As a beginner to sewing, it is important to know that selecting the right needle for each new project is indeed just as important as selecting the fabric and thread to keep things sewing smoothly. I would recommend purchasing a variety pack of sewing machine needles to go in your starter kits, being that there are different sizes and types of sewing machine needles for different types of fabric. Hopefully this sewing machine needle breakdown will be a good starting point and guide for you.
The American sizing system is numbered from 8 to 18, with the lower the number being a finer needle and moving up with the higher the number the larger the needle. To help you determine which sewing machine needles are best for your project, it is helpful to know that the lighter the fabric the smaller the needle size and, or course, the heavier the fabric the larger the needle size will need to be. You can also refer to the chart below as a guide one which needles to use for which fabrics.
The thread you will be using for your sewing project will also determine the type of needle you choose. If you have a thin and delicate thread you will want to use a smaller needle size to accommodate.
Sewing Machine Needle Breakdown
- Universal / Regular Point needles are recommended for sewing woven fabrics and are the most common needle used. As a beginner, chances are you can get by with this needle while you master the craft of sewing your easier to work with fabrics. These needles are also typically used for embroidery. It is a stronger needle and longer lasting making it able to tolerate the high stitching speed of embroidery machines.
- Ball Point/ Stretch needles are used for sewing on knits; the rounded tip allows the needle to pass between the fabric threads by separating them. (Using a regular point needle on knit fabric will result in skipped stitches and fabric damage, causing it to curl.)
- Denim/Jeans as stated in the name of the needle type, these are specifically for the thicker fabric denim, and can be used on the thicker canvas fabric as well.
- Leather needles are used for leather and vinyl fabrics.
- Twin Needle is used for stitching two closely spaced parallel rows at a time – for decorative stitching. Although parallel stitching is not a hard technique to learn, but most beginners will not need this right out of the gate.
- Hemstitch or Wing-Needle creates a small hole in the fabric as is sews and is used in heirloom sewing.
Questions & Answers about Needles
How often should I replace my needle?
It is recommended that for best sewing results, needles should be replaced every 8-10 hours of stitching time. However, many who sew for a hobby will tell you they stretch this out a bit further. You will be able to tell if you needle is getting dull if it is leaving visual puncture marks in your fabric.
Why does my needle keep breaking?
A few things can cause this. First check to see if your needle is too thin for the fabric you are using. Are you pushing or pulling the fabric thru as you sew? This can cause the needle to bend or break as well. And finally, are you putting your needle in correctly? Make sure it is all the way “up” where it belongs and that it is secured in properly.
Why are my stitches are skipping?
This can occur if you are using the wrong needle. Look at what type of fabric you are using and which needle is best suited for sewing that fabric specifically. It can also occur if the needle is either bent or dull, or you are using the wrong style of needle.
Why is my machine making a “popping” sound while I sew?
Stop! And replace your needle before it breaks. If you are hearing this sound, chances are that your needle is damaged and bent.
Why does my thread keep fraying or shedding?
Check to see if your needle is too small for your thread. Chances are either you are using the wrong thread, or the wrong needle. Look up your fabric type and adjust accordingly. Thread can also be old or damaged from improper storage over time.
Why does it look like I have holes where my thread is going in?
Time to change your needle. Either it is dull from overuse, or you are using a needle that is too large for a lighter weight fabric.
Which Needles to Use with Which Fabrics:
|Fabric Fabrics below can be of any fiber, cotton, linen, silk, wool, synthetic, rayon, blends. They are listed as examples of weight.||Machine Needle Type||Machine Needle Size|
|Sheer to lightweight: Batiste, Chiffon, Georgette, Organza, Voile and all microfiber or microdenier fabrics.||Regular Point||9/70 or 11/80|
|Lightweight: Challis, Chambray, Charmeuse, Crepe de Chine, Gauze, Handkerchief Linen, Silk, Taffeta, Tissue Faille.||Regular Point||11/80|
|Medium-weight: Broadcloth, Brocade, Chino, Chintz, Corduroy, Flannel, Linen, Poplin, Satin, Synthetic Suedes, Taffeta, Terry, Velvet||Regular Point||14/90|
|Medium to Heavy-weight: Coating, Damask, Drapery Fabric, Fake Fur, Gabardine, Ticking, Woolens||Regular Point||16/100 or 18/110|
|Denim and Canvas||Denim/Jeans||16/100|
|Sheer to Lightweight Knits: Jersey, Single Knit, Spandex, Tricot||Ball Point||10/70 or 12/80|
|Medium to Heavy-weight Knits: Double Knit, Sweatshirt, Sweater Knit||Ball Point||14/90|
|Specialty Fabrics: Leather, Suede, Buckskin||Wedge Point||14/90 or 16/100|
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