Home Community Which Sewing Machine Needle to Use?

Which Sewing Machine Needle to Use?

by Sarah

When I first began sewing, I underestimated the importance of proper sewing needle use. I figured I could use the needle that came with my machine for all projects until it broke, right? Wrong! Using the correct needle and frequently changing the needle makes ALL the difference. Think of it like this, you wouldn’t use a wrench to hammer in a nail. It’s not the proper tool for the job. Sewing needles are the same way. You need to match the needle with the project.

As with any other tool, sewing needles will eventually wear out. The rule of thumb is to change your needle every 4 to 8 hours of sewing. For great quality needles, you may be able to go longer. For poor quality, best to change every project. Personally, I don’t keep a timer on my needles, so I pay more attention to how it sews. For instance, if I see skipped stitches, bunching, snagging, or anything other than a perfect stitch, I’ll change the needle. Knowing you are using the correct needle is just one less variable to worry about.

Let’s get to know what kind of needles are out there.

Universal – The point is slightly rounded for knits, but sharp enough to pierce wovens. Although a Universal needle can technically be used on knits, I’ve found it to be most effective with wovens, especially cotton.
Ballpoint – The choice needle for knits. It’s rounded slightly to pass between the fabric threads rather than pierce them. Works well on heavy knits as well and won’t damage spandex.
Quilting – The tapered point is designed for thick layers and intersecting seams. This is the best choice for perfect machine quilting. Quilting Needles can also be used for piecing.
Sharp – This needle has a sharp point and narrow shaft for piercing wovens.  Works best on finely woven fabric like chintz, silk, light weight faux suede, and micofiber. Also great for heirloom sewing or any other type of topstitching.
Leather – This wedge shaped point is idea for sewing leather, suede, vinyl, heavy faux suede, and thick non-woven fabric. Pay close attention to where you sew; this needle will leave permanent holes. To avoid perforating the fabric, do not backstitch. Instead, tie the thread ends. Not for use with knits.
Denim – Denim Needles have a sharp point and strong shaft. These needles can stitch through many layers without breaking. Use on heavy, tightly woven fabric, like denim, canvas, and duck.
Topstitching – The extra large eye, large groove, and sharp point make it perfect for heavy decorative threads, like embroidery thread, or 2even two strands of all purpose thread. Use this needle anytime you have stitches visible on the outside of your project for a neat, clean look.
Stretch – Stretch Needles are designed for fine, light weight knits. Use when sewing Silk Jersey, Lycra, or anything with high elasticity. If you experience skipped stitches will a ballpoint needle, switch to a stretch needle.
Serger – These durable needles are specifically designed for Overlock machines. The sharp point gives it versatility for use on all fabrics. These needles are sized differently than conventional sewing machine needles. Check your manual for the correct needle. Change your serger needle after 15 hours of serging.
Embroidery – These are great machine embroidery and when sewing with Rayon, Acrylic, or specialty threads. The scarf of the needle protects the thread from fraying or breaking during high speeds.
Metallic – Monofilament and metallic thread work best with this needle because of the extra large eye. large groove scarf, and sharp point. This needle must be used when sewing metallic thread.
Wing – Just as in the name, it has flared ‘wings’ on each side of the shaft. Great for heirloom and decorative stitches, especially for batiste and linen. Some heirloom stitching can only be accomplished properly with a Winged Needle.
Twin – This ‘needle’ has a single shaft connecting two needles. This is often used when a sewist wants two perfectly matching stitches, commonly seam on jeans and decorative stitching. The users sewing machine must be twin needle capable, as you need two separate thread spools. Available in Denim, Stretch, Embroidery, Metallic, and Universal. Can also have one Winged needle and the other Universal.
Triple – This needle only comes as a universal needle. Just like the Twin needle, the Triple needle has a single shaft connecting three needles. Machine must be Triple needle capable.

– This needle is most commonly used for free motion sewing, embroidery, and monogramming. the wire coiled shaft acts as a presser foot to depress and release the fabric. Only available in universal, stretch, and quilting.
Self Threading – This is a general purpose needle just like the universal, however the eye is enlarged to assist sewists whom have difficulty threading needles.

