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Understanding Sewing Machine Needles

What You Need to Know

by Beth Cooper
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Sewing machine needles can be confusing.  There are a lot of numbers on the packages.  What in the world do they all mean?  And are you using the correct needle for your project?

It’s really very simple once you break it down.  Each needle has a size.  The sizes are listed on the package and on the needle (if your eyes are good enough to read it).  Each size is listed in two parts, such as 90/14 or 80/12.  Take for example the size 75/10:  75 is the European size, 10 is the American size.  The smallest American size is 8 and the largest is 21.  The smallest European size is 60 and the largest is 120.  The main thing to remember about the size is that the higher the number, the thicker the needle. 

Sewing machine needles come in different points as well.  You can choose from universal, ballpoint, or sharp (sometimes called microtex).  Each style is made for different types of fabric.  A ballpoint needle is made for knit fabric and with its rounded point it glides in between the loops of the knit without damaging the knit.  A sharp needle is made for woven fabric and are excellent to sew very straight lines.  A universal needle is basically a combination of the two prior needles – not too sharp and not too rounded.  They can be used for knit or woven fabric and are a great general-purpose needle.

The most common needle sizes used for piecing with cotton fabric is universal sizes 70/10, 80/12, and 90/14.  Quilting is commonly done with universal sizes 70/10 or 80/12.  Specialty needles can be purchased for other types of fabric.  For example, needles labeled as stretch, jersey, leather, denim, metallic, and more should be used when sewing with those types of fabric.  Using the right needle for the right project will take the frustration away and lead to successful sewing. 

How often should you change your sewing machine needle?  Many experts agree that you should change your needle every time you begin a new project.  However, that isn’t always the best way to decide.  Some projects take less than an hour to complete so it wouldn’t be necessary to change it that often.  A good rule of thumb is to remember that sewing machine needles have an average “life span” of 6-10 hours, depending on the thickness of the fabric it has been used in.  Changing your needle often will provide you with the best results. For more information on sewing machine needles, check out the knowledge center on Schmetzneedles.com.  Remember, sewing with the correct needle for the project will lead to better stitches and better stitches lead to better projects.

Check out this excellent tutorial from Melissa at Melly Sews for even more tips on choosing your sewing machine needle.

You can shop a variety of sewing machine needles by clicking here. Now that you have a better understanding of sewing machine needles, you’ll be on your way to sewing like a pro! Happy sewing!

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1 year ago

I would like to hear about sewing jeans fabric — what thread would you use for jeans — can you give an okay choice thread size/needle AND best choice thread size.

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