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EMB 101: Needles

EMB 101: Needles

You may think needles are needles, but it does make a difference what needles you use when embroidering!

 

You wouldn’t use a butter knife to cut steak, so why use a universal needle when embroidering?

 

Basically, needles need to match the thread you are using and the fabric upon which you are stitching. As far as sizing, you want to use the smallest needle possible for the job. One rule of thumb is to use a needle that is 40% larger than the diameter of the thread you are stitching. So, if you are using a standard 40 wt. embroidery thread, you should use a 70/11 needle. You can use an 80/12; the holes will be bigger and may be more obvious.

 

There are 10 basic types of needles:

Universal

Embroidery

Ballpoint/Stretch

Denim

Metallic

Topstitch

Microtex/Sharps

Quilting

Wing

Leather

Universal

Universal needles are used for general sewing and piecing. Most sewing thread is 50 wt., making their small eye not suitable for embroidery. That doesn’t mean you can’t use one to embroider. If you do, you will probably have issues.

Embroidery

Although the name implies embroidery, embroidery needles are not a one-size-fits-all fix. They have a larger eye and a wider groove to accommodate embroidery and decorative threads. Some people embroider exclusively with a topstitch needle.

Ballpoint/Stretch

If you are embroidering on knits, like t-shirts or sweaters, you will get better results with a ballpoint needle. The tip moves fibers aside rather than cutting them as you stitch. Stretchy fabrics benefit from using a stretch needle, which also has a rounded, more tapered tip.

Denim

Thicker fabrics require special needles. Denim needles have a somewhat rounded point.

Metallic

Metallic threads require a longer eye to help prevent shredding. Some people like to use topstitch needles when embroidering with metallic thread.

Topstitch

With an extra long eye, topstitch is the needle of choice for some embroiderers–particularly useful with applique.

Microtex/Sharps

I have recently begun using microtex needles with my embroidery, especially with applique designs featuring a lot of satin stitching. They stitch much cleaner with greater detail. Microtex also work well on delicate fabrics like silk and create beautiful piecing when quilting.

Quilting

These needles are designed to work with multiple layers of fabric and batting and feature a longer point.

Wing

Heirloom embroidery benefits beautifully from using wing needles. The wings create fabric openings that work with certain types of stitching like entredeaux.

Leather

Only use leather needles on real leather. Their point acts as a knife to cut through the thick surface when embroidering on leather.

 

As with anything else, use these as a guideline. You may find you like other combinations. Use what works for you!

 

Debbie SewBlest

Comments (2) -

Needles are indeed very important to embroidery.  Your choice can mean the difference between a professional or a less than satisfactory project.

Overall, I prefer to use the largest eye available.  I have a vendor who advocates Universal, and another says embroidery needles only.  Some people feel that a very large needle, such as a #16 will leave a hole.  I have not found that to be true in woven fabric.  The fabric returns to its 'home' when finished. That very large needle would be an issue on leather!

My suggestion is to determine what fabric type you most often use; chose a design you feel that a little of each type of stitch; select three or four needle sizes and do testing yourself.  Designs are created through recipes, and unfortunately, one size does not fit all (does it ever??).  Furthermore, your machine may like a size needle better than another.  'Discovery sew' (aka sewout) is the only way to assure that every part of your recipe will give you the results you want.

Pat, The Avid Embroiderer

I am always surprised, Pat, at the wide variables with things like needles and stabillizers. There really is no "normal." As you said, the best way to be sure you have the right combination is to try it!

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