Which needle size should I use on my sewing machine? Update 07/2022

If you enjoy doing DIY tasks around the house, you’re definitely aware of how to swap out larger or smaller drill bits when larger or smaller holes are required. You may not be aware that you may change the needles on your sewing machine to achieve the finest results! But how do you determine what needle size to use on your sewing machine for your project?

Sewing machine needles are available in a variety of sizes, as determined by an American and European numbering system. Lower numbers are used for thinner needles and higher numbers are used for thicker needles in both numbering systems. Heavy-weight materials require thick needles, while lightweight fabrics require small needles.

You’ll learn how a sewing machine needle works in this post. You’ll also learn how to match your fabric to the appropriate sewing machine needle. Finally, you’ll learn when and how to replace the needles on your sewing machine.

What Size Sewing Machine Needle

How Does a Sewing Machine Needle Work?

To put it simply, your sewing machine’s needle moves the thread to the opposite side of the fabric to form stitches. You undoubtedly notice the dazzling flash of the needle racing in and out of the fabric so swiftly as you watch your sewing machine run that you sometimes just see a silver blur! This seemingly simple procedure necessitates more intricate engineering than you may imagine.

Several parts on domestic sewing machines are easily interchangeable. If you’re a beginner sewer, you might not realize that by following a few simple steps, you can remove the needle in and out of your machine! This allows you to select the ideal needle for each project you work on.

Check out this breakdown of each part of a sewing machine needle to better understand how it works. Then you’ll understand why different shapes and sizes work better for different types of fabrics.

Parts of a Sewing Machine Needle

Parts of a Sewing Machine Needle

If you look over the anatomy of a common needle first, it will be easier for you to understand the numerous types and styles of needles.

  • Shank: The top of most home sewing machine needles is rectangular, having one flat side and one rounded side. This is the part that goes into the needle clamp. The needle is thus firmly kept in place, allowing the machine to move it up and down at fast speeds.
  • Shoulder: The shoulder is a curvature in the rectangular shank that leads to the more slender blade. As the needle glides up and down, the shoulder passes through the cloth, making a larger hole for the thread to pass through.
  • The blade is the long, sword-like portion that goes from the shoulder to the eye, as you might anticipate. Depending on their intended use, different needles have larger or thinner blades.
  • Scarf: Some needles have a little dip in the blade before it touches the eye. The thread can move closer to other sections of the machine, such as the looper, because of this dip, known as the scarf.
  • The eye is the hole at the sharp bottom end of the needle where you thread the thread through. You might notice some differences in eye size or shape.
  • You can feel the needle’s point by running your finger beneath the lowest end of the needle! Depending on the style, there will be varied degrees of sharpness. Knits benefit from a rounded tip, while woven textiles benefit from a sharp point.

To allow the needle to push a hole in the fabric, all of these components function together. The higher thread is then carried through that hole, allowing the thread to catch on a looper or hook. This creates a stitch by allowing the bobbin thread to loop through it.

Knowing the correct names for all of your sewing machine’s parts will not only make you feel like an expert, but it will also help you grasp the directions in your user’s handbook or any other sewing reference you use.

Types of Sewing Machine Needles

Types of sewing needle

Sewing machine needles are available in a variety of styles as well as needle sizes. Universal, ballpoint, sharp, and stretch needles are the most regularly used domestic sewing machine needle kinds. You can also choose from a variety of specialized needles, including as embroidery, topstitching, and denim needles, for unique tasks.

Universal

SINGER Universal Regular Point Machine Needles (20-Count 80/11, 90/14, 100/16)

Universal needles are the sewing world’s one-size-fits-all solution. Sharps are rounder than universal points, while ballpoints are sharper. Universals are most likely included with your sewing machine.

They work well with a wide range of fabrics, including wovens and knits. Many novice sewers never consider replacing the usual universal! That said, you should probably match your fabric to the needle that works well with it for the greatest results.

