Needles 101: Part 1

Choosing the Right Size of Needle…

When choosing your needle size you need to consider many things.  Before choosing a needle think about the fabric that you will be sewing, the weight of thread that you are using and the technique you are doing. Needle choices will often be different for garment sewing, machine quilting and machine embroidery.

The point of the needle must be the correct shape to pierce the fabric easily without damaging the fibers. The shaft must be thick enough to go through your fabric without bending but create the smallest hole possible. If you create too large a hole can cause the fabric to tear or wear more quickly and will allow the thread to slip back up through the hole. This will cause poor tension when sewing or pin pricking when machine quilting.

The eye must be the correct size and shape to allow the thread to run smoothly without damaging it. If there is too small an eye it will cause abrasion to the thread causing it to shred and break. On the other hand, if the eye is too large an eye will cause the thread to bounce in the eye of the needle also causing it to shred and break. The groove down the front of your needle should be deep enough to allow your thread to ride smoothly inside to protect it from abrasion and give smooth stitching.

The scarf on the back allows the bobbin hook to loop your bobbin thread through the top thread to make a stitch. A needle that is too small or the wrong type can skip stitches because the scarf is not long or deep enough. Needle sizes range from 60/8 (smallest), to 120/20 (largest), the first number being the European size and the second number North American.

As a general rule, the smaller the thread and/or the finer the fabric, the smaller the needle. In contrast, the larger the thread and/or the heavier the fabric, the larger the needle.


The Correct Needle for the Job…

Each type of needle has been made for a particular job and is named accordingly. They each have different attributes that should be considered along with your fabric, thread and the type of stitching when choosing your needle.

The correct needle for the fabric, thread and technique you are sewing has a huge impact on how your sewing machine can sew. Good stitch quality and even stitching can only be achieved with the correct needle.

It is essential to change your needle often! The absolute maximum running time for a standard needle is eight hours under best conditions. The thread you are using, the type of fabric you are sewing, the condition of your machine and how you sew all effect the wear on your needle. A worn needle may have a blunted point, a worn eye or a worn shaft. A worn needle can cause broken or shredded thread, puckered fabric, damage to fabric, uneven stitching and skipped stitches.

I change my needle at the beginning of a new project or every six to eight hours for normal fabrics, every two to four hours for metallic or batik fabric.

However, the exception is a gold titanium needle. Titanium is much harder than chrome or stainless steel and the gold coating makes the needle slide easily through your fabric. These needles can be run up to six times longer.

You can tell that your needle needs changing by the way that your sewing machine is feeding and by the sound the needle makes when it pierces the fabric. A dull needle or one with an incorrect point will make a “tucka tucka” sound as it goes through the fabric.

Check out Schmetz Needles website –

Stay tuned for more needle information in the next blog!


Julie  Plotniko  



  1. Cathy Colvin says:

    Thank you so much for this great advice. I always used to try to use the same needle for everything.


  1. […] to piece your Mystery Quilt For detailed information on needles please see our previous Blog Post; Needles 101 from Feb 2014 and Needles 102 from April […]

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