Sewing Machine Needle Guide – Needle Sizes, Types, & Chart

The Sewing Machine needle is the most important sewing machine accessory. It’s what pierces your fabric and helps to create a stitch. 

We all know that sewing machines come with a set of needles, but it can be hard to remember what sizes go with which machine or fabric. This can make it difficult when you need to replace your needle or if you want to experiment and try something different. 

You may also not know how many needles there are and the difference between various types of needles.

There are many different types of needles available for different purposes so it’s essential you know which one you need for any given project.  

With this guide, it will be easy to find the right kind of needle size and type for every project.  


What is a sewing machine needle? 

How to Change a Needle on a Brother Sewing Machine

A needle’s job is to pierce the fabric, such as cotton or denim, bypassing through its threads and creating loops called stitches at the other side. Sewing Machine Needles come in standard sizes from 8 to 18, with the lower numbers being larger and the higher numbers being smaller.

Many people use sewing machine needles for hand sewing and knitting needle for hand knitting. 

Anatomy of a Sewing Machine Needle: Parts of a Sewing Machine Needle

The anatomy of a sewing machine needle is composed of different parts that each have a specific job. When you understand what each part does, it becomes easier to select the right needle for your project.

sewing machine needles guide
sewing machine needles guide

The parts of a sewing machine needle are:

Point: This is the sharp end of the needle that pierces the fabric. It’s important that the point is sharp so it can easily pierce the fabric without skipping or tearing it.

Shank: This is the long part of the needle that’s inserted into the sewing machine. It connects to the point and eye.

Eye: This is the small hole at the top of the shank where you thread your fabric.

Groove: This is the indentation that runs down the length of the shank. It helps to keep the thread in place as it passes through the eye of the needle.

Throat: This is the opening at the back of the eye where the thread exits the needle.

Long groove: The needle has a small hole from the shoulder to the eye. When the needle pierces the cloth, the thread stays in this slot and goes up and down.

Scarf: The bulk of the needle is the area immediately above, and below, the eye. Its goal is to allow for a closer hook or looper setting to the needle.

Blade: The portion of the needle from the shoulder to the eye that is nearest to the point. This area has the most friction between needle and cloth.

Types of Sewing Machine Needles

A blunt point needle is a basic sewing machine needle for most fabrics including cotton and woven synthetics. It has a round point and a small shaft.

A ballpoint needle: is designed for knits and hosiery fabrics as the rounded point prevents the fabric from snagging.

A winged needle: is used for quilting as it helps to push the layers of fabric away from the needle while sewing, preventing them from being pulled down into the machine.

A jeans needle: has a special point that pierces heavy fabrics without compromising the threads. The sharp point makes it perfect for denim and it’s used instead of a universal machine needle.

A stretch sewing machine needle: has a weaker shaft, allowing it to flex on contact with knits. This type of machine needle is needed when sewing jerseys or elasticated fabric. It’s also essential for sewing fleece or wearing apparel fabrics as it will prevent the needle from breaking in contact with these materials.

Double needles: are used to create two rows of stitching at once, making them perfect for finishing seams and hems.

A leather machine needle: is made specifically for sewing through leathers, suedes, and other such thick materials. It has a large, round shaft and a longer groove to prevent skipped stitches as well as breakage after much use.

A topstitching needle: is thicker than regular needles and designed for decorative stitching on fabric. It’s also used for creating quilting lines and sewing heavy fabrics like denim or leather.

A twin needle: is used to create two rows of stitching at once. It has two needles mounted on the same shaft and uses one bobbin for both threads. The second thread is obtained from a special spool that can be placed above or below the fabric.

Embroidery needles: are used with heavy embroidery threads and metallic threads.

Quilting needles: are similar to the blunt point needle except they have a larger eye for use with thicker thread.

Universal sewing machine needles: are designed for use on most types of machines. They provide exceptional durability and precision over standard needles, which is why they are the preferred choice for many sewers.

What are the types of specialty needles?

Specialty needles are a variety of needles designed for specific purposes. For example, a denim needle is used to sew denim and a leather needle is used to sew through the leather.

Quilting needles have a larger eye hole to allow thicker thread. Embroidery needles are designed with heavy threads and metallic thread in mind.

A topstitching needle is a type of needle that is designed for decorative stitching. It has a sharp point and a small, round eye. The needle is also longer than other types of needles, which allows it to penetrate multiple layers of fabric.

A twin needle has two needles mounted together, with a mounting bar joining them. The needles are usually the same length and stitch from the same side of the fabric, but they can be different lengths, stitch from both sides or be in a staggered configuration.

