Sewing 101: Choosing the Right Needle

Using the wrong needle can make your sewing life a living hell. If your machine is skipping stitches or creating a lovely ball of thread on the underside of the fabric when you try to sew, and you’ve tried replacing the needle with a new one, it may be the wrong type of needle.needles

Universal needles are intended for most sewing projects. They work well with woven fabrics.

If you are working with knits, you should use ballpoint needles. They have a rounder edge than universal needles, which prevents the needle from snagging or cutting the fabric.

There are other kinds of specialty needles besides ballpoint. For example, there are special needles for sewing leather (made to make holes that close up on themselves) and denim (made to sew through many layers of thick fabric).

Most needle packages are marked with two sizes. The higher number is the European size. The lower number is the American size.

Here’s a quick guide with a list of some common types of fabric for each weight and the corresponding appropriate needle size.

Weight/Type of Fabric
Needle Size (American)
Very Lightweight (chiffon, voile, organza, silk, etc.)
8 or 9
Lightweight (tricot, lightweight lycra, taffeta, etc.)
9, 10, 11
Medium-weight (muslin, broadcloth, flannel, most knits and jerseys, wool, satin, etc.)
12 or 14
Heavyweight (tweed, twill, sweatshirt fleece, fleece, etc.)
14 or 16
Very Heavyweight (denim, duck cloth, canvas, heavy upholstery/home dec fabrics, etc.)
16 or 18


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