How to Choose the Perfect Machine Needle for your Next Sewing Project

How to Choose the Perfect Machine Needle for your Next Sewing Project

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Wondering if a jersey needle works for swimwear or if you really need a jean needle for denim? And what's the deal with those two numbers? Choosing the right sewing machine needle is crucial for a successful project, just like having the right tool for any job. In this blog post, we've got you covered with everything you need to know about machine sewing needles, deciphering those little numbers, and selecting the perfect needle for your next sewing project. Let's slide open these mysterious little packs (or just open the paper envelope for the organ needles we carry) and let's get started!

The Anatomy of a Machine Sewing Needle

The anatomy of a machine sewing needle is quite simple but plays a crucial role in the stitching process. Every component of the needle plays a pivotal role, influencing its performance and suitability for various fabrics and sewing techniques.

Sewing Needle Core Fabrics
  • Shank: The upper part of the needle that fits into the needle clamp of the sewing machine.
  • Shaft: Also known as the body, it extends from the shank to the point and determines the needle's size.
  • Groove: A channel on the shaft that helps guide the thread down to the eye.
  • Eye: The hole at the bottom of the needle where the thread passes through.
  • Scarf: A groove on the backside of the needle that allows the bobbin hook to smoothly catch the thread during the stitch formation.
  • Point: The tip of the needle that pierces the fabric.
  • Tip: The point where the shaft and point meet, influencing the needle's ability to penetrate different fabrics.
  • Blade: The flat section of the needle just above the eye, responsible for spreading the fabric's fibers to prevent damage.
  • Flats: The flattened area on the shank that helps orient the needle correctly in the sewing machine.
  • Shoulder: The transition area between the shank and the shaft, providing stability and support to the needle.

How to Choose your Machine Sewing Needle 

Sewing machine needles vary in types and sizes, with each suited to specific fabrics. To choose the correct needle, you'll need match it to your fabric type and weight.

Step 1: Choose your Needle Type

There's a variety of needle types available, from universal needles to ballpoint needles, stretch needles, jeans needles, and microtex needles. Understanding these types helps you select the perfect needle for your fabric. Use this chart to help you pick your sewing machine needle: 

Needle Type Fabric Type Description


Most wovens, some knits A multi-purpose needle with a slightly rounded point, available in a variety of widths.

Ball Point

Jersey, rib knit, interlock, cotton knit, fleece, double knit The rounded point makes it gentle on knit fabrics by pushing the fabric fibres apart rather than cutting them. 


Stretchy knits,  swimwear, performance knit, ponte A 'scarf' allows extra room for the hook to pass close by and prevents skipped stitches on very stretchy knits, especially containing Lycra®, Spandex or elastic.

Microtex (sharp)

Silk, viscose slim, sharp, acute point pierces very fine or densely woven fabrics. It's also great for fine details like pintucks.

Jeans (denim)

Denim, canvas, corduroy, coating A special blade-like point easily passes through thick fabrics.
Topstitch Quilting, topstitching, embroidery The large eye of this needle helps accommodate topstitching thread, or two regular threads for special effect.
Twin (double needle) Decorative, hemming on wovens and knits Two needles attached to a single shank at the top create two parallel lines of straight stitches on the top side, with a small zigzag stitch linking them on the underside.

Step 2: Choose your Needle Size

The numbers on a sewing machine needle are like its size tags, telling you how big it is in both metric and imperial systems. So, if you see "90/14" on a needle, it means it's a size 90 in metric and a size 14 in imperial. These numbers show how thick and long the needle is, with bigger numbers meaning a bigger needle. And why does size matter? Well, it's all about finding the right fit for your fabric. Heavier fabrics need larger needles to stitch well. Check out the chart below for some help figuring it all out (For more info on understanding fabric weights, check out our blog post)

Fabric Weight Needle Size (Metric) Needle Size (Imperial)
Lightweight 60-75 8-11
Midweight 80-90 12-14
Heavyweight 100-120 16-20


When you're sewing with lightweight fabrics like chiffon or silk, go for a smaller needle size. But if you're tackling heavy-duty stuff like denim or leather, reach for a bigger needle size. Matching the needle size to the fabric weight keeps your stitching smooth and helps avoid pesky problems like fabric damage or thread breakage. 

Save for Later:

Want to keep this info handy for the next time you're debating which machine needle to use for your sewing project? Download our handy cheat sheet on selecting the right machine needle for your project and always have the perfect needle at your fingertips!


A Few Final Tips:

  • Change Your Needle Regularly: Always start a new project with a fresh needle. Needles get dull and can bend, so changing them often ensures the best results.

  • Microtex Needle for Delicate or Finicky Fabrics: We love Microtex needles! It is our secret weapon for handling finicky, hard-to-manage fabrics.

  • You Don't Necessarily Need a Jean Needle: While a jean needle is ideal for heavy-duty denim, a universal needle can also work. Use a size 90/14 needle for midweight denim and a 100/16 for thicker denim. For chambray or Tencel denim, an 80/12 universal needle will work.

  • Using Two Threads for Topstitching: To achieve a bold topstitch, you can thread two regular threads through the eye of a topstitching needle. The larger eye and deeper groove of the topstitching needle will accommodate the two threads, ensuring smooth stitching without breaking the threads. This technique is perfect for adding extra definition to your seams and decorative stitching.

  • Dispose of Sewing Machine Needles Safely: Place used needles in a sharps container or a sturdy, puncture-resistant container (like an old prescription bottle). Tape the lid shut when full and follow your local regulations for disposal.

And that wraps it up! When in doubt, testing on scraps is always a good idea. Experiment with different needles on swatches, checking the stitches to ensure the needle hole isn’t too big and if the needle struggles to penetrate the fabric, consider switching to a sharper point, a needle with a larger eye, or simply replacing it with a fresh one.