By popular request I'm here today with a 5 minute guide to sewing needles! Did you know that there are approximately 50 million different types of sewing needles?
Ok, ok. Maybe there aren't that many. But if you've ever gone to the store to buy new needles and seen a big wall with rows and rows of different kinds, you know it can be intimidating to know which ones to buy for your project.
All those needles have a different purposes and are designed to be used for specific fibers or sewing techniques! But sometimes the sewing needle's name doesn't make it easy to understand how to use it.
In the latest installment of our 5 minute guide series, we're tackling the most common needles to use in both machine and hand quilting, and some helpful (and cute!) needle accessories.
Set your timers for 5 minutes, and let's go!
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Universal Sewing Machine Needles
These are likely to be your most-used machine needles. Universal needles are specifically designed to work well with most fabrics, including cotton. However, if you are using anything heavy like canvas or denim, you'll want a different needle (keep reading).
We like Schmetz Universal Needles because they are widely available. However, you can always head to your local sewing machine dealer to check out needles made by other companies, including Singer and BERNINA!
Quilting Sewing Machine Needles
While quilting or patchwork needles for your machine are similar to universal needles, there are some important differences. The tapered design helps the needle move through multiple layers of fabric and batting so you can avoid dreaded skipped stitches!
Even though the name gives it away, machine quilting needles are intended for quilting a quilt sandwich and not piecing a quilt top together. You'll notice that these needles are 90/14, which is larger and more heavy duty than you need for piecing a light-weight cotton quilt top.
Schmetz Quilting Needles can be found anywhere quilt supplies and notions are sold!
Denim Sewing Machine Needles
Some sewists wonder if they really need to switch to denim needles when sewing with heavy weight fabric. I'm here to tell you YES! These needles make a huge difference.
They are much sharper than other machine needles, which means they sew through heavy fabrics with ease. But don't forget to switch back to a universal or quilting needle when you're done — these strong and sharp needles sew through cotton like an axe chopping wood!
Good ol' Schmetz Denim Needles to the rescue!
Betweens is not really a descriptive name for a needle — until you know what these are designed for. These needles are specifically designed to glide between layers of fabric, making them the absolute best needles for hand quilting.
Sometimes called quilting or patchwork needles, betweens are a little shorter than other needles and have a narrow and rounded eye that allow the needle to glide through the fabric.
I personally prefer a longer needle for hand quilting, but these are my very favorite needles to use for binding!
Bohin's Betweens Hand Needles are fantastic and glide through a quilt easily. In fact, I love all of their needles!
Consider these your everyday needles. The eye is smaller than an embroidery needle but a bit bigger than a between, and they are super sharp. If these are all you have on hand, they'll work for just about anything.
However, because they are designed to be a catch-all needle, they may not become your favorite as you start to try out other needles on this list.
Bohin's Sharps Hand Needles come in a multi-pack of sizes and stay sharp and straight.
Embroidery needles are designed with very large eyes that can hold up to six threads of regular embroidery floss. That means they're excellent not only for embroidery, but also for hand quilting using Pearl Cotton No. 8 which is a heavier thread!
If you're using a fabric with a tight weave, you might have trouble moving a needle with such a big eye through without pulling. But that's the only downside to these!
You can't go wrong with Clover Gold Eye Embroidery Needles. This pack has a variety of sizes and is available at just about every store that sells needles, so you'll always be well-stocked!
These are my personal favorite needles for hand quilting! Originally designed for hat makers (milliners), they are extra sharp and very long.
Most importantly, the eye of the needle is virtually the same width as the needle, meaning it is very small and does not cause any drag or pulling as you're sewing. Even though the eye of milliners needles is small, I still find that I'm able to thread thicker quilting thread like Pearl Cotton No. 8 through it, so this isn't only for thin threads.
All of that means that these needles are so easy to use when hand quilting!
Bohin Milliners Hand Needles are fantastic. You can probably tell that Bohin is my personal go-to brand for almost all hand sewing needles!
Similar to milliner's needles, Sashiko needles have become popular for hand quilting due to their length. Some quilters even use Sashiko thread for hand quilting because the thread is so smooth and moves through layers of fabric easily.
Sashiko has a long history originating in Japan. And while some quilters use Sashiko needles for hand quilting, it's important to note that Sashiko is a very different technique, which you can learn more about from Sashiko artisan Atsushi Futatsuya here.
