Sewing Machine Needles (Types, Colors, Sizes)

Complete Guide to Sewing Machine Needles (Types, Colors, Sizes)

This complex guide will start by answering a rather simple question – What are sewing machine needles used for? After that, we will introduce all the types of different sewing needles, as well as all the kinds of needles you have to differentiate in order to master the craft of sewing. In addition to that, we will give you a brief explanation of each needle element, such as the sewing machine needle’s large eye. You will also be able to understand what sewing machine needle color codes are and how sewing machine needles number work.

Following that, we will continue to guide you through the world of sewing machine needles by showing you what size of sewing needles you should use. Furthermore, two interesting charts will allow you to choose your needle based on the material you wish to work with, as well as based on the type of thread you will be using.

Rather than to throw you headfirst into the thick of the matter, this guide will start with the most basic of information.

Sewing Machine Needles and Their Uses

Serger Needles VS Sewing Machine Needles

Whether the sewing process is done by hand or with machine assistance, a needle is always the key component. However, we cannot use the same type of needles for both hand sewing and machine sewing. The machine needle’s purpose is to make a hole in the fabric thus allowing the sewing thread to pass through the material. It also allows the thread to create a loop making the stitch complete.

A sewing machine needle is comprised of the following elements:

  • 1. Butt – located at the needle’s very end. It’s used to attach the needle to the sewing machine.
  • 2. Shank – the basis and the widest part of the needle. It is located under the butt and is tied to the needle bar. There are two kinds of shanks — flat and cylindrical.
  • 3. Shoulder – a part that follows the shank. It reduces friction between the needle and the fabric.
  • 4. Blade – the needle’s narrowest part. Of course, this is the point of maximum friction between the needle and the fabric.
  • 5. Long groove – reduces friction between the needle, fabric and the sewing thread.
  • 6. Short groove – the part between the tip and the eye of the needle. It creates the loop together with the sewing thread.
  • 7. The eye of the needle – the opening at the needle’s top. In short, its purpose is to hold the thread.
  • 8. Scarf – The curved slot located above the eye that closes the setting between the looper and the needle.
  • 9. Point – Sharpe top of the needle and the first element that touches the fabric.

There are three common types of needle points – universal, sharp and ballpoint. However, note that different fabric types require different types of needle points. We use the sharp point when sewing straight lines. Knit fabric needs the point to glide between the loops damaging neither the fibers nor the fabric and that is when we use ballpoint needles.

Obviously, we can use universal needles for both types of fabric. This is, of course, because the point of a universal needle is both sharp and rounded, allowing the needle to have the characteristics of sharp and ballpoint needles alike.

Sewing Machine Needles Types and Names

Sewing machine needles types and names

There are all kinds of needles types out there, but the most common ones to be found are the following:

  • 1. Round point needle: this is the most widely spread type because it is used in almost every kind of sewing activity there is.
  • 2. Ballpoint needle – used for elastic materials because its design allows the needle to pass through the fiber, not over it, thus preserving the fabric’s elasticity.
  • 3. DI leather needle – this is the type of needle that is specialized for dry, heavy and hardened leather. Consequently, the blade’s diamond shape allows the needle to cut the fiber, instead of ripping it.
  • 4. SD1 needle – similar to DI needle, however with a smaller cutting point. This minute point not only cuts the fabric but moves it sideways as well.
  • 5. Serv7 needle – a scarf shaped needle with a sharpened blade used for dealing with difficult to cut materials.
  • 6. Twin needle – this type of needle actually consists of two needles joined together on a single carrier. Because of that, it is used for sewing double decorative stitches. Don’t let the 4.0/80 label confuse you. The first number represents the gap between the two needles measured in millimeters while the second number represents the needle size.
  • 7. Tri-needle – as its name suggests, this type of needle is used for sewing triple decorative stitches. They are labeled as 2.5/80, identically referencing the ratio as the one in twin needle’s label.
  • 8. Embroidery needle – this type of needle finds its place alongside highly sensitive twine and in order to avoid damaging the twine, this needle comes equipped with a larger than usual eye.
  • 9. Metallic needle – This needle type comes with a stretched eye shape which is necessary in order to avoid the twine getting curled.

