hole it makes in your fabric.
Some fabrics, like knits, are forgiving and return to their original form after stitching. Others, like leather , don't. Leather needles actually cut through the tough hide, so you'll want to pick the smallest one possible that can still penetrate without shredding thread or breaking.
Meanwhile, universal needles have a much smaller eye than either embroidery or metallic needles, which have elongated eyes that help prevent thread shred. The eye of a topstitch needle is even larger, which is why many machine embroiderers use it — sometimes exclusively — instead of a metallic needle.
Find Your Niche
Needles come in a variety of types for a reason. Universal needles are fine for general, all-purpose sewing, and embroidery needles do well with embroidery (of course). But if you want professional-looking results, use the needle that's made for the project you're doing.
Sharps are great for woven fabrics and work beautifully for piecing. Many embroiderers also use them for crisp appliqué . Quilting needles are also excellent for piecing, since their tapered shape helps them penetrate several layers of fabrics, batting and stabilizers.
When embroidering on knits, a ballpoint needle gently pushes the fibers apart rather than cutting through them. Stretch needles are necessary when stitching on items like swimsuits and active wear. For something like denim, a jeans needle is specially designed to stitch on thicker fabric.
Certain needles are especially useful when creating heirloom embroidery. A hemstitch or wing needle creates open areas of beautiful decorative stitching on light- or medium-weight woven fabrics. Twin needles are for stitching with multiple threads as well as creating pin tucks and top stitching.
Titanium-coated needles are getting more popular for machine embroidery and quilting. The titanium-nitride coating helps reduce friction and keep the needle sharper longer, making threads and fabrics stitch better with fewer thread breaks.
Switch 'Em Out
Once you pick your needle, make sure to change it out on a regular basis. Consider switching the needle after every eight hours of use, or just stitch away until you notice a problem.
Either way, a new needle is relatively cheap, especially when you compare it to the cost of ruining whatever item you're stitching.
No matter what needle you choose and how often you switch it out, eventually you'll figure out what works for you. In the meantime, have fun exploring the wide world of needles. And make sure to keep an embroidery diary as you go. That way you'll be sure to get the same results next time.