Updated at: 08-11-2022 - By: Sienna Lewis

The answer to what is a stretch needle for a sewing machine is at the name itself; it is a particular type of needle for sewing stretch materials. Stretch material can be challenging to work with, so it’s crucial to set your sewing machine with the proper attachments.

But other than preparing the needle, please read how to sew stretchy fabric with a sewing machine. It would help you to know some tips and tricks in sewing stretch fabric to ensure perfect stitches each time.

After all, it’s not enough to put on a stretch needle. You also need to know what settings to use and maneuver the stretch material through the machine.

What Is A Stretch Needle Used For In A Sewing Machine?

The stretch needle is a needle for sewing stretch materials like certain knits, Spandex, Lycra, and other fabrics for elastic garments. You can quickly identify a stretch needle from a regular sewing machine needle because its shank is flat and its eye is short.

The stretch needle is also not confused with a jersey needle because it has a medium or less rounded ballpoint tip. And to make it even more effective for stitching elastic materials, the needle is coated for going through fibers smoothly, helping prevent the machine from skipping stitches.

Finally, remember that you’ll also use specific threads like textured nylon or polyester thread when sewing stretchy materials. They will ensure seam elasticity on the project, but you will only get solid and perfect seam stitching if the needle efficiently goes in and out of the fabric.

Should you get a stretch needle?

You need a stretch needle, especially if you’re unsure that your regular sewing needle can sew through the stretchy fabrics you’re working with. It’s safe to say that the stretch needle should be among your stored needles in case you’ll sew elastic fabrics or even some knits that have more stretch to them.

It’s possible to sew stretchy fabrics with a regular needle, but you risk developing skipped stitches. The stitches themselves might also break, or you’ll notice that your sewing machine tangles the thread.

Thread bunching can be frustrating, and you won’t get perfect stitches when they form. Read more about why does my sewing machine keep bunching the thread to know what to do.

What is a stretch twin needle?

From the name itself, the stretch twin needle is a variation of the twin needle for sewing stretchy fabrics. It helps finish hems and seams, and they come in various sizes according to the distance between the two needles.

We wrote a tutorial on how to use a double needle on a sewing machine so you can learn how to set up this particular needle type. It will benefit you when you need fast parallel stitch lines on your stretch fabrics.

What Is The Difference Between A Stretch Needle And a Regular Needle?

Stretch needle

  • Has a rounded point for going through fabric threads without piercing the stretchy material
  • Designed for sewing lightweight knits, Spandex, Lycra, or silk jersey

Regular needle

  • Has a slightly rounded point ideal for woven materials
  • Universal needle for most fabrics

What Is The Difference Between Stretch And Jersey Sewing Machine Needles?

Stretch needle

  • Less rounded tip than a jersey needle
  • The eye is higher than a jersey needle to allow more stretch in the seam since the loop formed between the upper and lower thread will be bigger
  • Next alternative if sewing with a jersey needle left skipped stitches

Jersey needle

  • Also a ballpoint needle as the stretch needle but more rounded
  • Ideal for sewing jersey and medium weight stretch materials
  • Best choice for knits before a stretch needle

What Size Is A Stretch Needle?

The stretch needle is available in sizes 11/75 and 90/14. Remember to select the correct size for the fabric you’re sewing to avoid struggling or getting unsightly stitches.

The American sizing system for needles starts from 8 to 19, while the European system numbered 60 to 120. In either system, just remember that the lower numbers mean the finer needle, and the higher number means a larger needle.

From there, you can assume that heavier fabrics require a larger needle than light fabrics that can be sewn with smaller needles. You can apply this when selecting the stretch needle size for your project

Can You Use Straight Stitch On Stretch Fabric?

You can sew a stretch fabric with a straight stitch as long as you hold the material taut without pulling when working the sewing machine. However, the best stitches for sewing stretchy fabrics are stretch stitches that follow the material’s stretch, especially when the project is finished.

What stitch do you use to sew stretchy fabric?

