Which Sewing Machine Needle? + Bonus Download Worth $1.95 FREE

sewing machine needleOk, so you’ve taken up sewing but you’re still learning the ropes, as they say.  When talking about sewing machine needles, people in your sewing circle keep spouting off numbers like 90/14 and 75/11, which makes little to no sense to you…the problem is, you’re just a tad too shy to ask. Well, that’s why we’re here: so you can arrive at that next sew-along date spouting off some useful info of your own, maybe teach the old experts some stuff that even they didn’t know (we won’t tell them if you won’t).

sewing machine needle

Before we get to those blasted numbers though…what about needle types, why the different shapes and when are they appropriate? When it comes to sewing machine needles you’ll have a few needle types from which to choose, namely quilting, topstitch, embroidery, denim, metallic and universal. Your rounded tips are always going to work better on knits, whereas you should opt for sharp needles when using woven fabric with a high thread count. The finer the weave, the finer the needle, remember that.

Topstitch needles are super sharp but have a long eye: this allows you to glide through heavier fabrics with a relatively thick thread…without leaving gaping holes in the fabric.

Your Quilting needle features a special taper, designed to glide through many layers of fabric, including crossed seams.

The Embroidery needle, with its more rounded tip and very large eye is ideal when it comes to using special decorative threads to beautify and embroider focal points on your project.
If you’re looking for a standard needle to use on all your standard projects, opt for Universal, although I strongly recommend changing out if you’re dealing with quilting, or especially if it’s a fine weave and a very thick thread. The Universal needle is a jack of all fabrics, with a slightly rounded tip and you can use it on just about any standard project but like I said, better to change out on fine weaves.

The Jeans / Denim Needle is both strong and sharp and suitable for work on heavy fibre’s and tight weaves.

Ball Point Needles often called Jersey Needles, are made especially for sewing knits.  The special point of the needles does not damage or break knitted fibers. They typically comes in sizes 10/70 through 16/100 and in an assortment pack.  You should choose the size that will handle the thread being used when sewing on knits.

The Microtex Sharp Needle is ideal for piecing as it’s extremely slim and sharp…meaning straight stitches, small holes and little to no puckering. Great for micro fibres and silks. Remember, this is a very thin needle so watch out for breaking by changing this needle regularly!

Double Eye Needles are used for embroidery and topstitching with decorative threads to produce decorative seams. Having two eyes, one right on top of the other, two different threads can be used for texturing or shading effects.

The Metallic Needle has the same point as a universal needle, only the eye is polished and reinforced to make it easier to thread just about any fabric…a special groove down the front also protects thicker threads from splitting. I would say that if you want an all purpose for your projects, this is your best bet.

Now when it comes to color coding…packaging is color coded for those of us who are unable to read the tiny number printed on the needle packet. It’s a brilliant idea and one you can make use of when organizing your sewing supplies: why not sew yourself a color coded pincushion to ensure you don’t get your needles mixed up in future? Such a mix up could spell disaster if you’re working on a sensitive fabric.

What do the two numbers mean?

So, the two numbers you see on your packaging indicate the size of the shaft of the needle in both measurement systems, European and American. The larger number indicates the metric or European measure and the smaller one indicates the universal or American measure. The larger the numbers, the thicker the needle, go figure. Start with a 70/12 or 80/14 for your general sewing job and then adjust from there…adjusting both in size and type, turning to topstitch for your thicker thread and so on.

The sizes will be found printed on the front of the packaging, right at the bottom. The metric measurement, the 70 or 80 etc…is multiplied by 100 simply to do away with the decimal so that an 80 equals o.8mm shaft diameter and so on, pretty straight forward.

Remember that if you’re working on a finely woven fabric but using a needle that’s not fine enough, you’re going to end up with holes through your fabric and a product that doesn’t say…quality. When it comes to matching thread to needle eye size: you shouldn’t struggle to pass that thread through, it should just pass through with minimum fuss. If you struggle, it’s likely that thread will end up splitting.

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45 Responses to Which Sewing Machine Needle? + Bonus Download Worth $1.95 FREE

  1. Gwen says:

    I had 2 sewing lessons when I started at age 10, but I was never taught which needed to use.

    Everything from then has been self-taught, although I use my Vogue Sewing Guide, I prefer a quick reference guide. I love this chart because I cannot see those darn tiny numbers!!

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  3. madeline newton says:

    thank you very much…i didn’t know that there were so many different kinds or sizes …

  4. Grahamdce says:

    Thanks! As a beginner seamstress, I an reading everything I can to up my game! This was very helpful!

  5. Jewel Wells says:

    Great information. Very helpful.

  6. Mavis Schultz says:

    Thankyou for this useful information. I am grateful to you for providing it.

  7. Marie Cassidy-Walker says:

    Thank you for the needle chart. Really useful to have all this information on one sheet – well printed back to back.

