Embroidery Needles: Their Parts, Types, Brands & Best Sizing Guide

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Embroidery machine needles, also known as matching needles, are the needles that you use on your embroidery machines. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes to ensure that you get a good stitch every time. Knowing how to select the right size of the needle is important when it comes to getting professional-looking results with your machine.

Embroidery machine needles are used to sew together threads of different lengths and thicknesses, as well as to move pieces of fabric. Even so, you still want to get good results when using the right needle size. Machine embroidery can be challenging because each stitch you create is made with many threads that may not match up perfectly. If the thread is too long for the space available on your embroidery machine, or too short for the thread used in your fabric, you are likely to get unsightly gaps or holes in your design.

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A long thread can make it difficult for the needle to pass through the fabric where it needs to go. This can also cause the needle to snag on other fabrics in your design. A short thread can be too thin, which makes it difficult for the needle to pierce through the fabric in places where you want a solid stitch. Knowing how to select the right size needle is essential if you want professional-looking embroidery results.

It can be difficult to discern which needle you need to use on your embroidery machine. In this section, we’ll look at the various types of embroidery machine needles and what they do. We’ll also look at how they work, how you select the right size, and how different brands compare. So let’s get started!

What needles to use for an embroidery machine?

To select the right needle for my project, I look for these factors that help me to determine needle size: thread length and fabric thickness.

Thread length is measured from the eye of the needle to the tip of the point. The longer your thread, the longer it is from end to end. If you want a longer stitch, choose a needle with a long eye-to-point measurement or an extra-long needle, depending on your machine. A long thread needs just as much space as a short one. You won’t have any gaps or mistakes if you match up lengths correctly with your fabric and design so that each thread has enough room to pass through without snagging on anything else in your design.

Thread thickness is determined by the thread count. A higher thread count means that your threads are finer and thinner. This can make it more difficult for the needle to pierce through the fabric if you don’t choose a needle with a thin enough eye-to-point measurement. On the other hand, you want a thicker needle if your thread is too thick to pierce through the fabric if you don’t choose a needle with a thick enough eye-to-point measurement.

As we said, stitching involves many thin threads of varying lengths and widths, which may not be consistent in length or thickness. Choose the right needle size and thread type to reduce the chance of mistakes, missed stitches, or snags.

Embroidery Needle Parts

Before you select the right embroidery machine needle, you need to know what the different parts of an embroidery machine needle are and how they work. When you know how different elements of an embroidery machine needlework, you can better determine which one will help your stitch when it’s time to select the right size.

  1. Shank

The shank of a needle is the main part that attaches to the machine and holds it in place. This is where you will find your needle size number on most embroidery needles.

Several home machines use flat shank home needles, including the Brother and Baby Lock six and ten needle machines. Machines from Tajima, Barudan, Melco and other industrial machines use round shank commercial needles. Needles with flat shanks usually (but not always) start with 15×1, and needles with round shanks usually start with DBxK5.

  1. Shaft

The shaft is the part of the needle that sticks out of your machine or looper and holds the thread while you are working. You can measure the length of the shaft by placing a ruler just above where it connects to your machine and measuring until you reach the end. The longer your thread, the longer it will be from end to end.

  1. Eye

The eye is located at one end of a sewing needle, so you can easily attach thread for stitching.

An increase in eye size also increases the eye shaft, allowing the eye to be supported. There are three kinds of needle eye: universal needle eye, embroidery eye, and metallic eye. Embroidery needle eye is commonly used for thicker and woolen threads. I used a Schmetz Embroidery needle for my embroidery projects. It is longer than the universal needle which is used for regular sewing.

  1. Point

The point of the needle is where the thread is held during stitching and where it penetrates through a fabric. It is considered to be at the end of the needle with an eyelet, or loop, at its center. The size of this loop depends on whether you are using a universal or embroidery machine eyelet.

The way the needle is sharpened also makes a difference in how it performs. There are two ways of making the point:

Rounded Point Needles or Ballpoint Tips

These needles have a rounded top, just like regular sewing needles do. They are great for delicate fabrics, but require more force and tend to cause skipped stitches on thicker fabrics.

Sharp Tip

Make sure that you choose a needle with a sharp point and not a dull one. A dull point will slow your stitching speed, as you have to push harder. A sharp tip will move smoothly through the fabric, so you can work faster on your project.

  1. Groove

The groove is the depression on the needle which holds the floss or thread. It is cut on the front of the shaft to make it easier for the thread to pass through the fabric.

The depth of this groove is determined by your machine manufacturer. Schmetz needles for embroidery machines come with a specific groove depth already set. 

