Needle Sizes, Types & Tips On How To Identify Sewing Machine Needles
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Needle Sizes, Types & Tips On How To Identify Sewing Machine Needles

Needles are needles, right? You’re wrong! Choosing the wrong needle for your project could cost you the project. There are many different sizes, sharpnesses, and materials of sewing machine needles.

A sewist must be able to identify sewing machine needles in order to succeed.

Find out what kind of sewing machine needles and what size sewing machine needles are available in our guide to sewing machine needles. To help you decide what sewing needle you should use for your next project, we’ll explain which needles work best for which fabrics and sewing styles.

Sewing Machine Needle Anatomy

The design of sewing needles hasn’t changed much over the years. According to archaeologists in Novosibirsk, Russia, you or I could still stitch by hand despite being over 50,000 years old.

The basic design of sewing machine needles has also remained the same for many years. Over time, however, variations of that design have evolved to suit a variety of sewing disciplines better.

As a result, identifying sewing machine needles is easy once you know the fundamentals. Sewing machine needles consist of the following parts:

Butt

In other words, this is the needle’s “head.”. A flat or rounded head may be used. In the needle bar, you insert this part.

Shank

The shank extends downward from the butt. Depending on your sewing machine type, needle shanks come in different shapes. Round, threaded, or grooved shanks are common on industrial sewing machine needles. An ordinary sewing machine uses a needle with a rounded shank on one side and a flat shank on the other.

Shoulder

A shoulder is a sloping space between the shaft and the shank. Some sewing machine needles have color-coded shoulders to indicate the needle’s usage.

Shaft

As the main body of the needle, the shaft is also called the blade. Depending on the shaft thickness, the needle size will differ.

Groove

The shaft of sewing machine needles has a groove on the front. Different needles have different lengths and widths of this groove. By guiding the thread to the eye, the groove makes stitches smoother in all cases.

Scarf

There is an indentation called the scarf between the groove and the eye. Bobbin hooks are able to grab the thread with the help of this indentation. Different needle types have different sizes of this indentation.

Eye

In the needle, the eye is the hole where the thread is inserted. You can find different types of needles with different sizes and shapes of eyes.

Point

Your fabric first comes into contact with the needle’s tip or point. Sewing needles can have varying sharpnesses, depending on the fabric they are designed for. It is necessary to use a sharper needle for heavier materials. Compared to other needles, stretch fabric needles are relatively blunt. In between the two are universal needles, which are designed to sew a variety of fabrics.

How Do You Choose the Right Needle?

Despite their similar appearance, fabric, thread, and stitching can be affected by slight differences in sewing machine needles. What are your choices?

A needle’s purpose, its size, and the thread weight you’re planning to use are the three things you should consider.

What’s Your Project?

It can be used for various types of sewing with a universal needle. In contrast, needles specially designed for crafts like embroidery and leather work should be used for particular tasks. Certain types of sewing will require needles explicitly designed for specific crafts.

What Type Of Fabric Are You Using?

In order to work efficiently with different kinds of fabrics, needles have different features.

Denim sewing machine needles look very different from silk sewing machine needles. There is a difference in weight and sharpness between denim needles. There is a difference between these two types of needles and machine embroidery needles. A specially shaped scarf and a longer eye distinguish them. The list goes on and on.

For heavier work, choose a heavier gauge needle, while for lighter fabrics, choose a thinner, lighter needle.

What About Thread Weight?

You should also take into account the thread’s weight. The lighter thread should be used with smaller needles, while the heavier thread should be used with larger needles.

Due to their similarity to needle gauges, thread weight numbering conventions can be confusing. In a moment, we’ll discuss this in greater detail.

What Types of Sewing Machine Needles Are There?

What Types of Sewing Machine Needles Are There?

There are many types of sewing machine needles, and you might be surprised at how many there are. There is a little bit of difference between each. Let’s take a look at this.

Universal Needles

Most fabric and thread types can be used with a universal sewing machine needle. Needles made for heavier fabrics have a pointed tip, but their shafts are medium in diameter.

Self-Threading Needles

You can slot the thread through the gap sideways instead of poking it through the eye of self-threading sewing machine needles.

Needles for Heavy Materials

Universal needles have a thinner shaft and a sharper point than needles for heavier fabrics.

Leather Needle

The chisel point of leather needles allows them to cut and penetrate simultaneously. Each leather needle has a different diameter corresponding to a different leather thickness.

Denim (Jeans) Needle

The needles used in denim or jeans are also extremely thick and sharp. In addition to canvas, duck cloth, and other thick fabrics, you can also use them with thin fabrics.

Needles for Lighter Materials

It is often necessary to use smaller needles and sharper needles when working with lighter threads and materials. Fabric is less likely to be damaged when the needle passes through it this way.