  • Straight stretch stitch or three parallel rows of regular straight stitches
  • Twin needle stitch is done with a twin needle that leaves two parallel rows of stitches on the front and a zigzag pattern at the back of the fabric
  • Narrow zigzag stitch that uses equal stitch width and length
  • Overedge stitch for finishing seams on stretch fabrics

Choosing the Right Machine Needles

Selecting the correct needle for your project is just as important as selecting the fabric, thread, and stabilizer. There are different sizes and types of needles for different types of fabric. The European metric sizing system for sewing machine needles is numbered from 60 to 110. The American sizing system is numbered from 8 to 18. For both sizing systems, the lower the number the finer the needle and the higher the number the larger the needle. Most needle companies show both sizes on the package.

A good rule of thumb to keep in mind: the lighter the fabric the smaller the needle size and the heavier the fabric the larger the needle size. Many times the thread you will be using for your sewing project will also determine the type of needle you choose. For example, when using a fine, delicate thread, be sure to use a smaller needle size. A full selection of SINGER® needles is available online in our Needles section.

Sewing Machine Needles

  • Universal (Style 2020) needles are used for all woven fabrics. This needle will penetrate the fabric threads of woven fabrics.
  • Ball Point (Style 2045) needles are used for sewing on knits; the rounded tip allows the needle to pass between the fabric threads by separating them. (Using a regular point needle on knit fabric will result in skipped stitches and fabric damage, causing it to curl.)
  • Chromium Regular Point (Style 2000) needles are recommended for sewing woven fabrics on all SINGER® and QUANTUM® embroidery machines. This stronger needle is longer lasting and will tolerate the high stitching speed of embroidery machines.
  • Chromium Ball Point (Style 2001) needles are recommended for sewing knit fabrics on all SINGER® and QUANTUM® embroidery machines. This stronger needle is longer lasting and will tolerate the high stitching speed of embroidery machines.
  • Denim or Jeans (Style 2026) needles are recommended for sewing denim, jeans, and canvas.
  • Twin Needle (Style 2025) is used for stitching two closely spaced parallel rows at a time – for decorative stitching.
  • Hemstitch or Wing-Needle (Style 2040) creates a small hole in the fabric as is sews and is used in heirloom sewing. Use natural woven fibers like linen & cotton for best results.
  • Leather (Style 2032) needles are used for leather and vinyl.

Serger/Overlock Machine Needles

  • Universal (Style 2054-42) serger needles are used for all woven fabrics. This needle will penetrate the fabric threads of woven fabrics. For use on SINGER® model 14U serger/overlock machines.
  • Ball Point (Style 2054-06) serger needles are used for sewing on knits; the rounded tip allows the needle to pass between the fabric threads by dividing the hem. (Using a regular point needle on knit fabric will result in skipped stitches and fabric damage, causing it to curl.) For use SINGER® model 14U serger/overlock machines.
  • Chromium (Style 2022) serger needles are recommended for SINGER® model QUANTUMLOCK® 14T and ULTRALOCK® 14SH serger/overlock machines.

Change the needle after sewing two to three garments or after hitting a pin. Fabric damage is often caused by a bent, blunt or burred needle. Uneven or skipped stitches are often the result of using the incorrect needle size or type.


Fabrics below can be of any fiber, cotton, linen, silk, wool, synthetic, rayon, blends. They are listed as examples of weight.

Machine Needle Type Machine Needle Size
Sheer to lightweight: Batiste, Chiffon, Georgette, Organza, Voile and all microfiber or microdenier fabrics. Regular Point 9/70 or 11/80
Lightweight: Challis, Chambray, Charmeuse, Crepe de Chine, Gauze, Handkerchief Linen, Silk, Taffeta, Tissue Faille. Regular Point 11/80
Medium-weight: Broadcloth, Brocade, Chino, Chintz, Corduroy, Flannel, Linen, Poplin, Satin, Synthetic Suedes, Taffeta, Terry, Velvet Regular Point 14/90
Medium to Heavy-weight: Coating, Damask, Drapery Fabric, Fake Fur, Gabardine, Ticking, Woolens Regular Point 16/100 or 18/110
Denim and Canvas Denim/Jeans 16/100
Sheer to Lightweight Knits: Jersey, Single Knit, Spandex, Tricot Ball Point 10/70 or 12/80
Medium to Heavy-weight Knits: Double Knit, Sweatshirt, Sweater Knit Ball Point 14/90
Specialty Fabrics: Leather, Suede, Buckskin Wedge Point 14/90 or 16/100