  1. Scarf

The scarf is the small groove on a needle’s shaft. The scarf helps the thread to lie flat and reduces the chances of skipped stitches or damage to threads or fabric. The scarf makes a difference in how easy it is for you to thread your needle. In addition to eliminating skipped stitches, a scarf makes it easier for the hook to loop the thread.

Embroidery Machine Needle Sizes

If you are just starting out in the embroidery world, it may seem really confusing to figure out the machine needle size. When you first start using an embroidery machine, you may have a hard time telling what the right size needle is.

The main thing to keep in mind when choosing an embroidery needle is that it should fit into your fabric without causing skipped stitches (especially if you are working with a thicker fabric). Read your manual and be aware of the different stitch settings on your machine before choosing your needle size. If you are not sure about what size to purchase for your embroidery machine, it is always a good idea to get a free measurement from an embroidery expert or even from the manufacturer of your machine.

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The size of embroidery needles are measured in two systems: the American system and the European system. In the American System needles measure from 8 to 12 and in European systems needle sizes come from 60 to 120.  The size of the needle means the diameter of the blade or shaft of the needle. For example, if the machine needle size is 75/11 it means that the diameter of the blade of the needle is 0.75mm. 

75/11, 80/12, and 90/14 are the most commonly used needle sizes for home embroidery machines. For commercial use, the size will be different because multi-needle machines are used for commercial purposes.

The smaller size is used for lightweight fabrics like silk and 80/12 is good for medium fabrics like linen and quilting cotton

For heavy fabrics like jeans, felt the needle size of 90/14 will be best. 

Embroidery Needle Types

Universal needles

Universal needles are the most common type of needle found in a home embroidery machine. They are also available for commercial use for embroidery shops and garments. A universal needle is generally easier to thread and pass through your fabric than other needles. The main features of universal needles include the following:

Universal needles come in standard and shank style. Ballpoint tips can be used with the standard, but sharp points are not compatible with a standard needle.

Universal needles are usually used for light to medium weight fabrics like silk, satin, denim, and quilting cotton for regular sewing machines. For sewing machine embroidery, universal needles should be used for all types of fabrics except for heavy fabrics like canvas and denim. 

Sharp needles

Sharp needles are usually not compatible with a universal needle system. They can be used for free-hand embroidery or to get a smaller stitch on light fabrics like silk and satin. You can choose from three to twelve sizes.

Universal needles are even easier to use and they come in two tips – sharp and ballpoint – while the sharp needles just come in one type.

Sharp needles are most often used for free-hand embroidery, smocking, cross stitch, french knitting, and other open forms of embroidery.

Sometimes you may get skipped stitches while using this needle in your machine. This can happen if the eye of your needle is too small or the thread tension is too tight.

Ballpoint needles

Ballpoint needles are designed to easily pass through thick fabrics like denim and canvas. They can be used on heavier fabrics like fleece, felt and denim, but they can be hard to thread. Ballpoint needles are available in sizes from 3 to 9. Ballpoint needles have a longer scarf than universal or sharp needles. You need to make sure that the scarf of your needle is long enough to hold the thread properly during stitching.

For quilting purposes, ballpoint needles are used for embroidery with rounded or scalloped designs and curves.

Crewel needles

The needle’s eye is a medium length, the shaft is a little thinner than the eye (the eye bulges slightly at the top of the shaft), and the tip is sharp.

Crewel needles have a very long scarf and are used for heavy fabrics like denim, canvas, wool, felt, and fur.

Crewel needles are slightly different from stretch needles because the tip of these ones is made a bit longer. They come in 1 to 12 sizes and the size of your needle will depend on the size of your fabric.

Crewel needles have been developed specifically for small embroidery stitches like twill stitch, tatting, and crewel work. Crewel is an ancient technique that involves sewing tiny beads onto your fabric with a needle or other small tools.

Tapestry needles

These needles are used for tapestry weaving and embroidery. Tapestry needles are used for the most basic embroidery stitches like the stem stitch and satin stitch.

Tapestry needles have a slightly rounded point and a long scarf. They are used for outlining and fine details in cross stitch, needlepoint, bargello, and other open-work embroidery. Tapestry needles are available with or without eyes.

Tapestry needles come in a large range of sizes: from size 18 to 28, making it possible to use them on even the smallest detail of your stitches.

For machine embroidery, tapestry needles are most commonly used with decorative stitches, like satin and outline stitch. The depth of your stitch will depend on the size of your needle.

