One crucial decision you have to make as you begin any sewing project is the choice of a needle. Getting the correct needle is as essential as choosing the thread, fabric, and stabilizer. The choice of a sewing machine needle has a lot to say about your project’s success or failure. Therefore, engage with me in this read as we look at the different types of sewing machine needles.
Various fabrics require different needle types and sizes; a light fabric works well with a small needle, whereas a heavy material such as leather needs a large one.
You will also observe that we have different needle sizing systems that give lower numbers for more delicate needles and higher metrics for big ones. For example, the American sizing system uses 8 to 19 to distinguish the needles, and the European metric system prefers 60 to 120.
Other factors determining your choice of needle include the thread. A fine, delicate thread requires you to get a smaller needle size. However, we will discuss these factors in-depth as we proceed.
Below, I have discussed different sewing machine needles you are likely to come across during your sewing journey.
NB: All sewing machine needles possess similar essential parts. The variation comes in when you assess the shape and length of various parts.
These needles have a ‘scarf’ that gives more room for the hook to pass through and prevents missed or skipped stitches. They are ideal for power net, lycra, silk Jersey, highly elasticated synthetic materials, two-way knits, and spandex.
Stretch needles require you to use cotton-wrapped polyester threads.
The name sells the needles out as they are household sewing accessories. The needles are standard among sewists and work well with synthetics, woven fabrics, and some knit fibers.
However, ensure that you check the specified needles for different knit fabrics.
A universal needle is ideal for polyester, silk, or cotton threads: ensure that you match the thread size. Additionally, ensure that you get a large-sized needle for heavyweight or medium-sized fabrics and a finer one for lightweight material. This practice will preserve the needle.
Note that you can switch to a sharp or ballpoint needle if you are not satisfied with the machine stitches and try again.
These needles have a point that glides between knit fabric loops and does not pull the fabric fibers. However, compared to sharp needles, they do not form straight stitches, and thus, you should match them with the right project.
Ballpoint needles have a rounded tip that pushes the material fibers without cutting them. They are also similar to universal needles, but they have a more rounded tip which prevents the fabric from running.
You can use them on fleece materials, interlock, rib knits, cotton knits, and double knit comfortably.
Also, consider polyester or cotton/polyester threads and use more delicate threads for finer needles.
These needles have a reinforced shaft that helps them accommodate several fabric layers and wadding. Although they are shorter than sharp needles, they allow quilters to get uniform and even stitches quickly.
If you just joined the sewing space, smaller size is more comfortable. However, as you get experience, more extensive options will be convenient for complicated projects.
They are similar to quilting needles and also work excellently with wadding projects and several cotton layers. Also, they will come in handy when you need to sew dense woven fabrics such as microfiber and silk.
The firm shaft helps them to stay in good shape and avoid bending or breakage. Sharps needles come with a sharp point that penetrates through the material and offers smooth buttonholes.
You will also enjoy working with the short round threading eye that delivers extra strength during sewing.
If you love a beautiful metallic or rayon finish to your stitch, metafil needles will do the job well. The needles are suitable for embroidering on knitted or woven fabrics and can also handle regular sewing projects.
They have a large eye and allow you to feed fancy threads more freely without worrying about splits or shreds. Also, the eye gives you an easy machine threading session. Therefore the needles are excellent for general sewing applications.
Denim is the most apparent fabric that comes to mind when you think of jeans needles. However, they are also ideal for densely woven fabrics such as canvas, heavy twill, and heavy linens used in workwear.
Unlike stretch and ballpoint versions, these needles have a more firm shank and a very sharp point to prevent breakage or bending. As a result, they need to push through the fabric effortlessly, no wonder the specifications.
In addition to the above, you should consider threads such as cotton-wrapped polyester, 100% polyester, blends or synthetics, and heavy topstitching threads.
These needles are unique, thanks to the broader eye that accommodates fancy threads such as rayon. You can also use them with cotton or polyester, depending on your project requirements.
During embroidery, one may experience missed stitches when using an embroidery machine because the fabric flexes rapidly. However, Embroidery needles feature a pontoon scarf with an oversize bump that prevents missed stitches.
You can also call them chisel point needles as they have a chisel looking point when used; they are suitable for sued, genuine leather, and other difficult to sew projects.
However, you cannot use them with ultra suede, synthetic suede, or PU imitation leather. These fabrics are different from their natural counterparts and will not deliver similar results.
It would be best if you use these needles with special stitch functions on the sewing machine. They provide holes in the fabric and replicate drawn thread work. However, ensure that you use them with fabrics from natural fibers such as cotton.
Since these needles are suitable for topstitching projects, they have an extra sharp point that goes through nearly all fabric types. Topstitch needles also have a large eye that accommodates thick topstitching threads.
