Learn all about sewing machine needles, from anatomy of a sewing machine needle, to the different types of sewing machine needles.
An important and essential part of your sewing machine (and often overlooked) is your sewing machine needle.
Although I provided some information on sewing machine needles in my blog post about SCHMETZ Sewing Machine Needles, I wanted to give you a little more information.
All About Sewing Machine Needles
Before I share with you all the different types of sewing machine needles and sizes, I thought we’d take a look at the anatomy of a sewing machine needle.
Did you even know that a sewing machine needle had an anatomy or names for all the different segments of a sewing machine needle?
Welp, read on to learn all about the anatomy of sewing machine needles….
Anatomy of a Sewing Machine Needle
Your sewing machine needle is made in a very specific way. And each little segment of the needle has a specific name and function.
- Butt – The shaped top end which helps with the insertion of the needle into the sewing machine needle clamp.
- Shank – The thicker part of the needle held by the needle clamp or the needle set screw. It also provides additional strength to the needle.
- Shoulder – The section between the shank and the blade
- Long groove – Located on one side of the needle blade and its purpose is to provide a protective channel for the thread.
- Short groove – It is formed on the other side of long groove and it assists in throwing the loop of needle thread.
- Blade – The needle portion that extends from the shank to the eye.
- Scarf – It is a clearance cut in the needle blade just above the eye to permit a closer setting of the shuttle, hook, or looper to the needle.
- Eye – The eye of the needle is present in the bottom end of the needle blade. It is where your upper thread is threaded through.
- Point – The point of the needle is shaped to provide the optimal penetration of the material being sewn.
Who knew the sewing machine needle had so many important segments? And there are more. It just really depends on the type of sewing machine needle you are using.
When selecting the perfect sewing machine needle for your project, you do have to consider what type of fabric you’ll be sewing and the type of thread you’ll be using. But, don’t be overwhelmed with all the options! There are really just 3 basic sewing machine needles that you’ll use most often.
Types of Sewing Machine Needles
- Universal Needle
This is an all-purpose needle and the needle you’ll likely use 90% of the time. It’s used for sewing wovens and knits. The point of the needle is slightly rounded and is tapered so that it literally slips through the weave of knit fabrics, yet retains enough sharpness to pierce woven fabric
- Ballpoint Needle
If you do a lot of sewing with knits, you’ll want to use a ballpoint needle. Ballpoint needles are made specifically for sewing on knit fabrics. It has a rounded point that is designed to slide between the yarns of knit fabrics without snagging.
- Sharp or Microtex Needle
When sewing with tightly woven fabric, you’ll want to use a sharp or Microtex needle. This needle has a very slim, sharp point that creates beautiful top-stitching and perfectly straight stitches. Because it has such a fine point, you will need to replace it frequently.
What do all those numbers mean?
You will see sewing machine needles identified by size, such as 90/14 or 80/12. But what do those numbers mean? Sewing machine needles are sized in metric (the 90 in 90/14), followed by the imperial size (the 14 in 90/14).
You can think of the metric size as the European measurement and the imperial size as the US measurement.
The European system sizes range from 60-120, with 60 being a very fine needle and 120 being a thick heavy needle.
The American system sizes range from 8-19, with 8 being a very fine needle and 19 being a thick heavy needle.
So, the higher the number, the thicker the needle. Thus, the smaller the number, the thinner the needle.
There’s really a direct correlation between the needle size and the type of fabric. Just keep in mind that the lighter the fabric, the smaller the needle size and the heavier the fabric, the larger the needle size.
Likewise, the thread you will be using for your sewing project will also determine the type and size of needle you choose. So, if you’re sewing with a fine or delicate thread, be sure to use a smaller size needle.
Sewing Machine Reference Chart
Wondering what type of needle to use with specific types of fabric? Here’s a chart that breaks down the needle type based on the fabric type and thread type.
|Fabric Type||Thread Type||Needle Type||Needle Size|
|Sheer, silk||All-Purpose||Universal Needle||70/10|
|Poplin, rayon||All-Purpose||Universal Needle||80/12|
|Calico, linen||All Purpose||Universal Needle||90/14|
|Heavy fabric, upholstery, bag making||Upholstery||Universal Needle||100/16|
|Light knits, tricot||All-Purpose||Ball Point Needle||70/10|
|Interlock||All-Purpose||Ball Point Needle||80/12|
|Medium heavy knits, double knit||All-Purpose||Ball Point Needle||90/14|
|Light lycra, elasticized fabric||All-Purpose||Stretch Needle||75/11|
|Elastic, heavier lycra, elasticized fabric||All-Purpose||Stretch Needle||90/14|
|Denim, tightly woven fabrics||Denim or Upholstery||Jeans Needle||90/14|
|Heavy denim, vinyl, furnishings||Upholstery||Jeans Needle||100/16|
|Leather, suede||Upholstery||Leather Needle||90/14|
|Quilting cotton||Cotton||Quilting Needle||80/12|
Download Printable Sewing Machine Needle Reference Guide
If you’d like to learn more about sewing machine needles, you’ll want to download my Sewing Machine Needle Reference Guide.
I put together this Guide so that you can download and print it for free. The guide contains information in this blog post and a LOT more, all in an easy to read format:
If you’d like to learn more about sewing machine needles, here are some other good sources:
- Schmetz comparison of Household Sewing Machine Needle Features
- Schmetz Sewing Machine Needle Chart
- Schmetz Sewing Machine Needle Color Code Chart
- Coats Needle Production Process
And if you’d like to learn more about sewing machines, be sure and check out my Learn to Sew series!