How to Choose the Right Sewing Machine Needle | Sewing Tips, Tutorials, Projects and Events | Sew Essential (2022)

How to Choose the Right Sewing Machine Needle | Sewing Tips, Tutorials, Projects and Events | Sew Essential (1)Using the wrong type of sewing machine needle is one of the most common mistakes we come across at Sew Essential. It can lead to needle breakage, difficulty working with the chosen fabric and poor stitch quality. You'll never have to experience these problems with our sewing machine needle guide! We've outlined the different types of needles available and the fabrics and threads they should be used with. Even if you're a confident stitcher and are in the know about needles its worth having a quick read. You might just surprise yourself and discover a life-changing needle you never knew existed!

Sewing Machine Needle Types

The first thing to know is that sewing machines needles are standardised. They are compatible across the range of brands, including Janome, Brother, Husqvarna, Elna, Pfaff etc. You can be safe in the knowledge that any sewing machine needle purchased from us will be compatible with any relatively modern domestic sewing machine.

The number of different types and sizes of machine needle can seem a bit bewildering at first. However, it's not that difficult to get a handle on the different types. We've listed the most popular needles and the techniques and fabrics they're used for.

Universal needles

As the name suggests, universal needles are the most commonly used needle. They can be used with woven fabrics, synthetics and some knit fabrics, although check the other needle types outlined below for specific types of knit fabric. The finer needles are mostly used for lightweight fabrics. Larger sizes are used on medium to heavyweight fabrics. Polyester / cotton or silk threads should be used with a universal needle.

Ball point needles

Ball point needles have a more rounded tip than a universal needle which pushes the fabric fibres apart rather than cutting them. This makes ball point needles ideal for working with rib knits, interlock, cotton knits, fleece, double knit and generally most knit fabrics because it prevents them from running or laddering as a result of stitching. Polyester and polyester / cotton blend threads are best for use with ball point needles and finer threads should be used for finer needles.

Stretch needles

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. Polyester or cotton wrapped polyester threads should be used. Stretch fabrics are renowned for being more difficult to work with and choosing the right needle is crucial to achieving a good end result.

(Video) The Right Sewing Machine Needle For Every Project

Sharps needles

If you're a quilter working with several layers of cotton and wadding or you're working with densely woven fabrics such as silk and micro fibre a sharps needle should be used. These needles are designed to work with several layers of fabric thanks to a stronger shaft which helps to avoid bent or broken needles and a sharp point which enables it to penetrate through the fabric and produce smooth buttonholes. A short round threading eye also gives extra strength during sewing.

Quilting needles

Quilting needles are also designed to be used with several layers of fabric and wadding thanks to a reinforced shaft, however, they are much shorter in length than the sharps needle to allow quilters to achieve quick and even stitching. Beginners will most likely find a smaller needle such as a size 7 or 8 easier to use whilst more experienced quilters often choose a larger option.

Jeans needles

No prizes for guessing which fabric these needles are designed for! Yes, denim is the most obvious choice, but these needles are also best for other densely woven fabrics such as heavy twill, canvas and heavy linens often used for workwear. Whereas stretch and ball point needles are designed not to cut the fabric jeans needles have a very sharp point and a stronger shank to prevent needle bending or breakage and push through the heavy fabric. Threads such as synthetic or blends, 100% polyester, heavier top stitching threads and cotton wrapped polyester should be chosen when working with these needles and fabrics.

Leather needles

Leather needles are often known as chisel point needles thanks to a point that looks and acts like a chisel when in use. Yes, you've guessed it, these needles should be used with genuine leather, suede and difficult to sew projects, but should not be used with PU imitation leather, ultra suede or synthetic suede since the characteristics of these fabrics are quite different to their real counterparts.

Metafil needles

If you're a bit of a magpie when it comes to thread and love a pretty metallic or rayon, a metafil needle is ideal when sewing or embroidering on woven or knitted fabrics. Metallic needles have an extra large eye meaning these fancy threads feed through more freely and won't shred or split as a result of the sewing motion. If you ever struggle to thread your needle a metallic needle would be a good buy because it is also appropriate for general sewing and is much easier to thread due to the larger eye.

Embroidery needles

Embroidery needles are designed with a wider eye to allow threads such as rayon, polyester or cotton machine embroidery threads to pass freely and easily when embroidering. Missed stitches can often occur when machine embroidering thanks to the fabric flexing up and down rapidly as a result of the fast moving embroidery stitch. Embroidery needles have a pontoon scarf with an oversize bump which reduces the chance of this happening by reducing the amount of movement in the fabric.

