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How Do I Choose A Needle For My Sewing Machine?

Choosing a needle for a sewing machine is a lot more complicated than people think. You never really know how important this is until you’re working on a project that requires a special type of needle that’s different from the regular ones you’re used to.

Having garnered much experience choosing needles for different projects, I’ll be sharing some useful information on how you can choose the right needle for any project.

How Do I Choose A Needle For My Sewing Machine?

Your sewing machine needle depends on the fabric you’re working with. Every fabric has a special type of needle that suits them, if you use the wrong needle, it could lead to breakage or a faulty stitch. The general rule of thumb is that thinner needles are best for light fabrics like linen while thicker needles work for thicker fabrics like denim.

There are different sewing machine needles on the market, so you’re going to have to be specific about the kind of needle you want when you’re looking to buy one. You also need to know the exact sizes of your preferred choice in both sizing systems.

Choosing a Sewing Machine Needle

There are several factors that determines whether or not a needle is the right fit for a fabric. It gets even more complicated when you consider the small matter of sizing systems. In case you don’t already know, there are two sizing systems. They are the European needle sizing system and American needle sizing system.

The European needle sizing system places needle sizes from 60 to 120. 60 is regarded as the lightest machine needle while 120 is the heaviest machine needle. It means if you’re stitching a light fabric, you’re going to need a size 60 needle.  The American needle sizing system presents a totally different sizing system. The American needle size is placed between 8 to 19. 8 is the lightest sewing needle while 19 is the heaviest needle.

All you need to do is master both sizing systems. If you’re working with a sheer fabric that is characteristically light, you should use a size 60 needle as per the European sizing system or a size 8 needle as per the American sizing system.

Sewing Needle Parts

The parts of a sewing machine also contributes to how they differ from each other. A sewing machine needle features the following parts:

  • Flat Side: All sewing machine needles have round and flat sides. The flat side of a needle is used to attach the needle with a needle bar using a screw. The screw is tightened when attaching the needle and loose when removing it
  • Round Side: A sewing machine needle also features a round side that helps it hold the needle in place while attached to a needle bar.
  • Shank: A shank is the top of the needle. It has two parts which have been mentioned above. Both parts (flat side and round side) are used for attaching it to a needle bar.
  • Shaft: The shaft is the middle part of the sewing machine that fully inserts in the machine. I consider this part to be the most important of all. Most needles have shafts of varying lengths or sizes. A sewing machine needle that’s meant for lighter fabrics is usually thin while the one meant for thick fabrics is larger.
  • Scarf: The scarf is also an important part of a needle. It is the part that goes into a bobbin and frees up the bobbin case so it can cross-mix any thread supplied from the top and bottom. This is how stitches are formed.
  • Eye: The eye is a small but visible hole on the needle. It is the part of the needle that carries thread and helps with the creation of thread loops to form stitches. Depending on the needle type, a needle’s eye can be wide or thin.
  • Point: This is the sharp end of the needle that pierces through several layers of fabrics. It passes the thread that is supplied from the top and ensures it intersects with the thread from the bobbin to make a stick.

Different Needle Types and What They’re Used For

As earlier stated, your project will determine the right kind of needle that’s required. The following are different needle types and the projects they’re best used for:

  • Universal Needles: As the name implies, universal needles are used for a large variety of fabrics. They work well with synthetics, knit fabrics, and woven fabrics. There are two sizes of universal needles. The thinner needle is best for lightweight fabrics like linen, silk, chiffon, and ramie while the larger sized needles are used for medium or heavyweight fabrics. Silk, cotton, or polyester threads work best with universal needles.
  • Ball Point Needles: Ballpoint needles are a bit different from other types of needles. They feature a tip that appears rounded. This rounded tip is used for pushing fabric fibers apart as opposed to cutting them like other regular tip needles.
  • This uniques feature is why ballpoint needles are mainly used for double knit, fleece, cotton knit, interlock, and rib knits. They work well with many knit fabrics because they prevent the fabrics from laddering or running due to stitching. Ballpoint needles work best with polyester/cotton and polyester blend threads.
  • Stretch Needles: Stretch needles have a unique feature called a scarf which makes room for the hook to pass by closely and prevent skipped stitches. This special feature makes stretch needles perfect for silk jersey, two-way stretch knit, power net, lycra, elastic fabrics, spandex.

Stretch needles works best with cotton wrapped polyester or polyester threads. If you’ve ever worked with stretch fabrics before, you’d agree that they’re a touch fabric type to work with. This is why it is important to get the right type of needle.

  • Sharp Needles: Are you a quilter who works with different layers of wadding and cotton? Do you also handle densely woven fabrics like microfiber and silk? If your answer is yes, then a sharp needle is exactly what your sewing machine needs.

These types of needle are specially designed to penetrate through several layers of fabrics. They feature a strong shaft that helps to prevent broken or bent needles. It enables it to pass through your fabric and delivers smooth buttonholes.

  • Jeans Needles: There’s no need guessing which fabrics these are for. The first name that comes to mind is denims. Yet, jeans needles are also great with canvass, heavy linens, and heavy twill. I mentioned earlier that ballpoint needles pull fabrics apart, in contrast, jeans needles cut through fabrics.

To handle this task, they are designed with a strong shank and sharp point that prevent them from breaking or bending when pushing through heavy fabric. Jeans needles work best with 100% polyester, blends, synthetic, cotton wrapped polyester, and heavy topstitching threads.

  • Leather Needles: These needles are also referred to as chisel point needles. This is because they feature a point that’s shaped like a chisel. Leather needles are best used for suede, genuine leather and other fabrics that are difficult. On the other hand, you can’t use this type of needle for synthetic suede, ultra suede, and PU imitation leather because they are a whole different fabric from their original counterparts.

Related Questions

Can all needles fit in any kind of sewing machine?

Yes, all sewing machine needles should fit perfectly with all sewing machine models. However, some industrial sewing machine models have special needles made specifically for them.

What needle size is perfect for sewing cotton?

The best needle size for sewing cotton is size 80/12 and size 90/14. Size 90 and 80 represents European needle sizing system while size 12 and 14 represents the American needle sizing system.


Hello, I am Jessica Flores, and you are welcome to my website. I am a professional fashion designer and a seamstress. I always carried a passion for craftwork. My love for craft grew along with time. I have spent years researching and practicing in this field to gather colossal experience.

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