As many beginners do, when I first started sewing, I had a couple of packs of universal needles that I used for everything. “Universal” means it should work for every project, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case!
Choosing the right type and size of the needle is a very important step in the sewing process. It can mean the difference between beautiful results and a frustrating, skipped-stitch-and-broken-thread-filled sewing experience.
With the guide below, you’ll learn about the different types and sizes of needles and how to choose the right one for your project.
Parts of a Sewing Machine Needle
Before we get into the different types of sewing machine needles, it’s important to take a brief look at the anatomy of a needle. The way each component is constructed on a particular type of needle is what helps to optimize it for a specific type of fabric or thread.
Here are the different parts of a sewing machine needle:
The rounded top of a needle. The butt determines how far into the sewing machine the needle can be inserted.
The wide, top part of the needle below the butt. The shank has a rounded side and a flat side. It should be inserted into the machine with the flat side to the back.
The angled section below the shank that transitions to the narrower portion of the needle. You will usually find color codes indicating needle type on the shoulder.
The long, thin, lower portion of the needle.
A notch along the length of the blade that helps to guide the thread through the eye.
A cutout right above the eye that helps to create a space for the bobbin hook to get ahold of the thread.
The hole near the bottom of the needle that the thread goes through.
Point or Tip
The sharp end of the needle that pierces the fabric.
Types of Sewing Machine Needles
There are many different types of sewing machine needles, each made to work best with certain types of fabric or thread. It’s important to consider the fabric and thread you will be using for your project, then choose a needle that will help you get great results.
Below, I’ve outlined the most common types of needles for sewing.
1. Universal Needle
The universal needle is by far the most versatile. This type of needle has a slight ballpoint, meaning the tip is a bit rounded, not ultra-sharp. Universal needles are made to work on woven fabrics and knits; however, I find that they work best for medium to heavy weight woven fabrics.
2. Ballpoint (Jersey) Needle
A ballpoint needle, sometimes labelled as a “jersey” needle, has a rounded point. This type of needle is made to work best on knit fabrics without spandex. The rounded tip pushes the threads aside as it goes through the fabric, rather than breaking through them. This helps to maintain the integrity and strength of your fabric.
3. Stretch Needle
Stretch needles have an extra-deep scarf to make it easier for the bobbin hook to pick up the thread as it goes through a fabric with a lot of elasticity. This helps to prevent the frustration of skipped stitches in stretchy fabrics. This type of needle is your best option for great results sewing knit fabrics with spandex, such as activewear and swimwear fabrics.
4. Denim (Jeans) Needle
As the name implies, denim needles are made to get through thick, tightly woven fabrics, like denim, with ease. This type of needle is made with a medium ballpoint and the blade is reinforced to add strength and rigidity. This design helps to avoid skipped stitches and breaking needles on thick woven fabrics.
5. Topstitch Needle
If you’re sewing jeans, a topstitch needle will be your other go-to needle. Topstitch needles are ultra-sharp for getting through thick fabrics and have a larger groove and eye to allow room for thick threads, such as topstitching thread.
6. Leather Needle
Leather needles have a thick, sharp cutting point to allow them to easily puncture leather, suede, vinyl, and other nonwoven fabrics. This helps you to sew leather and other similar fabrics without skipped stitching, tearing the fabric, or breaking a needle.
7. Microtex (Sharp) Needle
Microtex needles, also known as “sharp” needles, have a very sharp tip that helps to pierce thin, silky fabrics without getting caught on the fabric and potentially sucking it into the bobbin area. It also helps you to achieve super straight stitching on tricky fabrics. This needle is your best choice when sewing delicate and sheer fabrics.
8. Quilting Needle
Quilting needles have a tapered point, allowing them to get through multiple layers of fabric easily and efficiently. When sewing quilts, potholders, or other layered items, try a quilting needle for best results.
Sewing Machine Needle Sizes
There are two different sizing systems used with sewing machine needles, an American system, and a European system. Thankfully, sewing machine needles are usually labelled with both sizes – the European size followed by the American size. This makes it easy to just pick whichever system you prefer and stick with it!
The American sizing ranges from 8 to 18, while the European sizes span from 60 to 110. In both sizing systems, the smaller the number, the thinner the needle.
The key takeaway: A good average needle size for a standard, medium weight fabric is either a 75/11 or an 80/12 needle. Choose a larger sized needle for thicker fabrics and a thinner needle for thinner fabrics.
Thank you for reading and Happy Sewing! 🙂