The right sewing machine needle can make or ruin your sewing project! Do you know all the parts, sizes, and different kinds of sewing machine needles?
I feel like I’ve learned a lot about different fabrics, fabric weights, and using the right sewing machine needles in the last couple of years. I’ve used the wrong needle on fabric and basically ruined the fabric.
If you are learning how to sew, you can start with sewing 101 for beginners!
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Sewing Machine Needles
parts of the needle
The top part of the needle that goes into your machine. Home-sewing machine needles have a flat back that corresponds with the machine, so it’s easy to fit the needle into the machine at the right angle.
The main part of the needle below the shank.
The slit on the front of the needle. This is where the thread sits while sewing which protects it from breaking.
The skinny space in the back of the needle which helps the machine not skip stitches. The scarf is actually longer on stretch needles to accommodate the fabric.
Just like a hand-sewing needle, the eye is the hole where the thread goes. The difference is sewing machine needles is that the eye is on the opposite side of the needle.
Different Kinds of Needles
Like the name says, it’s universal and can be used for almost anything. The point is sharp with a little bit of rounding. It can’t be seen with the naked eye, so I included a picture with examples.
The point is very round and is for knit fabric. When sewing with knit fabric, you don’t want to pierce the fabric like you do with woven fabric. You want to push the yarns aside. If a yarn is broken in knit, it unravels.
Similar to a ballpoint needle, it just has a deeper scarf to prevent skipped stitches.
Sharper than a universal, this needle is used for wovens, fast straight-stitch sewing (like quilting), and topstitching. It makes a clean stitch because it is so sharp.
Thick, sharp needles to accommodate thick fabric in multiple layers.
Sharp needles made specifically for sewing on leather. I have never actually sewn on leather, so I don’t know much about it.
A super needle comes in all the different sharp points, but it has a special coating on the metal to prevent it from sticking. The special coating makes it look like a darker metal. It’s great when sewing a sticky interfacing or just regular sewing!
Two needles connected at the top so it can be put in the machine as one. When sewing, the stitching on top is two parallel stitches with a zigzag on the bottom. The zigzag comes from the bobbin thread going back and forth between the two needles. There are also stretch twin needles for sewing on knits and jean twin needles for making that common double thread we see on jeans these days. Here’s how to use a twin needle.
Sewing Machine Needle Sizes
The European needle measurement is first, and the American needle measurement is second.
70/10 – very lightweight – Use with lightweight and sheer fabrics.
80/12 – lightweight – Use with light to medium weight fabric. This is the most common size and used for most applications.
90/14 – medium weight – use on medium weight fabrics.
100/16 – medium to heavy weight – use on heavier and thick fabrics. It’s most helpful when sewing through multiple layers of heavy fabric.
110/18 – heavy weight – use on the heaviest fabrics like leather and denim.
The size I use for almost everything is 80/12. When I’m sewing on jeans or thick fabric, I use 100/16 or 110/18. I would use the 70/10 for sheer fabrics.
Also, the smaller the needle, the thinner the thread size has to be so that it can fit into the front groove. The larger needles can accommodate thick thread. They won’t work as well with thin thread because the thread will flop around inside the front groove because the groove is too big.
Colors of Sewing Machine Needles
Some sewing machine needles come with colors to help you remember what they are. The top color closest to the shank tells what type of needle it is or how sharp the point it. The bottom color tells you the size.
Schmetz needle colors for type
- no color – universal
- yellow – stretch
- red – jersey
- blue – denim
- brown – leather
- mint – topstitch
Schmetz needle colors for size
- yellow – 110/18
- purple – 100/16
- blue – 90/14
- red – 80/12
- turquoise – 70/10
How to Insert a Sewing Machine Needle
A sewing machine needle for a domestic or home sewing machine has a flat edge on the shank along the back. This helps you find the back of the needle and insert it correctly, so that the needle and bobbin meet facing the right direction.
Below are two images of two different needles and two different sizes of thread. It’s really important to get the right size needle for the size of thread you’re working with.
2.5 mm long (10-12 stitches per inch): The regular stitch length used for almost all sewing.
3-4 mm long (6-8 stitches per inch): The stitch used for stitching that will be shown on the outside of the fabric. Learn how to topstitch.
4 mm long (8 stitches per inch): Basting is to sew fabric together temporarily. It’s also used when gathering fabric. Learn how to gather.
1.5 mm long (15-20 stitches per inch): This length is for strength. Use it when around corners that are going to be trimmed.
Sewing Machine Needle Chart
If you learned something about sewing machine needles, I’d love to hear! Please share it on social media with the hashtag #heatherhandmade and tag me!