In this tutorial I will answer the following questions: what is a stretch needle for sewing? Do you need a stretch needle? Why use a stretch needle?
So, fun story. I was in a Joann fabrics store, browsing all the fun sewing accessories (you get it, right?). I’ve been up and down these aisles a hundred times, but somehow I seem to always find a new toy to bring home! Out of the corner of my eye, I see something that makes me do a double take: stretch needles. And super stretch needles. I immediately have questions, like what is a stretch needle? Do I need them?
I’ll explain more about what these needles are below. Safe to say, however, they definitely made their way into my stuffed shopping cart! I’m so glad they did. Since that fateful day in the aisles of Joann’s, I have had so much fun experimenting with these stretch needles! It turns out, I really DID need them. They solve a problem that I didn’t even know was possible to solve. Don’t you just love it when a spontaneous purchase pays off?
What is a Stretch Needle for Sewing?
A stretch needle may sound a bit like an oxymoron. The last thing you want is for your rigid sewing needle to start flexing and stretching everywhere! Thankfully, the needle itself is every bit as firm as any other needle.
A stretch needle gets its name because it is specifically created to use with very stretchy fabrics such as lycra and spandex.
This needle works excellent with swimwear, stretchy knits, all elastic materials. Visually, this needle has a shorter eye than a standard needle, a special flat shank, a deep scarf and specially designed to prevent skipped stitches on stretchy fabrics. It has a medium ballpoint tip (less rounded than the Jersey/Ballpoint needle).
What makes a stretch needle particularly useful is that it has a specific coating on the outside of the needle that helps it glide through those rubbery fabric strands. It’s pretty amazing!
In fact, the more stretchy a fabric is, the better the stretch needle will do. If you are on the fence or in doubt about whether you should use a standard needle or this one, I say go with stretch!
Do you need a stretch needle?
If you are someone who enjoys sewing, the answer is absolutely YES. A pack of stretch needles will set you back between $5-$12. At this price point, I’d highly recommend you stock up and get a few sizes—you never know when it may come in handy!
✅ Related tutorial: How to sew knit fabric | 23 expert tips for beginners
Why should I use a stretch needle? What happens if I use a regular needle instead?
Can you sew through stretch fabric with a regular needle? Of course you can! I did it for years without realizing that there was a better option out there.
But if you have ever experienced the frustrating process of having tangles of thread again and again, or dealing with uneven, broken stitching when sewing elastic, this needle is a game-changer!
I especially like to sew elastic with stretch needles. Most of the time I’m only sewing the two ends of the elastic together. And my sewing machine doesn’t like to sew elastic with a regular needle, I always have this kind of thread bunching if I forget to change the needle to the stretch one. The regular needle also seems to be causing the rubber strands in the elastic to break and this is another reason for the thread loops on the bottom.
But if I use the stretch needle I don’t have any problem sewing elastic.
Now I am always using the stretch needle to easily sew fold-over elastic. Of course, the needle is not the only solution for sewing elastic, you have to use the correct settings of your sewing machine and proper threads too.
The Best Brand of Stretch Needles
Now that you know what stretch needles are and why every sewist needs to have a pack in her arsenal, let’s chat about which ones to buy. Remember, the investment on these is not very large. While I initially tossed 2 types in my cart just to play with them, I now have multiple packages at the ready! These are great to reach for in a sewing emergency—they tend to get the job done when other needles may fail.
If you are unsure of which brand to get, I highly recommend Schmetz. This is the brand I have used for years and really have been happy with the results.
Schmetz Stretch Needles
I’m not the only one who is a fan of Schmetz! This is undoubtedly the most popular brand of stretch needle, hands down. But don’t take my word for it alone. Here is what some of the reviewers had to say:
Fabric Glides Through Smoothly“I’ve been sewing with a lot of spandex lately (yoga pants and running tights). While I usually use my serger and cover stitch machine for the major seams, I need the right needles to help me finish my button holes with my sewing machine. If I use other needles, like universal needles, the fabric gets all bunched into the thread hole and I have to cut thread and fabric to get it out. However, with these stretch needles, the fabric glides smoothly through all four buttonhole steps.” (Carrie).
