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Sewing Machine Needle Sizes; A Guide

sewing needle

Using the wrong size of sewing needle in your sewing machines can cause poor stitch quality, needle breakages and difficulty working with your chosen material. To get the most beautiful finish for your product, you need to ensure that the sewing needle you’re working with is the right size for your job. 

Here is an extensive guide to sewing machine needle sizes, as well as recommendations of what fabrics work best with each needle. Even if you’re a confident stitcher, it’s worth skimming through our article to double-check your choice of needle is as efficient as possible!


Sewing Needle Types

The shape and size of the needle changes with what material it’s been designed to be used with. Leather needles and quilting needles are naturally a little thicker than their embroidery counterparts.


Universal Needles

Universal needle types are ideal for woven fabrics, synthetics and knit fabrics. When it comes to lightweight fabrics, finer variations are best, whereas larger needles are used on medium to heavyweight materials. Cotton and silk threads work best with a universal needle.


Ball Point Needles

Ball point needles work best with knit fabrics, as they have a more rounded tip than a universal needle, that pushes fabrics apart rather than cutting them. Cutting a knit fabric can result in laddering or running, which ruins the effect of your finished piece. Cotton blend threads are best for use with ball point needles, and finer threads should be used for finer needles.


Stretch Needles

Stretch needles have a ‘scarf’, which is essentially extra room for the hook to pass close by and prevents skipped stitches. This needle type works well with elastic, Lycra, and power net. Polyester or cotton wrapped threads are most ideal for this needle type.


Quilting Needles

Sharps or quilting needles have a strong shaft and sharp point, designed to work through multiple layers of fabric without bending or breaking. This needle type is particularly beneficial for quilting and can be used with any kind of thread.


Leather Needles

Leather needles have a chisel point designed to cut as it penetrates, built strategically for real leather and suede material. Thicker threads are best for use with a leather needle since leather is a stronger material that needs more reinforcement than fine thread can provide. 


Embroidery Needles

Embroidery needles are designed with a pontoon scarf, oversized bump and wider eye to allow rayon, cotton and polyester threads to pass freely and easily when in use. The needle is designed to reduce movement in fabric, and so is perfect for detailed work.


Sewing Needle Sizes

Size 9/70

Suitable for light fabrics, silk and taffeta  

Size 11/80

Suitable for medium fabrics, cotton, linen and satin

Size 14/90 

Suitable for medium to heavy fabrics, this is an ideal standard needle

Size 16/100

Suitable for heavy fabrics, denim, tweeds, curtain fabrics and soft furnishings


Generally speaking, thinner needles are suitable for thinner fabrics and more detailed works such as embroidery because they use finer threads. A standard needle is mid-sized at around 14/90, with the capability to perform basic embroidery works and pierce through medium to heavy fabrics. Thicker needles around the 16/100 mark are perfect for denims and tweeds but would be far too aggressive for silk. 


Choosing the correct sewing machine needles for your job is the first step to assuring an end product of great quality. Needles are designed with specific jobs in mind, so guarantee that you get the smoothest result when working with a tricky material by employing the correct needle size and type. If in any doubt, test your needle on a patch of spare scrap material before starting your project to avoid a costly mistake. 


If you have any further questions as to suitable needle shapes and sizes for your next sewing machine project, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


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