Using the right sewing machine needle sizes and type for the project can mean the difference between broken threads, skipped stitches and a perfect professional-looking seam. Sewing machine needles vary according to their use and also by their thicknesses. This article will show you the best sewing machine needle sizing, types and uses to get the best out of your sewing machine.
Sewing Machine Needle Sizes Tutorial
Here we will look at the factors that influence the size and type of needle you will need to use. Choosing the right needle is essential to get the right tension and to prevent puckering and skipped stitches.
What is a Sewing Machine Needle?
A sewing machine needle is designed to be inserted into an electronic sewing machine. It has a pointed tip with a hole through which to insert thread, and a blunt top with a rounded front and flat back. It is inserted into a screw in the machine and held tight.
Sewing Machine Needle Parts
- Butt - This is the part that is used to insert into the sewing machine clamp.
- Shank - The front has a round shape while the back is flat. This helps you put the needle in the machine the correct way.
- Shaft - This is the length of the needle.
- Eye - Thread is inserted through here.
- Tip - This is the pointed end of the needle.
Sewing Machine Needle Brands
There are a lot of different brands of sewing machine needles as well as needle sizing, but my favorite is Klasse, Singer, and Schmetz needles. These are good quality strong needles that don't break easily.
How to Choose Sewing Machine Needle Sizes
Sewing needles sizes are classed by 2 characteristics:
- THICKNESS - Sewing machine needle sizes vary by the needle’s thickness. A thicker needle can sew through thicker fabrics. Thinner needles, of course, are most suited to fine fabrics such as silk and chiffon.
- PURPOSE - The needle’s purpose such as for sewing stretch fabrics or topstitching or sewing denim. Leather needs specialized needles to pierce. Often different fabrics and purposes require different shaped tips in order to best penetrate the fabric fibers.
Further Reading: Hand Sewing Machine Needle Sizes
What do the Numbers Mean for Sewing Machine Needle Sizes?
If you look at most needle packaging they will have 2 numbers on them with a / to divide them. For example, 80/12. The smaller number relates to the American size system and ranges from 8 to 20, and the larger number is for the European size system and ranges from 60 to 120.
The European numbers relate to the diameter of the needle. A 1mm diameter needle has the number 100.
Machine Needle Sizes - In simple terms, the larger the number, the thicker the sewing machine needle. Use smaller needle sizes on lightweight fabric and larger sizes on heavyweight fabrics.
What are the most common sewing machine needle sizes?
Common sewing machine needle sizes are 60/8, 70/10, 75/11, 80/12, 90/14 and100/16.
What Sewing Machine Needle Sizes Should I Use?
The numbers on sewing machine needle packages represent the thickness of the fabric you are able to sew with the needles.
The larger the numbers, the thicker the fabric you can sew. Conversely, smaller numbers are for sewing finer fabrics.
From this table, you can see that 60/8 would be used to sew very fine fabrics such as silk and organza, while 110/18 would be used for denim and canvas.
Sewing Needle Sizes
- Size 8/60, 9/65, 10/70 - (Very fine fabrics) Use for fine silk, chiffon, organza, voile and fine lace.
- Size 11/75, 12/80 - (Lightweight fabrics) Use for cotton voile, silk, synthetics, spandex and lycra
- Size 14/90 - (Medium weight fabrics) Use for quilting fabrics, cotton, velvet, fine corduroy, linen, muslin, jersey, tricot, knits, light wool, sweatshirt knits, fleece.
- Size 16/100 - (Heavy weight fabrics) Use for Denim, corduroy, canvas, heavy linens, heavy twill, duck, suiting and leather.
- Size 18/110 - (Very heavy fabrics) Use for heavy denim, heavy canvas, upholstery fabric, faux fur
You can buy packets of sewing needs with assorted sizes so you can easily switch over to a suitable needle. I sew a lot of quilting cotton fabric, so I always have a lot of 80/12 and 90/14 in my sewing drawers.
Sewing Machine Needle Brands
There are a lot of different brands of sewing machine needles, but my favorite is Klasse, Singer, and Schmetz needles. These are good quality strong needles that don't break easily.
