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How to Choose the Right Machine Needle

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How to Choose the Right Machine Needle

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Due to the variety of fabrics and threads available on the market, needle manufacturers have quite a selection to choose from. Every needle has its own purpose, but how do you know which is the best one to use for your project? We’ll walk you through the different categories of needles, the anatomy of a needle, and when to choose a certain type of needle. We’ll be focusing on domestic sewing machine needles as these are the most widely used.

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Part 1: The Anatomy of a Needle

Every needle is made up of roughly the same parts. On the front of the needle, you’ll see the point of the needle that pierces the fabric. Above that is the eye which the top thread runs through, and the groove which runs all along the shaft of the needle. This groove allows the thread to be nestled inside, protecting it as the needle runs through the material and keeping it out of the way so it can glide through the material without protruding, thus creating smooth and even stitches.

Above the shaft is the shank which is the part of the needle that is held by the machine. The shaft of most domestic sewing machine needles usually have a rounded front face and a flat back side to make it easy for insertion. At the top of the shaft is the butt which is the part that is inserted into the machine. The shoulder is the section between the shank and shaft. This is where most needle brands will add a strip of colour indicating the type of needle it is.

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On the back side of the needle you will find the scarf, an indentation that makes it easier for the bobbin thread to grab the top thread and create a stitch. The length of the scarf will vary depending on the type of needle.

Part 2: Needle Sizing System

There are two ways to measure needle size, the American and European systems. Both are usually indicated on the packaging of the needle. American sizes usually range from 8 to 19, while European sizes range from 60 to 120. For example, the sizing on this Schmetz needle case indicates the European size on the left and the American size on the right. So a 90/14 needle means it’s a 90 in the European size and 14 in the American size. The larger the number, the larger the needle.

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You will want to pair a smaller size needle with a finer thread and a larger needle with a larger thread. Using too large of a needle will cause the thread to sit in a hole too large for it, which can look ugly. And a needle that’s too small for the thread will cause excess friction from the thread pulling through too small of a hole in the fabric and won’t fit well in the eye of the needle, which will lead to thread breaks.

Part 3: Types of Needles

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Universal Needles

Universal needles are intended for all-purpose sewing. It is recommended to use a universal needle for woven fabrics as it is designed with rounded edges and a tapered point, meaning the needle isn’t so sharp that it will shred the fabric. The shape of the needle allows it to slip through woven fabrics easily rather than cutting through it which can wreck the fabric.

Suggestions to Pair a Universal Needle With

Size: Threadline:
80/12

 

120/19

Designer™ 40wt All-Purpose Polyester

 

GlaMore™ 12wt Rayon & Metallic

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Super Non-Stick Universal Needles

A popular new needle on the market is a super non-stick needle. These universal needles are coated with a super non-stick coating like the kind you’d find on a Teflon pan. This coating allows the needle to glide through tacky materials like stabilizer, which makes a huge difference in improving the stitch quality and consistency and preventing thread breaks.

Suggestions to Pair a Super Non-Stick Universal Needle With

Size: Threadline:
80/12

 

80/12

90/14

110/18

Ahrora™ 40wt Glow in the Dark Polyester

 

Flash™ 40wt Light-Reflective Polyester

HomeDec™ 60wt, 40wt, & 30wt Multi-Filament Enhanced Polyester

GlaMore™ 12wt Rayon & Metallic

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Ballpoint/Jersey Needles

Similar to universal needles, a ballpoint or jersey needle has rounded edges to avoid cutting the fabric. However, it differs in that it carries a much more blunted point in comparison to the universal, allowing it to slide between the weave of the fabric and preventing holes or runs in the knit fibres. It is best used for close knit fabrics such as jersey or interlock fabrics.

Suggestions to Pair a Ballpoint/Jersey Needle With

Size: Threadline:
80/12 Designer™ 40wt All-Purpose Polyester

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Embroidery Needles

Because machine embroidery involves a lot of high-speed stitching in a dense area, embroidery needles offer a larger, elongated eye that helps protect the thread, preventing it from breaking. The scarf is also specially shaped to prevent thread breaks and keep a consistent stitch quality at high-speed.

