Sewing Machine Needles 101: Choosing the Right Type and Size

Sewing Machine Needle Title Card

Choosing the Right Type of Needle 

Universal - The most commonly used sewing machine needle, universal needles have a slightly rounded point and can be used on woven fabrics and some knits. It is a great general purpose needle.

Self-Threading - A universal needle with a special slot at the eye to allow easier threading for those with vision problem

Microtex and Sharps - These needles have a very sharp point and are used for sewing microfibre, silk, synthetic leather, and coated materials. It is also used for achieving perfectly straight topstitching and quilt piecing.

Ballpoint or Jersey - Ballpoint needles have a medium rounded point designed specifically for knit and stretch fabrics. The rounded point pushes through the fibres rather than piercing them. A ballpoint needle can be used when sewing most knits such as french terry, ribbing, interlock, double knits and fleece. For highly elastic fabrics opt for a stretch needle instead.

Stretch - Stretch needles have a slightly less rounded point than ballpoint needles and a specially designed eye and scarf that prevents skipped stitches. Use a stretch needle for highly elastic fabrics like spandex and lycra.

Leather - Leather needles have a cutting point to help pierce through leather and heavy synthetic non woven materials. For synthetic leather (unless very thick) use a microtex or sharps needle instead.

Denim - In addition to sewing denim, denim needles can be used for canvas, upholstery fabrics, and other heavy woven fabrics. 

Topstitch - As the name suggests, topstitch needles are used for creating perfectly straight topstitching. They have an extra sharp point and a large eye to accommodate heavy topstitching thread.

Hemstitch - Also called a wing needle, the hemstitch needle is used for heirloom sewing and has fins on the sides of the shank to create openwork stitching on woven fabrics (usually linens).

Embroidery - Used for for embroidery and adding embellishments with decorative thread. It has a light point and enlarged eye to keep he decorative thread from breaking and shredding.

Twin and Triple Needles - Twin and triple needles are also used for topstitching as well as pin tucking and other decorative stitching. They consist of two or three needles mounted on the same shaft in order to create multiple rows of stitching at the same time. They vary by type (universal, stretch etc.), size, and measurement between needles.

Choosing the Right Needle Size

Sewing machine needles use two different sizing systems - American and European. American sizing ranges from 8 to 19 and European sizing ranges from 60 to 120. In both cases the larger the number, the thicker the blade of needle, and choosing the right needle will depend on the weight of your fabric.

  • Very Fine Fabrics: 60; 8
  • Lightweight Fabrics: 70 - 80; 10 - 12 
  • Medium-Weight Fabrics: 80 - 90; 12 - 14
  • Heavy-Weight Fabrics: 90 - 100; 14 - 16
  • Heavy Denims and Canvas: 110; 18