Sharp

machine needles sizes

Sharp needles have a tip that is razor-sharp! They have a robust shaft as well as a small eye. Sharps can readily penetrate through numerous layers of cloth for quilting or topstitching projects because to these features.

Sharps don’t work well with knits, but they’re perfect for sheer, light fabrics.

Sharps are frequently advised for jobs that require sewing through numerous layers.

Ballpoint

needle and thread size chart

Instead of cutting through the strands in the fabric with a sharp edge, the slightly rounded point of ballpoint needles nudges through them. Ballpoints are best used with knit textiles because of this.

Knit fabrics have a unique structure that consists of interlocking looped threads rather than the traditional over-under pattern found in woven materials.

This implies that a sharp needle can easily get caught in the loops and cause the knit fabric to run. This problem can be avoided if you use a well rounded ballpoint.

Stretch

sewing needle size guide

A scarf is a specific groove above the eye on stretch needles. Stretch needles can place the thread very close to the hook or looper with the scarf, preventing skipped stitches. Stretchy fabrics, such as spandex or stretchy knits, are ideal for this.

Sewing with flexible fabric can be challenging since the fabric stretches and slides about as you sew.

Working with the special stretch needle can help you avoid wriggle room and skipped stitches.

Specialty

sewing machine needle chart

If you’re working with a unique fabric or project, you might need to experiment with a specialist needle that isn’t often used.

To achieve elaborate stitching and pin tucks, some sewing machines have double or twin needles. Triple needles, which have three needles functioning together, are also available.

To work with the added bulk of embroidery thread, embroidery needles have a scarf and a broader eye.

Topstitch needles resemble sharp needles in appearance. The biggest distinction is that they feature an abnormally large eye to accommodate topstitch thread’s additional thickness. A tiny opening in the side of the eye allows a self-threading mechanism to operate on self-threading needles.

Finally, you’ll find needles created specifically for different sorts of fabrics, such as denim and leather. If you keep reading, you’ll learn more about those topics.

Sewing Machine Needle Chart

Here’s a handy chart that summarizes the many types of needles and their applications!

Needle TypeFabric Type
UniversalSheers, silk, poplin, linen, upholstery
SharpsVoile, microfiber, top stitching on all fabrics
BallpointKnits, tricot, double knits
Stretch NeedleSpandex, Lycra, stretchy knits
Denim or Cutting Point NeedleDenim, corduroy, leather, canvas, vinyl
Twin NeedleDecorative stitching on any type of fabric

What Size Sewing Machine Needle Should I Use?

Sewing needle sizes

After you’ve decided on the proper needle style for your project, you’ll need to figure out what needle size to use based on the weight of your cloth. Lighter materials usually benefit from a thinner needle, whereas heavy materials benefit from a thicker needle.

But how can you determine if you need a thick or thin sewing machine needle? The numbers methods used to describe needle thickness are simple to understand.

Sewing Machine Needle Sizes

The thickness of the needle’s shaft is commonly expressed by two numbers on sewing machine needles. What does this measurement signify to you? Let’s get to the figures, shall we?

Why are there two numbers for needle sizes? The European system of sizing is represented by one number. The American sizing method is used by the other number.

You’ll see measures listed with the European number first and the American number second, as well as the American number first and the European number second! Yes, it’s a little perplexing, but don’t worry! Both systems are based on the simple notion that a thicker needle equals a larger number.

The metric system, which is based on hundredths of a millimeter, is used in European numbers. A needle measurement of 100, for example, indicates that the needle’s shaft is 100 mm thick. Smaller measures suggest a thinner needler, and the numerical system ranges from 60 to 120.

Because Singer popularized the American system, it still exists today. It has a range of 8 to 19 points. In this technique, smaller numbers also imply a narrower needle.

If a measurement is written as 12/80, the 12 represents the American measurement and the 80 represents the European measurement. With knit materials, a 12/80 ballpoint needle is ideal!

But keep in mind that this needle size may also be written as 80/12.