Only Needle Worth Purchasing“Schmetz needles are the ONLY needle worth purchasing, if you do a lot of sewing…or even if you don’t. Having a fresh quality needle in your machine makes all the difference in achieving smooth, even stitching. Well worth every penny. Great value. Will be reordering.” (Susan).
No Skipped Stitches or Ruined Material“Purchased to sew stretchy, spandex-like material. Works perfectly. No skipped stitches, and no ruined material. I used one needle in my Kenmore sewing machine, and two needles in my Brother 1034D serger. Both machines operated perfectly with the needles and my running shorts look awesome.” (D.Enigma)
As you can see, I’m not the only one who was smitten with these! There are a few other brands of these needles on the market: Organ, Singer, Klasse.
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.
I buy my stretch needles on Amazon now
Different Types of Stretch Needles to Consider
Once you start getting into the world of stretch needles, you’ll soon notice that there are several variations of them. But don’t get confused – here’s what the different types of needles are, and when each may be handy.
What is a Super Stretch Needle?
The super stretch needle is made for when you are working with highly elastic thick fabrics and thick threads. It has a special flat shank and a special design of the scarf area that help prevent skipped stitches and sew with thicker threads that will not break. If you have ever tried to sew thick elastic or articles of clothing from synthetic suede like sportswear, you know that skipped stitches are one of the biggest headaches!
If you are working with basic stretchy material, you will likely only need a stretch needle. However, if you plan on working with thick spandex or anything similar, I highly recommend you keep a few of these in your sewing case. Again, the price point is low enough to justify tossing a few into your shopping cart!
Twin Stretch Needles
Twin stretch needles are two-pronged ballpoint style needles. To use this, simply unscrew your sewing machine’s needle from the clamp, then insert the twin stretch needle and tighten. There are two eyes, one on each needle, so you will thread your machine with two separate threads. You can use the same color, contrasting, or complementary.
I have a separate tutorial on sewing with twin needles, check it out here.
The stitching will show up as two side-by-side stitches. As it is a stretch needle, it is particularly made for those elastic fabrics like knits, spandex and lycra.
Ballpoint Needle vs. Stretch Needle
These needles are very similar. Both have rounded tips that work their way through the fabric fibers instead of the traditional method of piercing through. However, the ballpoint is slightly more round, so it may work for looser fabrics. If you use one and notice skipped stitches, swap it out for the other and see if it works better.
The ballpoint tip does not damage or break knitted fibers. The ballpoint needle is designed to work with all knit fabrics.
In the image below you can see the visual difference between the sewing machine needles (courtesy of Wikipedia). It’s interesting to know but I can’t verify this: I tried to look at my needles with a magnifier and didn’t see a thing. But I know from experience that they are different and work with different fabrics.
Jersey Needle vs. Stretch Needle
Ballpoint needles are also known as Jersey needles. So check the previous paragraph to learn the difference.
Ballpoint Needle vs. Regular Needle
A ballpoint needle is one specifically designed for knit fabrics. While a regular needle has a sharp tip, a ballpoint needle has a rounded tip on the end. This is to help prevent snags and runs that are common with knits.
Ballpoint Needle vs. Universal
A universal needle lives up to its name by being the best choice needle for most fabric. That being said, there are a few like spandex where a speciality needle is needed. A universal needle is what you can leave on your sewing machine 90% of the time until you work with something that requires a ballpoint or stretch needle.
I hope you are now convinced that you need to add several of these tools into your sewist arsenal kit. The moral of the story is to always make the time to browse Joann’s. You never know what fun, life-changing toy you’ll come home to play with!
And when we talk about needles, we need to talk also about the needle book. This is a very useful tool and will allow you to organize your needles, both new and used, in a single place from where they are easy to take for use, and where you can return them for safe storage until needed again. Such a book is a very simple project and in my article DIY Needle Book I am showing how to make one from pieces of scrap fabric.
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 want to use a stretch needle, and follow me on Pinterest for more tips, tutorials, and inspiration!
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