Are Sewing Machine Needles Color Coded?

Are sewing machine needles color coded

Some manufacturers represent the needle size using colors whereas the upper color represents the needle’s type, and the lower color represents its size. Of course, this allows the experienced users to know what needle to select by simply glancing at one. For this reason, a needle manufacturer Schmetz introduced color coding.

You can find a short guide for this company’s size and type designation right here. After all, you are not an experienced seamstress yet.

Types:

  • 1. Needle Type: Universal Needle
    Color Band: No color band
  • 2. Needle Type: Microtex Sharps
    Color Band: Purple
  • 3. Needle Type: Ballpoint
    Color Band: Orange
  • 4. Needle Type: Stretch
    Color Band: Yellow
  • 5. Needle Type: Jeans
    Color Band: Blue
  • 6. Needle Type: Topstitching
    Color Band: Light green
  • 7. Needle Type: Quilting
    Color Band: Green
  • 8. Needle Type: Embroidery
    Color Band: Red
  • 9. Needle Type: Metallic
    Color Band: Pink
  • 10. Needle Type: Leather
    Color Band: Brown

Sizes:

  • 1. Size 80/12: Orange
  • 2. Size 90/14: Blue
  • 3. Size 100/16: Purple
  • 4. Size 110/18: Yellow
  • 5. Size 120/19: Brown
  • 6. Size 125/20: Black
  • 7. Size 130/21: Red

What Size Sewing Machine Needles Should You Use?

What size sewing machine needles should you use

You need to choose an adequate needle in order to have a high–quality sewing session. However, to make a correct choice, you have to take into consideration the type of material you want to use. Any discrepancy between the needle type and the fabric can lead to the stitches being torn apart. Moreover, it can lead to irreparable damages being made to the fabric.

This is the ground rule you need to follow: the thinner the material, the thinner the needle. Likewise, the harder and heavier the material is, the thicker the needle you need to choose.

For the purpose of better understanding, we provided a neat little table that can help you out.

How are Sewing Machine Needles Numbered?

When we use the term „needle size“, we refer to the diameter of the needle’s bottom at its maximum girth. There are differences between the European and American measurement systems. In the European system, the needle’s size is represented as a percentage of a millimeter: for instance, a number 80 needle would have a diameter of 0.8 millimeters. Nowadays, however, most needles are labeled with two numbers, one representing the European measurement, and the other representing the American measurement.

If you haven’t chosen the correct needle, it will break. Most of your sewing problems are also a sure giveaway of a poorly chosen needle. However, there are some other problems that a wrong choice of needles may cause:

  • Sewing machine not turning on.
  • Foot control not responding.
  • Threader speeding out of control.
  • Skipping stitches.
  • Fabric getting hung up in the sewing area.

Make sure to change the needle after eight hours of using it because not doing so will make the needle dull.

Sewing Machine Needles Size Chart

When choosing a correct needle size, you need to keep in mind the type of material you wish to work on. This chart can help you out.

