Sewing Machine Needle Guide for Quilters

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This Sewing Machine Needle Guide will help you through the maze of needle types you're confronted by in the quilt and sewing stores.

Confused about what size needle to get?—then go to Sewing Machine Needle Sizes.

Wonder which needle is best to use with your fabrics?

Read on and learn.

If you'd like to print this page for use at your sewing machine, simply use the 'Print' button found at the very end of this page. :)

Choose the Point Style

Always choose the point style (type of needle) based on the fabric you use in your quilt.

Meme: Friends don't let friends sew over pinsNeither the needle nor pin survived this encounter!

Ballpoint needles are for knits.

Because of this, we won't discuss ballpoint needles further.

Sharp needles with acute points are recommended for high thread count fabrics like batiks. pima cottons, and sateens.

Regular quilt store cottons are happy with about any type of needle in between.

Universal needles have an all purpose point that is just fine for piecing.

Needle Types

The needle types discussed here are all from the Schmetz line.

Schmetz makes a high quality sewing machine needle that is available at most quilt and big-box stores.

Schmetz color-coding guide for sewing machine needlesImage used with permission from Schmetz

Some machines use only their own proprietary needles (Singers come to mind), usually it's because the shaft is a slightly different length.

You would have been made aware of this when you bought your sewing machine, If you're unsure, check your instruction manual.

Color coding

Several years ago, Schmetz added a color-code to the shaft of the needle.

Those colors use for Needle Type (left side of image above) are included in each description below.

If you find yourself switching between needle types, i.e. you've sewn with a Universal for awhile, but now need a Metallic and there's still life in that Universal...

...may I suggest marking up a Tomato Pin Cushion with the different needle types and sizes—as you need them, of course—to keep them organized.

Use a Sharpie or Micron pen to label the areas. The green threads separate the different types.

Then always choose from your used 'needle cushion' as you need another type.

Embroidery

Point: Small ball point prevents damage when stitching through embroidered areas

Sizes: 75/11, 80/12, 90/14

Schmetz Color Code: Red

Designed for use with rayon and other specialty threads. It has a special scarf, a long smooth groove and large eye which protects fragile threads—like metallics and rayons—from excess friction and shredding.

Jeans/Denim

Point: Slim and acute

Sizes: 70/10, 80/12, 90/14, 100/16, 110/18

Schmetz Color Code: Blue

A strong, sharp needle with a reinforced blade. This needle is designed for use on tightly woven fabrics. Quilters also like it for high thread count fabrics like batiks and sateens.

How do you know when your needle needs changing—besides breaking it?

As you stitch, it makes a noticeable 'popping' sound as it pierces the layers.

Metallic

Point: Universal point

Sizes: 80/12, 90/14, 100/16

Schmetz Color Code: Pink

My absolute favorite needle to use with any 'princess' thread.

Metallic Needles have a universal or standard point and a large, elongated Teflon coated eye, a larger scarf and a larger groove to protect the more fragile metallic threads from breakage during stitch formation.

The eye is the same size (2mm just like the Topstitching needle) for all metallic needles.

The deep groove down the front protects delicate threads from shredding. The needle scarf is larger and designed to prevent skipped stitches.

This needle is well worth the extra price.

Stock up when they are on sale!

When I was first machine quilting, I used this needle (size 80/12) exclusively. I could change threads and not change my needle. It didn't break often or leave behind large holes.

An interesting little tidbit I found while researching this page...

As I corresponded with a Schmetz representative, a very helpful Paul Ragas, way back in 2009 I mentioned that I could have sworn 'Metallic' needles used to be called 'Metallica'. In fact, at that time, there were some packages in my needle stash—yes, a sewing machine needle stash is a thing! :) —with that name printed on them.

He told me the rock band Metallica had taken offsense and sent a Cease and Desist order demanding that Schmetz NOT use their name on this type of needle.

And Schmetz complied, changing the name to 'Metallic'...

...and changed the name on the existing needle packages (using white-out) to 'Metallic'.

So if there was ever white-out on your package of Metallic needles, now you know why!

Microtex Sharp

Point: Very slim and acute

Sizes: 60/8, 65/9, 70/10, 80/12, 90/14

Schmetz Color Code: Purple

A slim needle with a thin shaft. Produces a very small hole and less puckering.

It's my choice for any piecing.

The extremely sharp point makes for nice straight stitches. It is designed for microfibers (hence the 'micro' in the name) which makes it perfect for use on batiks, pima cottons, cotton sateens.

Use this needle for quilting with 100wt silk. Start with a 75/11 and work down to a 60/8.

Breaking needles?

Move up a size.

This is a thin needle, almost like quilting with a staple but the results are wonderful!

Because the point is so fine (which makes it fragile), be prepared to change this needle more often.

Quilting

Point: Slim, acute, slightly rounded

Sizes: 75/11, 80/12, 90/14

Schmetz Color Code: Green

Engineered for use in both piecing and machine quilting. The shaft is thin and tapered to smoothly pass through many layers of fabric.

The design keeps stitches nice, even and helps eliminate skipped stitches.

Topstitching

Point: Sharp, extra pointy

Sizes: 80/12, 90/14, 100/16

Schmetz Color Code: Turquoise

Topstitching needles have an extra pointy tip, a large groove for heavy topstitching threads, and an extra-large eye (2mm regardless of the needle size).

Helpful to use with decorative machine quilting threads that need some babying like metallics.

This needle comes in large sizes that are a bit too large for my taste. Larger needles leaves bigger holes. Match your needle to your chosen thread.

And no Sewing Machine Needle Guide would be complete without this last needle.

Universal

Point: Slightly rounded

Sizes: 60/8, 65/9, 70/10, 75/11, 80/12, 90/14, 100/16, 110/18, 120/19

Schmetz Color Code: None

A multi-purpose needle is especially good for the casual sewer who hems a skirt one day and repairing a tee shirt the next.

Do not use on high thread count fabrics or for stitching through many, many layers.

In a bind, go ahead and piece or quilt with this one, but there are better choices.

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