Chenille needles

Chenille needles are used for chenille embroidery. They are used in two basic stitches: the split stitch and the detached chain stitch. In these stitches, the needle penetrates all layers of the fabric and creates a line. The split stitch is created with weaving methods, while the detached chain stitch is produced by piercing a single layer of the fabric and pulling the thread through to make another hole nearby.

Chenille needles have small eyes that have a corkscrew shape at one end. They are available in sizes from 13 to 28.

Chenille needles are very flexible, which allows you to wiggle them through the layers of your fabric without causing any damage. 

With chenille needles, you can create holes in your embroidery without stitching, but there are some limitations. You cannot use chenille needles in anything other than machine embroidery because they will not penetrate all the layers of thick materials like leather. The advantage is that chenille needles are not sharp and they do not have a sharp point. They will not damage the fabric like a needle would otherwise do. When using cotton floss I prefer to use embroidery needles, but if I absolutely have to use all 6 strands of floss I use sizes 22-18 and it works beautifully.

Milliner needles

These needles have a long, straight point. The eye is very small and the shaft is quite thick. The milliner needle has a very small eye, which makes it suitable for embroidery with thick fabrics like velvet or hard leather.

Milliner needles are used for special stitching techniques such as the tangling stitch and silk satin stitch. Most of these techniques require you to sew through several layers of fabric. Most of the thread is wrapped around the shaft in bullion knots or Brazilian embroidery stitches. They are available in sizes 1-10 and 15 to 18. This sounds quite confusing but they come in that way.

These needles are very useful for satin stitching as well as for other techniques involving multiple layers of fabric such as the folded chain stitch, tangling stitch, and split stitch.

During my French Knot project, I used these needles and they were impressive.

Materials of Embroidery Needles

Like any other tool for embroidery, you should make sure that the needles you are going to buy are made of good quality.

The most popular materials for creating embroidery needles are steel, gold, and titanium.

Gold needles have been used for centuries, but they have some disadvantages as well. First of all, gold is extremely soft and easily bends and breaks. And because it is soft, it does not hold its shape when being stored in a box or drawer with other needles. Gold is also very expensive and many gold needles today are an alloy that contains nickel.

Chrome Plate Needles

These needles are mostly used for embroidering leather, suede, corduroy, and other thick fabrics. These needles come in both ballpoint and sharp varieties.

Chrome-plated needles can be very sharp, but they will not rust like sterling silver or nickel-plated needles sometimes may do. 

They can be sterilized and they have longer life because the material is more resistant to tarnishing than sterling silver or nickel-plated needles. However, they can damage the fabric if too much pressure is used on them when sewing.

Titanium Plated Needles

Titanium has been used for years for the creation of these needles. The material is quite light and it is very resistant to corrosion, but it is also very expensive.

As with silver needles they can be sterilized and they will not tarnish or corrode like nickel-plated ones. In order to prevent the needle from bending, you should make sure that it sits perfectly straight on the shaft.

Titanium needles are more expensive than gold or silver needles, but they do not bend easily if you pick them up wrong and they are easier to clean than other metals.

I like these needles and used them for embroidering large projects.

How to Choose the Best Needle for a Project?

In order to choose the best needle for your project, you just need to take into account 3 key factors.

Material: There are different types of materials and they vary in their quality and hardness. While some require more care and some are easier to maintain, needles made of steel, gold or titanium will not bend easily and will hold their shape over time. If you need something that retains shape you should go for a needle made out of these materials. 

Thread: Embroidery needles come in different diameters, so it is important that you choose one that fits your thread. Generally, the larger the tip of your needle is the faster and easier you can move it through the fabric. However, if your needle is too large it will leave obvious holes in your stitches and they may be too wide or too narrow. So remember that your needle should fit precisely into the eye of whatever shuttle you are using.

Needle Size: Needles come in different sizes and they can be used to stitch different stitches on your fabric. The size of your needle should match that of the thread you will be using. For example, if you are going to use a size 30 needle with a thick thread, you should select a needle of the same size.

Brands of Embroidery Machine Needle

Here below are the best brands for embroidery needles. Check them out and if you are a sewer then checking our guide about the best sewing machine brands might be also helpful for you.

Organ Embroidery Needles

The thread on an organ embroidery needle is less stressed and stretched because it has an oversized eye. Metallic threads can also be used for heavier top stitching threads, and needle threading is easier.

This is embroidery and decorative stitching version of the 15×1. Higher quality materials extend the life of the garment.

It is possible to use Ball Point Needles to sew on knits; the rounded tip allows the needle to pass between the fabric threads while separating them.