Understanding the Sizes

So you’re ready to purchase your needles, but what do the numbers mean? There are two sizes, the American size and the European size with a ‘/’ separating the numbers. The larger number is European sizing and the smaller number is American sizing. The size needle you need depends on the weight of your fabric. Think of it like this, a size 70/10 needle is for fine fabrics and the strength or the shaft and point are designed as such. If you use a 70/10 needle to sew two pieces of denim, chances are that needle will be out of service very quickly. Let’s look at some general guidelines:

60/8 – For the most lightweight fabrics, like Organza, Chiffon, or Georgette.

70/10 – Light weight polyester or Silk, like you would use on a light blouse.

80/12 – Most Commonly Used – Cotton, Rayon, blends.

90/14 – Mid-heavy fabrics, like Corduroy, raw Silks, bottom weight fabric.

100/16 – Heavy fabrics, like Denim and Duck Cloth.

110/18 –  For Very Heavy Fabric, like Canvas or tapestry.

120/19 – Heaviest Fabrics, like luggage handles and boat canvas.

Not sure about the right needle for your project? Leave us a message in the comment section below and we’ll help you find it!

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Cat October 3, 2020 - 2:33 pm

Hi, I just picked up some twill bengaline fabric. It has a little bit of vertical stretch. No horizontal stretch. I’m not sure if I use a ball point needle. A universal needle?

JANET December 17, 2020 - 7:14 am

Hi please can you help writing from Nigeria.
I purchased a mini sewing machine size 19cm x 9cm x 19cm the need broke and I have purchased different needle of 90/40 shaped at side it’s not working. What can I do I really need your help.

CustomerService December 18, 2020 - 11:23 am

Hi Janet! What is the make and model of that machine? Once I have that information, I would be happy to assist you!

Frances March 3, 2021 - 3:00 pm

Batik material – what size needle?

CustomerService March 5, 2021 - 1:05 pm

Size 10 is recommended when sewing Batik material.

Thais Fernandes February 5, 2020 - 10:13 am

I have a Brother XL-2600i. I’ll be sewing marine vinyl to redo the upholstery of my boat. What kind of twin needle should I use? And what kind of thread would go along with the needle? Usually they are thicker, and designed to handle the weather, but I’m not sure which one would work for this job.
Thank you!

CustomerService February 6, 2020 - 3:32 pm

Hello Thais!

I suggest checking with Brother to confirm your machine can handle this type of project. I would hate for it to get damaged.

Jessica Ryder August 16, 2020 - 8:00 pm

I bought some petal signature cotton fabric to use for the pet bandanas I make, but the fabric is quite tough. I’m having trouble finding the right settings/needle with my machine. Brother XM2701. Any advice would be super helpful!

Karen Ivanochko August 25, 2020 - 2:46 am

Is there a Stretch Twin Needle for a Bernina 950 Industrial?

CustomerService August 25, 2020 - 11:59 am

Hello Karen,
Unfortunately, we do not have a stretch twin needle for a Bernina 950.

Beatrix Filmalter December 13, 2019 - 8:18 am

Good day, What needle must I use on normal curtain materials.

CustomerService December 18, 2019 - 4:25 pm

Hello Beatrix! In order to advise you, please contact us with your make and model of your machine and we will be happy to make some recommendations. Our number is 888-824-1192.

Kim February 1, 2020 - 8:43 pm

What type needle should I use to repair thick nylon ski pants?

CustomerService February 6, 2020 - 12:57 pm

Hello Kim!

Microtex needles work great on nylon!

Christine HASHIM October 13, 2020 - 6:19 pm

I have a singer 31K15 industrial machine. I need to sew double duck using a heavy linen thread, please could you tell me which type of needle I should use.

Marie Gross November 9, 2019 - 2:33 pm

Hi there,

What size/kind of needle should I use of I’m sewing a name patch on a 100% NYLON gym bag?

CustomerService November 14, 2019 - 1:21 pm

Hello Marie!

Per Schmetz, when sewing nylon, it is recommended to use a Universal or Microtex needle. Size 14 would be a great option to start with; however, if it is heavy nylon, you may benefit from a size 16.

SANDRA J CROW October 7, 2019 - 12:23 am


CustomerService October 10, 2019 - 8:12 am

Hello Sandra! We appreciate you reaching out to us. I am sorry to report, I too, was unable to pull up any manuals with that brand. I suggest bringing it to a local technician. Maybe they could try a variety and find you something through trial and error. I am sorry I did not have any information for you.