  • Batiste – universal 60/8, 70/10
  • Any material with sparkles– microtex 70/10-90/14 or stretch 75/11, 90/14
  • Cotton knitwear – jersey 70/10-90/14 or stretch 75/11, 90/14
  • Bouclé – jersey 70/10-90/14
  • Brocade – universal or microtex 60/8-90/14
  • Felt – universal 80/12-100/16
  • Flannel – universal 80/12-110/18
  • Terrycloth – universal 80/12-90/14
  • Gauze – jersey 70/10, 80/12
  • Jeans – 70/10-110/18
  • Jersey with no elastin – jersey 70/10, 80/12
  • Jersey with elastane – stretch 65/9, 75/11
  • Lamé – microtex 60/8-90/14
  • Linen – universal 80/12, 90/14
  • Spandex – stretch 65/9, 75/11
  • Microfiber – microtex 60/8-80/12
  • Nylon – universal or microtex 60/8-90/14
  • Plastic foil – microtex 60/8-110/18
  • Knitwear without elastane - jersey 70/10-90/14
  • Knitwear with elastane– stretch 65/9-90/14
  • Plush – stretch 75/11, 90/14
  • Polyester – universal or microtex 60/8-100/16
  • Popelin –universal or microtex 60/8-80/12
  • Popelin –universal or microtex 60/8-80/12
  • Tricot – jersey 70/10-90/14
  • Satin – universal or microtex 60/8-80/12
  • Satin – universal or microtex 60/8-80/12
  • Silk – microtex 60/8-90/14
  • Chiffon – universal or microtex 60/8, 70/10
  • Taffeta – microtex or universal 60/8, 70/10
  • Awning fabric – jeans 90/14-110/18
  • Artificial fur– universal 70/10-100/16 or jersey 70/10-90/14
  • Artificial leather – microtex 70/10-100/16
  • Wool –universal 70/10-100/16
  • Velvet– universal 80/12-100/167
  • Georgette – universal or microtex 60/8-80/12

Sewing Machine Needles and Threads

thread and needle sizes

Different sewing techniques create different demands on the threads in the sewing process because their sewability has a huge impact on the sewing quality. In order to be effective, each sewing thread needs to meet the requirements of producing the desired seam as well as to provide the desired aesthetic in it.

There are a few guidelines to follow when inspecting your sewing thread:

  • Needle thread needs to be able to fit through the needle’s eye in order to avoid making any knots.
  • In order to not preserve the thread and not damaging it, make sure that its strength exceeds the fabric strength.
  • Since the stitches have to be equal, you need to have a thread with high elasticity throughout its length.
  • Control the amount of friction between the needle and the thread as well as between the thread and the fabric because high friction will make the thread brake and low friction will make it impossible for the stitches to lock and prevent the run-back of the seams.
  • Abrasion resistance is the key for good sewing performance.
  • The sewing thread needs to be flexible enough to keep its shape while at the same time preserving its properties in the seam after the completion of the sewing process.

Extra Tips

Remember that a good sewing thread needs to be resistant to the heat that the needle receives. The needle temperature chiefly depends on the nature of the fabric, the speed of the sewing machine, the type of needle and the size of the thread itself.

Make sure to keep an eye on the hairiness of the sewing thread because it can affect the seam’s appearance. Also, it is the final direction of the twist insertion that enables the stitch to form. This is important for the machine to perform correctly.

The sewing thread needs to be able to preserve the color of the end product throughout its lifespan. It also needs to preserve the fabric’s balance and make as few knots as possible.

Sewing Machine Needle and Chart Size

After you have chosen the material, it is of paramount importance to choose a correct combination of thread and needle size. The chart we are about to present consists of the following formula: Thread/Thread size/Needle sizes and is here to summarize everything you need to know about how thread size relates to needle size.

Nylon Thread

  • Size 15 / Tex 16 / Govt. 00 - Use needle sizes 70 / 10 to 80 / 12
  • Size 33 / Tex 35 / Govt. AA - Use needle sizes 80 / 12 to 90 / 14
  • ​Size 46 / Tex 45 / Govt. B - Use needle sizes 90 / 14 to 100/ 16
  • ​Size 69 / Tex 70 / Govt. E - Use needle sizes 100 / 16 to 110 / 18
  • ​Size 92 / Tex 90 / Govt. F - Use needle sizes 110 / 18 to 125 / 20
  • ​Size 138 / Tex 135 / Govt. FF - Use needle sizes 120 / 19 to 140 / 22
  • ​Size 207 / Tex 210 / Govt. 3-Cord - Use needle sizes 140 / 22 to 180 / 24
  • Size 277 / Tex 270 / Govt. 4-Cord - Use needle sizes 180 / 24 to 230 / 26
  • Size 346 / Tex 350 / Govt. 5-Cord - Use needle sizes 230 / 26 to 280 / 28
  • ​Size 415 / Tex 410 / Govt. 6-Cord - Use needle sizes 280 / 28 to 330 / 30
  • Size 554 / Tex 600 / Govt. 8-Cord - Use needle sizes 330 / 30 to 360 / 32

