Searching For A Needle In A Haystack

So you’re ready to start your project, knowing you need a new needle in your sewing machine. But how do you choose the correct needle for your specific project? Don’t worry, we’ve pulled together all the data you need to make an informed needle choice.

A-Best has a fantastic selection of needles available from Janome, Floriani and Klasse so you are sure to find exactly what you are looking for. Keep in mind, when you buy three packs of needles, you get a fourth pack free!

Needle Anatomy

All sewing needles have essentially the same parts:

Shank: The upper end of the needle, which is inserted into the machine. On most needles, the back of the shank is flat to make it easier to correctly insert them.

Shaft: The body of the needle below the shank. This will vary in thickness depending on the size of the needle.

Front Groove: This groove, located on the front of the shaft, acts as the last thread guide before the thread goes through the eye of the needle.

Scarf: The short indentation above the eye of the needle. It allows the hook on your bobbin case to get close to the eye of the needle so it can catch the thread loop and form the stitch. Janome needles have a longer, deeper scarf to help eliminate skipped stitches.

Eye: You know what this is: the hole at the end of the needle through which the thread passes. Janome needles have especially smooth eye holes to keep thread feeding smoothly and to avoid snagging.

Understanding needle sizes

The first thing you see on a needle package is the needle size. This will usually be shown as one number over another, such as: 70/10, 80/12 or 90/14. These numbers refer to the size of the needle.

The larger of the two numbers is the needle size according to the European numbering system. European sizes range from 60 to 120; 60 is a very fine, thin needle and 120 is a very thick, heavy needle. Some companies list American first, some list European first.

The smaller number is the needle size according to the American numbering system. The American system uses 8 to 19. So 8 is a very fine, thin needle and 19 is a very thick, heavy needle. In the US, this may be the only number you see on the needle pack.

The different size needles have been designed for optimal sewing on different weights of fabric.

Choosing the Correct Needle Type

Needle sizes described above reflect the thickness of the shank (the main part) and the size of the eye. You can also get specialized needles that have modified points, eyes, tips, and even heads (the area right behind the tip).

The most common recommendation for general sewing is to use an 11/75 or 14/90 universal needle.

Janome manufactures three main needle styles to help guarantee professional-looking results.

Janome Blue Tip Needles

These are the original needles manufactured by Janome for general sewing on most fabrics as well as for machine embroidery. They are a size 11 needle with a slight ball point tip that makes them good for most wovens, although they are also especially well-suited to sewing knits, fine fabrics, and synthetic fabrics. When a needle does not pierce correctly, it can drag the fabric downward toward the bobbin area, causing what is known as “flagging.” You can experience puckered seams, damaged fabric, and thread snags and breaks. A slight ball point tip goes between the fabric’s fibers, avoiding these issues. Blue Tip needles also have an oversize eye, which better accommodates embroidery thread, reducing tension and stress on the top thread – and makes threading the eye of the needle easier. The Blue Tip needle is an excellent choice for buttonholes as well.

Janome Purple Tip Needles

The Janome Purple Tip needle has a slightly rounded ball point like the Blue Tip, but is a larger needle (size 14) with a special cobra-shaped head. That simply means there are tiny “wings” just above the eye on either side of the needle that force the fibers of the fabric apart, allowing stitches to form more easily, leading to fewer or no skipped stitches. Janome recommends the Purple Tip needle for high-density embroidery designs as well as thick fabrics like denim and even multiple layers of fabric, such as quilts.

Janome Red Tip Needles

The Janome Red Tip Needle is not a ball point needle. It’s a size 14 needle with a sharp point and is an excellent choice for most normal fabrics, especially the popular quilting cottons. Since it is a very strong and durable needle, it works well in most situations where a universal needle is indicated. However, unlike traditional universal needles, the Red Tip needle has a larger eye (like the Blue Tip) so it’s also a good choice for tricky threads like metallic or monofilament. As with the Purple Tip above, the larger Red Tip needle is a good choice for thicker fabrics and multiple layers.

For more about Janome machines, accessories and projects, visit them online or follow them on FacebookPinterestTwitterInstagram,  and YouTube.

Other specialized needle types

Jeans: Has a sharp, strong point for denim, canvas and other tightly woven fabrics.

Leather: Features a chisel point for genuine leather only.

Sharps: Includes a sharper tip, making it good for silks and micro-fibers.

Metallic: if you are topstitching or embellishing with specialty threads, this needle has a larger, polished eye to allow the thread to flow through without fraying and breaking.


  • If the thread is breaking or shredding, go up one needle size or try a Top Stitch needle.
  • If the stitches are skipping, change the type of needle point, i.e. Ball Point or Sharp.
  • If the thread is bouncing, go down one size.
  • Check the needle plate, bobbin case and hook often. Any small imperfections may snag the thread as it passes and cause breakage.
  • Clean the machine often.

Stop by the store, or give us a call at 507-377-8244 and speak with one of our solutions consultants for expert tips on selecting the proper needle for your project.

Remember to Like and Follow our Facebook Page and our Instagram for regular updates on products, events and classes!


Daniel Hanson

Daniel Hanson

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