Types of Sewing Machine Needles
Sewing Machine Needle Chart
As well as looking at the sewing machine needle sizes, we need to determine its type. Different types and shaped ends are designed for different fabrics. Here we will look at some of the most common sewing machine needles types and their uses.
Universal Sewing Needles
These types of needles will be used most often. They can sew all kinds of fabrics, including woven and stable (not too stretchy) knits, and are suitable for both natural and synthetic fabrics. Use them to sew cotton, voile, linen, light wool. rayon and poplin. Buy a couple of packets in assorted sewing machine needle sizes from 10/70 to 14/90, and you will have many fabrics covered. Universal needles have slightly rounded tip.
Ball Point Needles
Ballpoint needles can be used for tightly woven fabrics and knit fabrics with a lower stretch factor. They can be used for cotton knits, polyester, and polyester cotton. As the name suggests their tip is rounded, enabling it to slip through fibers without cutting through them. This is especially important for stretch fabrics where holes can easily form.
These are specifically for knit fabrics with a medium stretch factor. The rounded tip is designed to slip between fibers and not cause laddering or holes.
These types of needles are designed for fabrics with the maximum amount of stretch, such as dance lycra, spandex and swimwear fabric. I often use these for sewing elastics and rib knits as well. They will reduce puckering and skipped stitches in stretch seams.
Leather needles are a must for sewing leather, synthetic suede, up leather or vinyl. They have a sharp point that pierces through the leather and a strengthened shaft. Make sure you lengthen your stitches in conjunction with using the leather needle, so you don't cause perforation.
Quilting Needles are strengthened to pierce through numerous layers of fabric and batting. This prevents the needles from breaking or bending. They are also great to use in bag making where you will sew through thicker interfacing and layers.
Top stitching needles have large eyes for thick thread and are strengthened. Since topstitching is done on the edge, there will be several layers to sew through.
Sharps are strengthened and finer and sharper than universal needles. They are used when sewing thin vinyl, applique, silks, and tightly woven fabrics.
Jeans Needles (Denim Needles)
These, of course, are for sewing denim which is thick and dense. They often come in thicker sewing machine needle sizes and are strong enough to sew yourself a pair of jeans or overalls. They have a very sharp point for piercing thick fabric.
Double (Twin Needles)
Double needles have 2 needles next to each other that are joined at the top. They are for sewing hems in stretch garments.
Machine Embroidery Needles
These sewing machine needles are designed for computerized embroidery machines where you require dense stitching. They prevent splitting or shredding of the machine embroidery thread and give nice even stitches.
Metallic threads are often thicker and prone to shredding. Using a specialized metallic needle with an extra large eye will prevent thread from splitting as it is able to run through smoothly.
How Long Do Sewing Needles Last?
The lady in my local sewing shop is always telling me to replace the needle after 8 hours of sewing. Most sewing needle manufacturers will say 6-8 hours. This might seem like a short life span but needles are cheap, and changing them frequently will result in better sewing.
If you accidentally hit a pin when sewing, then you should change the needle immediately, as you will have damaged the tip.
How to Insert a Sewing Machine Needle
First, remove the old needle if there is one. You will see a screw that needs loosening, usually at the top right. Pull the old needle down. The power to your machine should be off.
If you look at the top of your new sewing machine needles you will see that one side is flat and the other is rounded.
Insert the new needle with the correct sewing machine needle sizes and type. The flat side always faces the BACK of the machine. The rounded side will face you. Tighten the screw, and you are ready to sew.
Sewing Machine Needle Sizes - In Conclusion
When going to a shop to purchase sewing machine needles, look for the type first - eg leather, universal, topstitching and then choose the size. If you look for the sizing first, you will go crazy, as there will be so many combinations.
Do you have any extra tips for choosing the right sewing needle sizes? I'd love your input. Please comment below.
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- Sewing Machine Feet Guide – 10 of the best feet to own
- Sewing Machine Needle Sizes – a Beginners guide
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