Guide on different types and sizes of sewing machine needles

A sewing machine needle is the most basic component of your sewing machine. Without this petite thing, you cannot accomplish anything related to your sewing job. It’s imperative that you get to know your sewing needle better. What is it like? Its different types and how to choose the right kind of sewing machine needle for your sewing projects. In this article, we will cover just that and hopefully, by the end of this article, you will be a lot wiser regarding the functions and usage of sewing needles. So, let’s get going.

Different Parts Of A Sewing Machine Needle:

We will begin by discussing the different parts of the sewing machine needle.

Sewing machine needle parts



The topmost wide area of a sewing machine needle is known as the shank. It is inserted inside the machine. Your home sewing machines needles comprise a flat and a circular side to help you know which side to insert in the sewing machine. Still, it is advisable that you refer to the machine’s manual to know which side to insert in the machine. On the other hand, industrial sewing machine needles have a cylindrical shaped shaft. The groove in the needle is there to determine the correct side of the needle to insert in the sewing machine.


You can say that the shaft is the main body of the sewing needle. It starts from where the shank ends and continues up to the point. More on what is a point coming ahead. The shaft consists of the point, eye, scarf, and groove of the sewing needle.


A groove is placed on one side of the needle going towards the eye and it is the place where the thread is inserted in the needle. You can know the location of the groove by rubbing your fingernail along the shaft. You will also understand why different-sized needles are needed for different sewing jobs.


It is another type of groove on a sewing machine needle’s side. It basically lets the hook of the bobbin case to interact with the thread of the sewing machine and make a stitch.


An eye is the part that holds the thread to enable the machine to continue to form stitches. Different needles have different-sized eyes. You have to choose which one would serve you best. A wrong choice could result in breakage or shredding of the thread.


It is the part of the needle that enters through the cloth to form stitches. There are three widely used points of a sewing machine needle. Their selection depends on the type of stitching you require and the fabric you are using.

Sharp point:

It is generally used when straight sewing is needed on tops. It is used while sewing woven fabrics.


This point is shaped like the nib of a ballpoint, hence the name. It is used in knit fabrics where you do not want the needle to rip the fibers of the fabric, instead, you want it to glide smoothly without affecting the texture of the fibers. Ballpoint needle points are used for non-straight sewing jobs.

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Universal point :

This type of point is a hybrid of both sharp and ballpoint. The point is sharp but also rounded a bit like a ballpoint. It can be used on both knit and woven fabrics.

Sewing Machine Needle Sizes:

The sewing machine needles are assigned sizes under a number labeling system. Understanding this labeling system will assist you to pick the right kind of needle for your sewing job. There are two types of labeling systems;

American needle size:

It uses a scale of 8-19 to define the size of a needle. With 8 being the finest and 19 as the heaviest needle.

European needle size:

The European labeling system uses a scale from 60-120. Here too the lowest value denotes the finest or thinnest needle and the highest value is for the heaviest needle.

Ideal Sewing Machine Needle Sizes For Different Fabrics:

We will now take a look at some of the needle sizes that you can use on some of the fabrics.

  • In the case of sheer fabric, use a fine needle, for example, an 8. A heavier needle can damage the fabric by putting holes in it.
  • For a heavy fabric, like an upholstery’s fabric, an 8 would fail. It can crook or crack. Here you will use a heavy needle, for example, a 19 that can penetrate easily and carry the thread with it too.
  • Now let’s discuss a scenario where the fabric is of lightweight type but you need to do some heavy-duty embroidery on it using a thin thread. You should opt for a needle that is neither too thin nor too thick. Somewhere in between, like perhaps a 12/80 would fit the bill adequately.

To save time and your fabric test the needle you intend to use on it on a scrap of that fabric. It should give you a fair idea that you have chosen the right needle for the job and it won’t break or damage the fabric.

Types Of Sewing Machine Needles:

We will now discuss some types of sewing machine needles. They have been divided on the basis of their functionality, shape, or design.


Sewing Machine Needle Guide


Needle Type Needle Size


Fabric Type
Universal  60,65,70,75,80,90,100,110,120 Sheers, very delicate, rayon, light wool, linen, heavy upholstery,
Ballpoint 70,80,90,100 Tricot, light, knits, medium knits, double knits
Jersey 70,80,90,100 Light & medium jersey knits
Stretch 65,75,90 Light & medium elastic knits
Jeans 70,80,90,100,110 Very delicate
Microtex 60,70,80,90,100,110 Very delicate, Voile chiffon, Sheers, delicate, rayon
Leather 70,80,90,100,110 All leather and vinyl
Universal Twin 1.6/70, 1.6/80, 2/80, 2.5/80, 3/90, 4/80, 4/90, 1/100, 8/100 All fabrics can be used
Stretch Twin 2.5/75, 4/75 All stretch fabrics can be used
Quilting 75,90 Quilter’s cotton and linen, flannels

Self/Easy-threading sewing needles:

They are also known as handicap needles. They are very helpful for those who find it challenging to insert the thread in the eye of the needle. Here, a groove is provided on the side of the eye. The thread can be glided through that groove, onwards toward the eye. Self-threading needles are not available in all sizes and points. It is available in some sizes only.

