Sewing Machine Needles: What You Need to Know

What Sewing Machine Needles Do You Need? This Issue Raises a Long List of Other Matters

While you may barely think about it, usually focusing on bigger undertakings—such as the best sewing machine or sewing room ideas—there is nothing as crucial as sewing machine needles.

They come in many varieties and are categorized by:

    1. needle size, and 
    2. needle type;

Before we discover what size is, all sewing machine needle name, standard sewing machine needle and what types of sewing machine needles are, let’s see what their structure is.

Sewing needle for machine—parts

The first matter to tackle in needles: their parts. 

Are all sewing machine needles the same? Absolutely not. 

For example, there are two basic types of sewing machine needles when it comes to blades:

    • straight and
    • curved;

According to Coats:

Straight Curved

How common

The most common

Less common

Where used

Used in a wide range of sewing machines

Some sewing machines use these needles

Type of machine

Lockstitch and Chainstitch

Blind stitching machines (hemming trousers or skirts) and overedge machines

As you expect, a needle (also discover other sewings supplies) is composed of several parts. The job of these parts is to provide a needle with different functions during the sewing process. 

Getting to know these parts of a needle is the first step to understanding the complex sewing process we will perform.

So if you learn to sew these days and just got your first sewing machine for beginners, keep reading—this is exactly where you should be right now.  

Construction of a sewing needle
Image source: Textile Apex

Garments Merchandising helped us tackle each part of sewing machine needles:

Part

Description What for

Butt

It’s a starting part of the bottom edge of the needle.

It serves to attach the needle with the needle bar or clamp of the sewing machine.

Shank

A bottom part of the sewing needle, tied in the needle bar. It may be flat or cylindrical on one side.

Wider than the remaining parts of the needle, it works as support of the needle.

Shoulder

Lies between the shank and blade. The shoulder penetrates through the fabric to reach the needle’s lowest position.

By producing a broader hole on fabric, it reduces the friction between fabric and needle.

Blade

This part starts at a needle eye and ends at a shoulder. It is the longest part of the needle. The blade is gradually tapered to the tip.

Maximum friction with fabric takes place in this area. 

A blade is this element of a sewing machine needle that has all the work “on its shoulders.” 

if you’re knowledge-hungry about the parts of a needle, watch the video “Understanding the Various Parts of the Needle” by National Sewing Circle:

(Watch out! There is one gigantic monster needle out there.)

A guide to sewing machine parts
Image source: Sew Guide

Let’s continue exploring with Garments Merchandising and The Sewing Korner, shall we?

Part

Description What for

Long groove and short groove

Groove is a part of the needle into which you put the thread. Its size will depend on the size of the needle.

    1. a long groove—a long and thin groove in the blade from shoulder to needle eye. 
    2. a short groove—located on the side of the needle (where the hook or looper are). It’s a minor groove between the tip and the needle eye.

During the sewing process, a sewing thread takes place in this groove during the up and down of the sewing machine needle through the sewing fabric. Thus, it reduces the friction between the needle, fabric, and sewing thread, lowering the possibility of damage to the thread.

A short groove helps the sewing thread to create a loop.

Needle eye

It’s a hole—a small slot between a long and short grove—placed in front of the needle.

This part 

    • holds the needle thread and 
    • helps create a loop;

Scarf (not every needle has it)

It’s a curved slot near the needle eye.

Scarf permits the looper (chain stitch) or sewing hook (lockstitch) to be set closer to the needle, increasing the possibility of picking up the needle thread loop.

There are two more parts in a sewing machine needle: a point and a tip. What should we know about them?

According to Garments Merchandising, a point (spreading from the needle eye to the tip of a needle) helps to penetrate the needle into the fabric. 

Pay attention to choosing the needlepoint appropriately for the fabrics you use.

The last one, the tip, is the very end, the edge of the needle. 

It helps to penetrate the needle into the fabric. It also creates holes in the fabric during sewing. 

