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How to choose the right needle for sewing machine

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Do you know how to identify the correct needle type and size for your sewing machine? From universal to ballpoint needle, choosing the right kind of sewing machine needle for your machine can go a long way in making your task much easier. 

As a beginner, it is easy to end up with the wrong needle for sewing machine all the time. This can lead to all sorts of problems like the needle breaking, difficulty sewing straight on the fabric and also poor stitching quality. 

How do you choose the right needle for a sewing machine? The right sewing machine needle is chosen based on the thickness and weight  of the fabric, and also the type of stitching being implemented. It is important to use the right needle for the project. 

Having a sewing machine with a variety of needles can help you to effortlessly achieve your DIY clothing goals. There are different kinds of sewing machine needles available for us to use depending on the fabrication being worked on. 

Thus, deciding which one to choose can be overwhelming from all the brand name, sizes, types of needles out there. However, let’s dive deep to learn more about sewing needles and how to select the right kind of needle for your stitching.

Covered below are the different types of sewing machine needles that you should have in your sewing kit, along with frequently asked questions about needles for machine sewing.

brand new sewing needle on sewing machine

Can you use any needle for sewing machine?

Not all fabrics are sewn the same way, which means you cannot use just any needle for sewing machine as there are different types of needles available. 

Needles differ in their sizes and usage, ultimately the decision depends on the type of fabric you are using or the type of stitching you are looking to use. 

Also, depend on the brand of sewing machine you have, some needle reacts differently for Singer or Brother sewing machine. Most of these sewing machine offer variety of sewing needle that works specifically with the machine. 

The European metric system for sizes is numbered from sizes 60 to 110, while the American one range from 8 to 18. For both of the sizing systems, the lower number of needle denotes the finest size and the highest denotes the largest size. 

Most needle companies offer both of the numbering systems on their packages to easily find out the size. Thus, you should never be using just any kind of needle for your sewing purpose.

How do I know what sewing machine needle to use

In order to find out what sewing machine needle to use, there is a general rule of thumb that you can follow to determine the type of needle for the project. 

If the fabric is light, you want to go for a smaller needle size, while heavy and thick fabrics need larger sizes. 

Also, the type of thread you are using determines the type of needle that pairs with it. 

  • For fine and delicate threads, be sure you are using a finer size of needle. 
  • For heavier threads used to stitch thick fabrics like leather or canvas, you want to go for a much larger needle size.

Selecting correct thread according to the needle size will also avoid threads keep breaking while sewing. Determining the issue beforehand will save time and also help to protect the longevity of your machine.

Do all needles fit all sewing machines

In general, all sewing machine needles available in the market will function in the majority of sewing machines. However, overlock machines or Sergers, machines for embroidery and other special types of sewing machines may require different needles to function properly.

Well known brands of needles like Schmetz and Singer will work in all sewing machines. Every machine has a needle system to carefully review before purchasing, so check the machine user’s manual to see which needles are compatible with the machine.

How do you read a sewing needle size

The sewing needle size is written on the package in American and European size system. Understanding the numbers will help you to make the correct choice and avoid a potential sewing machine problem. 

The American system uses range from 8 to 18, size 8 being a fine needle and 18 for heavy and thick needle. On the other hand, the European size ranges from 60 to 120, size 60 being a fine needle and 120 being a heavy and thick needle. 

The finer the needle, the lesser is the number and vice versa and is applicable to both the sizing metrics.

On the package, the needle size listed as 90/14 or 14/90 and the order does not affect the size, it is just showing the size of the needle. Make sure to test your needle with correct thread and fabric to find the best result for your fabric, thread and stitching.

How do you tell the difference between sewing machine needles

The needles used in machine sewing are different from hand sewing needles. 

A machine sewing needle has the eye and the point on the same end and the opposite side is usually flat for insertion in the needle bar. On hand sewing needles. A hand sewing needle has the eye and point on opposite ends.

Therefore, it is easily to identify the difference based on visual and functional appearance. 

Here are different types of needles that are coming for sewing machines:

  • Ball point needle has a more rounded tip than a universal needle
  • Stretch needle has a “scarf,” which allows extra room for the hook to pass close by and prevent skipped stitches
  • Denim/jeans needle has an extra sharp point and is larger than most other types of sewing machine needles
  • Twin needle have two needles mounted on one bar
  • Wing needle is extended from the point up the shaft and tapers toward the needle clasp
  • Leather needle has slight triangle at the point, which makes it easier to punch through the material.

By looking at the point, eye, scarf, and shank of the needle, you can easily identify the different sewing machine needles. 

For the best results, store the needle in the original package to prevent the sharp point from becoming dull, and also easily identify the type of needle it is for your next project.

What do the numbers mean on sewing machine needles

The numbers on the sewing machine needles mean the different sizes, as all needles come in sizes that are written on the needles themselves. These sizes denote the fineness of the needle, which start from being the most fine at the lowest number and thickest at the highest. 

