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Sewing Needle Guide - by DeLois C Weldon

Now that you have a sewing machine, we need to consider the needles that you may need to use. The manufacturers use a numbering system for their needles. They use a letter to categorize the needles, and fabrics, and are symbolized by the letter.


Here is a handy guide:


1. H: universal, all-purpose, general sewing (Singer regular point style 2020)
2. HS: stretch fabrics (Singer ball point style 2045)
3. HSUY: heavy stretch fabrics, elastics
4. HJ: denim (Singer style 2026)
5. HM: delicates, silks, microfibers
6. N: topstitching, novelty threads
7. HE: embroidery, novelty threads (Singer chromium regular point style 2001)
8. HQ: quilting, also piecing
9. RH: basting, long stitches
10. HLL: leather (Singer wedge-point needle style 2032)


Here are the seven reasons why machine needles break:

1. Poor quality. Use good-quality, polished steel needles.
2. Installation of needle incorrect. The manual will instruct you on installing the needle.
3. Wrong fabric used. Heavy gauge needles for heavier fabrics like denim or leather.
4. Don't pull fabric. This puts stress on the needle and bends it out of place.
5. Hitting a pin. Don't sew over pins, remove them as you sew.
6. Loose presser foot. This will cause the needle to hit the foot and bend. Always tighten the foot screw.
7. Loose needle plate. Secure tightly and in the correct place for needle to pass through.


Machine Sewing Needles


Machine needles are bought in groups per pack:

  • Ball point, sizes 9-11-14-16;
  • Standard point sizes 9-11-14-16;
  • Heavy duty sizes 11-14-16.


The lower the number the finer the needle and the higher the number the larger the needle.  Rule of thumb, the lighter the fabric the smaller the needle size and heavy fabrics use the larger needle size.   Also, small delicate thread uses the smaller needle. Your machine will come with several needles and it is wise to know which needle to use on the fabric you are sewing.





Hand Sewing Needles


The hand sewing needles come in all shapes and sizes. There are a few general rules to help you pick the right needle for the job. Sharps are used to cut through fabric without tearing or ripping the fabric. Blunts are used with loose or wide weaves or canvas so that you will not snag the fabric. The smaller the needle, the smaller the stitch you will be able to sew. Hand-sewing needles are assigned numbers for the different sizes available; the smaller this number, the larger the needle.


Hand Sewing Needle types:


  • Sharps: they are medium-length with small, rounded eyes. Used for applique quilting and all-purpose hand-sewing needle.
  • Between: these needles are small round eyes for fine quilting and detailed handwork.
  • Chenille: these are for tightly woven fabrics, because they have a long, large eye and a thick shaft. Also for silk ribbon embroidery.
  • Tapestry: These have blunt tips and long eyes. Used for cross-stitch, needlepoint and are ideal to teach young children to sew.
  • Embroidery/Crewel: These are used for smocking stitches or all types of embroidery and crewel work. These sharp needles have long, oval eyes accommodate yarn and embroidery floss.
  • Beading: These are used to pick up several beads or seed pearls at a time before attaching to the project. They are long and fine with small round eyes.
  • Long Darners: These are used for smocking; their large eye and long shaft make the stitches line up perfectly.
  • Leather: These have a three-sided chisel point to easily pierce through leather and suede.
  • Trapunto: These are long, blunt to slide yarn or cord in sewn channels in clothing and quilts.
  • Doll Needles: They are very long and sharp. They vary from 7-15 inches. Great for sewing on eyes, and working through the body.


The brand of hand sewing needles I use are Dritz. They come several to a pack, and are not too expensive.


Delois Weldon is the owner of





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Comment by Wandie Garren Williams on July 30, 2012 at 8:31pm

this is great information

Comment by Carol on July 30, 2012 at 10:36am

WOW...this is fabulous information.  I often question myself on which needle to use on which fabric.  I am going to print it out and keep it with all my important sewing information.  Thank you ever so much.

Comment by Kris on July 30, 2012 at 10:20am

DeLois - I just posted a link to this great post on the Sewing Friends group on Yahoo.  I hope that was OK.  If not, let me know and I'll remove it. Kris Curtis


Comment by Londa Rohlfing on July 30, 2012 at 9:51am

Also - a regular sewing machine needle only lasts 8 hours!  For longer lasting - like 6 times longer, use Titanium coated needles. 

I recommend any and all videos on You-Tube by Bob Purcell from Superior Threads on this topic as well. 

I use Stretch needles on my knits.  I can't discern any difference between them and 'jersey' needles, and even when asking questions of Schmetz representative, got no real answers.  Ballpoint are really for girdle type materials. 

Additionally, I have some information on this topic in the Free Info area at my site.  Here is a link:

Comment by Karen on July 30, 2012 at 9:09am

Very useful, may try and print it off for reference, thanks.

Comment by Betty Creel on July 30, 2012 at 8:44am

love it...thanks...

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