Needle Me This

Do you ever wonder if you are using the right sewing machine needle? Ever get confused by all those different numbers? Wonder why your machine is skipping stitches (it could be your needle!)?
I learned to sew clothing first, at around age 11, from my mom, who learned from her mom, who learned…you get the picture. When I have a question, I just check with Mom.

My friend, “soon-t0-be-blogging” Toni, never learned to sew until she decided she wanted to be a quilter in her mid-twenties. She dove right in, bought a mid-price Husqvarna/Viking, started building an amazing stash (which is willed to me, should she go first…mine is willed to her as well…we are not morbid, just pragmatic…do you want your hubby or children to send your beloved stash to the local landfill?!?), and she signed up for classes at her local quilt shop. She’s a great quilter, less prolific since her son came along two years ago, but still pieces and appliques wonderful quilts.

But when she has a question about needles, or thread, or non-quilt related sewing, she comes to me. We both tease about her being my “needy friend”, but I don’t mind at all, because I usually learn something new when answering her questions. So, this weeks question was about needles, and there is a lot of various info on the web about needle sizes, etc. I happened across this great little book on the “new” shelf at the library on Saturday, and thought some of you other sewists and quilters might find this useful…

From: Visual Quick Tips Sewing by Debbie Colgrove, 2008:

Needle Sizes

The size of the sewing machine needle is in direct correlation with the weight or thickness of the fabric you are sewing. Needle sizes are numbered using both European and American systems. Some companies label their needles with both systems, so your apt to see a 60/8 or 120/19 on a package. In both systems, the higher the number, the thicker the needle, and the larger hole it will make in the fabric.

(The first number below is the European size, the second the American numerical size, follwed by the fabrci weight and finally, fabric samles at that weight:)

60 /8 — light — very sheer
65 /9 — light — lightweight and see-through
70 /10 — light-medium — light t-shirt fabric
75 /11 — medium — blouse fabric
80/12 — med-heavy — lightweight denim
90/14 — heavy — corduroy, suiting
100/16 — heavy — medium weight denim
110/18 — very heavy — jeans
120/19 — very heavy — canvas

Needle Points

Needles are available in UNIVERSAL, SHARP, and BALLPOINT tips. The needles are designed for different types of fabrics. Your fabric may require a specific point type to obtain uniform stitching from your sewing machine. Universal-point needles can be used for sewing both knit and woven fabrics. Sharp needles are designed for woven fabrics. Ballpoint needles are designed or knit fabrics.


Here is another reference I found, lots of GREAT information, maybe more than you ever wanted to know about your sewing machine and it’s little needle, but information is power, am I right!?!

I almost always use a 70/10 Sharp when pieceing a quilt top. When paper piecing I go a little larger because it perforates the paper with a larger hole, and thereby makes quicker work of removing the paper or foundation. Obviously, there are other specialty needles to consider, like Topstitching and Embroidery needles (use these with your metallic or thicker threads when quilting!), Stretch needles for sewing stretchy fabrics like t-shirt knits, etc., Wing Needles can be used with decoartive heirloom stitches, Denim needles, Double needles for sewing parallel lines (I’ve never used these myself), Quilting needles for use when sewing through top, batting and backing, and so on. Using the right tool for the job makes every project go more smoothly.

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5 thoughts on “Needle Me This

  1. Wow, this was really helpful! I think I use the same needle you mentioned for quilt piecing, but I forgot to get quilting needles for the sandwiching part. And by the way, why is my machine skipping stitches? (maybe I need to change the needle to a newer, sharper one?)

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