As we mentioned in our 10 Sewing Tips to Save You Time and Money post choosing the right sewing machine needle is an important factor in achieving a professional finish and also not wasting time with broken needles, holes and snags and puckered seams.
There are lots of different type needles for all types of fabrics, getting the right needle for the job is as important as selecting the right fabric. The thread you choose will also have an impact on which needle you use. In general the lighter the weight of the fabric and thread the finer the needle you will use. Needles also vary by the type of point and the size and shape of the eye, as well as in thickness.
The basic anatomy and types of sewing machine needle
UK and US needles are referred to differently (they have to be awkward don't they) but most packets have both sizes listed. In the UK sizes go from 60 to 120 and in the US they go from 8 to 19, the lower the number the finer the needle for both.
Many patterns will give you both fabric suggestions and needle suggestions, get into the habit of keeping a stock of various needles so you are not tempted to sew with one that's not perfect for the job. Also remeber that blunt needles can also affect the professional finish of your work, so do change the needle regularly.
"I'm definitely guilty of not changing my machine needles enough. But then I'll be in the middle of sewing a beautiful piece of Liberty lawn and my old blunt needle will snag the fabric horribly during stitching. It's so easy to avoid if you just change needle every couple of weeks!" - Amy Thomas - Editor of Love Sewing Magazine
Different Types of Sewing Machine Needle
These are your general needles, the needles that will have come with your machine and most likely the type you have used most often for projects with woven and knit fabrics. The point is very slightly rounded for knits but sharp enough for woven fabric.
Ballpoint / Jersey Needles
With a ballpoint or jersey needle instead of piercing the fabric it slides inbetween the yarns in the fabric and thus eliminates the risk of snagging and running when sewing knits.
The deep scarf (see image above) of stretch needles helps to prevent slipped stitches on fine and lightweight materials, like spandex or elasticated jersey. They are also coated to help them slip through.
Jeans / Denim Needles
This needle is reinforced and with a ball point so it can penetrate thick woven fabrics like denim or quilts
Sharp / Microtex Needles
A great straight stitch on very fine woven materials and microfibres. Cottons, Linen, wool and cotton jersey, all the natural fabrics.
Leather needles have a cutting point on the end, perfect for getting through thick leather. Don't use for knit or woven fabrics.
Which Number Needle for Which Type of Fabric?
8 / 60 - Very fine silks, synthetics and cottons
10 / 70 - Lightweight fabrics, net, chiffon, sheer nylon
11 / 75 - Medium weight fabrics - Voile, Chiffon, Organza
12 / 80 - Cotton lawn, taffeta, silks, tricots
14 / 90 - Medium heavyweight fabrics, poplin, chintz, velvets
16 / 100 - Heavy weight fabrics, cord, denim, gabardine, heavy suiting
18 / 110 - Upholstery fabrics, denim, leather
20 / 120 - Heavy Canvas and denims
If you're wondering where to store all these extra needles, look no further than this fabulous tutorial to make a sewing machine needle pin cushion