What are the sewing machine needle sizes? (Quick guide)

When using a sewing machine, there are a few specifications you need to keep in mind depending on the project you are working on.

You need to think about the thread, the fabric you are using, and the size of the needle, which can make a whole difference on the final results.

However, we need the information to determine which decisions to make based on these data. Let’s see which are the sewing machine needle sizes and what they are used for.

What sewing machine needle sizes can you find?

The first thing we need to know is which machine sewing needle sizes are there on the market. There are two different measuring units, one of them is American, and the other, European. Take a look at these sewing machine needle chart:

Here you can see the equivalences between both measuring systems. In both cases, the lower the number, the thinner the needle.

It is recommended to use a thinner needle when working with lightweight fabric to avoid damaging the textile, and thicker needles for stronger fabric.

Let’s take a quick look at which type of needles are used for different kinds of fabric:

1 – Fine needles

The thinnest needles, ranging from 8 to 11 in the American chart, can be used for lightweight fabric, such as Gauze, crepe, chiffon and tulle, and other fine textiles that require a careful seam, like silk, voile, tricot, net and lace.

2- Medium needles

Going up the scale, medium needles from 12 and 14 are used for medium-weight fabrics like those used for everyday clothes, like cotton, polyester, rayon, linen or even thin denim.

In case you are using your sewing machine for a common use like making t-shirts, blouses or dresses, you can keep a single 10 needle, which is a medium size that can be quite versatile for the most common types of fabric.

3- Thick needles

These needles are stronger and more resistant, so they are ideal for heavy-weight types of fabric like heavy denim, tweed, canvas, velvet, corduroy, and even heavier ones, like upholstery fabric or leather.

Depending on how strong the fabric is, you may need to use a thick needle like a 14, or 16, or go as thick as 18.

In case you are not sure what type of sewing machine needles you need for the type of fabric you are using, we recommend using a medium needle, and usually going a little thicker than you think.

Using a needle that is too thin can be more troublesome than using a thicker one.

What happens if I don’t change my needles?

The most common result of not changing your needles according to the project you are working on is that the needle can break. This happens especially when using a needle that is too thin for the fabric.

For example, if you are using a number 11 needle with heavy denim, the needle will break or might not even pierce through the fabric.

Besides, if you are using a thin needle with a medium-weight fabric, for example cotton or polyester, the needle might not go between the woven fibers but break them, which can create holes in the piece.

The same can happen if you use a needle that is too thick, as it may damage the fibers if the fabric is too fine.

Other types of needles you can find

Beyond the size of the needle, there are other types of sewing machine needles you can use depending on your projects.

One of the special kinds of needle is the ball point. This needle is used for knit fabrics, and the ball point allows the needle to pass through the woven fibers instead of piercing through them.

This allows the user to create a clean seam and to avoid fabric damage. In comparison, the ball point is smoother and milder with the fabric than a universal needle or, especially, than a sharp one.

sewing machine needle ball point

You may say “aren’t all needles sharp?” They are, but there is a special kind that is the sharpest, and it is used for the heaviest fabrics, like denim and leather, in particular, as there is no weaving the needle can pass through, but it can only pierce through the surface.

Besides different types of needles, you can also find bunches of double or triple needles. These are used for creating several seams along a surface in just one row of sewing.

At the same time, these allow you to create a neat separation between the lines you create. They can be very useful for decorative sewing, especially when sewing the borders of a tablecloth or napkins.

The only problem with twin or triple needles is the fact that your machine needs to meet some requisites for you to use them. The first thing you need to know is that only zig zag sewing machines can use this type of needle.

Besides, your machine needs two thread holders, as each of the needles needs its own thread source.

This means you don’t need to use the same color on both needles; you can combine them as you like. After that, there are some adjustments you can make to your machine to adapt it.

As you can see, there are quite a few things you might want to keep in mind if you are starting to sew.

The first thing you need to know is that there are different sewing machine needle sizes, but also the different types of points and even how many needles you want to use at once.

We hope after reading this quick guide you have a clearer view of the many options you can use for your future textile projects.