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Choosing the Right Sewing Machine Needle

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If you have ever had difficulty piecing a garment or quilt, you know how important your choice of needle can be. This primer will give you an overview of the type of sewing machine needle you should choose for your project.

As a general rule, always select the needle size to accommodate the thickness of the thread being used and the needle point style to accommodate the type of fabric.  In general, the finer the fabric, the finer the needle and thread you should use. If your thread is shredding, the needle is too small.

Needles range in size from a very thin and flexible 60\8 to a heavy-duty needle 120/19. (Needle sizes are not the same for regular home machines and commercial machines.)  Just like thread, most needles use a two number identification system to define the needle shaft diameter. The higher number measures the diameter in fractions of a millimeter. The lower number is the numbering system used in the U.S.  

Most needles use the two number measuring system which refer to the size of the needle shaft diameter. In sewing machine needle parlance, the smaller the number, the smaller the needle. A 14/90 is larger than a 8/60. Schmetz does have a color coding system.  You can download the pdf here: http://www.schmetzneedles.com/pdf/SCHMETZ_Color_Code_Chart.pdf

You should always change your needle after 6 - 10 hours of sewing. Consult your sewing machines user manual and use the needles they recommend. If you are changing to a specialty needle for a specific task, store your regular needle in a pincushion, not in a drawer or on the floor.

There are eleven basic types of needles: 

There are also Special-purpose Needles such as:


Universal Sewing Machine Needles by SchmetzUniversal Point Needles

This is the needle you will probably use for piecing.  It has a very slightly rounded point that is quite sharp and a long needle scarf (groove above the eye).  Good for both cottons and knits.

Order Schmetz Universal 10/70 Sewing Machine Needles (package of 5) for $3.29
Order Schmetz Universal 11/75 Sewing Machine Needles (package of 5) for $3.29
Order Schmetz Universal 12/80 Sewing Machine Needles (package of 5) for $3.29
Order Schmetz Universal 12/80 Sewing Machine Needles (package of 5) for $3.29

Sharp Microtex Sewing Machine Needles by SchmetzSchmetz Sharp Microtex

With a very sharp point for perfectly straight stitches. Perfect for fine cottons, high thread count fabrics such as batiks, and silks; also, top stitching and edge stitches. 
Order Schmetz Sharp Microtex 70 Sewing Machine Needles (package of 5) for $4.49
Order Schmetz Sharp Microtex 12/80 Sewing Machine Needles (package of 5) for $4.49
Order Schmetz Sharp Microtex 14/90 Sewing Machine Needles (package of 5) for $4.49

Quilting Sewing Machine Needles by SchmetzQuilting Needle

This needle has a specially tapered point designed for stitching through multiple layers and across intersecting seams. It prevents damage to sensitive, expensive materials used in quilting. The 75 needle offers better stitch quality and control when machine quilting.  The 90 needle excels at sewing thick layers of crossed seams in quilting or patchwork. 

Order Schmetz Quilting 11/75 Quilting Sewing Machine Needles (package of 5) for $4.99
Order Schmetz Quilting 11/75 & 14/90 Quilting Sewing Machine Needles (package of 5) for $4.99

Metallic Sewing Machine Needles by SchmetzMetallic Thread Needle

Designed for the use of metallic threads, this needle has a larger eye and long groove (scarf) for trouble-free sewing. A large eye accommodates heavier thread and makes threading easier. The special scarf prevents the shredding and/or splitting of the delicate threads during stitch formation.  Virtually eliminate thread breakage when stitching dense embroidery designs.  Use with monofilament/nylon, metallic, and other decorative threads. 

Order Schmetz Metallica 12/80 Sewing Machine Needles (package of 5) for $5.99

Schmetz Embroidery Machine Needle Size 14/90

Designed with a special scarf and large eye to prevent shredding and breakage when sewing with metallic and other machine embroidery threads.   Excellent for embroidery machines.


Order Schmetz Embroidery 14/90 Machine Needles (package of 5) for $4.99