A combination of things needs to be considered before starting your project. Most importantly is the combination of textiles, needles, and threads. Using the right combination extends the life of your creation.

Textile: Woven vs Knit vs Miscellaneous

Most textiles can fall under three categories: woven, knit, and miscellaneous. Woven and knit fabrics refer to the way the fabric is made. It can be 100% of one type of fiber or a blend of fibers; such as a mixture of cotton, rayon, or polyester. Many manufacturers blend fibers to make a hybrid; this gives it specific properties like water resistance and strength. The easiest way to tell the difference is by doing the stretch test (Little, 2013). Gently tug your fabric left, right, top, bottom, and on the bias. Woven fabrics only stretch at the bias. Knit fabrics stretch in every direction. Miscellaneous textiles include (but is not limited to) suede leather and vinyl. These textiles require a specific type of needle.


Threads may vary in color but are very limited in substrate varieties. Most are made of cotton, synthetic blends, or silk. An “all purpose” thread can be used for most textiles.

Needles (G, 2012)

The type of needle you use is dependent on the type of textile. Using the wrong needle will bend or break making it useless. In worst case scenarios, the needle can break your machine and fixing the machine could be costly. Rotate the needles frequently to extend the life of your needles. You could also purchase chromium needles. They are a bit more expensive but will last longer and have an easier time sewing thick fabrics.

General Purpose Needles

Universal Point Use on woven or knit fabrics.
Sharp Use on woven fabrics.
Ball Point Use on knit fabrics. Another name for it is jersey needles.

Specific Purpose Needles

Leather Use on leather. Unlike the name implies it can also be used with suede, vinyl, heavy faux suede, etc.
Denim Use on tightly woven fabrics like denim and canvas.
Embroidery Use on specialty threads like rayon or acrylic. It is meant for high speeds sewing.
Twin or Triple They are not really a “needle” but an attachment for placing 2 or 3 needles. It is mostly used for decorative purposes.

Needle Sizes (G, 2012)

Each type of needle also has varying sizes. The size of needle used will depend on the weight of your material. Your needles will have 2 sets of numbers separated by a slash in the middle. An example: 70/10. The number on the left is European and the right is American. The larger the number the larger the shaft of the needle.

A great guide on choosing the right textiles, threads, and needles can be found online at SewItWorks.com, (Sew It Works, n.d.)


G, S. (2012, September 15). Which Sewing Machine Needle To Use. Retrieved from SewingPartsOnline.com: http://www.sewingpartsonline.com/blog/which-sewing-machine-needle-to-use/

Little, A. (2013, June 20). Knit vs. Woven Fabrics. Retrieved from Craftsy: https://www.craftsy.com/blog/2013/06/knit-vs-woven-fabrics/

Sew It Works. (n.d.). Fabric-Needle-Thread Guide. Retrieved from SewItWorks.com: http://www.sewitworks.com/needle-guide/fabric-needle-thread/