“Which sewing machine needle should I use?” There are two factors to consider when choosing a needle. What type of fabric you are sewing and the thickness of the thread to be sewn with.
Type of Sewing Machine Needle
You should match the ideal type of sewing machine needle with the fabric. I take this with a pinch of salt. I keep four types of a needle in general stock and make do with these for most jobs. To help you, I am listing them in the order I buy them if there is a titanium option for a needle, I will often choose this. As you will have read in the earlier blog “How Often Should I Change my Needle?” titanium-coated needles will last longer.
BUY: Sharp / Microtex Needles
This needle reliably provides a tremendous straight stitch on lightweight woven materials and microfibres such as cotton, linen, wool, and natural fabrics. These needles are in daily use in the studio and the type I buy the most of.
BUY: Stretch Needles
Stretch needles are ballpoint needles coated to slip with more ease between the knitted fibres of stretch fabrics. These are my go-to needles for knit or stretch fabrics.
BUY: Jeans / Denim Needles
This needle is reinforced and shaped with a ballpoint. It can easily penetrate thick woven fabrics like denim, canvas, curtain and upholstery fabrics. I suggest you buy a pack of these needle for any heavier weight projects you have in mind. Janome has created a ‘purple tip’ needle which utterly brilliant for heavier weight fabric.
BUY: Top Stitching Needles
These needles have an extra sharp point, to pierce through almost any fabric. Topstitch needles have a relatively large eye to accommodate thick topstitching or decorative threads. The combination sharp point and the extra-large eye is perfect for quilting. The large eye allows the maximum airflow around the fast-moving thread as it passes through the needle and into the fabric. I suggest you buy this needle type for quilting projects.
Ballpoint / Jersey Needles
A ballpoint or jersey needle instead of piercing the fabric slides in between the fibres in the material eliminates the risk of shredding them. I buy stretch needle instead – as they are the same, but a little bit better.
Leather needles have a cutting point on end, perfect for getting through thick leather. I generally have a few of these in stock, but they are only ever used on leather.
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. I find these needles a jack of all trades and not brilliant at any single one. I never buy these needles.
Like sharps, these needles are good at penetrating several layers of fabric and wadding, so are aimed for quilting projects. I still prefer topstitch needles.
These are specialist needles used for decorative stitches and pin-tucks. Not all machines are suitable for all machines but are great fun when they are
The size of the needle should broadly relate to the thickness of the thread. Needles have two sizes, for example, 80/12. The first number is the imperial size, and the second is the metric equivalent. The larger the number the physically larger the size of the needle will be.
For everyday work with medium weight fabrics, a 70/10 or 80/12 would be perfect. If the material is slightly heavier, for example, Linen or lightweight upholstery fabric, I would move to a size 90/14 needle.
I keep some 60/8 needles for silks, chiffon or ultra-lightweight fabric projects. Similarly, I buy some 100/16 needles for my bag making projects.
So that is it. With so many options, it is hard to decide without some guidance. Whenever I don’t have the perfect needle for my project, I reflect on the fact that my grandmother would have sewn with whatever she had to hand. It is important to remember that sometimes we need to compromise, and that is OK too.