The Needle and Thread Guide [all you need to know]

We are continuing our How to Sew series thanks to Andrea with the needle and thread guide and everything you need to know about the types of needles and thread and what’s important so that your sewing projects turn out beautiful.  It may not be the most exciting topic, but knowing the basics is very important and you’ll be grateful for this quick refresher course on sewing thread 101.

needle and thread

Okay, so I’m just going to say it right off since I know some of you are thinking it … Needle? Thread? What’s the big deal. Just put a needle in your machine and thread it with the color of your choice, right?


Your needle matters. A lot. Your thread matters … not as much as your needle, but it matters.

Of all the ‘stuff’ you need to sew, needles and thread are two of the cheapest. But DON’T be cheap when you buy them okay? If you are going to take the time to sew something and you are going to use good fabric (which again, there is a difference between ‘designer’ fabric and big box hobby shop fabric) treat yourself {and your machine} to good needles and thread.

Needle and Thread

Needle and Thread

All You Need to Know About Needles

Use the right needle for the right job. The best way to know which needle is {again} to refer to your sewing machine manual for their recommendations. The next best thing, read what your pattern suggests for a needle. If neither of those is an option for you, read the needle package.

About Needles

Types Of Needles to Have on Hand

Here are the needles I have on hand and use on a regular basis {top row – Universal Needles / bottom left – Ball Point Needles / bottom right – Jeans/Denim Needles}

Universal Needle – this is your basic sewing needle used for sewing cotton fabrics. I use a universal needle 90% of the time. They come in different sizes. I sew with a 90/14.  **I This is also the needle I use when quilting. However, quilting is not my main type of sewing so you may find using a specific quilting needle to work better for you.**

Ball Point Needle – this needle is used for sewing knit fabrics.

Jeans/Denim Needle – Just as the name indicated, this needle is used for sewing through thick material like jeans/denim. I also use my denim needle when I’m sewing through multiple layers of fabric (say 4 or more layers).

How to Care for Needles

It is recommended that you put replace your needle after every project. Honestly? Well, that’s just not realistic for me. But because I do sew A LOT, I’ve tried to get in the habit of putting in a new needle every Monday morning. If you don’t sew that often, maybe change it once a month or once every other month. A fresh needle helps your bobbin and top thread work together and keep your stitches looking good.

Where to Buy Needles

You can buy needles at most sewing/hobby/craft stores for a few dollars a package. You can also purchase them from specialty sewing shops (they may recommend a specific brand for your machine) or online ( has a great selection).

Types of Sewing Thread

About Sewing Machine Thread

Just like with needles, you should use the thread recommended for the material/project you are working on.

Types of Sewing Thread

Just like needles, there are threads designed for different materials.  Here are the ones I keep on hand for using on a regular basis.

All Purpose – this is your basic everyday 100% Polyester. I use this type almost exclusively.

Denim – this is a really thick cotton {gold} that is perfect for hemming jeans to match the same look that was used on the original jeans.

Speciality – this is ‘decorative’ thread that is often used in quilting to create a shimmer or added dimension to your quilting.

Quilting – usually a thicker 100% cotton used for quilting.  **I’ve actually found that this thread can be more hassle than it’s worth. I just stick with my regular cotton thread.**

sewing machine thread

How Much Thread to Buy?

I go through A LOT of thread and have found that for my everyday sewing, my favorite brand is Gutermann. I like to buy their larger spool {in natural} which has over 1000 yards. My machine can accommodate this larger spool with it’s vertical spool pin. However, you can also purchase something like this, Cone Thread Stand (affiliate link), which allows you to buy serger sized spools for even less frequent changing.

I don’t use color that often, so I typically buy a smaller spool (around 250-500 yards) which will last me through several projects.

How Many Colors Of Thread do you Need?

As you know it comes in hundreds of colors. I use a natural color {blends better than a bright white} for most of my sewing. If I’m top-stitching (the stitching around the edge of a project that will be seen) and I think the natural will be too much of a contrast, than I switch to a coordinating color of thread. I have the basic rainbow of colors and then buy any additional colors as needed for projects.  You don’t need all one hundred colors. You’d be surprised how little you notice a slight variance in color shade on a finished project.

Where to Buy Thread?

Surprisingly this is one thing I recommend buying at that big box hobby store. They often have great sales and usually carry reputable brands such as Coats&Clark, Gutermann & Sulky.

I do not recommend buying the cheap, cheap, cheap ‘store brand’. It will break on you, cause tension issues and/or bobbin jams … all of which will want to make you throw in the towel on sewing. Spend a little more for big impact.

Grab a new needle, some good thread and get your machine threaded so you’ll be ready for next week when we go over … How to Sew.

The Needle and Thread Guide

How to Sew Series:

Free Sewing Patterns:

If you have any questions about learning to sew, free to leave your question in the comments or on the Tip Junkie Facebook page. Or if you’re looking for a specific pattern, let me know! I’ll be happy to find it for you.

I’’m Andrea of Knitty Bitties! … My little shop fills my heart as I sew my days away in a wonderful room creating little bits of happy for you. Come visit my blog for lots of creative inspiration.

P.S.  Join the conversations over on the Tip Junkie Facebook page.  It’s a great place to ask questions on how to make things or for specific tutorials you need.

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  1. My husband bought me a sewing machine LAST year for simple projects and scrapbook layouts. I have really struggled with simple how to’s ….so this series is going to be SOOOO much appreciated!!!

  2. I’m so pleased your doing this series, I’m just loving my sewing machine at the moment but really have no idea what I’m doing, some great tips, thank you!

  3. This is great. I’ve sewed from time to time for the last 25 years but still feel ‘new’ to sewing. Thanks!

  4. I really would like to start sewing, but I need to know what type of machine to buy?? suggestions please!

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