How to Choose Sewing Machine Needles?

Sewing machine needles are one important thing that every sewer always puts much concentration on before deciding to sew anything. They always come in different sizes, shapes, and types and are all meant to work on various fabrics; as a sewer, you should understand what you want to work on and the type of needle you will need. Here is everything you will need to know about sewing machine needles.

Sewing machine needle types

There are many different sewing machine needle types with different sizes; when looking for a needle for your sewing for the first time, it can be overwhelming. Many people make mistakes here and end up choosing the wrong needles. The following are the commonly used sewing machine needles you should know about:

Universal needles

They are the most used sewing machine needles in the sewing industry; one can use them on many various fabrics such as woven, synthetics, and on several knit fabrics. The finer universal needles are used for lightweight sewing fabrics, while the larger universal needles are used to sew medium and heavyweight fabrics. It should be noted that materials such as cotton and polyester should be sewed with universal needles.

Ballpoint needles

They are more like the universal needles, but their tip is more rounded than the latter, which purposely pushes the sewing material fibers apart instead of cutting them. It is an ideal needle to work with on rib knits, cotton knits, interlock, double knit, fleece, and many other knit fabrics because it prevents the fabrics from running due to stitching. The best threads to use in this needle are the polyester or the polyester-cotton threads, when using finer needles, consider using finer threads as well.

Stretch needles

It is a unique sewing needle with a ‘scarf,’ a feature that enables the hook to pass through close by and prevents skipped stitches, thus making it the best option to use in power net, silk jersey, spandex, and many other elasticated or elastic synthetic fabrics. Consider using polyester and cotton wrapped threads on these needles. Working on stretch fabrics is not easy; it can be challenging if one does not pick the right needle for the purpose of achieving the best results at the end.

Sharp needles

When working on densely woven fabrics and quilting several layers of cotton or wadding, you will need to use sharp needles to ensure perfect penetration without damaging any part of the fabrics. They are designed to specifically work on several layers of fabrics since they have strong shafts that prevent them from breaking and enable easy penetration through the fabric producing smooth buttonholes. They have a short rounded threading eye that adds more strength when threading.

jeans needles

They have been designed to sew denim fabrics and other densely woven fabrics such as canvas, heavy linens, and twill. Their shank is made to be stronger than the other needles to prevent it from breaking and to easily penetrate through the heavy fabrics. When using this needle, consider using synthetic, polyester, and cotton wrapped, and heavier topstitching threads; not only are they perfect for the needles but also for the heavy fabrics.

Leather needles

They are popularly known as the chisel point needles because their point looks exactly like the chisel and is also used for the same purpose as chisel on fabric. Leather needles are meant to be used with genuine leather fabrics and other hard to sew projects. Consider using them with ultra or synthetic suede, PU imitation leather because their features are more different from the others.

Embroidery needles

They have been designed with a wider eye that allows threads like the rayon and polyester to pass through the embroidering easily and effectively. Machine embroidery has a unique feature that prevents missing stitches up and down the fabric due to the fast-moving of the embroidery stitches. These needles are made with a pontoon scarf that has an oversize bump reducing the amount of movement on the fabric.

What Do the Size Numbers Mean on Sewing Machine Needles?

The size numbers on the sewing machine needles are a representation of the different needle sizes available. There are two major sizing systems for the sewing machine needles: the American and European sizing systems. The American sizing system has been numbered with a range of 8 to 12, whereas the European sizing system has its range from 60 to 110. For both sizing systems, when the number is lower, the needle tends to be finer, and when the sizing number is higher, the needle is larger as well.

When the needles are produced, they are packed with the numbers openly displayed and separated by a slash, for instance, 90/14, whereby the large number on the left side is the European sizing system ranging from 60 to 120. The smaller number on the right is a representation of the American sizing system with a range of 8 to 20. The commonly used sizes of sewing machine needles are 60/8, 70/10, 75/11, 80/12, 90/14, and finally, the largest is 100/16.

How Often Should I Change My Needle?

It is hard to find the frequencies at which you should replace your needles in the manuals because most people tend to change their needles only when they break. However, it should not be that way because a sewing machine will need more effort to work with a dull sewing needle, meaning your machine is likely to wear out faster than expected. A dull sewing needle can easily ruin the motor and also damage your fabric, thread to snag, break, create bad tensions, or cause stitch skipping.

The following are the recommendations of how often you should consider changing your needle:

Change your sewing machine needle after using three full bobbins or after using two pre-wound bobbins. It should always be done, not once in a while; after every finish, consider replacing the needle.

It is crucial to change the needle after you are with each of your projects or after you have used a needle on a fabric that dulls the needle, especially leather or any other heavy fabric.

When quilting, it is advisable to change your needle after every eight hours or before you start working on a new project, not unless the project is small.

Needles are responsible for making your machine either last for an extended period or wear out fast; they also determine whether your sewing will be smooth or troublesome. Therefore if you want to protect your machine, consider replacing the needles and choosing the best needle type for each fabric.

