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Sewing Machine Needle Guide: How to choose the right needle for the job

November 20, 2013

Choosing the right needle for your sewing machine can seem like a daunting task for beginner sewists. Fear not! It’s not as difficult a task as it seems at first. The right needle is just as important as the fabric and thread that you choose, so here is a little information to make choosing the right needle a little easier.

Schmetz Universal Needles


Sewing machine needles come in a range of sizes: 8-20 (these are the American sizes) and 60-120 (these are the European sizes). An American 8 is the same as a European 60; 10 is the same as 70; 12 is the same as 80; etc. 8/60 are the smallest and 20/120 are the largest. Generally speaking, the thinner and finer your fabric, the smaller the needle you will choose. The heavier your fabric, the larger the needle size you will need. For instance, when working with a fine chiffon you would choose a small needle such as an 8/60. When working with a heavy upholstery fabric, you would choose a larger needle size like 20/120.


The next step in choosing the right needle is to look at what kind of project you are doing and what kind of fabric you are sewing on.

  • Are you working on machine embroidery? Choose an embroidery needle.
  • Quilting? Choose a quilting needle.
  • Sewing denim? Choose a denim needle.
  • Working with leather? There’s a leather needle for that!
  • Topstitching? Pick up a topstitch needle for professional looking results.
  • Sewing elastic or fabrics with a lot of stretch? Choose a stretch needle.
  • Working with knits or woven fabrics? Go for a universal or a jersey/ballpoint needle.
  • Microtex/sharp needles have a few very different uses. They are very sharp and are great for fine fabrics like silk and chiffon, but are also the right needle for microfiber and faux leather. They are also good for quilting because their sharp points allow for very straight stitches.


The thread you are using also affects your needle choice, however, if you choose your needle based on the project you generally don’t have to worry about it. For instance, embroidery needles have a larger eye to make sure that specialty embroidery threads don’t fray. Topstitching needles also have a larger eye to allow for the heavier threads you may use.

For more a more in-depth look at choosing the right needle, have a look at the Schmetz Needles website.

What are your favourite tips for choosing the right needle?

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