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What Size Sewing Machine Needle To Use For Different Fabrics

Updated on February 16, 2012

Choose a needle appropriate for the fabric.

Sewing machine. Image courtesy of Markus Schweiss, through a Creative Commons License.
Sewing machine. Image courtesy of Markus Schweiss, through a Creative Commons License.

About Sewing Machine Needles

There are many different types of sewing machine needles, not including the twin needles for decorative works. The different needles have corresponding numbers, and they differ from country to country. In Europe the numbering is 65 to 110, and American numbering is 9 to 18. Japanese needle numbering corresponds to the American system.

Determining the needle size has everything to do with what is being sewn. Fabrics that are light, such as silk, crepe and muslin will work well with low numbered needles. Fabrics that are heavyweight, such as heavy woolens, upholstery and leathers need a higher number to sew effectively through the material.

Needle Sizes and Suggested Thread for Different Fabrics

Ultra-lightweight fabrics, such as silk, muslin, some thin knits and interlocks, crepes, calico cottons

  • Needle Size: 9 – 11 or 65 - 75
  • Thread: Lightweight cotton, polyester or nylon thread

Medium-weight fabrics, such as satin, light woolens, general sewing cottons for quilts and garments

  • Needle Size: 12 or 80
  • Thread: General thread

Heavier medium-weight fabrics, such as denim, duck, terrycloth, woolens, and other cottons or natural fabrics

  • Needle Size: 14 or 90
  • Thread: General Thread

Heavyweight fabrics, such as canvas, quilted and prefabricated fabrics, light upholstery fabric, heavy denim

  • Needle Size: 16 or 100
  • Thread: General thread

Heavy fabrics, such as leather, vinyl, heavy woolens, upholstery weight fabrics

  • Needle Size: 18 or 110
  • Thread: Heavy duty thread

Leather, imitation leather and vinyl

  • Needle Size: Leather needles in assorted sizes. These will leave smaller holes in the fabric than the other larger needles.
  • Thread: Heavy duty thread

Knits for sweaters and swimsuits

  • Needle Size: Ball point needle. This helps to push the interlock strands aside when sewing.
  • Thread: General or specialty thread

Polyester and knit blends, interlock, tricot, single and double knits

  • Needle Size: Semi-ball point needle. Scarfed semi-ball point needle.
  • Thread: General or specialty thread


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