Fitting a New Needle

Fitting a new needle to your sewing machine is simpler, and people mostly put it into practice when they are changing the needle or replacing an old needle with a new one. Most sewing machine manuals are accompanied with instructions on how one should fit a new needle in the machine. Here are some basics you need to understand to ensure that you do not make any mistakes:

  • Make the needle set screw loose
  • If you are changing the needle, pull the old needle downwards, out of the needle bar
  • Fit in a new needle pushing it upwards; the needle’s butt stops by itself.
  • Where you are using the industrial sewing machine, consider turning the needle to make the scarf fall on the same side with the machine’s hook assembly.
  • Finalize the process by tightening the needle set screw.
  • The home sewing machine’s needles are equipped with a flat side, which enables the needle to perfectly fit in the machine, while the industrial sewing machines have round needle shanks, thus require more attention when replacing them.

Anatomy of a Sewing Machine Needle

Knowing all the different parts of a sewing machine needle not only helps you understand how to use it but also helps you choose the best needle for different fabrics. Therefore, it is crucial to know the parts and how they help in the sewing process. They include:

The shank.

It is the main part that sits right into the sewing machine, with the flat side going to the back and the rounded side falls to the front. Some special needles tend to have completely rounded shanks.

The shaft.

It the needle part which tapers down after the shank running down for some distance

The groove.

It runs through the needle’s front to the eye; it enables the thread to be securely set on the needle when penetrating through a fabric.

The eye.

This is where the thread passes through from the front to the back. The type of needle determines the type of eye you will find.

The scarf.

It is situated at the needle’s back; it has a smooth indentation on the back of the eye; this is the place the hook passes through so as it can pick up the thread from the needle passing around the bobbin, creating a lock stitch.

The point.

It is the first part of a needle responsible for penetrating through the fabric. With different types of needles, you will find various points.

How to Pair Thread Weight with Needle Size

All the threads used in sewing have different weights depending on the type of fabric, machine, and needle they are intended to be used in; you can find the thread’s weight listed on the bottom or side of the thread spool. You can understand the categories of thread weights. In this form, where the weight is higher, the thread tends to be thinner, while when the weight is lower, the thread, in turn, becomes thicker. Thread’s weight always varies depending on manufacturers; therefore, it can be challenging to determine the weight of a thread, but you can do this manually by running the thread through your fingers and feel whether the thread is thick or thin.

Here is the thread weight trend that will adequately help you pair your needle with their best fitting thread weights:

60/8- paired with 100 weight of silk and polyester invisible thread.
70/10-100 weight threads
80/12- 50 weight threads
90/14- 40 weight threads
100/16- 30 weight threads and all the thicker threads.

Top 10 Needle Troubleshooting Tips

When you are having trouble with your needle while sewing or maybe your needle breaks easily, then you should consider doing the following ten tips to avoid encountering any troubles in the future:

Bent needle

Check to confirm if the needle is not bent and does not hit the edge of the sewing machine foot. Whether the needle looks straight or not, it is better if you consider replacing it because the bend might be very slight to be noticed by your eye.

Needle position

Check the position at which your needle is, if it is on the right or left side, or check out if you were performing zigzag stitches you will need to put it into a straight position to stitch straight stitches. Ensure that the needle is not hitting the foot by gently turning the flywheel; if by chance, it hits the foot side, consider adjusting the stitch width.

Needle size

Confirm whether the needle size is the correct choice for the fabric you want to stitch; if not, you should adjust to the necessary sizes and make the required changes. For heavy fabrics, you should use thick needles to prevent them from breaking or bending when stitching.

Needle type

Find out whether the type of needle you are using is designed to sew the specific fabric; various fabrics are stitched with different needles. Moreover, there are special needles meant for quilting through heavy layered fabrics; most of them come from reinforced metals.

Needle clamp

The needle clamp is equipped with a screw at the side, and at some point, the screw loosens. Check on this and if it has become loose, consider tightening it. To ensure that it gets back to its normal shape and working capabilities.

Don’t Pull

It is important if you avoid pulling when you sew your fabrics, make sure the fabric is relaxed, you are at ease when sewing along with the fabric. Pulling the fabric can cause rough tension and end up snapping the thread resulting in needle breakage.

Bobbin type

Confirm whether the bobbin you are using is the correct one for the machine; bobbins are available in metals and plastics; they vary depending on the sizes one would want to use on their machines. Ensure it is compatible with your machine’s brand.

Bobbin position

See if your bobbin is perfectly set on its casing, because if not, then the needle might be hitting things it should not be hitting, making it difficult to sew through fabrics.

Needle insertion

Make sure that the needle has been inserted correctly into the shaft; check if you have inserted it with the flat side back. If you were replacing the needle, make sure you have screwed it properly to avoid inconveniences.


Check if there is dust or any other buffy and fluffy stuff on the bobbin case. Cleaning it regularly reduces the chances of your needle breaking; consider following the given cleaning procedures on different needle and bobbin cases.

Serger/Overlock Machine Needles

They include the following:

Universal (style 2054-42). These serger needles are used to stitch all woven fabrics; it will easily penetrate through the fabric threads of any woven fabric. They are used on the SINGER model 14U serger/overlock machines.

Ballpoint (style2054-06). They are used to sew knits; the needle has a rounded tip, which enables it to smoothly pass through the fabric threads and dividing the hem. It is used with the SINGER 14U serger machine.

Chromium (style 2022). These are serger needless recommended being used in the SINGER model QUANTUMLOCK 14T serger/overlock machine.


Sewing is a process that requires one to be keen on the basic materials they are using to sew their fabrics, monitor every part of your sewing needle and machine. The fabric plays an important role as much as the thread does to ensure that the final fabric is perfect. With the above knowledge, you will able to do the best for your customers.