(Don’t know how to sew yet? Learn with us!)

If things in your handheld sewing machine, industrial sewing machine, or embroidery sewing machine seem not to work as described, consider sewing machine repair

Close up on sewing machine and thick brown fabric
Image source: Craftsy

Using sewing machine needles

Now that we know what parts sewing machine needles comprise, let’s see what we can do with them!

First off, a little video by Anika from Made to Sew “What Sewing Machine Needle to Use? (Sewing for Beginners)”:

Needles are manufactured for different sewing machines using a “needle system” coding. 

Sewing machine needles
Image source: Stitchback Gear

According to Coats, each system code is based on the needles’ specifications, such as length of the blade, shank thickness, type of eye, size of the eye, etc.—which, in turn, match the sewing machine specifications/stitch forming implement.

“The needle system can be alphanumerical, and these designations are often created by the sewing machine manufacturer in conjunction with the needle manufacturer.”

Mind that different sewing machine companies may use different system numbers for the same needle! For example, 135×17 and DPX17 are physically the same needles, but two different sewing machine manufacturers use them.

Universal sewing machine needles
Image source: We All Sew

So, let’s say you’ve got a needle that perfectly matches your BabyLock sewing machine, leather sewing machine, or any other machine that you proudly own. 

Now what? Are we done? Not really. 

After finding the right sewing machine needle, you need to ensure it goes along with the features of your project!

Types of sewing machine needles
Image source: Stitch Back Gear

What size sewing machine needle should I use?

The diameter of the blade determines the size of the needle. We have two numbering systems used for indicating the size of a needle:

    1. European (ranges from 60-110), and 
    2. American (ranges from 8-18, for home sewing machines);

When you have a package of needles in your hands, you can see both numbers. In this case, it’s simple: the larger the number, the larger the needle. 

Where to buy sewing machine needle
Image source: Schmetz Needles

Have a look at “Choosing the Right Sewing Machine Needles | National Quilter’s Circle” to learn to differentiate various types of needles and make the best choices:

It’s ideal if you find a needle that (besides going well with your machine), matches both to

    1. thread 

It’s pretty simple because most thread manufacturers recommend a needle size (or its range) for each type of thread they make. 

Learn how to thread a sewing machine

Sewing needle machine
Image source: Sew Simple Home

      2. fabric

Matching the needle to the fabric involves several factors. We need to learn the differences between needles and their sizes and how it affects the fabric. (read more on StitchbackGear)

How to choose sewing machine needles?

As a rule of thumb, the lighter the fabric, the smaller the size of a needle, and the heavier the fabric, the larger the needle. (Guess what size will you need for sewing leather?)

In the following paragraph, we’ll see which needle type is the most suitable for what kind of project. 

“Of course, the reason to use the correct needle and thread is to make a strong seam, but remember that strong seams depend on other factors as well. Using the correct thread tension, starting and ending all seams with a good lock stitch, and reinforcing critical areas with bar tacks or additional stitching, are also important parts of a strong seam.”

—reminds StitchbackGear

How to choose sewing machine needles
Image source: Sew Essential 

Types of sewing machine needles

As a rule of thumb, needles are designed to fit specific fabrics and be used with them. The shapes of their point, eye, and scarf vary based on what type of fabric the needle was meant for. 

Let’s look at the various sewing machine needle types: 

    1. Universal needles

It’s the most commonly used type of needle. 

You can use them with:

      • synthetics,
      • woven fabrics, and 
      • some knit fabrics (for specific types of knit fabric, check other needle types);

As we mentioned before, the finer needles are primarily used for lightweight fabrics and larger needles on medium to heavyweight fabrics.

Which thread will match with universal sewing machine needles?

      • polyester/cotton, 
      • silk;

Discover more tips about universal sewing needles on We All Sew.

