A Guide to Sewing Machine Needles

When I first bought my machine, I was overwhelmed by the many different types of needles available, and I was especially confused at the different sizes and what all the numbers meant. Hopefully this post can help you choose the best needle for the project you are working on.

Firstly, let’s talk about size. The size of a needle refers to the diameter of the needle blade. Most needles will come marked with two numbers – eg. 90/14. The first numeral refers to the metric size, and the second numeral, which is always the smaller of the two, is the American size.

Different sized needles are required for different jobs. The lighter the fabric, the smaller the needle. The heavier the fabric, the larger the needle.

60/8, 65/9, 70/10 – Great for very light fabrics such as chiffon and silk. Sewing projects such as lingerie and anything with sharp curves. These needles are delicate and thin, and require regular changing.

75/11 – Used for machine embroidery

70/10, 75/11, 80/12 – Woven fabrics such as quilting cottons, and general sewing.

80/12 – The size that can be used for most project types.

90/14, 100/16 – Sturdier fabric such as denim and leather.

The thread must also be coordinated with the needle. The smaller the needle, the smaller the needle hole, therefore the lighter the thread that is required.

When buying needles, each packet will display similar information. Most modern machines will fit the flat shanked style needle with needle system 130/705H. If you sew with a vintage machine, you may need to refer to your manual to make sure you are purchasing the correct needles. If you are unsure and you cannot find the information in your manual, give your local machine dealer a call, they are usually very knowledgeable.

Needle Types: All these different types of needles are manufactured in different shapes to suit the fabric they are to be used for. Although you can buy both ballpoint and leather needles that are sized 90/14, they will be a different shape.

Universal – Good for general sewing with both woven and knit fabrics.

Ballpoint / jersey – used for sewing stretch fabrics, knits, lycra, tulle, lingerie, fake fur and jersey.

Denim – use for denim, densely woven fabric, layered fabrics. (I use a denim needle for oilcloth)

Leather – use for leather, imitation leather and heavy non woven fabric.

Stretch – similar to ballpoint but a slightly different shape. Use for jersey, knits, lycra and elastic knitwear.

Microtex – for delicate fabrics such as chiffon, crepes, brocade and silk. Requires regular changing.

There are many more needles, but these are the basic types that you are likely to come across. Another popular needle is the twin needle, which is commonly used for hemming garments made from stretch fabric. I am planning on buying one of these soon, and when I do I will report back!

For more sewing tips and tricks, make sure you have a look at the rest of my Back to{Sewing}Basics series! Happy sewing!

4 thoughts on “A Guide to Sewing Machine Needles

  1. Great information – I have only just discovered your blog tonight, and I am very inspired. Will be whipping up some Christmas goodies tonight too. Thank You.

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