Types of Needles and Sewing Machines
The use of a sewing machine needle is essential for most sewing activities, as it is the only way to ensure a smooth, professional-looking stitch. But do all sewing machine needles fit all machines? The answer is a little more complicated than one might expect, as different types of needles fit differently into different types of machines.
When it comes to sewing machine needles, there are a few basic distinctions that shoppers should be aware of. Namely, what type of needle is best for the type of fabrics one is using, and which type of needle is best for one’s machine.
Different types of needles are typically categorized according to their size, the needle’s barrel size and shank width, and their point configuration (flat or ballpoint). Needles are made to match different types of fabrics, threads, and techniques. Fabric weight, texture, and the type of thread being used all impact which type of needle should be used. A general rule of thumb is that lighter fabrics demand finer needles, while heavier fabrics require larger needles.
As for sewing machines, they come in two primary varieties – domestic or industrial. Domestic machines are designed for home use, while industrial machines are designed for use in commercial applications. From here, they are further broken down into subtypes – straight stitch machines, zigzag machines, computerized machines, and embroidery machines, to name a few. The type of machine one has will impact the type of needle used, so it is important to first determine which type of needle is compatible with one’s machine.
When it comes to needle compatibility, one must consider the size and the type of needle being used. Most domestic sewing machines use a specific needle size. The industry standard is Singer-style (15×1) home machine needles, which range in widths from 8 to 18.
Most zigzag machines also use the 15×1 needle for basic straight stitching, but for zigzag stitching a slightly different size (22×1) is generally required. Meanwhile, most computerized and embroidery machines use a slightly different size needle (134×1).
In terms of needle type, the standard needle used for general purpose sewing is the universal needle, which is made of carbon steel and is suitable for almost any sewing purpose. It has a slightly rounded point and comes in various decorative varieties for different looks.
Other specialty needles include the microtex needle, which is extremely sharp and pointed or the twin needle, which can create multiple rows of stitches at once. As mentioned earlier, needle type will also depend on the fabric and thread being used.
Understanding the Technology
When shopping for needles, it is important to pay attention to the size markings on the needles or in the package, as there are usually multiple sizes and types. Some packages may even feature a golden eye needle packaging system, which provides easy-to-read drawings and identification codes to match particular sizes and types of needles to different types of threads, fabrics, and techniques.
As modern sewing machines become more advanced, so too do the needles. For example, many domestic sewing machines now feature a built-in needle threader, which is a system that threads the needle for you. So if this is the case for you, make sure to pay special attention to your machine’s manual to ensure you have the proper size and type of needle threader for your machine.
Maintaining Your Sewing Machine Needles
To ensure your machine has a long and successful life, it is important to regularly maintain the life and condition of your sewing machine needle. The more frequently you use your machine, the more frequently you should inspect and maintain the needle.
To properly maintain your needles, it is important to check that they are in good condition prior to each use. Visual inspection of the eye and shaft should suffice, since damage may not always be visible. It is also important to be mindful of how many hours the needle has been in use for. Needles generally last for 6 to 8 hours of sewing machine use, so it is best to replace them every now and then.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Types of Needles
Discerning the advantages and disadvantages between different types of needles can be daunting and time consuming, but knowledge of their features can go a long way in helping sewers achieve the perfect stitch.
The basic universal needle is usually best for most projects and works well with most fabrics. The microtex needle is best for sheer fabrics, while denim, canvas, and other heavy fabrics work best with topstitching needles. Twin needles, meanwhile, are excellent for adding a nice detail to garments.
On the downside, specialty needles are more expensive and less versatile than universal needles. Additionally, they require you to buy separate needles if you’re using a lot of different fabrics in your project. Finally, it is important to remember that some machines, such as industrial machines, may require an especially strong needle in order for it to be compatible.
Selecting the Right Needle for Your Project
Finding the right needle for your project is as important as finding the right sewing machine. There are a variety of types and sizes of needles available, and selecting the wrong one can lead to inferior results.
In this case, size does matter. Sewers should use the smallest needle possible for their project, so that the size of the stitching will blend in and not be noticeable. Thread size should also be taken into consideration when selecting a needle, as smaller threads require smaller needles and thicker threads require bigger needles. Meanwhile, heavier fabrics require larger needles while light-weight fabrics require smaller needles.
Experimentation can also prove to be helpful when determining the best type of needle for a particular project. However, it is important to remember that some fabrics, like silk and velvet, require an especially sharp needle.
The Relationship between Fabric Type and Needle
It is well known that certain fabrics require special needles for the best stitching results. If a wrong needle is used, sewing may result in pain, frustration, and most often a less than perfect outcome.
Most sewers agree that fabrics such as cotton, wool, flannel and other woven fabrics, require a universal or sharp point needle. Jersey fabrics, on the other hand, require stretch needles, while leather, vinyl and suede may require leather needles. When using woven goods, needle sizes between 9 to 11 are recommended for lighter fabric, while heavier woven goods require a 12 to 18 size.
In cases involving denim or canvas, a needle size of 16 or higher is usually suggested. On the other hand, silk and polyester fabrics require a sharp point needle and a size of 11 or smaller.
Needle Thickness and Thread
The relationship between needle and thread is also important. Commonly used threads are usually sized between 40 to 100, and when paired with needles of the same strength, they can create beautiful seams in nearly any fabric. However, if the needle and the thread do not share a consistent thickness, the stitches may easily unravel or break.
Typically, it is recommended to use size 11 needles for the regular 40 weight thread and a size 14 for the stronger 50 weight thread. Meanwhile, the thicker 60 weight thread is usually paired with size 16 needles, and a size 18 is recommended for 80 to 100 weight thread.
Using the Right Presser Foot
In addition to the needle and thread, one must also ensure the sewing machine presser foot is properly adjusted for the fabric and needle being used.
For instance, when using light fabrics, it is recommended to use a roller, universal, or binder presser foot, along with a universal needle, in order to prevent pushing the fabric. Meanwhile, when sewing heavy-weight fabrics, it is best to use a Teflon, hemmer or walking foot with a topstitch or denim needle.
Lastly, to avoid skipped stitches or shredded fabric, needles should be changed frequently, since dull needles are more likely to cause these issues.
Needle Size and Material
Though most home sewing machines are made to accommodate 15×1 (Singer-style) needles, some machines, like long arm quilting machines, use needle sizes that range from 12 to 18. However, due to the difference in length between a standard home sewing needle and the needles used in quilting machines, special needle adaptors must be used in order for the smaller needles to fit.
The material of the needle can also have a major impact on the outcome of the fabric. Needles may be made of various materials such as nickel-plated steel, titanium, or gold-coated steel, and some of these needles may be better suited for different projects than others. For example, nickel coated needles are great for piecing together tight seams, while titanium needles are good for most fabrics, while gold plated needles are best suited for lightweight fabrics and creating larger loops.
To answer the question of whether all sewing machine needles fit all machines, it appears as though the answer is no. Needles come in a range of sizes, materials and shapes, and each one is optimized for a specific type of project and fabric, as well as for the type of sewing machine being used. To ensure one is using the right needle for the job, it is important to become familiar with different types of needles and fabrics, and the corresponding requirements for both. Once the needle and the fabric match, sewing success is sure to follow!