  8. Ann says:

    Thank you so much for the print out with the information about the needles. You can always learn new things especially about sewing needles.

  9. Dianne says:

    Thank you so much for having a printable copy. I printed out the downloadable one and this page, have both of them now. This information is so helpful to sewers.

  10. Jo says:

    Am already a newsletter reader, I did fill in for the list of needles but nothing came through via email. Is this because I already read your later?

    Kindest regards

  11. Ellen Noblitt says:

    Thank you, I am always confused about this subject.This helps a lot!

  12. Sandy says:

    I’m teaching my grand kids how to sew and this is so very helpful. Thank You!

  13. Debra Hursh says:

    Useful information, but no link for the download

  14. Francine from Quebec Ca says:

    Thanks for this information. It’s unbeleavable how sewing with the wrong needle can drive you mad before you realize it’s a needle problem.

  15. Barbara Arnold says:

    Thank you for sharing this information. I think this subject is overlooked. You and your staff are very helpful

  16. Janice says:

    Thank You so much!!! I really needed this!

  17. Elaine Johnson says:

    Which needle should I use to sew Vinyl. (Halloween costume)

  18. Yvette Lawrence says:

    Many many thanks for sharing this excellent guide. I will be taping it to sewing table.

  19. WheelyBad says:

    Thank you, really useful to have all the information on one sheet rather than flicking through books or magazines to find double check I’m using the right needle. Tempted to use the colour coding on all my needles with a tiny dab of acrylic paint, or an alcohol marker as I’ve often left a needle in my machine and had to put it under a magnifyer to find out what it is!. Will print this out and put up behind my machine.

    A little hint I learnt last week from a sewing machine repairer- to see if a needle is still sharp, run your fingernail down the shaft to the point. If you feel a bump or resistance of any type at the tip of the needle it is blunt and needs changing. I did try it but my machine needle is still good and my old needles are in a sharps bin so I can’t test it but I will keep checking. It’s a better method than my previous, which involved touching the needle tip to see if it’s still pointy and sharp! Not the brightest idea, lol

    • Ruth says:

      I have to use a magnifying glass, too. And, sometimes, even that doesn’t work. Marking the needles before using them seems like a really GOOD idea. I think I will try that, too. And thanks for that hint from your machine repairer.

  20. Jan says:

    Useful information.

  21. Beth Kinney says:

    I’ve been sewing for years and don’t have this info…I love it!!! Thankyou

  22. Patty Virginia says:

    Great information. I have a question, what size needle would you suggest when sewing PUL? Thank you

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      In my Janome I can use the smallest leather needle. In my Bernina I have to use Microtex. You really need to experiment with your machine and see what stitch is the best.

  23. Carla Hundley says:

    Thank for sharing this.
    Carla from Utah

  24. Maureen McQuinn says:

    This is great. The free download is such a useful resource. Thanks for putting all this info in one place. Makes it easy now for me to select the right sewing needle.

  25. Janorah says:

    Awesome!! I really needed this.

  26. Karen Badger says:

    I refer to this quite often!

    I like trying the different needles and have become a huge fan of the microtex.

    Thank you!

  27. Amy R says:

    The headline for this article is correct grammar; “Which sewing machine needle. . .,” but your graphic is incorrect grammar: “What sewing machine needle. . .,” You might want to fix it.

  28. Fay says:

    I found this right when i needed to learn about needles and the other article about types of threads. It has been so helpful. Thank you very much.

  29. Karen says:

    I have been trying different needles, mainly the sharps and stretch or jersey. I saw the quilting and topstitch, but wasn’t clear. I didn’t know I should be using a different type of thread for topstitching? Hard to go back to universal after trying different ones out.
    Thank you for the guide!

  30. Paula Leonard says:

    Thank you! I’m a novice and needed this badly.

  31. Ruth Carr says:

    This is an excellent guide! No matter how long one has been sewing for, you are never too old to learn! This does away with all the confusion about colours and numbers relating to sewing machine needles.

  32. Sue Horner says:

    An excellent article, thank you. I have seen your Self Threading machine needles and would like some for several members of my group. For myself I would like the triple needle, but I can’t find anywhere that stocks either of them. PLEASE can you help, I live in Sleaford, Lincolnshire.

  33. carol tyrka says:

    I am already on your list for emails. I really want the needle guide. If I sign up again will I get two emails?

  34. bcwestblog says:

    I learned a few new things in your article,like what a metallic needle is and what it is useful for. Thank you.

  35. marysews says:

    I installed the Schmetz needle app on my smart phone. It’s quite useful.

  36. Kathy Bonner says:

    What a great comprehensive guide I just love the info and how generous to offer it as a download.

  37. ckachel says:

    Handy, handy, handy even those of us who’ve been sewing for years can and do get fuzzy on which needle for what. Thanks for a terrific article.

  38. Karola Heyde says:

    I found it to be very helpful. The explanations of the different types of needles and their usage are short and to the “point”. Very easy to understand.

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