Twin Needles and Triple Needles
These needles are ideal for decorative stitches and pin tucking. They are pretty efficient, and you need to use them at a reduced speed. However, they are not compatible with all sewing appliances, and you need to confirm with your manual before engaging them.
Sewing Machine Needle Sizes
As you look at different needles, you may have come across size numbers such as 80/12 or 110/18. You may also have wondered what they mean and how they affect your needle selection. Well, the time to wonder is over!
In this section, we will explore various needle sizes and their significance. But first, let me remind you of the two primary metrics that include European sizes at 60 to 110 and American sizes at 8 to 18. Pretty simple, right?
NB: Understanding the sewing machine needle metrics will help you significantly in your projects. You will be able to choose the most suitable needle for your project and probably sort out needle-related machine problems.
The numeric system is simple, but the confusion sets in because manufacturers use both European and American labeling structures to distinguish the needles.
For example, the finer and more heavy needles in the European system are 60 and 120, respectively, and 8 and 18 show more delicate and thick needles in the American structure. Therefore, regardless of the labeling structure, the higher the number, the heavier or thicker the needle.
These needle sizes have a recommended fabric weight. For example, think of a sheer window curtain. An ideal needle should be a delicate one, such as an 8/60. Using a 19/120 needle may leave ugly holes in the fabric.
Let’s go further and consider a heavy upholstery fabric. An 8/60 needle would break, bend, or both. Therefore, using a 19/120 needle will allow you to penetrate the material as it is more robust than other medium-sized needles. The needle will also accommodate an equally heavy thread and provide strong stitches.
Sometimes you will get a combination of the above scenarios, where you want a heavy topstitching detail on a lightweight fabric. Typically, you need a heavy thread and a thick needle, but it would leave holes in the material. So, a needle that falls in between, such as a 12/80, will do the job.
An 80/12 needle will also deliver perfect results in a dress-making venture. However, always refer to the reference table for more information on what needle to use.
NB: The number order does not affect the needle’s size. For example, 90/14 and 14/90 are the same type.
Also, ensure that you always test the fabric and thread combination before the real deal. Consider the needle as sensitive as a pair of scissors going into your material and choose carefully.
The Anatomy of a Needle
We said earlier that all needles have similar essential parts that help them perform general sewing functions. So let’s look at them in detail.
The shaft is the area from the shank’s bottom to the point. It contains the eye, scarf, groove, and needlepoint. You can also describe it as the main body of the needle.
This part varies in thickness according to your fabric. For example, thicker fabrics need a stiffer shaft.
A needle’s eye is probably the most known feature as it is the hole through which the thread slides. However, many do not know how it impacts their work.
A good quality needle possesses a smoothly machined eye that minimizes thread shredding. Also, the eye size varies according to the intended thread type.
This part refers to the rounded bit at the needle’s top. It attaches the needle to the sewing machine.
A shank gets into the machine and prevents incorrect insertion. It is the thickest needle part and is located below the needle butt. Also, it has a generally flat back unless you get an industrial machine that uses a rounded shank.
A shank will always ensure that you position the needle correctly.
This part helps the bobbin case hook intersect with the thread and form stitches. It is a groove out of one needle side and keeps the hook close to the eye to avoid missed or skipped stitches.
- The Point
A needle’s point is usually the first contact with the material and determines how you will pierce it. Its shape varies based on the needle type you select. For example, you will find chisel-shaped points for leather fabrics and ballpoint for knit materials.
The most common needle points are ballpoint, sharp, and universal.
Finally, this is the part where you put your thread. It leads to the eye needle and depends on the needle size.
Fitting a New Needle
It is possible for you to get the correct needle but still get poor performance. Usually, the sewing machine manual will always give the prescribed method, but individuals are always in a hurry to get started. Therefore, they end up installing it wrongly.
Below are simple tips to help you fix the needle.
- Pop a small piece of paper under the foot to prevent the needle from falling into the machine.
- Remove the old needle and install the new one. The shank’s flat side should face the rear of the sewing appliance.
- Push the new needle up as far as it can go.
- Tighten the needle screw to give an excellent stitch quality and keep the needle from striking the bobbin case.
How Frequently Should I Replace My Needle?
One of the primary reasons needles bend and break is if you have used them for an extended duration. An old needle has higher breaking and bending chances, and therefore, you should consider replacing it often.
How often? You may ask!
Experts recommend that you change the needle after every sewing project. Needles are pretty affordable, and you don’t need to worry about stretching your budget. Also, the price for a new needle is relatively low compared to ruined fabric or a delayed project.
It is good practice to give the needle sufficient visual inspection before attaching it to the sewing machine. A bent or broken needle may lead to a machine jam and lead to poor stitch quality. So, if you hear an unusual thumping sound when the needle penetrates the material, change the needle immediately.
