A Beginners Needle & Thread Primer

By using the right needle and thread for your fabric, you'll be able to create a more polished, professional looking garment. It can be somewhat confusing for the beginning sewer to choose these items, so I'll give you the basics you need to get started. Click on "Read more" to continue.



Let's start with thread. For most projects an all purpose sewing thread would be your best bet. Coats & Clark Dual Duty threads are good choice while you're figuring out the various threads. Although most threads are not longer marked with the weight, an all purpose thread is 40 weight. Threads are weighted exactly the opposite of what one would expect -- a 30 weight thread is heavier (thicker) than a 40 weight thread, while a 60 weight thread is lighter (thinner) than a 40 weight. So, a Coats & Clark Heavy Duty thread would be a 30 weight -- the same weight you see used for constructing jeans.

Most all purpose threads are cotton covered polyester. Most machine embroidery threads are either polyester, or rayon. Cotton covered poly has a very dull finish, poly has a somewhat shiny finish, and rayon has a shiny finish. Although many will claim that embroidery threads are heavier than sewing thread, they are in most cases 40 weight threads. So, if you want a shiny thread for your project go ahead and use an embroidery thread.

These days, one can find quite a variety of needles. For this primer, I'll concentrate on the 3 main types of needles you would use for sewing. The 2 things you'll be looking at when buying a needle is size, and type.

Needle Sizes: The 3 sizes of needles that you will use most often are those that are found in most of the "variety" packages (although you can purchase packs of just one size). Needles have 2 numbers, and both numbers mean the same thing -- this is because most needle manufacturers have combined European and American sizing to eliminate confusion.

70/10 - this is a somewhat delicate needle. Use this needle when you sewing a more delicate fabric (something thinner than quilters cotton).

80/12 - this is the closest size to an "all purpose" needle there is. A good choice for quilters cotton, and most fashion fabrics.

90/14 - a heavy duty needle. Use this for denim, heavy twill, and anytime you're using a heavy duty thread.

Needle Types: The three basic types of needles are Sharp, Universal, and Ball Point -- the name refers to the tip of the needle.

Sharp: A sharp point needle for sewing woven fabrics. As a sharp needle passes through the fabric, it will break the weave. That's not a problem with tightly woven fabrics, but if used on knits it can create little holes each place the needle goes in.

Ball Point: This needle has a ball point tip; for use on knits, stretch knits, and loosely woven fabrics. As a ball point needles passes through the fabric, it moves between the threads of the weave. Using a ball point needle on knits eliminates the worry of making holes in the fabric.

Universal: A hybrid of the Sharp and the Ball Point. Good for all purpose sewing, can be used on most wovens, and heavier knits.

You will notice that neither the needle package, or your machine manual will incidate what needle brand, or type, or size you should purchase for your particular machine. That is because a sewing machine needle, is a sewing machine needle, is a sewing machine needle. Almost all modern machines use a needle with a flat back, rounded front top; so buy whatever brand you like.

Needles made for home market embroidery machines are just sewing machine needles with a slightly larger eye. If you can't find the type, or size needle you need in a sewing machine needle, go ahead and use an embroidery needle.

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