Types of Sewing Needles

sewing needle singer sewing machine
There’s a lot more to the humble sewing needle than meets the eye (terrible pun intended!) This article is an overview of some of the needle types you will come across as you sew up a storm. It will help you get the most out of your projects and may be an answer to any hiccups you might encounter like your fabric snagging or skipped stitches when using a machine. I’ve broken things down into two sections; Hand Sewing Needles & Machine Sewing Needles.

Sharps / Standard Needle: Generally speaking, these guys are your friend. You can use them on most sewing projects but they are best for woven fabrics. As with most needles, they come in a range of sizes for light to heavy fabrics. They have a small eye and a sharp point (hence the name). When in doubt, go for sharps.

Ballpoint Needle: This is similar to a sharps needle but instead of a very sharp point, this point is slightly rounded. This allows the needle to push between the fibres in your fabric rather than breaking through them. For this reason, you want to use these needles for finely knitted fabrics or jersey fabrics to prevent laddering or holes.

Quilting Needle: Same as a sharps needle but shorter, allowing for more control and speed when sewing little stitches.

Embroidery Needle: Sharp point with a longer eye, allowing for extra threads or embroidery threads to be used.

Beading Needle: Long, skinny and bendy with a small eye. This needle lets you get in under tricky angles as well as being slim enough to pass through the middle of a small glass bead.

Darning Needle: This is a large needle with a large eye and an obviously rounded point. Use this for finishing and repairing knitted projects. It’s also great for tapestry embroidery.

Chenille Needle: While I have used this needle before, I never knew it’s name!  Similar in size to a darning needle, the chenille needle has a sharp end which makes it great for bashing through thick heavy fabrics like canvas.

Unlike a hand sewing needle, the eye of a machine needle is in the point. This feeds the top thread down under the needle plate, gets hooked by the bobbin and looped to create a stitch. Magic! Let’s take a closer look.

Anatomy of a Machine Sewing Needle Description

Shank: This anchors the needle into the machine. The needle size is sometimes embossed into the shank – you might want to grab your glasses!
Shoulder: Section joining the shank to the shaft. Some brands colour code this part to specify certain information about the needle.
Shaft: This is the long section of the needle.
Groove: A long narrow channel along the front of the shaft which guides the thread into the eye. Most modern machines require you to thread through the front of the needle while some older machines and industrial machines are threaded from the side, so the long groove is always on the side that you push the thread through the needle.
Eye: Hole in which the thread goes through.
Point: The very tip of the needle.
Scarf: An indentation above the eye on the back side of the needle which allows the bobbin hook to loop the upper thread creating a stitch.

As with hand sewing needles, there are multiple kinds of machine needles in many different sizes depending on the fabric. Choosing the right type of needle for your sewing machine before you start can play a pretty major part in the outcome of your project. If your needle is too big / small for the fabric or even very slightly bent or blunt, you can have skipped stitches, messy tension and breaking threads. Not ideal eh?
This is a list of some of the types of machine needle you are likely to need and come across so you can get your project off to a good start.

Standard / Universal: General use on woven / fused fabrics. Sharp point.

Ballpoint: Best for knitted fabrics like jersey and interlock. Rounded point.

Stretch: Slightly different to the Ballpoint needle, this is better for very stretchy fabrics like a fine jersey or Lycra. It’s a winner for sewing lingerie & swimwear. Slightly longer rounded point than a ballpoint needle.

Jeans: A larger sized needle with an extra sharp point for getting through heavier fabrics like denim and canvas.

Double Needle: Available in standard, ballpoint and jeans (maybe a few others?) these needles are great for giving sewing projects an extra fancy finish. It gives you two neat parallel lines of stitching. You need 2 spools of thread for this type of needle.

One last thing to say about machine needles is that you should change them regularly. As mentioned earlier, when they become dull, they can damage your fabric and if they have become even slightly bent, they can cause skipped stitches and even break.

So there you have it. An overview of sewing needles. The next time you are faced with a wall full of sewing needles in the shop, I hope you might be a little less mystified by all that choice!





Tilly and the Buttons Fifi (again!)

Cute pyjama set including elastic waisted shorts and a bias cut cami top

PATTERN: Tilly and the Buttons – FiFi You can stalk all the #sewingfifi makes for some really great inspiration.

REASONS FOR MAKING: I made the rookie mistake of not pre-washing my fabric with my last set of Fifis so unfortunately, they’re fitting a tad snug and not as comfy as they were in the beginning. So it’s time to make a new set.

FABRICS: This time I’m trying a quilting cotton. I don’t normally use quilting cotton for garment sewing but I loved this print too much not to try it out. It’s a Moda fabric by my friend Annie Brady, the designer behind @surface_love on Instagram. I’ve used Night Sky from her Yucatan collection and it’s coming soon to M is for Make. Here’s the link so you can get first dibs when it drops! (you need to check out her Deep Sea print too…I LOVE IT! I think I might need flamingo PJs too!)