Cheap sewing machine needles
Image source: Buried Diamond

      2. Ballpoint needles

Then, we have ballpoint needles. Their tip is relatively more rounded than in a sewing machine needle universal size. This feature helps to push the fabric fibers apart instead of cutting them. 

Ballpoint needles are perfect for

      • cotton knits,
      • rib knits, 
      • interlock, 
      • fleece, 
      • double knit, and generally most knit fabrics;

This type of needle prevents fabrics from running or laddering due to stitching. 

When it comes to the thread, use:

      • polyester, and 
      • polyester/cotton blend;

Ballpoint needles made you curious? Study them with Superior Threads

All sewing machine needle names
Image source: The Fold Line

      3. Stretch needles

This type of needle has a “scarf” (we’ve briefly discussed it above). It allows extra room for the hook to pass close by and prevents skipped stitches.

This needle will be a dream for working with:

      • silk jersey, 
      • power net, 
      • two-way stretch knits, 
      • lycra, 
      • spandex, and
      • highly elasticated synthetic fabrics;

The best threads to pair with this type of needle are:

      • polyester, or 
      • cotton wrapped polyester;

You probably know that stretch fabrics are a bit more challenging to work with. Selecting the correct needle is the first and most crucial step to make the whole enterprise go smoothly. 

Sewing machine needle universal size
Image source: Taiwan Trade

Elizabeth Made This has a lot more to say about stretch needles!

      4. Sharps needles

These babies are designed especially for quilters working with several layers of cotton and wadding.

Also, they are great if you’re working with densely woven fabrics such as silk and microfibre.

These needles have a stronger shaft, and that’s why they are such a fit to work with several layers of fabric.  This characteristic helps to avoid bent or broken needles as well. 

Moreover, this needle has an exceptionally sharp point designed to penetrate the fabric and produce smooth buttonholes.

If it wasn’t enough, a short round threading eye also gives extra strength when working on our sewing ideas.

Read more on Sew Essential.

Sewing straight seams
Image source: Instructables

There are many more sewing machine needle types to tackle. 

We won’t explore them here, but look for:

    1. quilting needles,
    2. jeans needles,
    3. leather needles,
    4. metafil needles,
    5. embroidery needles,
    6. top stitch needles,
    7. twin needles and triple needles,
    8. wing needles;

These types are meticulously described on We All Sew, so don’t forget to have a glimpse. 

Sewing machine needle guide
Image source: Vintage Sewing Machines Blog

Where to buy sewing machine needles?

Buying sewing machine needles couldn’t have been easier. You’ll find them on Walmart, Amazon, in local sewing-related stores, etc.

Luckily, needles will be the least expensive components of your sewing endeavors. 

Feel free to change your needle every time you feel like it. 

In general, as surprising as it may sound, both cheap sewing machine needles and slightly more costly ones are expected to be in their best condition only for six to eight hours of working!

Consider that if you use a particularly demanding fabric, it can be even less. 

Person using a sewing machine gusset sewing
Image source: Sewing

So keep it real and change your needles often to avoid potential issues with your fashion projects.

“Whatever you paid for your fabric, it was certainly more than the cost of a needle. It’s not worth the risk of damaging your project by using a dull needle.”

—we read at Craftsy

When it comes to quality, we hear about one brand everywhere—from blogs to videos to sewing lessons—Schmetz.

It’s probably the best known and the most respected manufacturer of universal sewing machine needles. These needles are suitable for woven fabrics and can be used with all brands and most models of sewing machines.

What you need to know about sewing machine needles
Image source: ThoughtCo

Speaking of respected brands that took over the market, Super Label Store knows precisely how to make you satisfied. 

If you wish to take your sewing projects a step higher—from pleasant to stunning—you’ve found your brand. 

So what’s all the fuss about?

Different types of woven labels are designed to turn your sewing adventure into a professional enterprise.  

Now, with a couple of clicks on the Super Label Store website, you can design and order your tailored

Believe us—having these attached to your DIY clothes is a higher level of fashion satisfaction. 

Custom care label design

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