Tutorial/guide

The easy guide to
machine needles for jersey fabrics

Blog / 16 November 2016

Since I opened the shop back in 2013, the popularity of sewing with jersey and stretchy fabrics has sky rocketed! With more of the indie pattern companies bringing out new patterns and jersey fabric easier to come by, there are lots of inspiring options when it come to adding comfy jersey garments to your handmade wardrobe.

Pictured above is the Tilly and the buttons Agnes tophack, Tilly and the Buttons Coco dress and the Sewaholic Davie Dress.

Using the correct needle on your sewing machine when sewing with these types of fabrics is really important to ensure that your seams stay strong and the stitches don’t snap.

Remember, jersey fabric is knitted so depending on its thickness, it can ladder just like a pair of tights or get holes in it.

Here is the full guide to the what, why and when of machine needles for stretchy fabrics.

Jersey needles

These are ballpoint needles, which means that instead of piercing the fabric, they push though it and in-between the yarns that the fabric is made from. This should stop holes or a ladder occurring in the fabric.

They come in a pack of 5 with 3 different sizes; 70, 80 and 90.

  • Size 70 is most suited to a lighter weight jersey, like t-shirt weight
  • Size 80 for a medium weight stretchy fabric like ponte roma
  • Size 90 for the heavier weight sweatshirt fabrics like terry loopback or fleece back

If you are completely new to sewing with jersey fabric, remember that you need to sew with a zig zag stitch on your machine - make it long and thin (roughly 1.5 width and 2.2 length) or select a stretch stitch on your machine. The fabric will stretch as you put on and move around in your garment, so need your stitches to be able to stretch as well, otherwise they stitches will pop and snap.

Stretch needles

These are also ballpoint needles, so they push though the fabric rather than piercing it, but the difference is that the eye of the needle is slightly higher than normal. This means that when the machine is sewing and creating the stitch between the upper thread and the bobbin thread, a bigger loop is created (because the eye of the needle is higher) and this allows a greater degree of stretch in the seam before the stitches will snap. They are suitable for very stretchy fabrics like lycra or swim wear fabric.

You might also find these needles useful if you are top stitching through a lot of layers of really thick bulky fabric.

Overlocker needles

I wanted to mention these needles too as overlockers are great if you sew a lot with stretchy fabric. The normal stitch that is created with the overlocker can stretch so its such a quick and easy way to sew a garment and it looks really neat on the inside too.

In the workshop studio we use Janome 6234XL machines and we have found that it is important to use actual overlocker needles when they need replaced as they are different from normal universal needles. The back on the needle just above the eye is shaped differently and is longer and smoother and this affects the tension of the thread. If you use a normal universal or standard needle you might find that the thread just keeps snapping all the time.

Stretch twin needle

I love the look of a twin needle to finish of a stretch garment. It looks great at the bottom hem or sleeve hem and at the neckline.

We have stretch twin needles in two sizes, which refers to the distance between the two needles. I find it is just personal preference what one you would go for, but I think the wider one looks better on heavier weight fabric and the narrower one on lighter weight.

Sewing with a twin needle isn’t as hard as you would think. You just need the extra attachment that allows you to thread up a second thread. On my brother machine it looks like this and goes onto the bit where I wind my bobbin.

You then just thread the two threads in the same way though the machine as you normally do and then into your twin needle. On my machine I have to switch the stitch to be in the centre of the foot (as normally on Brother machines the needle sits to the left hand side of the foot). A normal straight stitch is fine as there will end up being a zig zag effect on the bottom on the stitch which will allow what you sew to stretch.

I hope you have found that useful in demystifying the different types of needles? If you have any questions or have come across any other problems just leave me a comment below, I’m more than happy to help!

You can find all the needles I've mentioned in the shop.....

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