TRIMS: Simply just some elastic for the waistband.

HOW TO: As always, Tilly’s instructions are really clear so making these is nice and straightforward.

Sewing Fifi PJ set Navy Quilting Cotton

This fabric has a stripe design but it would have wasted lots of fabric if I tried to pattern match correctly so instead I decided to just go with a rough match. The print is fluid enough to get away with it. I also kept the print going in one direction so that it didn’t get too fussy.

fifi2 back

fif2 seam match

There are pros and cons to sewing garments with quilting cotton. The quality of this fabric is just gorgeous which makes it so easy to sew with and it gives you lovely crisp edges when pressed. The only downside with sewing Fifi in quilting cotton is the pleating at the bust can end up looking a bit pointy! But that could probably be fixed by gathering the fullness rather than pleating.

Sewing Fifi PJ set Navy Quilting Cotton

Once again, as with the last set, I love that this pattern uses French seams. It’s such a nice finish.

sewing fifi pj set quilting cotton inside navy

Sewing Fifi PJ set Navy Quilting Cotton

Instead of a trim, I stuck with self fabric bias binding this time. I did a narrow binding since that’s the size my little binding tool is! (I really should get a bigger one!) This made things a little fiddly but I actually really like the final look. I think it gives it a nice contemporary feel.

Sewing Fifi PJ set Navy Quilting Cotton

WHAT WENT WRONG: Nothing wrong as such, just slight pokey boob syndrome!!

LESSONS LEARNED: I’ll try and gather the bust fullness in future if using quilting cotton. I remembered to pre-wash the fabric this time so at least now I’ll avoid any shrinkage!!

VERDICT:  This is a nice quick make and one I’m sure I’ll do again. I love the fabric, especially since it’s not what you would necessarily think of sewing with quilting cotton. But now you know it’s definitely an option.


Sewing Fifi PJ set Navy Quilting Cotton

Sewing Fifi PJ set Navy Quilting Cotton

sewing fifi pj set quilting cotton bottoms front navy

fifi2 bottoms back

Have you sewn many garments using quilting cotton? What’s your opinion on it?

The Collins Top

Collins Cover

PROJECT:  The Collins Top by Australian pattern company In The Folds (a one woman machine by the name of Emily Hundt) is a trapeze shaped top featuring mid-length sleeves with a round neckline and button closure at the centre back. The body has a hi-low hemline and the styles lines give this seemingly simple top some interesting detail.

PATTERN: In The Folds The Collins Top

REASONS FOR MAKING: I have had my eye on this pattern for a while. It’s popularity on Instagram meant it was forever popping into my feed, teasing me to give it a bash. The #makeyourstash challenge set by @timetosew and @pilar_bear was coming up, encouraging us all to dip into out stash, a principle that I absolutely love and try to do as often as I can, so I decided that the time had come for me to use a particular piece that I’ve had in my collection for a few years at least. Here’s how it went. Continue reading “The Collins Top”

It’s Party Dress Time!

Party Dress Time Cover

PROJECT: A drop hem party dress with princess seams and pockets. Hurray for pockets! The princess seams allow for a nice fit and easier adjustments at the waist if necessary and there’s lots of volume in the skirt which makes it feel extra party-time-tastic. And just in time for the NYE celebrations!

PATTERN: Vogue Pattern V9252

REASONS FOR MAKING: The very lovely Rachel and Kate of The Fold Line were good enough to pick my Kelly Anorak as a star make so I got to choose 2 patterns as a prize and this was one of them. And sure with Christmas coming up, why not make a party dress? Now I got this pattern a good few weeks ago but that didn’t stop me from only finishing it the night before my Christmas party! Nothing like a last minute panic to kick your ass into gear eh?

Continue reading “It’s Party Dress Time!”

Ophelia Coat – Butterick Lisette B6385

Handmade Coat Standing Collar Wool Butterick

A fully lined Winter coat with standing collar to keep the wind out.

PATTERN: Lisette by Butterwick Coat pattern B6385 – my first ever BIG 4 pattern!

REASONS FOR MAKING: My current coat was well past shabby so I figured I’d give this a bash. I knew I had a great fabric so it was also an excuse to use that. And having a slightly dressy coat is always handy. I’ve called her Ophelia because I finished it the same time that storm Ophelia hit Ireland!

FABRICS: A gorgeous soft cashmere mix coat fabric, kind of like the sort you find in Reiss. The colour is like a mauvey stone. Lining is a cream, burgundy and green dot fabric I had in my stash.