Needle Troubleshooting Tips
- If you use your needle for 8 to 10 hours, please replace it for excellent results. The more you use it, the weaker and worn out it gets, compromising your stitch quality.
- Woven or non-stretch fabrics may get pulled or snagged as you sew. If this happens, do not panic. The cause is a dull or bent needle. Therefore a regular point needle will prevent and correct the situation.
- If you observe that skipped stitches on your woven fabrics, know that your needle is bent, old, or dull. Fortunately, you can resolve the issue by replacing the damaged needle with a regular point one.
- Popping sounds during sewing indicate that the needle is damaged or bent. Please do not ignore the sign. Remove and discard the old sewing accessory, and replace it with a new one. Ensure that you select the needle according to fabric type and weight,
- Stretch fabrics may get skipped stitches if you use a regular point needle. Therefore, always switch to a ballpoint needle whenever you work on stretch fabrics.
- Is your needle breaking as you sew? There are various reasons for the occurrence, one of them being a smaller needle size than the fabric. Also, if you forcefully pull or push the fabric as you sew, the needle may deflect and break.
- Therefore, match the needle thickness with the fabric type. You should also allow the feed dogs to draw the material during sewing.
- Whenever the thread is shredding, it always indicates one thing: the needle is too small! So, change to a larger size needle or a finer-weight thread.
However, sometimes the cause for shredding is poor thread quality. Therefore, confirm that you have the right accessories.
- Finally, if you observe large holes in the seam line on delicate and lightweight woven fabrics, stop sewing! This occurrence shows that the needle is too large for the material. Replace the needle with a smaller one. You can consider referring to the fabric’s specifications to get the exact accessory.
How to Clean Sewing Machine Needles
If you want to clean the gunk off your sewing needle, consider the following;
- Soak it in an orange cleaner and wipe it off with a cloth.
- Rub in alcohol
- Use a degreaser.
- Put the needle under a flame and wipe clean.
- Use some acetone (nail polish remover).
- Rub with a wet rag.
- Soak in orange cleaner and wipe off using a scourer.
Here’s how to clean your sewing machine:
Factors to Consider When Getting a Sewing Machine Needle
By now, you can tell what you need to look at before shopping for sewing needles. But still, let me give you a quick summary for the next time you need a needle.
Whether you recently started sewing or have been at it for years, fabric weight will always affect a tonne of decisions in your sewing venture. For example, the fabric weight will determine the needle’s length and thickness.
Also, you need a stiff needle shank and a sharp point to sew tightly woven fabrics such as canvas, denim, and multiple fabric layers.
This aspect is critical, and a wrong move may mess up your material, psych, and stitch quality. Therefore, look at the needle metrics carefully and choose the most suitable one.
The thread should pass easily through the needle’s eye, and you should not force it lest it strains and breaks. The eye size should accommodate the thread’s thickness and if you struggle to thread the needle or create your desired stitches, check the thread type.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Do All Needles Fit All Sewing Machines?
Although most sewing needles will work in all sewing machines, some machine brands require specific needles. Therefore, read the manufacturer’s instructions and needle recommendations before settling on the accessory.
Brands such as Schmetz needles are super for all sewing machines. However, embroidery machines, overlock machines or sergers, or other specialty machines may require you to get different needle types.
- What Needle Type Would Accommodate General Sewing Projects?
If you want to purchase only one type of needle for general sewing, it should be Sharps. The needles are medium length and are excellent for primary hand sewing projects. They are also very sharp and effortlessly go through the fabric.
- What is the Main Difference Between Sewing Machine Needles and Hand Sewing Needles?
Hand sewing needles and machine needles have different size numbers, which indicate the diameter. However, with machine needles, the larger the metric, the bigger the needle. With hand-sewing needles, the reverse is true.
- What Do Various Sewing Machine Needle Sizes Mean?
The numbers you see on sewing machine needle packages show the fabric thickness that the needles can accommodate. They are simple to understand as long as you know the underlying concept.
Usually, the larger the needle size numbers, the heavier or thicker the fabric you can sew. Conversely, if you come across smaller needle size numbers, they are for light or medium weight fabrics.
Even if you are a confident sewist, understanding needle sizes and types are inevitable because you will encounter various fabrics and threads.
These materials and yarns will determine the specific needle to use, and since you want perfect stitches, you need to set aside some time for a thorough review through
Different Types of Sewing Machine Needles.
Sewing machine needles are easy to sort because once you understand the European and American labeling system, you are good to go!
Also, we have reference charts from fabric and thread manufacturers that show the specific needles to use for various sewing scenarios.
Ultimately, your sewing is not complete without the correct sewing needle. Therefore, go to the shop and get your sewing magic wand!