Sewing Needles: styles and sizes

Numbers and letters and brands, oh my! Sometimes it seems like choosing a sewing needle is more hassle than choosing fabric and notions. Here is some information to make the choice easier. Remember, and using the right needle for the right fabric can make a difference in how your machine sews. Plus, needles are cheap and having a new, sharp one in the machine is an easy enough maintenance task.

Hand sewing needles:

A "sharp" has a sharper tip (really!) and is used to piece. The larger the number the smaller and thinner the needle. I like #10, because they go through the fabric layers so much easier. I use larger (smaller numbers) for things like buttons and embroidery.

A "between" has a less sharp tip and is used for quilting. You want to go through the weave of the fibers, not through the individual threads. Again, larger # is smaller and finer needle. Again, I like them tiny so they go through the layers better.

Machine sewing needles:

Machine needle manufacturers use a slightly different numbering system, though. Singer likes to use designations like 70/10 and 90/14 for no reason I can ascertain. Other manufacturers don't. Schmetz has a slightly different numbering system, which leads me to believe it's a model number they're using in conjunction with size. Some manufacturers use only the size numbers.

The letters: (refers to type of point or eye)
H: universal, all purpose, general sewing
HS: stretch fabrics
HSUY: heavy stretch fabrics, elastics
HJ: denim
HM: delicates, silks, microfibers
N: topstitching, novelty threads
HE: embroidery, novelty threads
HQ: quilting --also piecing
RH: basting, long stitches
HLL: leather

However, Singer doesn't use the letter system, they color code their shanks instead....

Reasons why needles break:

You have a poor quality needle -- use good quality polished steel needles.

Pulling the fabric as you sewed -- puts stress on the needle and bends it out of place.

The needle is in wrong -- check your manual and make sure it is inserted properly.

The needle is too delicate for the fabric -- use heavy-gauge needles for sewing heavier fabrics like denim or leather.

You hit a pin -- if possible, don't sew over pins. Pin so they don't pass through the presser foot.

The presser foot is loose -- will cause the needle to hit the foot and bend. There should be a screw you can tighten the foot with.

The needle plate is loose -- make sure it is secured tightly, and in the corrct place for the needle to pass through.



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