Top 10 Needle Troubleshooting Tips

  1. For best sewing results, needles should be replaced every 8-10 hours of stitching time.
  2. Snags or pulls in woven (non-stretch) fabrics:

This can occur if the needle is either bent or dull, or you are using the wrong style of needle. Use a regular point needle (Style 2020) for woven fabrics.

  1. Skipped stitches on woven fabrics:

This can occur when the needle is old, bent or dull.

Remove and discard the old needle. Replace it with a new regular point needle (Style 2020).

  1. Skipped stitches on stretch fabrics:

This can occur if you are using a regular point needle instead of a ball point needle.

Switch to a ball point needle (Style 2045) which is specifically designed for sewing stretch fabrics.

  1. Popping sound while you are sewing:

This is a good indication that the needle is bent or damaged. Remove and discard the old needle.  Replace it with a new one that is appropriate for the type and weight of fabric.

  1. Thread is shredding:

This can mean the needle is too small for the thickness of thread, so change to either a larger size needle or a finer weight thread.

Shredding thread can also occur if the thread is old or poor quality (uneven filament).

  1. Needles are breaking:

This can be an indication that the needle size is too small for the thickness of fabric being sewn, so change to a larger size needle. Additionally, when you sew, do not “push” or “pull” the fabric, but rather, let the feed dogs draw the fabric along. If you push or pull the fabric as you sew, the needle could deflect causing it to break.

  1. Large holes in the seam line of lighter weight woven fabrics:

This can be an indication that your needle is too large for the weight of the fabric.  Change to a smaller needle size.

  1. When removing and inserting needles, it can be helpful to place a small piece of paper over the presser foot area, so that you don’t accidentally drop the needle down into the machine!
  2. When inserting a new needle, be sure that is inserted correctly into the machine, or it may not sew properly.  The flat side of the needle should be facing toward the back of the machine. Make sure it is all the way up in the needle clamp, then tighten the needle clamp screw securely.

What Are Different Types of Sewing Machine Needles?

Universal Needle

As the name denotes, the universal needle is good for pretty much all basic sewing. In fact, this is the needle that comes with most standard sewing machines.

This general needle features a slightly rounded point making it good for woven and knit fabrics. For sewing on any regular cotton projects, the universal needle is your best bet.

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Pro Tip: It’s always a good idea to have an extra pack of universal needles on hand! There’s nothing worse than having your last needle break right in the middle of a project, and the universal needle can be subbed in for most needles.

Best for Woven fabrics, knits, cotton, poly/cotton, silks, linen, nylon, polyester, tulle, velour, organza, wool, and fleece.

Ball Point Needle

The ballpoint needle has a rounded point that allows it to slip through the yarns and threads of fabrics without cutting them.

The rounded end allows it to slide between fibers rather than through them, so it helps you avoid snagging, runs or creating holes while you’re sewing.

Best for: Cotton knits, jersey, polyester, poly/cotton, rib knits, double knits, interlock knits, spandex.

Stretch Needle

If you’ve ever tried sewing on stretch fabric and wanted to send your machine sailing out of a window because your thread keeps breaking, skipping or tangling, don’t blame yourself, blame your needle.

A stretch needle is designed specifically with a larger scarf that creates bigger loops in the stitches to avoid broken or skipped stitches.

This needle is a must for 2-way stretch fabrics (like the kind that bathing suits are made of) and makes installing elastic much easier too!

Best for: Stretch knits, lycra, spandex, elastic, silk jersey, dance and swimwear fabric.

Jeans/Denim Needle

This needle is made for, you guessed it, sewing heavier fabrics like jeans and denim.