Delva Shivers November 13, 2019 - 1:24 pm

I would like to take up some leather pants but don’t know what size needle to use.

CustomerService November 19, 2019 - 10:14 am

Hello Delva!

To better assist you, please call us with your make and model of your machine. Once we have that information, we will be able to give you a recommendation. Our number is 888-824-1192.

Adriana H November 20, 2019 - 3:50 am

Hello I hace a GK357B stretch sewing machine and I would like to know what type of neddle should I buy for it. I would appreciate your answer . Thank you

Stephen King September 23, 2019 - 3:00 pm

I am looking for the right size needle to fit a CB3-B917-1 brother button machine?

CustomerService September 27, 2019 - 9:08 am

Hello Stephen!
According to the manual for your machine, it is indicating it takes a TQx1 needle- size 16.
(29S and TQx1 are equivalent needles)
I hope this helps!

Paula September 7, 2019 - 4:06 pm

Hi, love this article about needles…i have an old kenmore model 385 1884180 & would like to know if i van use a tein needle on it…there is nothing in the manual regarding twin needles. Tku

CustomerService September 18, 2019 - 10:06 am

Hello Paula!

I am showing that the following twin needle is noted for your machine:

Have a great day.

Emily August 21, 2019 - 10:07 pm

Hello, I would like to ask a question about what size and type of needle to use when sewing 100% Polyester ribbon on to 100% Polyester webbing. The machine I use is a New Home Memory Craft 5500. Thank You

CustomerService August 30, 2019 - 8:25 am

Hello Emily!

A Microtex needle is recommended on the material you are sewing. Compatible needles for your machine can be found via the link:

Lucy S August 17, 2019 - 1:26 pm

Hi, you’re site is so helpful! I am also sewing with Rigilene onto a cotton/polyester fabric. My machine is a Pfaff Tiptronic 1171. What kind of needle would I use? I read the Threads article and understand that I will need to sew the Rigilene along the sides.

CustomerService August 29, 2019 - 4:15 pm

Hello Lucy!
Thank you for contacting us.
I believe a Microtex would work well for you. A compatible option can be found via the link: https://www.sewingpartsonline.com/schmetz-microtex-chrome-needles.aspx?

Mel Townsend August 6, 2019 - 9:58 am

Thanks for your anticipated Help. I have a Singer 45 and I’m using Nel 18/4 thread for leatherwork what Needle do you recommend, I’m using Schmetz NM:160 Size:23 at present but not sure this is correct.

CustomerService August 29, 2019 - 4:22 pm

Hello Mel,

I have been unable to pull up a manual for your machine. This is where the needle information is listed. If possible, can you email a picture of an old package of needles that you are currently using? Our email is info@sewingpartsonline.com. Thank you!

Mel Townsend August 6, 2019 - 9:49 am

Thanks for your anticipated help. I have a Singer 45 sewing machine and NeL18/4 thread, what size needle do you recommend please. It’s for leather work.

CustomerService August 19, 2019 - 8:01 am

Hello Mel! Thank you for contacting us. I have been unable to locate a manual for your machine (this is where the needle system is mentioned). I suggest contacting the manufacturer. They may be able to assist you further. We appreciate you reaching out to us.

Steve Bear July 28, 2019 - 2:59 am

What an amazing site you have! I have a Juki DDL-8700. Is it possible to sew heavy nylon webbing? I want to make a cargo net but not sure if this machine is heavy enough. What needle /thread combinations should I try? Thanks so much!

CustomerService August 6, 2019 - 12:09 pm

Hello Steve!
Your machine should be able to handle this type of project nicely.
Needle and thread suggestion can be seen via the links:

Danielle C O'Brien July 3, 2019 - 2:57 am

Hi there,

I have a 2003 Singer overlock model 14T948DS. Im having a hell of a time trying to figure out why my mechanic (whose serviced it before and never informed me of) insists i was using the wrong needles. THIS WHOLE TIME-why this confused me alot I trusted her advice and started using ORGAN DB x 1 90/14 needles (which are round at the shaft) Im pretty sure they are for an industrial overlock. now im struggling for an answer regarding what the manual suggests (2020/14 needle system) which i had always used whatever needle that had a shaft with a flat side. Im trying to figure out why she would suggest a DB needle, why not a DP needle, why not just a regular sewing needle and what in the world is a 2020/14?! Its been a reliable work horse since 2003, bought new. Im feeling like my mechanic is messing with me. HELP!

