Buying Guide: Sewing Machine Needles

Buying Guide: Sewing Machine Needles

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Skill Level:
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Additional Information


What to Know When Buying Sewing Machine Needles

An essential item in sewing is the sewing machine needle. It can literally make or break your sewing project. So it is important to choose the right needle for each project. There are 3 basic types of machine needles: Universal, Ball Point, and Sharp or Microtex. There are also a few other needles that have special uses.

Key features:

Machine needle sizes are always given in the American sizing system and the European metric sizing. Most needle companies show both sizes on the package.

  • Size 9/70 Suitable for light fabrics, silk and taffeta
  • Size 11/80 Suitable for medium fabrics, cotton, linen and satin
  • Size 14/90 Suitable for medium to heavy fabrics, this is an ideal in-between needle
  • Size 16/100 Suitable for heavy fabrics, denim, tweeds, curtain and upholstery fabrics

Sharp/Microtex Needles
Sharp point needles are for use with tightly woven fabrics. They have a very slim acute point that creates beautiful top-stitching and perfectly straight stitches for quilt piecing. These needles come in varying sizes from the finest size 9 to the heaviest size 18.

Universal Point Needles
Universal needles are an all-purpose needle for sewing wovens and knits. The point is slightly rounded and the needle is tapered so that it slips through the weave of knits easily while still retaining enough sharpness to pierce woven fabrics. Universal needles typically come with all sewing machines. They come in many different sizes with the 14/90 and the 11/75 being the most popular.

Ball Point Needles
Ball point needles are made especially for sewing on knits. Its rounded point is designed to slide between the yarns of knit fabrics without snagging. They come in size 10/70 through 16/100. Choose the size that will handle the thread being used when sewing on knits.

Jeans Needle
A jeans needle has a point designed for penetrating extra thick fabrics and a reinforced blade to reduce breakage and skipped stitches. It is made for heavy duty stitching and is suitable for denim and similar fabrics.

Twin Needle
A twin needle is actually two needles mounted on one shaft used to create two rows of stitches simultaneously. It uses two spools of thread and one bobbin thread. The package will show two numbers. One is the needle size; the other is the distance between the two needles. This distance varies from 2.0 mm to 6.0 mm. Remember that the needles must fit through the hole in the stitch plate, so if you have been using a straight stitch plate you must change it to a zig-zag stitch plate to avoid hitting the plate with the needles.

Other Specialty Needles

Metallic Needle
•Feature: Elongated eye
•Fabric Use: Metallic and other specialty threads. A “must have” for sewing with sensitive metallic threads. The elongated eye prevents shredding and breaking of metallic threads.

Embroidery Needle
•Feature: Light ball point, wide eye and groove
•Fabric Use: Use with rayon, polyester and other specialty embroidery threads. The special scarf, widened groove and enlarged eye protect fragile threads and guard against excess friction allowing trouble-free embroidery and decorative stitching

Quilting Needle
•Feature: Special taper to the slightly rounded point
•Fabric Use: Made especially for piecing and machine quilting. The special tapered design allows easier fabric penetration and helps eliminate skipped stitches.

Topstitch Needle
•Feature: Extra-long eye
•Fabric Use: Topstitch, heavy, multiple or poor quality threads. Achieve perfectly straight stitch lines and even stitches when using a straight stitch plate.

Leather Needle
•Feature: Wedge shape slightly sharp cutting point
•Fabric Use: Cuts through leather and other heavy non-woven imitation leathers and suedes without creating large holes.

Other Tips:

  • Use a new needle for each sewing project or after 8 hours of sewing
  • Sergers or overlock machines, embroidery or other specialty machines may use different needles. Check your manual.
  • Always replace a dull or damaged needle right away.
  • For the most part all sewing machines needles work in all sewing machines. But there are a few brands that need specific needles.