<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://ct.pinterest.com/v3/?event=init&tid=2613186133853&pd[em]=&noscript=1" /> Skip to Content

19 Types of Sewing Machine Needles and What They’re Used For

It was a time when I didn’t even know there were different types of sewing machine needles – I was so lost. I can still clearly picture the irritated expression on my face as I pulled the fabric from the sewing machine for the fourth time. My fabric was getting tattered and the stitches were messy, uneven, and pulling. What on earth was going on? Had the sewing fairy tapped me on the shoulder in the night and removed all of my sewing skills? Ahh…the joy of learning new things.

There are a lot of reasons that sewing with a sewing machine can be difficult, but one of the most common things that we often forget about is a sewing machine needle. The needle is the workhorse of the sewing machine, making thousands of punctures in each project, magically weaving together thread loops to make something beautiful and useful.

Sewing machine needle types guide

But isn’t a sewing machine needle … well, just a needle? Don’t you just pop a new one in and keep sewing if your needle breaks? Actually, I used to think exactly that when I first started sewing, and I was frequently frustrated that some of my projects didn’t look as tidy and pretty as I wanted them to. When I took the time to learn about having the right needle, my sewing projects began coming together with much less angst.

I’d had no idea that each kind of sewing machine needle was developed particularly for certain kinds of fabrics or sewing projects. I learned that sewing machine needles are like tools in my sewing toolbox. Using the wrong needle for a project is like trying to pound nails with a screwdriver. You can get it done eventually, but the work goes better and more quickly if you have the right tools for the job.

How to Choose a Correct Sewing Machine Needle for Your Project

If you go to buy needles, you will be overwhelmed by a seemingly endless selection of needles at your local sewing store. 

When choosing a needle for your project, there are several factors to consider, among them fabric type, thread type and weight, and stitch type and design details. Start by looking at your fabric type – this will determine whether you need a universal needle or something more specific like a denim/jeans or ballpoint needle.

Next, consider your thread type and weight – if you’re using thicker threads (12 wt), then you should use a heavy duty needle; if you’re using metallic threads, then use a metallic needle.

Consider stitch type and design details – if you’re doing decorative topstitching then use a sharp point or topstitch need; if you’re adding embroidery designs then use an embroidery-specific needle. 

Use this guide as a starting point when selecting the right needle. 

Types of Sewing Machine Needles

Universal Needles

Universal needles are probably the most common type of needles used in sewing machines today. You know those fancy multitools that feature all kinds of gadgets, from pliers to various types of screwdrivers? This is your universal needle. You can use it for most of your basic sewing.

Note: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means I will receive a commission if you order a product through one of my links. I only recommend products I believe in and use myself. 

Other Kinds of Sewing Machine Needles

Wouldn’t it be nice if your sewing machine could speak up and tell you what’s up when you are having trouble sewing?

It would be fabulous if it could say “Hey! The needle is dull, you knucklehead! Sewing is getting hard, so change the needle!” Or “You out there! This is the wrong needle for this project! Don’t get mad at me! Change your needle!”

While a universal needle is a fabulous tool for your sewing toolbox, sometimes you will need a more specialized needle. Your sewing machine doesn’t have a voice, and it can’t tell you if something is wrong. Therefore, it is up to you to put the right needle for the project into the machine. If you have the wrong needle, not only can you make a mess of your project, you may even break your machine.

Ball Point Needles

Jersey Needles

Stretch Needles

Sharp Needles

Microtex Needles

Topstitch Needles

Metallic Needles

Quilting Needles

Jeans/Denim Needles

Fleece Needles

Embroidery Needles

Leather needles

Vinyl Needles

Twin Needles

Triple Needles

Wing Needles/Hemstitch

Double Eye Needles

Self Threading Needles

Can You Use a Universal Needle When Piecing a Quilt?

When piecing a quilt together, it is important to match your sewing needle to the fabric you are using. A universal needle generally works well with traditional quilting cottons and cotton blends, but if you are working with fancier fabrics, it might be wise to invest in a different type of needle that is more suitable for that fabric. 