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Top stitch needles

Top stitch needles have an extra sharp point which will pierce all types of fabric easily and the large eye allows thick top stitching thread to be used.

Twin needles and triple needles

These needles are used for pin tucking and decorative stitches and need to be used at a reduced speed. They are not compatible with all machines so always check your manual before using.

Wing needles

Used in conjunction with the special stitch options on your machine, wing needles will produce holes in the fabric to replicate drawn thread work. Fabrics made from natural fibres such as cotton should be used with these needles.

How to Choose the Right Sewing Machine Needle | Sewing Tips, Tutorials, Projects and Events | Sew Essential (2)

Quick Reference Chart

Sewing Machine Needle TypeNeedle SizeFabric TypeThread Type
Universal needles70 (10)Voile, sheers, delicate silkGutermann Sew-All
80 (12)Shirtings, poplin, rayon, light woolGutermann Sew-All
90 (14)Medium - heavy, calico, linenGutermann Sew-All
100 (16)Heavy fabric, upholstery, bag makingGutermann Sew-All, Gutermann Extra Upholstery
110 (18)Extra heavy fabric, upholsteryGutermann Extra Upholstery thread
Sharps needles70 (10)Voile, microfibreGutermann Sew-All
80 (12)Shirtings, microfibre, patchworkGutermann Sew-All
90 (14)All Sharps produced perfect top stitchingGutermann Sew-All
Ball point needles70 (10)Light knits, tricotGutermann Sew-All
80 (12)Interlock, LacosteGutermann Sew-All
90 (14)Medium heavy knits, double knitGutermann Sew-All
Stretch needles75 (11)Light lycra, elasticised fabricsGutermann Sew-All
90 (14)Elastic, heavier lycra, elasticised fabricsGutermann Sew-All
Jeans needles90 (14)Denim, tightly woven fabricsGutermann Extra Upholstery
100 (16)Heavy denim, vinyl, furnishingsGutermann Extra Upholstery
Leather needles90 (14)For all leather and suedeGutermann Sew-All, Gutermann Extra Upholstery
100 (16)Do not use on synthetic leatherGutermann Sew-All, Gutermann Extra Upholstery
Metafil needles80 (12)Decorative sewing on various fabrics
Quilting needles80 (12)Quilts made from cotton, wool or
polyester with wadding centre
Gutermann Natural Cotton
Embroidery needles75 (11)Decorative sewing on lightweight fabrics
90 (14)Decorative sewing on heavier fabrics
Twin needlesVariousDecorative sewing on most fabrics

What Do the Size Numbers Mean on Sewing Machine Needles?

You may be wondering what the size number such as 80/12 or 110/18 on sewing machine needles mean. Well, wonder no more! Of the two numbers, one is the European size and one is the American size. From thinnest to thickest, the European sizes range from 60 to 110, whereas the American sizes range from 8 to 18. Pretty simple, eh?

Generally, a80/12 needle is used for dressmaking (and will probably be the size of needle you received with your sewing machine) but please refer to the quick reference table above for information on which needle sizes to use with particular threads, fabric types and fabric weights.

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How Often Should I Change My Needle?

We generally recommend changing your needle after every project. Needle are pretty cheap, so it's not going to break the bank and you have the assurance that your needle will always perform as expected.

We also recommend giving the needle a good visual inspection if you machine has jammed. Jamming can result in the needle bending, which can lead to unexpected results such as poor stitch quality. If your machine is making an unusual thumping sound as the needle penetrates the fabric, then you definitely need to change the needle.

Fitting a New Needle

To fit a new needle the first thing we recommend is to pop a piece of paper under the foot. Then, when loosening the needle screw, there is no danger of the old needle dropping inside the machine. We don't want any expensive repair bills! Once the old needle is out, the new needle will only fit in the correct orientation due to the shank design. The flat side of the shank should face towards the rear of the sewing machine.

Make sure you push the new needle up as far as it will go before tightening the needle screw. If you don't you may get poor stitch quality, the needle could strike the bobbin case or your needle threader could be damaged (if your machine has one).

Anatomy of a Sewing Machine Needle

To finish off this article, lets get geeky and look at the various parts of the sewing machine needle.

