Sewing Machine Needles Size Guide

When you buy your Sewing Machine, the chances are that it will work really efficiently for many years, as long as you follow the maintenance instructions.

Many major manufacturers are so confident of their product that they provide a 25 years warranty. But when it comes to Sewing Machine needles that are all together with a different ball game.

Usually, it’s not until your sewing machine starts providing you with stitching that is less than the usual standard that you realize that you have a problem. You go through the maintenance program (found in your manual) but you still encounter difficulties e.g.

  • The stitches start to ‘slip’ and become uneven.
  • Your tensions appear uneven.
  • Threads start to fray.
  • Fabric threads are pulled into the machine and get tangled in the feed-dogs and wrap around the bobbin.
  • Generally, your work looks shoddy.

At this point, you may feel like putting the machine away at the back of a cupboard for a long, long time. But there may be a very simple solution. Change the needle. Over time and use the needle gets blunt and it gets increasingly difficult for the needle to penetrate the fabric.

This gives a less than crisp look to any piece of work and can be quite devastating for any project including quilting, both in the piecing phase and actual quilting.

Ideally, you need to pull out a new needle for every new project and for larger projects you may need to change your needle more than once.


Using a new needle should not just apply to sewing machine needles but also for hand sewing including embroidery and needle-point.

Changing your needle for every project is not extravagant, its common sense. It took me quite a while to come around to the reasoning that it was a good economic sense, saving me a lot of frustration and time that had previously been spent unpicking seams.

Choosing Needles for Sewing Machines

Choosing the Right Sewing Machine Needles

You can buy and choose needles that are specifically made for your machine or you can use the generic variety. Preferably never compromise on quality.

You may not want to spend out too much, to begin with, if you are kitting yourself out for your new interest but there are a few items that you really need to focus on quality.

There are domestic and industrial needles. Don’t buy industrial needles for your sewing machine in the hope that they will last longer, as the chances are they won’t fit. Only domestic needles have a flat edge on the shank (upper part of the needle).

This flat side means that you can correctly align your needle in the machine and then tighten its place using the needle clamp screw.

Generally, when you buy a packet of sewing machine needles, there is a good indication on the packet that fabric is the best for the size of the needle so you don’t have to memorize the information.


  • Practice changing the needle. You may find this a bit fiddly, to begin with, but after a few tries, you will be able to change the needle just like a professional every time.
  • Don’t try to cut corners by not changing your needle when you are working with a different fabric even if it is part of the same project.
  • Make sure that you always have a few spare new needles to hand.

Some interesting facts about sewing machine needles:

Did you know?
The eye of a machine needle is shaped so that there is a groove in front of the eye so it can comfortably accept and work efficiently with the appropriate thread.

If your needle breaks if it may not be a fault with the machine, the needle is usually very worn and quite blunt.

Sewing machine needles also break if you are using a needle that is too fine for the fabric. Don’t use a fine needle that you would use for silk on a denim garment.

Focus on the size of the needle, the fabric, and types of thread.

Sewing Machine Needles Sizes Available

Your sewing machine probably came with a few needles that can be used with most fabrics but you need to get yourself a packet of needles as a reserve. Some packets contain just one needle size while others will contain a selection.

There are two numbers displayed together on the packet. If you pick up a packet of 70/10 needles the first number is the European sizing and the second smaller number is the American size.

This needle would work best for lightweight fabrics. You could use this needle for ‘piecing’ your quilting shapes for ‘blocks’, but not for actual ‘quilting’, as you would need to pierce several layers of different fabrics.

A slightly finer needle such as 60/8 would be ideal if you were working with fine lightweight fabric such as silks.

Going heavier  80/12 would be best for medium weight fabrics; 90/14 for use with a medium heavyweight fabric; 100/16 a heavyweight fabric; 110/18 for the fabric you would use for upholstery; 120/20 for denim and heavy canvas.

Initially, you do not need to buy all of the needles. Stick with a couple of 70/10 & 80/12 sizes.

The heavier the fabric you are using the heavier the thread you need and the thicker the needle.

Type of needle you will use most – Beginner

Universal Needle has a slightly rounded point. This means that the needle can be used with fine or heavyweight fabrics, (‘knits’ or woven fabric) without piercing the thread in the weave. This type of needles can be found in several sizes among the ones outlined above.

Intermediate Level

Jeans Needle:

This needle is very strong and has a very sharp point. Don’t let it fool you that it is called a ‘Jeans Needle’ as it can be used for all heavyweight tightly woven fabric. More importantly, this is the needle that you need to use when you are stitching through several layers of fabric such as for quilting.

Ballpoint Needles:

These are more rounded than universal needles. Rather than pierce the threads of the fabric, this needle passes between the threads. This needle is very useful when you are using fabrics that may snag easily such as knitted fabric

Advanced Level

Leather Needle:

This has a wedge-shaped sharp point that enables it to easily stitch leather, suede and other non-woven fabrics. This needle will leave a hole in the fabric so you have to be really accurate with your machining because if you make a mistake it will be very, very visible.

Embroidery Needles:

(Machine embroidery), these needles have a larger eye that helps eliminate stress on the thread through breaking or shredding.

Sharps Needles:

These are designed so the ‘hook’ of the bobbin can get closer to the needle to avoid ‘skipping’ any stitches when working with finer or even ‘stretchy’ fabrics.

Creative – really fun

Metallic Needles:

When you start to use this needle you know that you are going to have some creative and artistic fun with your sewing machine. This needle is fine, with a sharp point but has a much larger eye than the embroidery needle. The size of the eye helps accommodate some of the really exciting metallic threads that are now available.

Advanced Tips

Sometimes you may need to experiment. If you are working with a fabric that you don’t normally use, when you get to the point where you feel that the sample you have just done has perfect stitching then make a note of the needle you used, the tension and stitch length.

Use a notebook for the details and also attach a small piece of the fabric. Preferably store with your sewing notions.

Click here to see the best and cheap sewing needles!! Remember your new mantra is ‘New Project, New Needle – every time’.

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