Choosing the right needle for your embroidery projects can be a bit like walking through a minefield. There are so many options, the sizes, the materials they are made of and the type of point they have. Then you need to consider the fabric you are using and the type of thread.
So which ones are the best? First we will explain all you need to know about the needles themselves, and which ones to use with different fabrics. We will then detail some that we think are the best.
The Parts of An Embroidery Machine Needle
There are six parts to a needle for embroidery, explained below.
This is the thicker part at the top of the needle that you insert into the machine. It is rounded on one side and flat on the other. This ensures a good fit into the specially designed hole.
Choose a needle shank that fits your particular machine. You might need to refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations to check which sizes and brands work with your machine.
As the name suggests, this is the sharp end of the needle which makes contact with your fabric. The larger the point, the bigger hole it will leave when it penetrates the fabric as you stitch.
This is the part that connects the point to the shank and encompasses the other parts of the needle.
The eye is the hole in the shaft where the thread passes through. It carries thread from the top of the machine through the fabric to the bobbin casing and forms stitches. The size of the eye will change with the needle size, the larger the needle, the bigger the eye.
This is a small cut-away just above the point and it leads to the eye of the needle. It always faces to the front.
The scarf is situated on the rear of the needle, just above the eye. It lets the eye of the needle get close enough to the hook of the bobbin to pick up the thread and create a stitch.
The scarf also protects the thread from shredding or breaking. This is useful when you are stitching some of the dense, intricate designs that embroidery can involve.
The size of the needle refers to the width at the point. They are displayed as two numbers, such as 75/11. This means the metric size of the needle is 75 and the US size is 11. This size will be displayed on the outside of the packaging.
The size is also usually printed on either side of the needle, but you might need a magnifying glass to see it.
There are several different types of needles available. These include specialty needles, for fabrics like leather, or glitter threads.
Often, you might find that one needle will work well for all your projects, in which case there would be no need to change it. However, having a selection of needles can be useful if you want to stitch something different.
Sometimes finding the needle that is most suitable for you is a question of trial and error. Try out different needles and see what works best with your machine.
Let’s take a look at the different types of needle available.
Sharp needles have a honed point which is capable of penetrating most fabrics. They create a tiny hole for the thread to pass through. They work well with knit and woven fabrics, as well as heavier fabrics such as canvas and denim.
A sharp needle is necessary when using a water-soluble or fine stabilizer. It will penetrate easily and not tear it.
Take care with sharp needles if you have a fabric like a knit, that might run, they do make holes through the fibers.
This needle has a rounded point and is designed to pass between the fibers of the material, rather than penetrate them. They are good for using on knits, sheer or fine fabrics.
When using ball point needles, make sure they are “keen.” If they aren’t, they can cut the fabric and cause holes or runs.
Ball point needles are available in three different types. A light ball point can be used for fine knits or sheer woven fabric, such as silk. A medium ball point is best suited for T-shirts, fleeces, sweatshirt fabric, and heavy knits. A heavy ball point is good for most elastic goods—except spandex—and for heavy sweaters.
There will usually be an indicator printed on the needle, designating it as a ball point. This is generally stamped as B or BP. It might also be followed with SES for light ball point, SUK for medium ball point or SFK for heavy ball point.
Not all brands make different ball point needles. If this is the case, just the B or BP will be shown on the needle, and it will usually be a medium one.
These needles have tips that are slightly rounded and tapered, similar to a sharp needle. However, they pass through the weave of the fabric rather than cut through the fibers.
A universal needle will work well on knits and woven fabrics.
An embroidery needle is designed for use with embroidery machines and embroidery threads. They are generally suitable for all types of fabric but might break a washable stabilizer.
The eye of these needles is longer and larger than other types and they have a rounded point. The deep scarf on the needle helps prevent threads from breaking or shredding as it stitches.
This needle is designed to cut through leather and suede when stitching. This fabric does not have a weave for a needle to pass through. The needle has a wedge-shaped point which passes easily through the thick material, creating a small perforation.
An 80/12 size leather needle would be a good choice for embroidering on suede or leather. However, if the leather is soft, a 70/10 or 75/11 sharp needle could work just as well.
There are times when you may want to work with a thicker thread, such as a 12-weight wool. As you would expect, thick thread needles have a larger eye to accommodate the increase in the thickness of the thread.