Sewing Machine Needle Sizes Explained

The smaller the number, the finer the thread can go through–as you get further away from the higher numbers, your needle is getting larger with a correspondingly thicker fabric.

The most common needles sizes are 80/12 and 90/14, but you can also find them in 60/8 or 70/10 if you have a serger or leather sewing machine–a finer needle may be better for cutting threads with these machines.


You can also download the types of sewing needle guide in a pdf here sewing machine needle guide pdf

Sewing Machine Needle Chart

60/8fine silks, organza, and sheer fabrics
65/9Lightweight fabrics such as taffeta, lining fabric
70/10for sheer, delicate silk
75/11 – 80/12Cotton voile, spandex, lycra
90 (14)Medium-heavy fabrics like calico, linen
100 (16)Heavy fabric, belts, upholstery, and bag
110 (18)Extra-heavy upholstery and fabric

How Often Should You Change Your Sewing Machine Needle?

I change my needle every time I use it because it starts to look grooved and the fabric doesn’t go through.

Typically needles will last about 10 hours of sewing or after about 1,000 ‘stitches’. Beginners should not sew more than 2,000 stitches an hour. Be sure to clean your machine out regularly–sweat attracts dust that can snag your needle!

Needles are inexpensive so you don’t need to be too stingy with changing them when they show signs of wear.

This includes bending at the eye area where changes in tension tug the metal part around the shaft base–this creates micro-flat spots on each looping motion which eventually lead to breaking or skipping stitches. A dull point no matter how well it sews creates a poor stitch formation.

How to Insert a Sewing Machine Needle

To insert a sewing machine needle, first, remove the old needle by turning it left to right. Be careful not to lose the needle clamp screw.

The new needle should be inserted with the flat side of the shaft facing you and the groove on the top. The needle should also be inserted so that the point is facing down.

If using a double-needle, insert one of the needles with the flat side facing you and the groove on top. Insert the other needle with the point facing down, but make sure that both needles are inserted into the same hole.

The needle clamp screw should be tightened after inserting the needle.

When you’re done sewing, always remove the needle by turning it left to right. Be careful not to lose the needle clamp screw.

Common Asked Question About Sewing Machine Needles

How do I know what sewing machine needle to use?

The smaller the needle size, the lighter the fabric, and vice versa. The thread you’ll be using for your sewing project will usually influence the sort of needle you select as well.

What is a 90 14 needle used for?

90 14 needles are created for sewing medium-weight materials like jeans or leather, or when you sew with many layers of fabric at one time. This size needle will also help if your needle becomes dull, which can happen while sewing thick fabrics.

When this happens it is important to change your needle right away to prevent damaging the fabric around the point of the needle.

What do the sewing machine needle numbers mean?

It is important to know which size needle you should use when sewing depending on the weight of your fabric. The heights of needles have different effects according to what they are being used for.

80/12-generally used for lightweight materials or fabric with many layers, this size is also used when using loose weave fabrics

90/14-designed for medium-weight materials like denim, upholstery, etc.

60/8-perfect for fine fabrics, silk, and material slimmer than 1 inch in thickness. It will also come in handy if the needle has become dull by quickly starting to break through the fabric’s surface layer around the point instead of seaming it together nicely as a normal machine stitch should do.

What is a good way to store needles so they don’t get dull?

One way to keep your sewing machine needles from getting dull is by using a magnetic needle keeper. This is a small, flat magnet that you can attach to your machine or work area. The magnet will hold the needles in place and keep them from becoming bent or dull.

What is a 100 16 needle used for?

A 100 16 needle is typically used for heavyweight fabrics and materials like upholstery, denim, heavy canvas thick leather, and dense upholstery fabrics.

What is a 80 12 needle used for?

An 80 12 needle is generally used for lightweight materials or fabric with many layers, this size is also used when using loose weave fabrics.

What is a size 14 sewing machine needle used for?

Size 14 (European 90) – used medium-weight fabrics like satin, rayon, gabardine, linen, chino, denim; or thick quilts.

What is a 70 10 needle used for?

A 70 10 needle is generally used for very lightweight materials or fabrics with few layers. This size is also used when working with loosely woven fabrics,  duck, stitching denim, canvas, and other heavy fabrics.

What is the normal size needle for a sewing machine?

The standard needle size for a sewing machine is #12/80. It’s used to sew lightweight fabrics and materials like silk or lightweight linen. It’s also often chosen when the needle has become dull, as it will go through the fabric quicker without putting too much pressure on the fibers of the material.

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