A general rule of thumb, the number on the sewing machine needle means:

  • Lightweight fabric ranges from 65/9 to 75/11 
  • Medium weight fabric ranges from 75/11 to 90/14 
  • Heavy weight fabric ranges from 100/16 and 110/18 

The type of needle requires depends on the thickness of the fabric. These numberings are present on the needles to make sure people choose the correct size for their stitches. 

Different types of fabric require needles of different sizes. Thus, the numbering system is very convenient when it comes to choosing the correct size of the needle to accomplish the project.

What do the colors on sewing machine needles mean

Another way to find out the sewing machine needle is by the color code at the end of the needle. Most Schmetz sewing needles have the color code system on the needle to identify the type and size, making it very convenient to select at a glance and be ready to go.

Here is the color code guide to help you what type of needle it is: 

  • No color code: universal needle
  • Purple: Microtex sharps and size 100/16
  • Orange: Ballpoint and size 80/12
  • Yellow: Stretch needle and size 110/18
  • Blue: Jeans and size 90/14
  • Light green: Topstitching
  • Green: Quilting
  • Red: Embroidery and size 130/21
  • Pink: Metallic
  • Brown: Leather and size 120/19

The color code system is easy to read and find the correct type and size of sewing machine needle for beginner, however not all manufacturers are consistent with their color coding. Always look at the numbering of the needle on the package that you are using to make sure it’s the right fit for you.

tips to select correct needle for sewing machine

Types of sewing machine needles

Other than sewing machine needle size, it is crucial to understand each type and their usage. By doing so, it will help you make the sewing journey easier on different fabrics. 

Once you feel comfortable with the most essential sewing needles, then you’ll know exactly what they are for and there will no longer be a need to review the manuals.

Here are the most common types of sewing machine needles you need to know and get comfortable using.

Universal Needle

The universal needle is the most common type that can sew all kinds of fabrics including woven and less stretchy knits made with natural and synthetic fibers. It has slightly rounded tip but not as round as the ball point needle. 

Have a wide range of universal needles that are assorted from 10/70 to 14/90 to cover standard fabrications for your sewing projects.

Ball Point Needle

These type of needle are known for tightly woven fabrics and knit fabrics with stretch in every direction. It is used for cotton, polyester, and blended knit fabric. 

The ball point needle has round tip that can easily slip through fiber without cutting them. The needle size will depend on the knit weight.

  • For light knits, use 70/11
  • For interlock fabric, use 80/12 
  • For medium-heavy knits and double knits, use 90/14

Jersey Needle

The jersey needle are mainly used for knit fabric with a medium stretch instead of stretch woven. It also has a rounded tip to slip between fibers so that it does not cause holes while creating stitches.

Stretch Needle

If you are sewing yoga or swimwear that is mostly made of lycra or spandex fabric, the stretch needle is perfect option. 

  • For any light lycra fabric, use 75/11. 
  • For elastic and heavier lycra, use 90/14 size.

Leather needle

The leather needles works the best with sewing leather or vinyl, but not ultra-suede. It has a sharp point that can easily pierce through the thick material. 

Adjust the length of stitches when using leather needle to avoid causing perforation. The recommended leather needle size is 90/14 and 100/16 depending on the thickness of the leather.


The shapes needle, also called as Microtex, are fine and sharper compared to universal needles. They are used when sewing very thin vinyl, appliqué, silks, and majority of tightly woven fabrics.

  • For voile or delicate fabric, use a 70/11. 
  • For shirtings and wool worsted, use 80/12 or 90/14. 

All these shapes produce perfect topstitching for these fabrications.

Denim Needle

The denim or jeans needles are only used on thick and dense denim fabric. The sewing needle are thicker in sizes and strong enough to sew through layers of denim fabric. 

The recommended needle size most commonly used is 90/14 and 100/16. 

Twin Needle

The twin needle, also known as double needle, consists of 2 needles next to each other that are joined at the top. It is commonly used on the hems of knit and jersey fabrics to create professional finish of parallel lines of stitching.

Choosing a Sewing Machine Needle: Final Thoughts

From needle size to usage, there are wide range of sewing machine needle for beginners to get comfortable using. This guide will help you to determine and choose the best needle based on your purpose. 

Needles have a guide and sizing to them, which means that all of them can not be used for the same type of stitching or fabric. Therefore, you must have an idea of which type of needle to use for the specific purpose. 

Needles are fine and sharp pieces of metal that should always be handled with care. Make sure you put each needle back in its case once you are done using it so that it remains sharp and properly labels so that you know what kind of needle it is.

Also, if the needle skips stitching or has a slight bend to it, change the needle on a sewing machine to avoid further damage on your machine or to the garment being sewn. Use the helpful guides to sew your DIY clothing and add embellishment to complete your sewing project.

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Friday 25th of November 2022

I have looked everywhere for clear information and ta da! Here you are. Thank you for this information. I have been sewing for a few years and your information is still helpful. I love the detail and the reminders of the things I forgot all about. Thank you!