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All sewing machine needles are not created equal! It is important to use the correct type and size of needle for your given project, lest you run into snagged fabric, skipped stitches, or a host of other problems that can ruin your fabric—or even your machine.
Needle sizing systems vary depending on where you live. According to Singer’s website: “The European metric sizing system for sewing machine needles is numbered from 60 to 110. The American sizing system is numbered from 8 to 18.” While needle packages typically display both, the important thing to know is this: The lower the number, the finer the needle, and a higher number indicates a wider needle. When using a lighter fabric, you’ll want to use a smaller needle size, whereas heavier sizes require larger needles to pierce thick seams.
Below are some of the most common needles available, along with their ideal uses.
Note: It’s important to change your needle after completing each project, so be sure to stock up on the type you’ll be using most often! Using a dull or damaged needle can seriously damage your machine and affect the timing, resulting in pricey repairs and less-than-stellar seam quality.
This is your run-of-the-mill needle for most projects. You’ll still want to pay attention to size here, as using a too-thick needle on a delicate fabric can result in some ugly pulls and tears, while a needle that’s too thin for a heavier fabric is likely to break, running the risk of sending a broken needle tip flying at your face (ouch) or damaging your machine.
Also known as jersey needles, these have slightly more rounded tips (you can’t really tell with the naked eye) for sewing stretchy knit fabrics. This allows the needle to penetrate the loops of knit fabrics, rather than piercing the individual fibers and causing runs in the fabric.
Wait, isn’t this what ball-point needles are for? Not exactly—these needles are best for highly elastic materials and feature a specially-shaped eye to prevent skipped stitches.
As the name suggests, a twin needle consists of two standard needles sharing one shank, allowing you to sew with two strands of thread at once. The double row of stitching it creates mimics a coverstitch and is perfect for making neat hems on knit garments, as it allows the fabric to stretch. These are available in several different widths as well, so you can choose to sew a chunky, wide-set row of stitches on heavier fabrics or go with a more delicate finish for items like knit baby clothing.
As you might expect, needles intended for jeans are heftier in size for sewing thick fabrics like denim. The blade is often reinforced to prevent breakage and to avoid skipped stitches—something absolutely no one wants, especially when using for something like decorative topstitching on jeans.
These are just a few of the many types of needles available, but getting to know these basics will set you up for success in just about any beginner project! To learn more about the anatomy of a sewing needle, the color coding system that helps you identify needle types and sizes, as well as the many other types of needles available, check out this handy guide from Schmetz.