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Machine Embroidery Needles 101: how to choose the right needle for your embroidery project

Learn all about machine embroidery needles. This guide covers embroidery needle sizes, differences between types of needles, how to pick the right needle for your project, and much more.

While the process of embellishing fabric dates back thousands of years and has seen many changes in the last years, at least one aspect of embroidery remains unchanged. It’s a fairly easy process that yields beautiful, complicated-looking results. 

It’s adding art to fabric with nothing more than a needle and some thread, and it’s much easier to do than you probably think – especially with today’s machine embroidery techniques!

I’ve made many different embroidery projects. I love machine embroidery over hand embroidery because it allows me to quickly add beauty and personalization to any project – your imagination only limits you!. 

I’ve added embroidery to many different items using my machines, including clothing, hats, pillows, protective cases, leather items, bags, shoes, and more.

And I’ve learned an important lesson over time: the quality of your machine embroidery depends on the tools you use. This is especially true of your needles. Today I’m showing you anything and everything you need to know about machine embroidery needles!

What needles to use for an embroidery machine 

Using the right needle is often crucial when it comes to embroidery, so it’s essential to know how to pick the right types and sizes of needles so that your embroidery project turns out just the way you envisioned it.

However, when just beginning with embroidery, learning everything you need to know about needles can be overwhelming. So to make it easier, I’m breaking it down for you into an all-in-one guide about machine embroidery needles that I wish I had available to me when I was first learning!

Today’s guide shows you the different types, materials, sizes, and uses for embroidery needles. Let’s jump in!

Universal Needles vs. Machine Embroidery Needles

There are universal sewing needles as well as needles designed specifically for embroidery.

While the two types of needles are similar, there are two main differences between embroidery needles and universal sewing needles. 

Those differences are the needle’s scarf and the size of the eye. They’re both designed in ways to put less strain on your embroidery thread, which is more thin and fragile than the regular line is.

There is another very important difference: the embroidery needles are usually more expensive than the regular sewing needles. Below is a direct comparison from Amazon of the same brand and size of needles, one standard, another embroidery.

The Scarf of the Needle

The scarf is the indentation on the back of the needle that runs from the eye up the shaft. Embroidery needles have a specially designed scarf meant to create less strain on your thread which means less fraying and breakage.

The Eye of the Needle

The needle’s eye is the hole of the hand where the thread is channeled through. The eyes of embroidery needles are much larger than those in universal needles to prevent breaking or fraying your line as the needle goes rapidly in and out through your fabric.

While you can use universal needles for embroidery, I highly recommend using special machine embroidery needles for your projects as they can cause embroidery thread to fray, snap, or break less often than universal needles do.

Types of Embroidery Needles

When it comes to the different embroidery needles, you’ll find chrome-plated needles and titanium-coated needles. 

Chrome-plated steel needles – this is the most common needle material type. It’s the default needle material, so it’s chrome if your package doesn’t specify the needle material. They can be used with most sewing and embroidery projects.

Titanium-plated needles – these needles are much higher quality. They’re stronger, more durable, and less likely to warp, bend, or break while your embroidery machine is stitching.

Plus, they contain a coating that makes them not only last longer but also less likely to catch on the material as you stitch. If you are embroidering large designs or using tough or dense materials, then, hands-down, you’ll want to use titanium needles.

Titanium is my favorite type of needle to use on all my machine embroidery projects!

The finish of SCHMETZ Gold Titanium needles resists wear and heat, allowing the hand to glide smoothly through adhesives with slower gummy build-up.

There are special Teflon-coated embroidery needles called anti-glue needles! They are my favorite when I embroider using sticky, self-adhesive stabilizers or stitching through fusible webs. The needle is also good for embroidering on napped fabrics. It reduces the residues in the thread channel and the eye.

Needle Points

Embroidery needles fall into 2 basic categories based on their tips: sharp and ballpoint. You choose the needle tip based on the type of fabric and thread that you’re using. 

Sharp Tip: This tip works well with the greatest variety of materials. Designed for use with fabrics and materials that won’t separate to allow the needle through. 

Ball Point Tip: Knits require a ballpoint needle that slips between the fibers and doesn’t risk piercing the fabric. This should prevent breakage of the fibers, which leads to small holes or runs you may see when embroidering knit fabrics, so if you want to make embroidery on knit fabric, use ballpoint embroidery needles.

Machine Embroidery Needle Sizes

Yep, like other sewing needles, embroidery needles come in different sizes! When referring to needle sizes, you’re referring to the hand’s width at the point. You’ll usually find two numbers for the size: the metric and US sizes.

There are 3 most used machine embroidery needles: 75/11, 80/12 and 90/14 (for home embroidery machines, not commercial or multi-needle machines). 75/11 is used for lightweight woven and knit fabric, 80/12 is better for medium weight fabric (like quilting cotton and linen), and 90/14 is good for embroidery on heavyweight fabric (on jeans and felt, for example).  

Choosing the Best Needles for Your Project

When it comes to machine embroidery needles, there are many options to choose from! However, while it may seem daunting at first, the reason for having so many options is that you need to use the right needle for the job that you’re doing.

There are several factors to consider when choosing the best embroidery needle to use for a project, but when you simplify it down, it comes down to the fabric type, thread type, and the embroidery design you’re using.

If the needle is bent, it will break, and it’s quite dangerous because the embroidery machine has a big stitching speed, and the broken needle can fly. 

credit: Ofarticle