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Friday, July 6, 2012

Sewing Machine Needles

When it comes to sewing machines, needles are one of the important areas people often neglect.  If you follow a few simple needle guidelines when sewing, it will make sewing easier and faster.

Use the correct needle type for your fabric.  There are three main types of needles used when sewing.  
  • The universal needle is perhaps the most commonly used needle.  The universal needle has a very slightly rounded tip so it can be used on many knit fabrics without snagging or skipping stitches, and it is small enough to pierce through woven fabrics as well.
  • Ball point needles are used on knit fabrics, and have a larger ball point than universal needles.  They shouldn't snag the fabric or skip stitches.  These work well on heavier knits and spandex or lycra.
  • Sharp needles are used on tightly woven fabrics, or light weight woven fabrics.  The tiny sharp point on the end of the needle allows it to poke through the weave of these tightly woven fabrics and sew in straight lines.
  • Click here for a chart detailing the use of specialty needles.

Use the correct needle size for your fabric.  There are three main categories of needle sizes used when sewing.  
  • Needles 8/60 and smaller are considered small needles and used for lightweight and sheer fabrics.  These needles will sew through the lighter fabrics without creating gaping holes, but will bend or break in heavier fabrics.
  • Needles 9/65-12/80 are considered medium needles and used for medium-weight fabrics.
  • Needles 14/90 and larger are considered large needles and used for heavy fabrics.  These needles can sew through the heavy fabrics without bending or breaking.

photo courtesy of

Use fresh needles.  Over time, needles can become dull and slightly bent, which can lead to problems while sewing.  I myself have been known to use a needle for weeks longer than I should, and I am always surprised at how much better my sewing machine works when I use a new needle.  Frequently, when I am struggling with a project, simply changing to a new needle fixes the problem.  Old needles can cause skipped stitches, snagged fabric, broken thread, and jammed sewing machines.  Throw away used needles after each project, or when you experience any of these problems.  

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