When you’re just getting started with sewing, it is important to have a clear understanding of the various types of needles and thread that you will come across in your projects. Read on to get a comprehensive understanding of these vital items.
Sewing 101: Needle and Thread Guide
Sewing Machine Needles
Needles come in all shapes and sizes and some are machine or brand specific, so check your manual to see which needles will fit your machine. Anything sharp can dull, and machine needles are no exception. After one large project, like an entire dress, or a couple of small projects, like a tote and pillowcase, the needle will begin to dull, resulting in uneven and dropped stitches. Do not be afraid to switch out needles often, as it is the key to good stitching. Here are some of the more common needle types and sizes you will encounter when sewing clothing.
All-Purpose Universal Needles
The all-purpose needle is exactly as it sounds: it will sew through most things. That means that it is the master of none, but it is a good versatile choice if you’d rather just keep one type of needle on hand. If you know in advance that you want to sew with woven fabric or knits, it is best to use fabric-specific needles, as listed below.
The heavier the needle, the higher the number, and vice versa. Heavier needles are for thicker fabrics, and lighter needles are for lighter fabrics. An 80/12 is ideal for medium-weight woven fabric, with the heavier and lighter varieties landing on either side.
Wedge Point Leather Needle
A wedge point needle has a thicker and heavier beveled point at the end so it can pierce through leather and vinyl fabrics.
A microbes needle is finer than an all-purpose needle and has a sharper point, making it best for woven fabrics.
Stretch needles have a ball-point tip that is slightly rounded so it won’t break through the threads of knit fabrics.
Like stretch needles, jersey needles are ball-point tipped, but are designed for synthetic stretch fabrics like swimsuit wear and spandex.
There are numerous types of thread on the market, and it is important to match the type of thread with your project, purpose, and fabric type. Typically, matching the content of the fabric with the content of the thread is best. For example, if you are using a fabric made of natural fibers, use a natural fiber thread as well so the final treatment and pressing do not contradict either the fabric or the thread. The importance of thread is not to be underestimated, as it is the fiber that is holding everything together.
Cotton-Wrapped Polyester Thread
Cotton-wrapped polyester thread is an all-purpose choice that is commonly found in fabric stores worldwide. The polyester center is wrapped with cotton, making it a good, basic thread for a variety of uses.
Cotton thread is perfect for sewing with natural fibers such as cotton and linen. It holds up well to a hot iron and some brands have silk finishing for smooth application for gathering, basting, and hand finishing.
Elastic thread is used in the sewing machine bobbin for shirring by machine. Be sure to wind the elastic thread by hand onto your bobbing without stretching it.
Silk thread is perfect when sewing with silk and other fine fabrics, as well as with wool for tailoring because it is easily molded into shape with an iron. It is also great for hand basting, as it does not leave marks behind.
Polyester thread is ideal when sewing with man-made synthetic fibers. Most have a bit of a sheen that will be visible on the finished garment. Because it is synthetic, be careful when pressing; polyester thread will melt and break under the heat of a hot iron.
Cone thread spools are used in serger or overlocking machines and come in a variety of content. These are not suitable for a straight stitch machine unless a thread stand is used.
Which needle and thread have you found works best for you? Let us know in the comments below!