The shaft of the needle is super sturdy and thicker, and the point is sharp with a slender eye. This allows the needle to pierce through heavy fabrics without breaking.

Use one of these needles if you’re hemming/altering jeans or working on thicker fabrics. It’s far better than the frustration (and cost!) of breaking a bunch of thinner needles.

Best for Denim, canvas, twill, topstitching heavy fabrics.

Sharps/Microtex Needle

This needle has a super sharp point that allows it to penetrate fine, densely-woven fabrics effortlessly.

It’s also ideal for detailed topstitching, appliques and creating buttonholes since the sharp point gives you precision and accuracy while stitching.

Best for: Vinyl, silk, densely-woven fabrics, synthetic leather/suede, microfiber, taffeta, sequined fabrics, appliques.

Quilting Needle

When you’re making a quilt, you’re sewing through multiple layers of cotton and batting, and you need all your beautiful and hard work to stay in place.

The quilting needle is designed with a long, sharp point that allows it to go through multiple layers at once without disturbing them and keeps your stitches straight and uniform.

Best for Quilting, sewing through or topstitching multiple layers of fabric including batting.

Embroidery Needle

The embroidery needle includes a larger eye that allows thicker threads, like those used in embroidery, to pass through without tangling or breaking as you sew. The scarf also protects threads from fraying or breaking when sewing at high speeds.

It also features a super sharp point to penetrate fabrics – or multiple layers – easily so you can show off your amazing decorative stitching skills with ease!

Best for: Decorative stitching with rayon, polyester, cotton, acrylic or specialty embroidery thread.

Topstitching Needle

Like the embroidery needle, the topstitching needle has a large eye to allow thicker threads to pass through. The difference is that it has a slightly longer, sharper point so it can easily go through medium to heavyweight fabrics or several layers.

Metallic Needle

Creating decorative stitching with metallic thread can be tricky, but it’s easier when you have the right needle!

A metallic needle has a large eye, long scarf, and sharp point, all of which work together so you can work with thick, metallic threads without them breaking.

Best for Metallic or monofilament threads.

Leather Needle

What is this wizardry?

It is as good as it sounds. It’s a universal needle with a slit in the side of the eye. Instead of breaking out the magnifying glass and thread wax in an attempt to get the end of the thread through the tiny eye, you slide the thread down the needle until it pops into the eye.

Honestly, why don’t they make all needles like this?

Best for: Wovens, knits, synthetic leather and suede.

Hemstitch and Wing Needle

Best for Heirloom stitching.Used mostly for decorative and heirloom stitching, the wing needle has flared on each side of the shaft which produces bigger holes.

Twin Needle

The twin needle is a fun little shank that holds two needles side by side so you can create perfect double rows of stitching.

You can use this for hems, topstitching or decorative stitches. Throw an extra spool pin on your bobbin winder to hold a second spool of thread, and get to double stitching!

Best for: Creating double rows of stitching. Can be used with universal, denim, stretch, embroidery or metallic needles. You can also use it with one universal and one wing needle.

Triple Needle

Like the twin needle, the triple needle is a single shank that holds three needles. Use this to create decorative topstitching or embroidery.

Click the photo to see the Price on AmazonThe triple needle can typically only be used with universal needles, and you should also make sure your sewing machine is triple-needle compatible.

Best for: Decorative topstitching or hemming.

Learn How To Sew: Sewing Needles – Buyer’s Guide

Sewing needles come in all shapes and sizes. They even differ depending on whether you are hand-sewing or using a sewing machine.

Sewing machine needles come in a variety of different packaging styles. Buying the correct needle for your machine is essential if you want your machine to work correctly. For example Singer needles can only be used in Singer machines. The needles themselves are slightly longer than standard machine needles and will then not correctly form a stitch in a non singer machine. However please do not despair! There are far more needles out on the market for machines that are not Singer, than there are singer needles.

The correct size and type of Sewing machine needle is essential to produce a good quality stitch. The old adage of you get what you pay for really is true with machine needles. In my opinion the Schmetz range of needles is by far the best for value for money and longevity. Schmetz was established in 1851 and is still a family owned company. The Schmetz sewing machine needles are manufactured to the highest possible standards to offer unrivalled performance in just about every application.

