The sewing machine needle

NinaWithFreckles - Sewing machine needles

The sewing machine needle has taken me by surprise. It seems very mundane, but what it can do is beginning to resemble science to me. There’s the size, the shape, and the type, all of which is nearly impossible to remember by heart.

If you switch between fabric weights often, it’s best to consult your sewing machine manual as well as online tables for suggestions how to pair a particular fabric with a particular needle, but for those of us, who might stick to quilting fabrics mostly, you can’t go wrong when picking a universal needle.

Some facts:

  • The needle has direction; the shank, which is placed in the sewing machine, has a flat side and a round side. Don’t use brute strength when trying to put the needle in place, but consult your manual.
  • Match the needle size (thickness) to the weight of the fabric or you risk creating see-through holes in the fabric when sewing. Use a needle just large enough for your fabric (consult a table online if there isn’t sufficient information in your manual).
  • The size is written on the shank.
  • Read more about needle anatomy here.

It is recommended to switch the needle after 6-10 hours of sewing, but I confess that just doesn’t happen on my machine. I’ve also read on more than one website to match thread weight to the size of the eye, as too large a thread will cause lint to build up. Conveniently enough, no source has said anything more about this particular topic, so I can’t pass on other than hearsay. There doesn’t seem to be any numbering system for the eye of the needle and hence the statement is confusing.

From the infographic and this short blog post you can see there’s much more to it, so I warmly recommend you to keep digging for more at your end. I’ve found a chart by Sewing & Craft Alliance to be useful, click on their website here and scroll down to chart 22.115 to download the pdf.


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