If you've done needle-turn appliqué before, you know that it's a delicate technique. Appliqué needles are very similar to sharps (which can also be used for appliqué) but they are a little narrower. These fine needles are also a great option for English paper piecing!
Clover Gold Eye Appliqué Needles in size 10 are excellent. They glide right through the fabric!
If you're new to quilting, have vision issues, or struggle with hand pain, threading a needle can be the most frustrating part of hand sewing. If you're feeling frustrated with threading needles, check out self-threading options that have gaps which allow the thread to be snapped into place instead of threaded through the eye!
Clover Self-Threading Needles have a small gap in the eye that the thread is snapped into. However, that does make the eye large and can cause issues when sewing. Spiral Eye Needles are a great alternative, although they are not widely available like the Clover needles. Spiral Eye Needles have a gap on the side, allowing the eye to remain small.
If you struggle with threading a needle, this tool is for you. Whether you have vision issues, hand pain, or shaky hands, adding a needle threader to your sewing kit could reduce your frustration when sewing.
Needle threaders have a thin wire that you push through the eye of your needle, giving you a much larger space for the thread. After you've passed the thread through the threader, pull it back out of the needle eye and your needle is perfectly threaded!
Always be gentle when handling a needle threader! The wire that goes through the needle eye is very thin and can bend, break, or pull apart from the threader if you aren't careful.
Matryoshka Doll Shop (you'll see them again later!) has a needle minder with a lovely design that you'll love looking at as much as you love using!
Double Sided Needle Threader
Some needles have large eyes to accommodate thick threads, and some have small eyes to help thin thread stay in place.
That means there are different sized needle threaders, too! If you use needles with different sized eyes regularly, you might like a double sided needle threader, which has one small threader and one that is large.
The Clover Double Needle Threader will work with just about any needle you need for sewing!
Tabletop Needle Threader
For quilters with arthritis or hand pain, a needle threader can still be a challenge. Tabletop needle threaders work by setting your needle in the threader, eye down, and pressing one little button — easy breezy!
The Clover Ultimate Needle Threader is the ultimate pain and frustration remover — thread your needle with the push of a button!
Needle minders are cute little magnets that you can attach to a hand sewing project or have nearby so you can set your needle down temporarily. These are so helpful for when you're switching threads or if you want to put down a hand sewing project and come back to it later. Plus they're adorable!
Matryoshka Doll Shop's needle minders are the best. They're powerful but small, so they don't add to much weight to your project as you sew. The leaf needle minder is my favorite, but I also have a matching heart. Check out all their needle minder shapes!
Magnetic Notions Case
If you like to sew on the go (and who doesn't?), a magnetic notions case is a must! My magnetic case is never too far from me. I travel with it, but I also keep it right next to me on the couch when I hand sew. It's spacious and holds the needle I'm using for my current project, a needle minder, embroidery scissors, a needle threader, a pack of extra needles, and thread.
It fits everything I need and because it's magnetic, I never have to worry about dropping my needle! I just set it down in the case and it sticks.
The Maker's Buddy Case by della Q is functional and beautiful. The entire inside is magnetic but it's covered in a soft fabric that feels great. It's spacious and closes tightly with a snap, so nothing will ever fall out.
Have you ever felt like your needle is just stuck in your fabric? Maybe you're using a needle with a really wide eye, or a thick thread. At some point, you've probably had to pull on that needle hard to get it to glide through your fabric.
Needle grips are here to help! Pop one on your first finger and one on your thumb, and these rubber grips help you pull any needle and thread easily. These are also very useful for quilters with arthritis or hand pain!
These Clover Flexible Rubber Thimbles are excellent for gripping a needle. They help make hand sewing easier and less painful!
Old Needles Container
Whether you're using a machine needle or hand sewing needle, it's important to remember to use a brand new needle at the beginning of every new project. Needles become dull or can curve, and that makes them difficult to use.
But don't just throw those needles into the trash! Just like anything sharp, you should put your needles into a container as a safety precaution.
No need to get too fancy here — eventually your old needles container will go in the trash! Do you have an old Altoids container? A pill bottle with the prescription information removed? Great! Toss your dull needles in there and once that's full, toss the entire container in the trash.
What Are Your Go-To Sewing Needles?
Did you learn about new needles or accessories to try out? What are your favorite needles? Let us know in the comments!
And while you're there, don't forget to tell us what topics you'd like us to cover in future 5 minute guides. Would you like a guide on scissors, cutting supplies, thimbles, or sewing machines? Do you have any ideas of what we can cover? You may see your idea in a future post!