Machine Embroidery Needles

These are again available in a variety of sizes and are generally used in the top end embroidery machines. These machines produce intricate designs at a significant speed. The needles enable the machine to sew dense designs without snagging at the fabric or breaking the needle. More recently Titanium needles have become available. The titanium needles are able to cope with the intense heat that is created by the rapid movement machine to create these designs and not break as an ‘ordinary’ needle would. Embroidery needles also have larger eye’s to accommodate the slightly thicker nature of embroidery thread.


Hand sewing needles vary according to what fabric you are using. Hand sewing needles vary in the size of the shaft and eye of the needle as well as the length, width, and type of point.

A sewing needle has three parts: the tip that pierces the fabric, the eye of the needle through which you put thread and the shaft connecting these two parts. Different fabrics require differently shaped needles; sewing needles are made to pierce fabric without damaging it.

Needles come in different sizes. There are two different sizing systems in sewing, the imperial system, and the metric system. From smallest to largest, the imperial sizes range from 9 to 18, and metric needles range from 65 to 110. Most needles are labeled with both denotations.


  1. Applique
  2. Beading
  3. Bodkin (a.k.a. ballpoint)
  4. Chenille
  5. Darning
  6. Easy- or Self-threading
  7. Embroidery (a.k.a. Crewel)
  8. Leather
  9. Milliners (a.k.a. Straw)
  10. Quilting
  11. Sailmaker
  12. Sharp
  13. Tapestry
  14. Upholstery

The most common needles used are quilting, sharp and applique needles. Leather needles have a wedge-shaped tip to pierce through leather or vinyl without tearing it or damaging the fabric. A sailmaker needle is used to construct materials out of heavy canvas fabric. A beading needle has a very thin shaft and narrow eye to go through the holes in the core of beads and make beautiful embellishments with beads to fabrics. Bodkin or ballpoint needles are used with woven or knitted fabrics; they don’t disturb the knitted fibers within the material. Tapestry and chenille needles can be threaded with thicker threads and pierce through tightly woven chunky fabrics.


What is a stretch needle for sewing machine?

A stretch needle has what is called a ‘scarf’ which allows extra room for the hook to pass close by and prevents skipped stitches making it ideal for use with fabrics such as Lycra, power net, two way stretch knits, silk jersey, spandex and highly elasticated synthetic fabrics or indeed elastic itself.

What tension should I use for stretchy fabric?

Tension: For loftier knits or stable knits, like ponte or scuba knit fabrics, try a lower tension around 2 or 3. Around 4 is usually good for heavyweight knits. The 4-5 Tension range generally yields the best results with light to medium weight knits.

Do you need a stretch needle?

Choose the right needle – all stretchy knit fabrics should be sewn with a special needle; either a ballpoint or a stretch needle. A ballpoint needle consists of a rounded tip, which pushes the yarns away when sewing. It avoids damaging knit fabric while cutting and sewing.

Can you use a stretch needle on cotton?

One strong point of Safran is that it can be made in many different fabrics for a wide range of styles: denim, twill, cotton sateen or even pleather, as long as it has 20 to 30% stretch, it works!

How do you know what size sewing needle to use?

The general rule is the bigger the size number, the bigger the needle! And the thinner the fabric you are using, the smaller the needle size you will need, and vice versa for thicker fabrics (you will need a larger needle).

Do you need special thread for stretchy fabric?

A regular serger thread like Designer™ should be used in the needle with it. This is ideal for all stretchy fabrics, especially those with a lot of stretch, as the thread will easily stretch along with it. If you’re looking for a finer finish, SoftLoc™ is our recommended thread for rolled hems.


And that’s it! We just learned what is a stretch needle for a sewing machine, which is a type of ballpoint needle especially made for sewing stretchy fabrics.

It should be your next choice when you notice skipped stitches after sewing with a jersey needle. However, please remember our tips on sewing with stretch fabric, such as what stitches to use.