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Learn How To Sew: Sewing Needles

Sewing needles come in all shapes and sizes. They even differ depending on whether you are hand-sewing or using a sewing machine.

Sewing Needles for Sewing by Hand

Hand sewing needles vary according to what fabric you are using. Hand sewing needles vary in the size of the shaft and eye of the needle as well as the length, width and type of point.


A sewing needle has three parts: the tip that pierces the fabric, the eye of the needle through which you put thread and the shaft connecting these two parts. Different fabrics require differently shaped needles; sewing needles are made to pierce fabric without damaging it.

Needles come in different sizes. There are two different sizing systems in sewing, the imperial system and the metric system. From smallest to largest, the imperial sizes range from 9 to 18 and metric needles range from 65 to 110. Most needles are labeled with both denotations.

There are 12 different types of hand sewing needles:

1. Applique
2. Beading
3. Bodkin (a.k.a. ballpoint)
4. Chenile
5. Darning
6. Easy- or Self-threading
7. Embroidery (a.k.a. Crewel)
8. Leather
9. Milliners (a.k.a. Straw)
10. Quilting
11. Sailmaker
12. Sharp
13. Tapestry
14. Upholstery

The most common needles used are quilting, sharp and applique needles. Leather needles have a wedge shaped tip to pierce through leather or vinyl without tearing it or damaging the fabric. A sailmaker needle is used to construct materials out of heavy canvas fabric. A beading needle has a very thin shaft and narrow eye to go through the holes in the core of beads and make beautiful embellishments with beads to fabrics. Bodkin or ballpoint needles are used with woven or knitted fabrics; they don’t disturb the knitted fibers within the material. Tapestry and chenille needles can be threaded with thicker threads and pierce through tightly woven, chunky fabrics.

Sewing Machine Needles

sewing needlesSewing machine needles look very different from hand sewing needles. Sewing machine needles have their eyes located very close to their points, or the tip of the needle. The eye is followed by a flat scarf of metal with a groove in it followed by the shaft of the needle which has a rounded side and a flat side. The shaft is shaped thus so that it is easy to ascertain the correct position in which it should be inserted into your sewing machine. Sewing machine needles are made especially to suit your sewing machine and quickly and easily sew thread through any type of fabric. Milliners or straw needles have longer shafts and may be used in pleating and basting.

There are four different types of sewing machine needles:

1. Universal

Universal needles may be used for most simple sewing projects and can be used on a variety of regular fabrics such as cotton.

2. Denim/Jeans

Denim or jeans needles are used to sew the hems on your favorite jeans or any other sewing project involving tough, durable denim.

3. Ballpoint

Ballpoint needles are used to sew with knit fabrics so as not to mess up their knitted fibers.

4. Twin Needle

Twin needles create perfectly parallel rows of stitches without having to sew twice.

5. Sharp

Sharp needles may be used with any woven fabric.

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