Polyester Thread

  • Bullet Point 1Size 15 / Tex 16 / Govt. 00 - Use needle sizes 70 / 10 to 80 / 12
  • Size 33 / Tex 35 / Govt. AA - Use needle sizes 80 / 12 to 90 / 14
  • ​Size 46 / Tex 45 / Govt. B - Use needle sizes 90 / 14 to 100/ 16
  • ​Size 69 / Tex 70 / Govt. E - Use needle sizes 100 / 16 to 110 / 18
  • ​Size 92 / Tex 90 / Govt. F - Use needle sizes 110 / 18 to 125 / 20
  • ​Size 138 / Tex 135 / Govt. FF - Use needle sizes 120 / 19 to 140 / 22
  • Size 207 / Tex 210 / Govt. 3-Cord - Use needle sizes 140 / 22 to 180 / 24
  • ​Size 277 / Tex 270 / Govt. 4-Cord - Use needle sizes 180 / 24 to 230 / 26
  • ​Size 346 / Tex 350 / Govt. 5-Cord - Use needle sizes 230 / 26 to 280 / 28
  • ​Size 415 / Tex 410 / Govt. 6-Cord - Use needle sizes 280 / 28 to 330 / 3
  • Size 554 / Tex 600 / Govt. 8-Cord - Use needle sizes 330 / 30 to 360 / 32

Kevlar Thread

  • Size 23 / Tex 21 / Govt. A - Use needle sizes 70 / 10 to 80 / 12
  • Size 46 / Tex 45 / Govt. B - Use needle sizes 90 / 14 to 100/ 16
  • ​Size 69 / Tex 70 / Govt. E - Use needle sizes 100 / 16 to 110 / 18
  • ​Size 92 / Tex 90 / Govt. F - Use needle sizes 110 / 18 to 125 / 20
  • ​Size 138 / Tex 135 / Govt. FF - Use needle sizes 120 / 19 to 140 / 22
  • Size 207 / Tex 210 / Govt. 3-Cord - Use needle sizes 140 / 22 to 180 / 24
  • ​Size 346 / Tex 350 / Govt. 5-Cord - Use needle sizes 230 / 26 to 280 / 28
  • Size 415 / Tex 410 / Govt. 6-Cord - Use needle sizes 280 / 28 to 330 / 30

Monofilament Thread

  • Size .003 / Tex 5 - Use needle size 50 / 6 to 55 / 7
  • Size .004 / Tex 8 - Use needle sizes 55 / 7 to 65 / 9
  • ​Size .005 / Tex 13 - Use needle sizes 65 / 9 to 70 / 10
  • ​Size .006 / Tex 18 - Use needle sizes 10 / 10 to 75 / 11
  • ​Size .007 / Tex 27 - Use needle sizes 75 / 11 to 80 / 12
  • ​Size .008 / Tex 35 - Use needle sizes 80 / 12 to 90 / 14
  • ​Size .009 / Tex 45 - Use needle sizes 90 / 14 to 100 / 16
  • ​Size .010 / Tex 50 - Use needle sizes 100 / 16 to 110 / 18
  • Size .011 / Tex 60 - Use needle sizes 110 / 18 to 120 / 19
  • Size .012 / Tex 80 - Use needle sizes 120 / 19 to 125 / 20

Embroidery Thread

  • 30-Weight - Use needle size 90 / 14 to 100 / 16
  • 40-Weight - Use needle sizes 75 / 11 to 80 / 12
  • ​Fire Retardant Embroidery Thread
  • ​40-Weight - Use needle sizes 75 / 11 to 80 / 12
  • ​Fire Retardant Sewing Thread (spun Nomex and Kevlar)
  • ​Tex 27 and 30 - Use needle sizes 70 / 10 to 80 / 12
  • Tex 35 and 40 - Use needle sizes 80 / 12 to 90 / 14
  • ​Tex 45 and 50 - Use needle sizes 90 / 14 to 100/ 16
  • Tex 60 and 70 - Use needle sizes 100 / 16 to 110 / 18
  • Tex 90 and 105 - Use needle sizes 110 / 18 to 125 / 20