How to Choose the Right Sewing Machine Needle | Sewing Tips, Tutorials, Projects and Events | Sew Essential (3)

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Eye - The hole in which the thread slides through. Good quality needles have a smoothly machined eye to minimise thread shredding. The eye size varies according to the intended thread type.

Shaft - The shaft varies in thickness according to the intended fabric - thicker materials require a stiffer shaft.

Shank - The part goes into the machine. Has a flat side to prevent incorrect insertion.

Point - The point shape varies widely between different needle types, from ball point for knit fabrics to chisel shaped for leather.

Scarf - Enables the hook to get close to the eye of the needle to avoid skipped stitches.

So there you have it, a run down of the movers and shakers of the needle world, their uses, recommended sizes, fabrics and threads. If you have any requests for a particular sewing guide or tutorial please don't hesitate to get in touch. Watch this space for more in-depth articles from Sew Essential.

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FAQs

How do I know which sewing machine needle to use? ›

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.

What are the 7 different types of sewing needles? ›

What are the different size sewing machine needles used for? ›

It is one size just listed in two different measures. 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).

What is the difference between sewing machine needles? ›

Sewing Machine Needle Sizes

The American system uses 8 to 19, 8 being a fine needle and 19 being a thick heavy needle. European sizes range from 60 to 120, 60 being a fine needle and 120 being a thick heavy needle. Either way, the higher the number, the thicker/heavier the needle.

What is an 80 12 needle used for? ›

Knits/Jersey (80/12 Ball Point and Polyester or All-Purpose Thread) Ball point needles are made especially for sewing on knits, such as T-shirt fabric and jersey. The ball point won't damage or break the fibers as it pierces the fabric.

What is a 90 14 needle used for? ›

It is recommended that a 90/14 needle should be used when embroidering on heavyweight fabrics or stabilizing products (for example, denim, puffy foam, etc.). A 75/11 needle may bend or break, which could result in injury.

What are the different types of needles used in sewing? ›

Here's a list of the different types of sewing machine needles:
  • Ballpoint needles.
  • Embroidery needles.
  • Jeans needles.
  • Leather needles.
  • Microtex needles.
  • Quilting needles.
  • Stretch needles.
  • Topstitch needles.
7 Jul 2021

What are the types of needles and their uses? ›

Sizes of Needles Based on Different Types
Types of NeedlesSize of the NeedleType of Fabric
Universal needle100 (16)Heavy fabric, bag making, upholstery
110 (18)Upholstery and extra-heavy fabric
Sharp needles70 (10)Microfiber and voile
80 (12)Patchwork, microfiber, and shirtings
18 more rows
29 Apr 2022

What are 2 types of sewing needles? ›

Sewing needles fall into two basic categories: hand needles and machine needles. Hand needles are themselves categorized as being for general hand sewing, needlecraft, darning, or heavy-duty sewing.

What needle should I use for thick fabric? ›

Size 100 is for thicker heavy weight fabrics like upholstery fabrics or heavy weight jacquards. Jeans needles - These needles have an extra sharp point and a stronger shaft, which makes them able to cope with the thickness of denim and other heavy weight fabric like twill, drill and canvas.

How do needle sizes work? ›

The gauge (abbreviated as “G”) of a needle refers to the size of the hole in the needle. The higher the gauge, the smaller the hole. Needles come in various gauges and lengths. The length of a needle is listed after the gauge number.

What is a 75 11 sewing machine needle used for? ›

Needle Sizes
SizeBenefit
70/10Used for fine fabrics, design details and small letter. Good needle size for a larger majority of embroidery work.
75/11Standard needle size and good for the majority of embroidery applications.
5 more rows

What is a 100 16 needle used for? ›

Large needle sizes – 100/16 and 120/18 – These are for heavyweight, tough fabrics, like thick leather, heavyweight canvas, and dense upholstery fabrics. They are used with heavyweight threads such as upholstery and topstitching threads.

What size needle do I use for cotton fabric? ›

The best choice for lighter cotton is a sharp number 14 needle (90/14). If cotton is unlined or used in a very lightweight unlined garment, such as a cotton blouse, it may be best to use a cotton-specific needle in 80/12 and then finish by hand with cotton thread to ensure that the stitches don't pull out.

What are sharp point needles used for? ›

Sharps are a general purpose sewing needle. They are the most common needle found in the home and are used by dressmakers around the world. Their short round eyes provide added strength during sewing.