Fine fabrics like silk and organza require a thin needle with a measurement of 10/70 (or 70/10). You’ll also need to obtain a thin thread that will fit through the little eye.

Heavyweight fabrics benefit from thicker needles with larger measures.

Cotton

Cotton works best with universal needles in the 12/80 or 14/90 size range. An ordinary polyester thread will readily fit through the eye of a needle of this size.

If you’re topstitching or quilting with cotton, a sharp needle in the 12/80 or 14/90 size may be preferable. Experts frequently recommend using a sharp with cotton because their tapering points glide effortlessly through lightweight wovens.

Knits

Ballpoints are the way to go with knit fabrics, as you may already know! Ballpoint needles are available in a variety of sizes, so choose one based on the weight of the material.

If you’re dealing with a thick knit, a 16/100 ballpoint might be the way to go. If you’re working with a knit that’s so thin and light that you can practically see through it, a 10/70 ballpoint might be the way to go.

If you’re working with a stretchy knit, you’ll probably want to use a stretch needle instead. When stitching on difficult material, this will assist you avoid skipped stitches.

Satin

A slim universal needle with a not-too-sharp point and a size of roughly 8/60 or 10/70 is ideal for a fine, silky fabric like satin.

Because satin reveals needle marks badly, start your craft with a new needle! You may need to replace your needle in the middle of the project if you notice any runs, puckers, or noticeable needle holes while sewing.

Sheers

When working with sheers, you’ll need a fine, narrow needle. Look for the smallest measurements possible, such as 8/60 or 10/70. A lightweight thread that will blend in with your sheer cloth and fit through the little eye is also required.

To protect this type of fabric from fraying while you sew, you’ll want to stay stitch whenever possible.

Denim

Denim, often known as jean cloth, has its own needle! These are often available in thicker gauges, such as 18/110. To sew through heavy or closely woven material, they have strong shafts and cutting tips.

This needle may be used to sew through numerous layers of fabric, tight-woven materials like canvas, and any type of jean fabric.

A word of caution: not all household sewing machines are capable of handling heavyweight cloth. These days, you can buy machines specifically designed for working with denim!

Leather

Cutting point or leather needles are ideal for working with leather because they pierce the thick material, much like an awl does when working with leather by hand. These come in a variety of sizes depending on the thickness of the leather.

Before starting a project, double-check that your sewing machine can handle leather. If you plan to sew a leather item, get a few extra leather needles in case yours break while you’re working.

Quilting

Quilting needles feature a fine, round eye and a short blade. The needle’s short length gives you more room to enter the thickness of your quilt!

Depending on the type of fabric you use, you can buy a variety of needle sizes.

Quilting machines and domestic sewing machines may not always accept the same types of quilting needles, so check the product description carefully before making a purchase.

Embroidery Machine

When it comes to needle selection, embroidery machines follow the same principles as domestic machines. If you wish to embroider on knit cloth, for example, you’ll need a ballpoint needle. You should also select a needle size based on the fabric’s thickness.

Machine embroidery, on the other hand, may necessitate the use of specialist threads. As a result, check the user’s manual before selecting a needle that can handle this type of thread.

Do All Sewing Machines Use the Same Needles?

The good news is that most sewing machine needles are interchangeable between domestic sewing machine brands! Sewing machine needles can be purchased in packs and used in Singer, Brother, or Janome machines.

As a result, needle sizes are the same whether you’re using Singer, Brother, or another brand!

A universal needle in the size 12/80 is the most often used sewing machine needle.

Sergers, embroidery machines, and quilting machines, on the other hand, may employ needles that aren’t suited for conventional sewing machines.

How Long Do Sewing Machine Needles Last?

A sewing machine needle should be replaced after roughly eight hours of stitching or after sewing through two bobbins full of thread. The sound of the needle pounding through the fabric may also be heard. You should usually change the needle if it starts making a popping noise instead of gliding through soundlessly.

If it’s easier to remember, always start a new sewing project with a new needle. Of course, you’ll need to change your needle to match the sort of fabric you’ll be working with!