This is another needle which has a larger eye. Designed for use with metallic thread, it allows the thread to pass through it easily.
This YouTube video explains the different types and sizes of embroidery needle and their uses:
Caring For Needles
Making sure your needles are sharp will ensure you get the best quality stitches. Here are a few tips to ensure you get the best results from them.
How Often Should You Change Embroidery Machine Needles?
There are varying suggestions when it comes to changing an embroidery needle. Some say every 50,000 to 60,000 stitches, while others say up to a million stitches or more. Another measurement of use is based on sewing hours, the general one being about eight hours of stitching time.
At the end of the day, if a needle is stitching correctly then it doesn’t need changing. If you start to notice thread breaks or rough stitches, then it’s time to change it for a new one immediately.
The type of material you are using, and the type of stabilizer you use, can affect the wear on your needle. The speed your machine stitches at is another factor that needs to be taken into account.
It’s good practice to check your needles and maybe change them on a monthly basis, along with other general machine maintenance.
Keep a Diary of Needle Changes
Remembering which needles you have used, and for how long, can pose a memory challenge.
It’s a good idea to keep a note of which needle you are using and how long you have used it for. Keep a notebook near your embroidery machine and write down your needle changes. Include the date and needle’s size and type.
This way you’ll always know which needle is in your machine and how long you have used each one for. It’s also a good way to remind yourself when you need to buy replacements.
Embroidery Machine Needles We Recommend
With so many needles to choose from it can be hard to know where to start. Here are some of our best picks. Before buying, check your manufacturer’s recommendations to make sure your choice will fit your machine.
Schmetz Gold Titanium
Schmetz has been producing quality sewing needles since 1851. These needles are size 75/11 and have a titanium nitride coating. This enables the needles to resist adhesives and last longer than many other needles.
They have an enlarged eye for easy threading when using embroidery type threads. The slightly rounded point makes them perfect for stitching almost all fabrics. They are particularly good for densely woven or coarse fabrics.
These needles are suitable for most brands of embroidery machines, including Brother, Babylock Janome, Singer, and Bernina.
They are also available in a 90/14 size, for heavier fabrics and thicker threads.
- Titanium coating makes the needles stronger.
- They last longer than many other needles.
- Suitable for most makes of embroidery machines.
- Needles can break if they are not a good fit for your machine
Should You Buy Schmetz Titanium Needles
The general feeling is that these needles are a cut above many of their competitors. This tallies with our findings.
The needles are strong and, although a little more expensive, good value for money as they last longer. They can cope with most fabrics and are particularly good for metallic thread due to their larger eye.
They are a good fit for most sewing machines. However, on the downside, they can be prone to breakage when the fit is not right.
- Slightly rounded point for embroidery on most fabrics. Enlarged eye accommodates special application threads. Use this product to try these...
Organ SAEMB 20-Piece Set
Organ is a Japanese company, which first produced gramophone needles in the 1920s. The company moved over to producing needles for sewing in 1939.
These 10 packs of embroidery needles come in two different sizes, 75/11 and 90/14. They have a large eye to make threading easy and to help prevent breakage and shredding.
The flat shank is suitable for many makes of embroidery machine, including Singer, Juki, Baby Lock, Brother, and Bernina. It can accommodate metallic and other embroidery threads.
- Large eye to reduce breakage of thread.
- Easy to thread.
- Suitable for many makes of embroidery machines.
- Won’t fit some Husqvarna machines
Should You Buy Organ Machine Embroidery Needles?
These needles are sharp and strong and can deal with most embroidery tasks. The two different sizes provide versatility, letting you stitch most types of fabric.
Suitable for many makes of embroidery machines, the large eye makes the needles a breeze to thread. They are also suitable for many different embroidery threads.
It seems that the only negative is that not all Husqvarna machines are compatible.
- 20-piece set of embroidery machine needles packaged in two.Ten pieces of each size. You gert a BONUS Needle Threader
- Designed with a special large eye to prevent shredding and breakage when sewing with metallic and other machine embroidery threads.
- Time-tested Organ brand ensures performance; quality; and economy.
We have outlined the different types of needle you can buy for an embroidery machine. While some are specialized, generally a 75/11 will cover most embroiderer’s needs.
Often, you get used to using one size and brand that suits your projects. However, it’s good to know the other types available, for when you decide to work on something new.
Both sets of needles featured will deal with many embroidery tasks, the choice is up to you which you would prefer.