What size thread goes with what size needle? ›

Recommended Needle Size
Thread SizeIndustrial NeedleHome Machine Needle
#69#100/16 to #110/18Topstitch or Leather #100/16
#92#110/18 to #125/20Not Recommended
#138#125/20 to #140/22Not Recommended
#207#140/22 to #180/24Not Recommended
3 more rows

What is the sharpest sewing machine needle? ›

If you are a keen sewing machine quilter, Superior Threads' 100/16 needles are for you. They are designed for thick layers of fabric, and the outside of each needle is coated with titanium nitride for frictionless sewing, which makes them last six to eight times longer than normal.

What is a 70 10 needle? ›

Schmetz Sewing Needles Universal 70/10
Type of FabricThread SizesMachine Stitches Per Inch
Lightweight fabrics comparable to Gingham, Chambray, Sheer Wool Crepe, Taffeta60 to 80 Cotton A and B SilkInside Seams ~ 12 Top Stitching ~ 18
7 more rows

What is a 120 19 needle used for? ›

For use on denim, canvas, upholstery fabrics and similar weight fabrics. Hemstitch/ Wing 100/16, 120/19 Consists of a wing on each side of the needle, which opens the fabric fibers creating a decorative stitch. Used on zig-zag machines together with the correct throat plate and presser foot.

What is DB in needle? ›

DB sewing machine needles feature a rounded shank, as opposed to the flat-backed shank on many other needle types. The shaft of DB needles is similar to that of standard sewing machine needles, as are the other needle components.

What size needle do you need to sew jeans? ›

Needle. Use a 90/14 needle for light- and medium-weight denim and a 100/16 for heavyweight denim.

What are the three types of needle points? ›

Needle Points

Needles fall into three primary categories -- ball point, sharp, and rounded-sharp.

Which stitch is the simplest and easiest to do? ›

Running Stitch. Running stitch is the name for the super simple 'in and out' stitch that you would have learnt as a kid. For this design you are working the running stitch on the 2nd circle from the centre.

What is the needle list? ›

In short, the Needle List is a running list of smaller tasks that I am prone to procrastinate—think returns, personal emails/texts, cleaning “the chair,” organizing a drawer, getting something repaired, making non-urgent medical appointments, sending thank you notes, etc.

What is the difference between needles? ›

In general, needles are sized with the larger number being the smaller size and the smaller number being the larger size. For example, a size 20 tapestry needle is thicker and longer than a size 28, which is shorter and finer. Try a variety of brands, types, and sizes to determine which ones you like best.

What are the different types of needle points? ›

A needle point is classified broadly into two types: Round, set or cloth points. Cutting or leather points.

What are the different needle sizes? ›

Needles are routinely available in a variety of gauge sizes, including 18, 21, 23, and 25 gauge, as shown in the image. The needle gauge becomes a consideration when the vein of the patient is narrow, fragile, or superficial.

What does L and H mean on a sewing machine? ›

Turn the hand wheel several times to make sure there is no jamming in the stitches. Slide the power switch to the position “L” (meaning low speed) or “H” (meaning high speed), and the machine will automatically start sewing.

What is the standard size sewing machine needle? ›

The most commonly used sewing machine needle is a universal needle in a 12/80 size. However, Sergers, embroidery machines, and quilting machines may use needles not designed to fit regular sewing machines.

What do the colors mean on sewing machine needles? ›

There are two colours, one above the other. The first colour indicates the needle type and the second colour indicates the needle size.

How often should you change the needle on your sewing machine? ›

Amazing Designs recommends inserting a new needle at the start of every project, or after about eight hours of sewing. Also, be sure to change your needle whenever it becomes bent, dull or develops a burr. Damaged or worn needles result in: Broken or shredded threads.

What is the strongest stitch? ›

A backstitch is one of the strongest hand sewing stitches. The backstitch gets its name because the needle goes into the fabric behind the previous stitch.

What should my thread tension be? ›

The dial settings run from 0 to 9, so 4.5 is generally the 'default' position for normal straight-stitch sewing. This should be suitable for most fabrics.

What are size 11 needles for? ›

BEADING: The #11 needles are perfect for use with 8/0 and 11/0 seeds beads. They work will for peyote and brick stitch, netting and loom weaving. ALL PURPOSE: This needle is great for general hand sewing. Use it for mending, embroidery and applique.

When would you use a microtex needle? ›

Sharp (Microtex) sewing machine needles are used when sewing woven fabrics, batik, or synthetic suede. They will stitch evenly with out puckering or damaging the fabric. Sharp sewing machine needles are perfect for edge and heirloom stitching. Universal sewing machine needles are tapered with a slightly rounded point.

