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 sizes, types and uses to get the best out of your sewing machine.
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
Sewing Machine Needle Sizes - Brands
SEWING MACHINE NEEDLE SIZES
Here we will look at the factors that influence the size and type of needle you will need to use.
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.
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 sewing machine needle sizes should I use for sewing?
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.
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 Types
As well as looking at the sewing machine needle sizes we need to determine its type. Different shaped ends are designed for different fabrics.
Here we will look at some of the most common sewing machine needles types and their uses.
These needles will be your most commonly used type. They can sew all kinds of fabrics including woven and stable (not too stretchy) knits and are suitable for both natural and synthetic fibers. 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, 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 are designed for fabrics with the maximum amount of stretch such as dance lycra and swimwear fabric. I often use these for sewing elastics as well.
Leather needles are a must for sewing leather or vinyl. They have a sharp point that pierces through leather. 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 fabrics 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 are 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.
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.
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 to 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.
More Sewing Tools for Beginners
- Beginners Sewing Kit
- Cutting Tools in Sewing – Best Sewing Scissors and Cutting Tools
- Sewing Machine Feet Guide – 10 of the best feet to own
- Sewing Machine Needle Sizes – a Beginners guide
- Best Fabric Marking Tools
- Types of Pins