Dual/Threefold sewing needles:

These are best suited to carry out fancy embroidery and other such decorative work. The needles are joined to a shank through a crossbar. However, your sewing machine should have the feature of zigzag stitching and a throat plate with a hole big enough for these kinds of needles to work. You cannot do zigzag-type stitching with multiple needles at the same time as it would require a separate thread source for each needle. The size numbers denoted on the packing boxes of these needles are not the same as other needles. Starting from the first number, it represents the space between two needles and the second one the size that we discussed above. Just for your information, threefold needles are also called “drilling needles”.

Stretch sewing needles:

They are used where the needles skip stitches on the knit fabric. People use them on fabric like Lycra when ballpoint needles are still proving to be ineffective by leaving skipped stitches.

Wing sewing needles:

The sides of a wing needle’s shank are usually extended; hence the name wing needles. They are extensively used in heirloom factories where delicate sewing is required involving fine fabrics and laces.

Leather sewing needles:

Leather is a heavy fabric and to penetrate it you need a think needle. The point of a leather needle is thus wedge-shaped so that it pierces through the leather and other such hard fabrics. Usually, leather needles have 11/75 and 14/90 sizes.

Jeans sewing needles:

Another tough fabric to penetrate is denim. For them, and other similar fabrics a needle is used with a very sharp point and very strong shank. The needle sizes are 10/70 and 18/110.

Embroidery sewing needles:

Here the trick is to handle complex embroidery designs without compromising the quality of the thread. There must not be any shredding. Usually, polyester and rayon threads are used for embroidery purposes.

Quilting sewing needles:

To quilt a piece of fabric, you will need a quilting needle. It has a slim point that is rounded a bit. The idea is that the needle does not leave a permanent hole in the fabric. It pushes the fibers of the fabric aside rather than penetrating through them that can cut the fibers. The deeper groove of the needle lets the thread move freely without disturbing the fibers, in the process avoiding the skipped stitches.

Needle to thread ratio:

The point of the needle is the first thing that comes into contact with the fabric. The thread passes through the eyes of the needle several times at high speed during your sewing or embroidery job. Therefore, it is important that you choose just the right ratio of needle and thread. The thread should pass comfortably through the eye if it is too loose or too tight it will cause disruptions in your sewing work.

So, how do you determine the correct needle to thread ratio? Well, there’s this test called the 45-degree angle test. Simply put the needle in the thread and hold the thread tightly at a 45-degree angle. The needle should slide through the thread rather smoothly. If it passes with jumps, hops, and jerks then the needle is not right for the thread. You should consider using a size-up needle.

How to choose the right sewing machine needle for your sewing job?

You should select the needle on the basis of the following two criteria;

  • Needle type
  • Needle size

Needle type:

We have discussed all the popular needle types above. You should select the type according to the nature of your sewing or embroidery job. Of course, the nature of the fabric will have to be considered too. The eye of the needle, its groove, etc. will depend on the needle type so choose carefully.

Needle size:

Next comes the size of the needle. We have also discussed this above. The right size will make your sewing job easier and hassle-free.

Maintenance of sewing machine needles:

Your needles need replacements as they get worn out or damaged. How often you should change them? It depends on how much you use them and what exactly you use them for? Ideally, you should check your needles after every four hours of sewing. See if the shaft of the needle is straight and not bent. A damaged needle can cause skipped stitches. It can also cause the thread to break or fray. Look for any unusual sounds and movements of the needle while sewing. These are tell-tale signs that the needles need replacements. You can also perform a test for checking the condition of your needles. Wear an old piece of stocking in your one hand tautly. With the other hand slowly pass the needlepoint across the stocking. If it creates holes and breaks the fiber then it definitely needs replacement.

As we have seen, sewing machine needles are part and parcel of every sewing and embroidery job. They come in different types and sizes to suit your particular project’s requirements. Each particular type and size of the needle is designed to do a particular job. You have to choose the one that is best suited for you. It is also important that you keep your needles in tip-top working condition. They get damaged or worn out due to usage. So, replace them in due course and continue with your sewing adventures seamlessly.

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