Ball Point Needle

The tip of a ball point needle is rounded, like the tip of a ball point pen. It is most commonly used to sew knits and loosely woven fabrics with a ball point needle. Using a ball tip, the needle passes through the fabric without damaging its fibers. Therefore, knit fabrics will not run due to the needle’s action.

Jersey Needle and Stretch Needle

It is a type of ball point needle, just like jersey needles or stretches needles. Fabrics like these are sometimes challenging to stitch because of their unique design features.

Jersey needles and stretch needles have medium ballpoints. As well as having a shorter, narrower eye, a deeper scarf, and a special coating, stretch needles can also pick up different materials during the sewing process. Knits and stretchy fabrics can suffer from skipped stitches due to these features.

Metallic Needle

The difficulty of sewing with metallic thread is well known to anyone who has ever tried it. In order to make it a bit easier, metallic needles are used. A metallic needle has a large eye and groove, preventing the metallic thread from fraying.

Task-Specific Needles

Instead of sewing a particular type of fabric, some needles assist with a specific task.

Twin Needle

Do you ever see identical, parallel rows of decorative stitches when you look at garments? A twin needle was used to make those. Stitching with twin needles can also reinforce seams. Two needles descend from one shaft in a twin or double needle.

Triple Needle

Three needles descend from a single shaft in a triple needle. Try one of these decorative stitching tips if you want to take your stitching to the next level.

Embroidery Needle

A variety of sizes and weights of needles are available for an embroidery machine. The ballpoint variety is as sharp as the sharp variety. In addition to having longer eyes, they also have specially shaped scarves. These features allow delicate embroidery thread to be worked more easily without fraying or breaking.

Topstitch Needle

Among quilters and sailmakers, topstitch needles are famous. Universal needles have a smaller eye than topstitch needles. A deeper groove is also present. Titanium coats are also common on topstitch needles. Topstitch needles are able to withstand heavy work and even double threading because of all these features.

Quilting Needles

Quilting can be done with either a universal needle or a topstitch needle. On the other hand, quilting needles are made specifically for sewing machines. Due to their thin, tapered shafts, multiple layers can be smoothly passed through quilting needles.

Wing (or Winged) Needle

In the case of loose-woven fabrics such as linen, a winged needle is a specialty needle. There is a flange on the side of this type of needle that opens a wide hole in the fabric.

Can you tell me why you might want this? Some kinds of heirloom stitching use wide holes to decorate the piece. Embroidery thread can also be sewn with this machine. Pushing the edges through the fabric allows flanges to seal raw, easily-frayed hem edges.

How About The Colors?

Colored stripes can be found across the shoulders of some sewing machine needles. Colors indicate the purpose of a needle.

  • If the needle has a yellow band, it is for stretch fabrics
  • The blue needle indicates that it is designed for denim
  • Purple bands may be found on needles designed for use with a microfiber cloth
  • If the needle has a red band, it is meant for machine embroidery
  • On quilting needles, you will often see green bands.

Why Do Sewing Machine Needles Have Numbers On Them?

As we’ve already seen, the size of a sewing machine needle plays a significant role in sewing quality and ease. Stitching quality is also affected by needle size and how it interacts with your materials. Different needle size is also suitable for different type of work.

In needle sizing, the diameter of the needle is considered. The gauge may also be used to describe it. You need to understand the numbering convention if you’re wondering what gauge a sewing needle is.

Adding to the difficulty, different conventions exist in the United States and Europe.

What Is The American Sewing Machine Needle Numbering?

American sewing machine needle sizes range from eight to 19. The larger the number, the larger the diameter of the blade.

What Is The Needle Numbering for European Sewing Machines?

There are 60 to 120 sizes of needles for European sewing machines. A more significant number indicates a larger blade diameter. For example, the blade of a size 60 needle measures 0.6 millimeters.

What About the Numbers on the Package?

In order to sell their products around the world, many needle manufacturers list both American and European sizes on their packages. Numbers in Europe are numbered first. In this regard:

  • Thin silk and other very fine lightweight fabrics are best suited to 60/8.
  • Lightweight fabrics such as taffeta and lining fabrics work best in 65/9, 70/10, and 75/11.
  • Medium-weight fabrics, linen, and flannel work best with 80/12 and 90/14.
  • Denim, fleece, tweed, and wool are heavier-weight fabrics that fall between 90/14 and 100/16.
  • Material such as leather, vinyl, and canvas ducking should be 100/16, 110/18, and larger.

Thread Weight And Needle Sizes

The wrong needle size may be causing your thread to break, shred, or skip stitches. What needle size should I use for which thread size?

It is confusing that thread weights are measured using the same conventions as needle gauges: two numbers separated by a slash. In reality, the numbers mean something completely different.

An Explanation Of Thread Weight

Thread size can be described using several different conventions. The weight standard is one of the most common conventions, so we’ll focus on it here.