CustomerService July 9, 2019 - 9:21 am

Hello Danielle! I am sorry for your frustration. I am unable to speak for your technician; however, our records indicate that your machine takes a universal needle.
As for the sizing, the lower the number, the lighter the fabric you are using; the higher the number, the thicker the fabric. Size 14 is probably the most common.

Maurice Poor June 27, 2019 - 4:05 am

Kindly recommend sewing needles for BROTHER GS2700. I use it for everyday, general sewing tasks.

CustomerService July 2, 2019 - 10:57 am

Hello Maurice! Your machine takes a 15×1 needle. We offer a variety of needles in this system. Compatible options for your machine can be viewed via the link: https://www.sewingpartsonline.com/brother-gs2700-sewing-machine-parts.aspx?filter.ptype_gmcfeed_1=%20Machine%20Needles&sort.ss_cat_sort=desc&index=1

Barbara June 5, 2019 - 9:04 pm

Can I sew sunbrella fabric on a Viking Emerald 116 machine? If so what needle and thread number. Thank you!

CustomerService June 21, 2019 - 8:53 am

Sewing a heavier fabric like Sunbrella can damage a machine, so before working with it, I would suggest contacting the manufacturer to see if they believe your machine could handle it.

Jodie June 5, 2019 - 7:31 pm

I’m confused by the different denim needles! I’ve always just used Schmetz 100/16 but when I was looking at Schmetz needles online today, I saw 70/10, 80/12, 90/14, 110/18 and 4.0/100 as well! Now I don’t know if I’m using the right size, lol. I generally sew through 2 layers of denim but it can be as much as 4 to 6 when going over seams or even 8 when doing handles for bags

CustomerService June 6, 2019 - 3:12 pm

The lower the number, the lighter the fabric; the higher the number, the heavier the fabric. Generally, with denim, you will use a 16 or higher (unless it is very light denim).

I hope this helps.

Wendy Ambriz May 24, 2019 - 6:49 pm

I am sewing woven polypropylene material to make reusable bags. what needle should I use, and what thread? I don’t know if it matters what sewing machine I am using or not, but I have a Brother LX2763. I am sorta new to sewing and am still trying to figure out everything. I had no idea there were this many types of needles and so many different types of thread! I am feeling a little overwhelmed….

CustomerService May 30, 2019 - 10:45 am

Your machine takes a universal needle (130/705H). When sewing on woven material, a good needle option is a Microtex: https://www.sewingpartsonline.com/microtex-sharp-needles-schmetz-5-pack.aspx?
As for thread, that would be a preference; however, I prefer a good quality cotton thread. You can view what we offer via the link: https://www.sewingpartsonline.com/sewing-and-serger-thread.aspx?filter.fabricmaterial=Egyptian%20Cotton&filter.fabricmaterial=Cotton
I hope this helps!

Marianne Campbell June 10, 2019 - 10:41 pm

Hi I am sewing canvass reenactment tents in 10.5 or 12 ounce. So what type of needle should I use and can a regular sewing machine handle that type of fabric.Many thanks

CustomerService June 14, 2019 - 3:44 pm

When sewing canvas, it is generally not recommended to use a home machine for a thicker canvas. I recommend speaking with the manufacturer of your machine and they will be able to tell you what your machine is capable of. As for needles, please contact us at 888-824-1192 with your make and model of your machine and we will be happy to look that up for you.

Vanessa O Russell May 21, 2019 - 12:11 am

Hi there. I am not great at sewing (understatement!) and am crocheting these little tiny sweaters for orphaned kittens. I have to sew velcro strips in several places to close the sweaters but its just not going well. When I get done sewing I look at the underside and it is a mess! Like two feet of thread just hanging and wound up between all the stitches. What size needle should I be using ? I am using a Brother LS-2000 machine and I believe the needle in it is the one that came with the machine (I got it secondhand.) Any other tips as well for sewing velcro onto yarn sweaters?