When you first start sewing, you might think any type of sewing machine needle is the correct needle to sew with, as long as the needle is not broken or bending, and while you can get a universal needle, they are not always the right type of needle for what you are sewing.
Not only can the wrong size needle and the wrong type of needle affect the quality of your work, but they can also potentially damage your machine over time which is why you need the right size and type.
So to make sewing machine needle types and sewing machine needle sizes a little less overwhelming for you, we've put together a simplified chart guide for you to follow below.
Before we start covering the different sewing machine needle sizes and types of needles you might need for sewing, it's a good idea to have a basic understanding of the parts of a needle first.
We have split the parts of a needle up into their different components down below.
Now we know the parts of a sewing needle, let's get the most complicated part out of the way, the sewing machine needle sizes.
Sewing needle sizes differ according to the thickness of the shaft, they also come in European size and American size.
When looking at the sizes of machine needles, the European number will come first then the American with a slash in between. The European number refers to the diameter, for example, a 100 needle is 1.0 in diameter.
Typically, the smaller the size of the needle, the finer it is, therefore the finer thread it can accommodate and vice versa for thicker needles.
Here are a few examples below.
Your sewing machine needle size is pretty much always determine by the fabric type you are using, the fabric weight is the real decider here, as a heavyweight fabric will need a thicker needle while a lightweight fabric such as stretch fabrics need a lighter needle in order not to damage it.
It is hard to match a specific needle size to material, as they can come in different weights such as lightweight denim and heavyweight denim, but we have put a few examples below to help you when choosing your needle size according to your fabric.
As well as the weight of the fabric you need to consider the type of needle thread you are using too as this relates to the needle size that you choose too.
For example, using a larger and thicker needle with smaller thread can leave large holes in the fabric which is not accommodated with thread, mirroring a tension problem.
After deciding the size of the needle you need, whether a larger needle for thicker fabric or smaller for fine fabric, you should also consider the type of needle you are using too.
In general, most machines come with general-purpose sewing machine needles included which are split into the three categories below.
Most sewing tasks can be completed with the all-purpose needles above, however, there are specialist sewing machine needles for particular fabrics which can give an even better stitch quality to your fabric if you want a professional finish.
Topstitch needle types typically come in a size range of 80/12, 90/14 and 100/16 and have a large eye with a sharp point and large groove to use thick threads with for topstitching.
These needles are designed to be very strong and have a long sharp point to be used on denim, they come in a size range of 70/10–110/18.
With elongated eyes, these needles allow the metallic thread to pass through the needle threader without friction and come in a size of 80/12.
The embroidery needles have a size range of 70/10–90/14 and are designed to be used with polyester or cotton embroidery threads. They have medium-sized points and oversized eyes.
These wedge-shaped needles can pierce leather without tearing or damaging it, they should never be used on other materials and come in a size of 80/12–110/18. It is essential to stitch accurately with stitch leather needles as they leave big holes.
The sharp and tapered point of these needles is great for piercing through layers of seams and intersections of quilts. Typically they come in a size of 75/11 and 90/14.
A hemstitch needle or wing needle has a wing on either side which created a decorative shape in the tightly woven fabric you are sewing every time it passes through. They come in a size of 100/16 and 120/19.
For this needle, two are attached to a single shaft, making them great for hemming when you need to stitch two rows at the same time. These can only be used on a sewing machine that is capable of doing a zig-zag stitch and has sizes between 1.6/70 –4.0/100. The sizes of these show the diameter between each needle and the second is the European size.
Stretch needles have sizes of 75/11 and 90/14 and come with a deep scarf so the bobbin hook can get closer to the needle eye. They are excellent for stitching lightweight material such as light knits or when you need a finer needle.
After learning about all the needle types and sizes, you should also know when to change your sewing machines needles. You should always change the size of the needle or type when changing the weight of your fabric or when the type of sewing needle has needle breakage or becomes dull.
Skipped stitches, thumping noises, thread breakage or large holes can all be indicators your needle of choice should be changed for a newer one.
Can you get quick-threading needles?
Yes, there are quick-threading needles with a slot on the side of the eye to easily thread through, great for beginners.
Are ball point needles universal?
Most ball point needles are indeed universal for knit material thanks to their rounded head.
Can you get triple needles?
You can get triple needles just like twin needles that allow you to sew three rows of stitches at a time, making them great for decorative edge stitching.
What size needle do I need for denim?
For sewing denim you need a size of either 70/10–110/18, these needles should be fairly thick according to the denim you are sewing. If you have denim of a lighter weight then you can use a finer needle.
What are signs that I have chosen the wrong needle for my fabric?
Some common signs that you are using the incorrect needle are; the needle is skipping stitches, the foot control is not working, the fabric is getting hung up, the machine will not turn on or the threader is speeding.
To conclude, sewing machine needles come in all types and sizes, but what matters is the fabric you are sewing with, as this determines the kind of needle that you need to use. Using the wrong needle on your fabric can give an unprofessional finish with too large holes or even skipped stitches.
You should always make an effort to swap your need out when it gets dull too so as you can have the best stitch quality possible.