Tacony Corporation Klasse Embroidery Machine Needles

These are designed and manufactured specifically to meet the needs of today’s machine embroidery and creative fabrics.

The new needle is designed for durability, ease of use, and superior performance on a wide range of fabrics, threads, designs, and techniques.

The needle has a larger eye than standard needles. This makes threading easier for even less experienced stitchers. For metallic threads, this needle has an even larger eye. The cutting edge is also longer so it doesn’t damage the fabric under the thread when working with decorative stitches or moving your hand back to make a stitch.

It is made of high-quality stainless steel which is heat treated for maximum strength, durability and resistance to wear caused by friction against the fabric during stitching.

Euro Notions Embroidery Machine Needles

Euro Nations are made of high-quality stainless steel and are heat treated for maximum strength, durability and resistance to wear.

The eye of the needle is also XL shoulder providing a fuller cut for the purpose of attaching metallic threads for the purpose of decorative stitching.

The tail is also longer than standard needles, which allows easy movement back to make a new stitch in position

The needle is designed for durability, ease of use, and superior performance on a wide range of fabrics, threads, designs and techniques.

Schmetz assorted embroidery sewing machine needles

Schmetz needles are made from only the finest quality materials and they have a patented crimper that makes blind stitch insertion and removal easier.

They are not made to exceed minimum tensile or yield strength but to meet the requirements of their intended use.

“Schmetz design needle tips prevent accidental damage and ensure smooth stitching, no matter what fabric is being used.”

They have a large, round tip of stainless steel that has been designed to allow even less experienced stitchers to use these needles without ruining the fabric being sewn.

Their oversized eyes mean that they can be used with all types of thread.

StabilStitch Embroidery Needles

The StabilStitch needle is specifically developed to be used with stabilizer fabrics made of chrome. The needle has a longer than normal shaft length to help keep the needle in position while working on the embroidery project.

The eye of this needle is also quite large which makes it easier for you to thread both thick and thin threads through it.

The Beadsmith Bead Embroidery Needles

The Beadsmith needle is specifically designed to help you get the best results when working with beads on your embroidery machine. The eye of this needle is very large and it is made of high-quality stainless steel which means that it will not bend or break over time.

The Beadsmith Needle could be used by even beginner stitchers because it has a large, easy-to-thread eye and long, thin shaft for maneuverability.

“The needle nose will roll over the thread after piercing the fabric to avoid producing a knot in the beadwork.”

It has a medium ball point that is just perfect for both seed beads, general purpose and craft beads work, even larger beads could be used with this needle made of steel.

FAQ about Embroidery Needles

What do you do when your embroidery machine needle breaks?

If your need breaks while you are embroidery, you should stop the machine immediately and remove the needle. You should then check to see how much thread is left on the spool.

If you think that there will be enough thread on the spool to finish your project, you can use a needle threader to complete it, if not then find a matching needle and thread that are the same size and shape as the ones that broke and use them to finish your project.

What is the best size of embroidery machine needle to use?

The size of your needle should match that of the thread you will be using. For example, if you are going to use a size 30 needle with a thick thread, you should select a needle of the same size.

You can also check which needle sizes are suited for different types of fabrics. If you want to end up with perfect stitches every time, it is important that you match the type and size of your needles to your fabric as well.

What types of needles are used in embroidery?

There are two types of needles that are used in home embroidery machines. These include sharps and ball point needles. Sharps needles have a sharp tip and ball point needles have rounded tips.

What is the proper frequency of changing needles on an embroidery machine?

The proper frequency of changing needles on your embroidery machine is every 6-8 hours. You should also check to make sure that the needle you are using has not become bent or broken over time, as this may cause inaccurate stitching. I used to always change my machine needle when I worked on a project.

What is the best kind of needle to use on an embroidery machine?

There are many types of needles designed for use in embroidery machines, such as buttonhole needles, chenille needles, spool pins and tacking pins for instance.

You can find the right one for your sewing or embroidery by checking the thread recommendations and the manufacturer’s official website.

Final Thoughts

Embroidery machine needles are designed to be used with different types of materials and stitches. As you can see above, there is a needle for all types of projects that you may want to work on.

As long as you can find the right type and size of needle for your project, safe in the knowledge that it is going to provide accurate stitching and last for many years to come, then you can expect great-looking embroidery every time.

More and more machines nowadays have an automatic needle threader which makes using them easier and also keeps your hands from straining from handling the thread every time you need a new stitch.

Also, always try to avoid using the same size and color of thread for every project, as this may cause inaccuracies in your stitching. This can be done by checking the recommended size of thread for certain projects before you start.

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