As needle gauges get smaller, needles become smaller. Similarly, thread weight is determined by its number: the lower it is, the heavier it is.

Additionally, thread weight measures weight, not needle diameter, as needle gauge does. One kilogram of the thread requires how many kilometers of thread. In other words, if you have a 30-weight thread, it weighs one kilogram for 30 kilometers.

On the other hand, a 50-weight thread is lighter since making one kilogram would require 50 kilometers of it instead of 30.

But what if your thread is “30/2”? Can you tell me what that second number means? A thread’s second number indicates how many plies it contains or how many strands it has.

The following are some examples:

  1. For general sewing, 50 and 60-weight thread is recommended.
  2. When quilters want to make their stitches stand out visually, they often use 30 or 40-weight thread. Decorative stitching in upholstery is also often done with 30-weight thread.
  3. For ultra-heavy materials, 20-weight thread is recommended.
  4. Hand embroidery often uses thread in the 12 to 18 weight range.

In addition to the Number Standard, another standard labels threads by number, such as #100, #50, etc. Unlike the weight system, in this system, a higher number indicates a thinner thread, but a #50 thread does not equal a 50-weight thread.

How to Match Thread Weight to Needle Size?

If your needle has a large number, then your thread should have a smaller number.

As the needle gauge increases, the shaft of the needle becomes larger. There may be an increase in the size of the eye as well. The needle is designed to handle heavier threads. On the other hand, the finer, thinner needles require a finer thread, which has a greater thread weight measurement.

Are you still confused? Here is a chart to help you. This is only a rough guide. In addition to the threads and needles shown here, there are heavier and lighter threads and needles:

UsageNeedle GaugeThread Weight
Ultra-light fabric, fine silk60/8100 weight
Lightweight fabric70/10100 weight
Medium-light fabric80/1250-60 weight 
Medium fabric90/1440 weight
Upholstery100/1630 weight
Leather and other heavyweight materials100/1620 weight

Sewing Machine Needle Tips to Make Sure You’re Using the Right One

Consider Your Task

Can you tell me about the type of sewing you will be doing? The right needle is likely to be available for whatever your task is. Most general sewing tasks can be accomplished with a universal needle, but there are a few situations where you might want a task-specific needle:

  • Embroidery
  • Quilting
  • Leather
  • Knits
  • Stretch fabrics
  • Heirloom sewing.

Think About Your Fabric

After choosing the right needle type, you need to match the gauge of the needle to the fabric weight. Thinner, lighter needles are needed for lightweight fabrics, while thicker, sharper needles are needed for heavier materials. You will get a larger hole if you use a larger needle, so consider this when calculating your dimensions.

What Kind of Thread Are You Using?

Choosing the right needle for the thread is now the next step. The fabric can be a good match here, but it’s not always the case. A smaller needle is needed for threads that are lighter and finer. A needle made for metallic threads is recommended since the metallic thread is very fragile. When working with thick, heavy threads, using a thick needle with a larger eye is also necessary.

It is important to remember that the smaller the thread-weight number, the larger the needle gauge you need.

Try to Thread Your Needle

Take note of how easy your needle is to thread when you’re getting ready to sew. The needle’s eye should be able to accommodate the thread easily. A thick thread can easily tell if it can’t fit through the needle. In addition, if the needle is too large, it can also create problems.

There should be a snug fit between the thread and the needle groove. You have a better chance of producing even, high-quality stitches if it fits well in the groove and passes easily through the eye.

Test a Few Stitches

Test your stitches before you begin sewing. Do they have even spacing, and are they tightly packed? What is the size of each? It could mean that you’re using a wrong-sized needle if that’s the case. It could also be caused by incorrect thread tension.

How Often Should You Change the Needle On Your Sewing Machine?

Dull sewing machine needles can damage fabric, cause skipped stitches, snag or break the thread, and cause thread tension problems. The motor of your sewing machine can also be damaged by it. What is the recommended frequency of changing it?

Approximately the same amount of time passes, but different methods are used to measure it. Here are a few suggestions:

  • After 6 to 10 hours of sewing.
  • After winding three full bobbins yourself.
  • After winding two full bobbins.
  • Once a project has been completed.
  • These times can vary based on factors such as sewing through coated materials or working with heavier materials.

In addition to punching through the fabric, sewing machine needles are subject to various pressures. These pressures can cause different types of damage. Make sure your needle has no dullness, chips, abrasions, or other damage before using it.

Conclusion

If the needle needs to be changed, your sewing machine won’t let you know. Choosing the wrong one for your project is impossible. You may notice damage to your project or even to your sewing machine as your first sign of trouble.

Make sure you pick the right needle. Think about the fabric type, the thread weight, and what kind of sewing you will do. You should inspect your needle regularly for damage and change it regularly.

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