Choosing the Right Needle

Using the correct needle for sewing is very important to the operation of the sewing machine and how it performs with fabrics. Check the sewing machine manual for the type of needle recommended to use. Some generic brands of sewing machine needles will fit most popular makes of sewing machines; refer to the needle package for that information. However, some brands of sewing machines recommend using only their brand of needles for the best performance possible of that sewing machine.

Some general guidelines when choosing thread include:

Needles come in different types and sizes:

The correct machine-needle size is determined by the weight of the fabric to be sewn. Refer to the “Selecting and Preparing Fabric for Sewing” lesson for fabric weight descriptions. The numbering system for needle sizes varies depending on the brand. Needles are produced in two numbering systems—the metric system (European system) and the American system. Numbering for both systems is usually listed on the machine needle packaging. In both the American and European systems, the smaller the number, the finer the needle; and the larger the number, the bigger the needle point. The following list details the needles that should be used for different types of fabrics:

Change your machine needle often, especially when sewing on synthetics. A new needle assures you of no needle damage to the fabric. A blunt or burred needle can damage your fabric and thread. Change needles after sewing two or three garments, or when needles break, bend, or become nicked, dull, or burred. Check the owner’s manual for instructions on replacing and threading needles. The following are general guidelines for changing machine needles:

  1. Before removing the old needle, look it over closely to determine which side the long groove is on and which side is the short groove.
  2. Replace the new needle with the long and short grooves in the same positions as with the old needle. For safety, place the old sewing needle in recycled pill bottle with its safety lid to prevent injury, and discard the bottle in the trash.
  3. Always thread the needle from the long grooved side to the short grooved side.

Hand sewing is also a part of constructing a sewn project and requires a hand-sewing needle. These needles come in a variety of sizes ranging from 1 (very coarse) to 10 (for very fine sewing). The sewing needles most commonly used in basic sewing are sharps and embroidery. Sharps are medium-length needles. Embroidery or crewel needles are different from sharps only in the size of the needle eye. Both are excellent for hand sewing.

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