TRIMS: 4 x 4 hole buttons

HOW TO: I had toyed with the idea of drafting this myself but since it’s been so long since I’ve done anything resembling a tailored shape, I wanted to at least know the fit was correct so I bought this Butterick pattern. I’m not sure why, but I couldn’t bring myself to just do the pattern as is so I hacked it a little. Not much, but I just wanted to feel like I had put my own mark on it. I decided to give it a stand up collar that extended into a front lapel. I created a chest yoke and shoulder yoke for some interest and I curved my sleeves at the elbow a smidge to give them a nicer shape. I didn’t want my buttons on show so I put in a hidden button placket. So here’s how it went.

Front – I balanced out the dart to avoid having any weird bumps, attached the front panels together then added the front chest yoke / collar / lapel. I included 2 jeet pockets in the front side panels.

Ophelia Handmade Coat WIP

Back – Nice and straight forward, joining the back panels together then attached the shoulder yoke.

Ophelia Handmade Coat Back Collar

Front to Back – This was a wee bit tricky since my front panels included the collar so I had to join them first at the centre back, then attached it along the neckline with the shoulder seams. It required snipping into corners as I sewed and that was probably the most fiddly part.

Ophelia Handmade Coat Front to Back Collar

Sleeves – I was a bit nervous with these sleeves as I wasn’t entirely sure about their pitch marks and the cap looked a bit pokey on paper so I had to batter these in a bit. A good press and they eventually came good. I also narrowed the sleeve a bit when I tried it on as they just felt too baggy.

Lining – My front facing is the same fabric as the coat. After that, in terms of construction, everything was as per above.

Ophelia Handmade Coat Lining Close up

Interlining – I fused the entire front as per the pattern instructions. In the past I’d have included more tailoring layers and extra bits of fusing in places but being so out of practise, I just followed the pattern instructions so it would be finished. This just made me realise I need to remind myself of these techniques in future. I knew it wasn’t as good as it could be. Shoulder pads went in on their own. I attempted a sleeve head roll but it looked too bulky so I took it off.

Buttons – I didn’t want my coat to have visible buttons interfering with the style lines so I made a hidden button placket instead. I attached fused spotty lining onto my front panels and facing using this tutorial on Waffle Patterns.

Ophelia Handmade Coat Button Placket

Attaching the Lining – I used the bagging out method since it’s the only one I know.

And here she is!

Ophelia Butterick Handmade Coat Front copyOphelia Butterick Side Collar Coat copyOphelia Butterick Back Shoulder CoatOphelia Butterick Handmade Coat Lining copy

WHAT WENT WRONG: The lining. Oh the lining. Because I took a good bit off the hem when I was adjusting the pattern, I forgot to keep the bottom edge of the front panels as they were on the original hem which meant I had cut them to the same length. Oops. So after a fair bit of butchery, I managed to sort it all out…just don’t inspect it too closely!

LESSONS LEARNED: If I had more time and more confidence, I do actually think I could have drafted a simple coat pattern myself. And I might yet. I’ve also learned that like most people, I’m very lazy about making full toiles. I probably should have done one to iron out any little annoyances (like the lining!) but if I had done that, it would have been next Winter by the time I’d have finished and who wants to wait that long?

VERDICT: This was the first big commercial pattern I have ever used because I have only ever drafted my own patterns and only recently used a few indie patterns. I liked that this pattern was ready to go but I still love the process of drafting my own. When I work with my own patterns, I know what details are where, I know my own notches, where I can get away with nipping / tucking and I’m used to 1cm seam allowances rather than 1.5cm you get on most commercial patterns. But that said, I’m happy enough with how it turned out… Eventually!


Flint Pants Cover shot Navy trousers handmade

PROJECT: A pair of high waist cropped trousers with super wide leg

PATTERN: Megan Nielsen’s Flint Pants & Shorts MN2210

REASONS FOR MAKING: Having fallen in love with a pair of culottes I bought recently, I really wanted to add some more to my wardrobe.

Continue reading “Flint-tastic!”

The Kelly Anorak

Kelly Cover

PROJECT: A wax jacket for the ever changing Irish climate. I also wanted to ‘buy local’, purchasing things from retailers on this little island rather than sourcing from abroad.

PATTERN: The Kelly Anorak by Closet Case Patterns, purchased through www.dressfabrics.ie

REASONS FOR MAKING: I wanted a jacket for the wind and rain which is on the way and let’s face it, Barbour Jackets are slightly outside my budget!

Continue reading “The Kelly Anorak”

Fashion Revolution Week

*side note: I began to write this post a few weeks ago when I was thinking of starting my site but I was nervous about posting it because I felt I didn’t know enough about it to have an informed opinion but I’ve just discovered Fashion Revolution and decided that maybe every little helps so this is my input for Fashion Revolution  Week. Continue reading “Fashion Revolution Week”