In rare cases, special coatings such as titanium can extend the lifespan.

Chips or breakages are another major reason you’ll need to replace your needle. When you haven’t threaded the machine correctly, this can happen. A needle can break if you pull too hard on the cloth instead of allowing the machine to move the material through using the feed dogs.

Finally, one of the most important reasons to choose the right sewing machine needle types and needle sizes for the job is that the wrong needle can break! When using a fine needle on leather, it will most certainly snap.

Simply insert used sewing machine needles in a sealable container, such as a pill bottle, to dispose of them. They’ll also be accepted at some recycling and scrap metal facilities.

Serger Needle Sizes

Schmetz ELX705 Needles - Size 80/12

Serger needle sizes can range from large industrial sizes to small domestic sewing machine needle sizes. To generate overlocked sewing patterns, sergers normally employ two or more needles.

Newer sergers meant for home usage may usually accommodate standard domestic sewing machine needles. Simply match the needle type and size to your fabric as you would for any sewing project in this situation.

If you have an older serger or a particular industrial serger, you’ll need needles made specifically for it.

Best Sewing Machine Needles

Sewing machine needles from Schmetz and Gros-Beckert are known for their high quality and dependability. Singer also has a large collection, which includes a variety of speciality varieties.

Because most sewing machine needles are interchangeable, the quality and brand may not matter as much for your usual home sewing project. On the other hand, choosing the right needle type and size is crucial!

However, you should usually avoid purchasing a big lot of unbranded needles on eBay. You should buy from a reliable sewing machine company to ensure that the item will fit in your machine!

Check out these evaluations to get a sense of a couple of great needle sets available right now.

SINGER Universal Heavy Duty Sewing Machine Needles

SINGER 04801 Universal Heavy Duty Sewing Machine Needles, 5-Count

Singer offers a variety of specialized needles, including this set of five heavy-duty sewing needles that are ideal for leather or denim. Most domestic sewing machine manufacturers, including Singer, Kenmore, and Brother, will readily fit the shaft, which has one flat side and one rounded side.

100/16, 110/18, and 90/14 are the needle sizes included in the kit. Singer also color-codes the various types so you can quickly determine which one you want without having to use a magnifying lens to examine the tip! In addition, this useful set includes a variety of styles to meet your stitching needs.

50 Schmetz Universal Sewing Machine Needles

50 Schmetz Universal Sewing Machine Needles -  Assorted Sizes - Box of 5 Cards

This set of 50 Schmetz needles is a great way to stock up on high-quality universals. When you buy five needle cards, you won’t have to stop your sewing project and run to the store every time you need a replacement needle. Perhaps most importantly, each needle is backed by the Schmetz name, which has been synonymous with high-quality sewing supplies since the 1800s!

The point of each needle is slightly rounded. The set comes in a variety of sizes, making it ideal for working with a variety of materials.

Last but not least, how do you replace a sewing machine needle? You’ll be a pro in no time if you follow these simple steps.

To begin, look for the needle screw protruding from the needle clamp’s side. Loosen this screw just a smidgeon. (Remember, lefty-loosey, righty-tightly!)

While loosening the screw, use a delicate grip on the needle because it can easily fall out! If this does not happen, gently tug on the needle after loosening the screw to free it.

Align the flat and rounded sides of the new needle’s shank with the needle clamp’s hole. Place the new needle in this hole and slide it up.

Finally, carefully tighten the screw until the needle is snugly encased in the needle clamp!

Conclusion

The key to choosing the proper needle is to match the needle type and size to your fabric’s style and weight. The points of different needle styles are rounder or pointier.

The thickness of a needle’s shaft is measured by needle sizing. The higher the measurement, the thicker the needle, and the better it will function with heavier materials. Small numbers indicate a narrow needler capable of working with light cloth.

Have you ever had to replace your sewing machine’s needle? Give it a shot now and see how much this easy tip will help you improve your stitching!

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