Suggestions to Pair an Embroidery Needle With

Size: Threadline:
75/11

 

75/11

Polyfast™ 40wt Polyester

 

Splendor™ 40wt Rayon

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Topstitching Needles

Topstitching needles are designed with an extra-large eye and sharper point, allowing it to accommodate larger decorative top threads. Other specialty threads that are usually considered less strong, such as metallic threads, should also be used with this needle as the larger eye allows the thread the flexibility to move around more, preventing thread breaks.

Suggestions to Pair a Topstitching Needle With

Size: Threadline:
80/12

 

80/12

80/12

80/12

90/14

90/14

90/14

90/14

90/14

90/14

90/14

90/14

90/14

90/14 or 100/16

90/14 or 100/16

90/14 or 100/16

Ahrora™ 40wt Glow in the Dark Polyester

 

DecoBob™ 80wt Cottonized Polyester

Efina™ 60wt Extra Long Staple Egyptian Cotton

Konfetti™ & Tutti™ 50wt Long Staple Egyptian Cotton

Ellana™ 12wt 50/50 Wool/Acrylic

FabuLux™ 40wt Trilobal Polyester

Flash™ 40wt Light-Reflective Polyester

Hologram™ Slitted Polyester

Master Quilter™ 40wt Cottonized Polyester

Mirage™ 30wt Random Dyed Rayon

Silco™ 35wt Lint-Free Cotton

Spotlite™ 40wt Rayon Core Metallic

Ultima™ 40wt Cotton Wrapped Polyester

Accent™ 12wt Rayon

D-Twist 20wt Twisted Rayon

Spagetti™ & Fruitti™ 12wt Long Staple Egyptian Cotton

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Metallic Needles

These needles are similar to an embroidery needle in that they are designed with a larger polished eye and scarf to prevent the thread from shredding. These needles are intended for metallic threads.

Suggestions to Pair a Metallic Needle With

Size: Threadline:
80/12 or 90/14

 

90/14

Hologram™ Slitted Polyester

 

Spotlite™ Rayon Core Metallic

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Quilting Needles

Quilting needles are designed with an extra-long shaft and tapered point made to penetrate several layers of fabric and batting. Its slightly rounded point prevents damage to the multiple layers of material and keeps the thread from shredding.

Suggestions to Pair a Quilting Needle With

Size: Threadline:
75/11 or 90/14

 

75/11 or 90/14

90/14

90/14

90/14

90/14

90/14

90/14

DecoBob™ 80wt Cottonized Polyester

 

InvisaFil™ 100wt Cottonized Polyester

Ahrora™ 40wt Glow in the Dark Polyester

FabuLux™ 40wt Trilobal Polyester

Konfetti™ & Tutti™ 50wt Long Staple Egyptian Cotton

Master Quilter™ 40wt Cottonized Polyester

Silco™ 35wt Lint-Free Cotton

Ultima™ 40wt Cotton Wrapped Polyester

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Microtex/Sharps Needles

These needles are more slender and much sharper than most needles. They are designed to penetrate finely woven, delicate or microfibre fabrics, or for doing appliqué or quilting with fine threads.

Suggestions to Pair a Microtex/Sharps Needle With

Size: Threadline:
60/8 or 70/10 or 80/12

 

70/10 or 80/12

InvisaFil™ 100wt Cottonized Polyester

 

DecoBob™ 80wt Cottonized Polyester

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Denim/Jeans Needles

Denim and similarly thick cotton fabrics like canvas may cause problems with other needles due to the heavy material the needle must sew through. This needle is designed with an extra strong and sharp tip, as well as a slender eye that aids the thread in gliding through the thick material and preventing skipped stitches.

Suggestions to Pair a Denim/Jeans Needle With

Size: Threadline:
90/14

 

100/16

Designer™ 40wt All-Purpose Polyester

 

Spagetti™ & Fruitti™ 12wt Long Staple Egyptian Cotton

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Leather Needles

Designed for heavy and dense materials such as leather, artificial leather, and thick non-woven materials such as vinyl. Leather needles have a distinct triangular shape made to penetrate through these materials with a clean, large hole.

Suggestions to Pair a Leather Needle With

Size: Threadline:
90/14 HomeDec™ 60wt, 40wt, & 30wt Multi-Filament Enhanced Polyester

These are just some of the most common domestic sewing machine needles on the market. Let us know in the comments if you learned something new from this video or tell us about a sewing needle you can’t live without.

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