Threads and Needles


Thread may be made of synthetics, cotton, silk, or a combination of these fibers. Like fabrics, threads are often treated with finishes to impart special qualities and improve performance.

  • Mercerization, applied to cotton thread and cotton-covered polyester thread, adds smoothness, luster and better dye affinity.
  • GlacÚ finish, used on quilting thread and button and carpet thread, produces a hard, smooth surface, as waxing does.

Synthetic Thread

Synthetic threads today may be cotton-covered polyester, spun polyester, or nylon. These threads provide the strength and elasticity necessary for today's knits, permanent press, and stretch fabrics.

Machine Needles

Check your sewing machine manual for the type of needle you should buy. Some needles, such as those by Coats & Clark, will fit most popular makes of sewing machine-see the needle package. The following needles are standard needles, which vary mainly in the type of point.

  • Universal ball-point needles have a special taper, designed for knits and wovens alike.
  • Sharp-pointed needles have a special taper, designed for knits and wovens alike.
  • Ball-point needles have a rounded point, designed for use on knit fabrics; the ball-point pushes the yarns aside, instead of piercing them,
  • Wedge needles have a wedge-shaped point, designed for use on leather and leather-look fabric.
  • Twin needles and triple needles have two or three needles joined together with a common body or shank. They can be used on some machines for straight or decorative stitching (see your sewing machine manual).

The correct machine-needle size is determined by the weight of the fabric to be sewn. The numbering system for needle sizes varies depending on the brand-some are numbered according to the U.S. system of sizes, while others are numbered according to the European system.

Change your machine needle often especially when sewing on synthetics. A new needle assures you of no needle damage to fabric. A blunt or burred needle can damage your fabric and thread.

Hand-Sewing Needles

Hand-sewing needles come in ten sizes, from No. 1, very coarse, to No. 10, very fine the following are the most common types:

  • Sharps are medium length needles, most commonly used for general sewing. Most other hand-sewing needles differ from them mainly in length.
  • Embroidery (also called crewel) needles are exactly like Sharps but have a longer eye for easier threading. They are excellent for sewing.
  • Between are shorter needles, good for detailed handwork, such as fine stitching on heavy fabric, as in tailoring. Quilting needles are size 7 Between.
  • Milliners are longer needles, best for basting and millinery.
  • Calyx-eyed Sharps are open at the top for easy threading. Very helpful for people who have difficulty threading ordinary needles.

Special Needles

The following needles are made for various purposes; the numbering for sizes may vary somewhat from the hand-sewing needles above.

  • Beading needles are very fine, long needles, used for bead work and sewing sequins on fine fabrics.
  • Tapestry needles are heavy needles with a blunt point for work on canvas, such as needlepoint.
  • Chenille needles are similar to tapestry needles but have a sharp point for heavy embroidery on closely woven fabric.
  • Clovers needles have a tapered point with three sharp edges to pierce leather without tearing it; used for hand-sewing on leather.
  • Darners are long needles, used for basting and darning with cotton.
  • Yarn darners are the heaviest needles with large eyes, used for stitchery and darning with yarn.

Special assortments of needles are also available with various straight and curved needles for crafts, upholstery, rugs, etc

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