Do Sewing Machine Needles fit all machines? ›

The size of the needle. Change the needle often and choose a high quality needle – this is an investment to produce good work. All needles for domestic sewing machines fit all machines. Be sure that the flat side is to the back on any machine made after 1960.

What do the needle colors mean? ›

Needle style colour

Red is for woven fabrics (2020) Yellow is for Knitted fabrics (2045) Blue is for Denim (2026) Brown is for Leather (2032) Dark Grey is for embroidery (2000)

What do the different colors mean on Sewing Machine Needles? ›

There are two colours, one above the other. The first colour indicates the needle type and the second colour indicates the needle size. For example, as shown on the colour chart: the first colour on the needle diagram is yellow, which means that the needle is a Stretch needle.

What is a 75 11 sewing machine needle used for? ›

Needle Sizes
SizeBenefit
70/10Used for fine fabrics, design details and small letter. Good needle size for a larger majority of embroidery work.
75/11Standard needle size and good for the majority of embroidery applications.
5 more rows

What is the most common sewing machine needle size? ›

The most commonly used sewing machine needle is a universal needle in a 12/80 size. However, Sergers, embroidery machines, and quilting machines may use needles not designed to fit regular sewing machines.

What is a 100 16 needle used for? ›

Large needle sizes – 100/16 and 120/18 – These are for heavyweight, tough fabrics, like thick leather, heavyweight canvas, and dense upholstery fabrics. They are used with heavyweight threads such as upholstery and topstitching threads.

What needle should I use for thick fabric? ›

Size 100 is for thicker heavy weight fabrics like upholstery fabrics or heavy weight jacquards. Jeans needles - These needles have an extra sharp point and a stronger shaft, which makes them able to cope with the thickness of denim and other heavy weight fabric like twill, drill and canvas.

What are blue tip needles? ›

The Blue Tip needle has the shaft size and type of point that gives your machine great performance on all kinds of medium weight fabrics--whether it's embroidery, quilting, or making garments. At size 11, the Blue Tip needle is a little thinner than our Red Tip Needle, but without giving up strength and durability.

What do the letters on sewing needles mean? ›

In simple terms, the larger the number the thicker the needle. The smaller number relates to the American system and ranges from 8 to 20 and the larger number is for the European system and ranges from 60 to 120. Common sewing machine needle sizes are 60/8, 70/10, 75/11, 80/12, 90/14 and100/16.

What is the best sewing machine needle for cotton? ›

The best choice for lighter cotton is a sharp number 14 needle (90/14). If cotton is unlined or used in a very lightweight unlined garment, such as a cotton blouse, it may be best to use a cotton-specific needle in 80/12 and then finish by hand with cotton thread to ensure that the stitches don't pull out.

What is the difference between stretch and ballpoint needles? ›

Stretch - Stretch needles have a slightly less rounded point than ballpoint needles and a specially designed eye and scarf that prevents skipped stitches. Use a stretch needle for highly elastic fabrics like spandex and lycra.

When would you use a microtex needle? ›

Sharp (Microtex) sewing machine needles are used when sewing woven fabrics, batik, or synthetic suede. They will stitch evenly with out puckering or damaging the fabric. Sharp sewing machine needles are perfect for edge and heirloom stitching. Universal sewing machine needles are tapered with a slightly rounded point.

How do you know if a needle is a ball point? ›

Ball Point Sewing Machine Needle - Quick Information - YouTube

What is a 70 10 sewing machine needle used for? ›

Denim/ Jeans Heavy wovens and denims 70/10 – 110/18 These needles have a thick, strong shaft and a very sharp point. They are used for stitching denim, canvas, duck and other heavy, tightly woven fabrics. They are also ideal for stitching through multiple fabric layers without breaking.

What is a 120 19 needle used for? ›

For use on denim, canvas, upholstery fabrics and similar weight fabrics. Hemstitch/ Wing 100/16, 120/19 Consists of a wing on each side of the needle, which opens the fabric fibers creating a decorative stitch. Used on zig-zag machines together with the correct throat plate and presser foot.

What is the sharpest sewing machine needle? ›

If you are a keen sewing machine quilter, Superior Threads' 100/16 needles are for you. They are designed for thick layers of fabric, and the outside of each needle is coated with titanium nitride for frictionless sewing, which makes them last six to eight times longer than normal.

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