For instance, if you are making a t-shirt quilt (from jersey knits), it would be better to opt for a stretch or jersey needle. And if you making a quilt from denim use a jean needle.

What Is the Difference Between Stretch Needle and Universal Needle?

STRETCH needle vs Universal needle

Stretch sewing machine needles have medium ballpoint tips which allow them to smoothly move between fabric fibers when working with highly elastic knit fabrics, such as swimwear and activewear. On the other hand, universal needles feature a sharper tip designed to penetrate a variety of woven and knit fabrics, from lightweight chiffon to heavy wool blends. Additionally, stretch needles tend to have smaller eyes and deeper indentations around the eye (known as “scarf”) than their universal counterparts. 

What Is the Difference Between Universal Needle and Ball Point Needle for Sewing?

BALLPOINT needle vs Universal needle

Universal needles are a great all-around option that can handle both woven and slightly stretchy knits. However, when it comes to sewing with knit fabrics, a ballpoint needle is necessary. That’s because the rounded tip on this type of needle glides between fibers instead of tearing them apart like a universal needle would do with knits. The result is a seam that looks smooth, not ragged or snagged which is often what can happen if you use the wrong needle. 

How to Tell the Difference Between Stretch and Universal Needle?

You can’t see the difference with your eye. Some manufacturers use color codes to help make it easier. Schmetz, for example, applies yellow coding on stretch needles while leaving universal needles uncolored.

When it comes to Organ needles, they don’t mark them at all. To save yourself from potential confusion, you can read the type of needle on the box or create a needle organizer book like mine which will aid in memorizing and determining differences. If you’re looking for help on how to create one, here’s the link to my tutorial.

DIY needle book
DIY needle book

How Can I Tell If My Sewing Machine Needle Is a Ballpoint and Universal Needle?

Figuring out the difference between a ball point needle and universal needle can be difficult, as there is no visible difference between them. To differentiate, some manufacturers use color codes, with Schmetz featuring an orange code on their ball point needles and no colors on their universal equivalents.

Unfortunately, Organ needles don’t feature any kind of color coding. You can also consult the packaging that each type of needle comes in or make yourself a nifty needle organizer book to help you keep track.

Did you find this tutorial helpful? If so, save this pin (see below) on your sewing board so you can come to this tutorial later when you need this information on types of sewing machine needles, and follow me on Pinterest for more tips, tutorials, and inspiration!

Types of sewing machine needles guide

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Saturday 21st of January 2023

Thank you for sharing your knowledge on so many aspects of sewing. This one about Sewing Machine Needles is just what I need to improve my sewing projects. Again, many thanks.

Olga Balasa

Tuesday 31st of January 2023

Thank you; I am always glad when one of my articles is useful!

Vicki Lamb

Saturday 21st of January 2023

Finally, I know why all my forays into sewing have failed! Thank-you for this informative tutorial. I have to finish a project and now know which needle to use although I don't have the correct needle, I can purchase one now and get going. I do have several needle types but did not know that there were so many more I hadn't heard of. Maybe now the things I make will look better than I even have a right to expect.

Olga Balasa

Tuesday 31st of January 2023

Good luck! You will also need threads, machine feet for various operations and a lot of small tools that each is useful at some point. Sewing is simple, and at the same time it is not simple!


Saturday 21st of January 2023

I like all of your articles, but this one is really thumb up, thumb up and thumb up (I think I am missing a hand !) I have been sewing as a leasure for over 40 years but it is just recently that I ''discover'' the range of needles and their uses; before, I simply used universal needle for just about everything. I am now retired and ''explore'' quite a bit more with fabrics and creativity ... my grand-son is mainly the one benefitting of this ... Thank you so much for having many of us (leasured sewing person) improve the knowledge and quality of our sewing.

Olga Balasa

Tuesday 31st of January 2023

Thank you; and you know, since I wrote this, I found new types of needles which I will eventually have to add to the article ...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.