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Your Guide to Commercial Embroidery Machine Needles

When you’re looking for your next box of embroidery needles, you might be sidetracked by all the complicated product titles. 65/9, 80/12, 70/10…. and what about all the adjectives? Sharp, ballpoint, ceramic, titanium…

It’s about time we broke down the different types of commercial embroidery needles by type, size, and material so you can avoid researching them on Google every time you shop.

Needle types


Sharp point needles, also referred to as “regular” needles, have a pointed tip to precisely pierce through your fabric. They are designed to be used on woven materials. Sharp needles aren’t great for knits because can cut the yarn that creates the interlocking structure of the knit. This can cause the knit to gradually unravel during laundering.



In contrast to sharp point needles, ballpoint needles are rounded on the tip, specifically designed to separate the threads of knit fabric instead of making holes. But beware – using them on a  densely woven fabric can result in puckering because of their blunter tip.



ESB needles are not their own class of needle, but are actually a ballpoint needle with a more slender tip. Also called a “universal needle,” these versatile lightweight needles are great for embroiderers who work on a wide variety of fabrics regularly, including both knits and woven fabrics.

Needle sizes

Looking at all the needle sizes is a bit intimidating! What do those numbers mean, exactly?

The first number before the dash is just a standardized metric number. This system was established to standardize and simplify needle sizing. The higher your metric number, the larger the diameter of your needle blade.

The second number after the slash measures the diameter of your needle multiplied by 100 to get rid of the decimal point. So a 9 means your needle is .09 mm in diameter. Generally, the more delicate the fabric is, the thinner your needle should be.

3 of the most commonly purchased needle sizes here at The Embroidery Store are:


This thin needle is ideal for lighter thread weights or for general use on lightweight, delicate fabrics like silk, satin, and nylon.


This is the most commonly-used commercial embroidery needle, holding the middle ground between strength and a small footprint (needle hole).


These larger needles are best used on heavy fabrics like leather, suede, canvas, denim, and vinyl.

Needle materials

Even though product descriptions may say your needle is made of something other than chrome, these materials only coat the outside of a steel base. There are slight differences between needles coated with different materials:

Chrome needles have a harder finish than a standard nickel plated needle, so they’re less likely to break.  

Titanium needles are even less susceptible to damage, and are proven to last longer than chrome needles. They also produce less friction for reduced thread breakage.

Ceramic needles have a lower penetration force for fewer skipped stitches and less thread breakage.

Remember, in embroidery, the best way to learn is by doing. Keeping a variety of different types and sizes on hand lets you choose just the right one for each job.

What commercial embroidery needle are you using on your current project?

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