Bag Closing Thread

  • 4-Ply - Use needle size 140 / 22 to 230 / 26
  • 5-Ply - Use needle sizes 180 / 24 to 260 / 26

Polypropylene Thread

  • Size 46 / Tex 45 / Govt. B - Use needle sizes 90 / 14 to 100/ 16
  • Size 69 / Tex 70 / Govt. E - Use needle sizes 100 / 16 to 110 / 18
  • ​Size 92 / Tex 90 / Govt. F - Use needle sizes 110 / 18 to 125 / 20
  • Size 138 / Tex 135 / Govt. FF - Use needle sizes 120 / 19 to 140 / 22

Waxed Thread

  • Size 207 / Tex 210 / Govt. 3-Cord - Use needle sizes 140 / 22 to 180 / 24
  • Size 277 / Tex 270 / Govt. 4-Cord - Use needle sizes 180 / 24 to 230 / 26
  • ​Size 415 / Tex 410 / Govt. 6-Cord - Use needle sizes 280 / 28 to 330 / 30
  • ​Size 554 / Tex 600 / Govt. 8-Cord - Use needle sizes 330 / 30 to 360 / 32
  • ​Waxed Polyester-Linen - Use needle sizes 140 / 22 to 180 / 24
  • Embalmers Thread 2-Ply - Use needle sizes 180 / 24 to 230 / 26
  • Embalmers Thread 3-Ply - Use needle sizes 90 / 14 to 100/ 16

Other Threads

  • 35 Weight Robison-Anton Spun Polyester - Use needle sizes 80 / 12 to 90 / 14
  • 60 Weight Bobbin Thread - Use needle sizes 55 / 7 to 65 / 9

Sewing Machine Needles Brands

Schmetz Serger Needles

Out of all the companies that produce needles, few stand out as Schmetz does. This manufacturer owes its precision by and large to German discipline and hard work. It was founded in 1851 and has since been the largest sewing machine needle manufacturer in the world.

Isaac Merritt Singer established a company named I.M. Singer & Co in La Vergne, Tennessee. Soon, the word "Singer" almost became synonymous to the sewing machine, serving as a proof of its quality and longevity. Singer introduced the vibrating shuffle sewing machine which was a revolutionary step up from the dated designs, including the transverse shuttle designs. An interesting piece of trivia is the fact that the Singer company pioneered the use of installment payment plans.

Janome company was founded on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, in Japan in 1921. The company produces not only needles but sewing machines as well. The word “Janome” means “snake’s eye” in Japanese which is not strange as the twenties were the time the round bobbin system replaced the long shuttle type.

Another German-based manufacturer on this is list is Klasse. Seeing as it was founded in 1980, it is the youngest company on our list. As soon as it was conceived Klasse has been a company set on innovation and by the time it reached its fifth birthday, Klasse was at the forefront of the innovation wave. Furthermore, the company's focus has been set on creating new needle styles to match the modern types of fabric. The company dedicates its stock solely to the household sewing machines.

Breaking the mold of publicly owned and traded companies is the family-owned Groz-Beckert, a company that has been in the ownership of the same family since its foundation in 1852. This company produces needles used in industrial sewing thus being the complete opposite of its Klasse. As a result of its innovative nature, Groz-Beckert showcased a new type of sewing machine, made entirely of acrylic glass.

Conclusion

We hope that you enjoyed this guide however tedious and overwhelming it was. It is important to realize that sewing is a complex activity which is easy to learn but hard to master. Nevertheless, this guide has shown you the basics such as the types of sewing machine needles you can find and their color coding. As long as you wish to improve yourself while dedicating time and hard work to further deepening your knowledge, you will be able to reach expert status. For this reason, we created this guide.

While this will not make you a master of the art, it will make you a well-suited novice.

Anyway, if you enjoyed the article, please share and comment.

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