What Sewing Machine Needle To Use

Learning how to use a sewing machine can be a little daunting and one of the biggest frustrations you may come across is finding the right needle for your project. Knowing the correct needle for the fabric, thread and stitch you’re using is essential for achieving professional results. With so many different varieties, it can be difficult to figure out which one is right for the job.

Sewing machine needles come in a range of universal standard sizes and types, all designed for different tasks. Knowing the correct size for your sewing machine and fabric type is key. A needle that is too large or small can cause skipped stitches, and ultimately, create less than desirable results.

The size of the needle is located on the needle shank and can be identified by its corresponding number. Universal sewing machine needles are categorized in seven sizes ranging from size 60 up to 110. Typically the higher the number, the thicker or stronger the fabric. A size 60 or 70 needle is most suitable for lightweight fabrics, while a size 80 or 90 needle is ideal for medium weight fabrics. For heavier-weight fabrics a size 90 to 110 needle is typically recommended. As a general rule, as the fabric weight increases, the size of the needle increases.

When it comes to selecting a needle type, the most common needles used for domestic sewing machines are universal needles. They have a slightly rounded tip that is designed for weaving between the threads of most woven fabrics and knits. Universal needles can be used for both straight and zigzag stitching with natural and synthetic threads. For more intricate work such as embroidery, topstitching, smocking or heirloom sewing, specialty needles are ideal. The varieties include: sharp point needles, ball point needles, stretch needles and denim needles.

Sharp point needles are great for finely woven and densely knit fabrics, such as voile and organza. Their sharp point is designed to penetrate between the fabric fibers without snagging or breaking them. Ball point needles have a slightly rounded tip that is designed to slide between the fibers of knit fabrics, while the stretch needles are specifically designed to work with spandex, lycra and other stretch fabrics. Lastly, denim needles have a very sharp and robust point that can be used on heavier weight fabrics like denim or canvas.

Needle type and size should also match the type of thread you are using. A general guideline is that cotton threads need a size 80/12 needle, silk threads need a size 60/8 needle, and synthetic threads need a size 90/14 needle. However, these are just general guidelines and should be selected based on the weight of the fabric.

If your project is having tension issues it’s important to select the correct needle size and type for your fabric, thread and sewing machine. Using the wrong needle can cause skipped stitches, tension problems and fabric damage. A great tip to determine if you have the correct needle for your project is to make a test stitch on a spare piece of fabric. This small step can save a great deal of time and frustration in the long run!

Troubleshooting Sewing Machine Needles

Troubleshooting a sewing machine needle is relatively easy. Firstly, make sure the needle is properly inserted. If the needle is not all the way up, it will bend or break during sewing, resulting in skipped or uneven stitches. Secondly, make sure the needle is not bent, rusty or dull. If the needle has been damaged or has been used previously, it should be replaced with a new one. Lastly, check to make sure the needle is the right size and type for the fabric, thread and sewing machine.

Alternatively, if all those steps have been followed and you’re still experiencing thread tension issues, then it may be something else causing the problem. A few other things to consider are the size of the stitches, the age of the thread and the sewing machine tension settings.

Sewing Machine Needles for Machine Embroidery

When doing machine embroidery, the type and size of the needle is extremely important. Using the wrong type or size of needle can lead to thread breakage, skipped stitches, and can even damage the fabric or machine. It is recommended to use a size 75/11 embroidery needle and the proper thread for best results. This type of needle has a slightly rounded tip that is designed to slide between the fabric weave, allowing the thread to follow through without catching or snagging the fabric.

It is important to note that there is no universal needle for machine embroidery. Always consult the manual for your machine to determine the correct type and size of needle for your project. It is particularly important to ensure that the needle is sharp to prevent excessive heat, as this could cause melting in certain fabrics.

Maintenance of Sewing Machine Needles

As a general rule, sewing machine needles should be changed after six to eight hours of use. If it’s not possible to change the needle frequently, check it weekly to ensure the tip is still sharp and has not been damaged. Dull or bent needles can cause damage to the fabric and thread, which may be difficult to repair.

When replacing the needle, make sure the flat side of the needle is facing the back of the machine. This ensures that the point of the needle will slide between the upper and lower thread as it stitches, not against it. Additionally, always use a set of tweezers when handling the needles to avoid blunt or damaged tips.

Pros and Cons of Different Sewing Machine Needles

When it comes to selecting the correct needle for a project, the most widely used needle is the Universal needle. It’s suitable for most types of fabric and is the most versatile. However, for more delicate fabrics such as organza, silk or lycra, a sharp point or ball point needle should be used to reduce the risk of snagging or breaking the fabric. For heavier fabrics such as denim or canvas, a size 90/14 denim needle is ideal.

When working with antique knitting machines or industrial overlockers, other specialty needles such as blanket needles or crown needles may be required. It’s recommended to refer to the machine manual to determine the correct type of needle for the project.

Ultimately, needle selection is a very important step in the sewing process and should be given particular attention. Selecting the correct needle size and type for the fabric, thread and sewing project will ensure the best results for your projects.

Geoffrey Kirby is an experienced author and sewist who has been creating sewn projects for over 20 years. He has a passion for teaching beginners and inspiring more advanced sewists both online and through his writings. Outside of writing about sewing, Geoffrey loves to explore new techniques and styles of sewing that incorporate upcycling fabric remnants into sweet items with personality.

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