Have you given much thought to your sewing machine needles lately?  


That's what we thought.  


LISTEN UP, QUILTERS!  Your sewing machine needle is VERY IMPORTANT!   We mean it's CRITICAL!  VITALl!!!   IT'S BIG, BIG, BIG!!!!  It can make or BREAK your sewing.  Yes, it can.



 That's okay.   When you know better, you do better.







First things first.  Please remember to change your sewing machine needle often!  The tip of the needle becomes dull with use, and believe it or not, abrasions can occur over time which will also have a negative effect on your sewing machine needle, your sewing machine and, therefore, your sewing.


Sally Hickerson from Threads Magazine Issue # 91 recommends changing your needle for every four hours of sewing.    Here is what she has to say....

"I recommend replacing the needle after every four hours of sewing time. When you sew, the needle passes through the fabric thousands of times per minute, and each time it does two things: It makes a hole in the fabric for the thread to glide through, and it forms a loop with the thread to make the actual stitch. The bobbin hook picks up this loop by moving just .05 mm or less behind the needle- about the thickness of a piece of paper- so if the needle becomes bent or dull, you may get skipped stitches, broken or looped threads, runs and pulls in the fabric, or even damage to your machine." 


Remember that's "sewing time" QUILTERS!   Do not fret because Sally is not referring to sipping-tea and chatting-in-between-stitching time.    FOUR HOURS OF SEWING TIME!    You be the judge!


Now, let's talk just a little bit about types of needles and sizes.   Just a wee bit of information, okay?



 We know... we know.   Too much information all at once can be lost.




Do you ever wonder what the words and numbers mean on the front of your sewing machine needle package?   The good folks at Schmetz have broken that down for you.


Let's start from the bottom of the package and work our way up:

  • Size:  Needle size is ALWAYS found at the bottom of the package no matter the manufacturer.  Both the metric (European) and  American (Singer) size designation will ALWAYS be shown no matter the manufacturer.
  • Needle System:  130/705 H is the needle system used by nearly all home sewing machines.  130/705 refers to a needle with a flat shank.  The H refers to a German word, Hohlkehle,  that translates to scarf or groove.  So 130/705 H is a flat shank needle with a scarf.  All brands of home sewing machines use system 130/705 H - Baby Lock, Bernina, Brother, Elna, Husqvarna Viking, Janome, Juki, Pfaff, White and more.
  • Needle System:  15x1 H is a cross-reference to needle system 130/705 H.  The two needle systems - 130/705 H and 15x1 H are equivalent, same needle anatomy- a flat shank with a scarf.  Same needle, different manufacturer. 
  • Needle Type:  There are 16 needle types for your home sewing machine.  The above photo shows a package of Universal needles containing 3 different sizes.   Examples of other "needle types" would be Microtex, Denim or Jean, Ball Point (Jersey or Knit), and on it goes, but we're not going to go there today.

Now with all that fancy pants lingo of "scarf" and "flat shank" flying about, it's time to get a lesson on the anatomy of a sewing machine needle.  AND GUESS WHAT?  The good folks at Schmetz have provided us with a perfect picture.


Now, the "scarf" is not shown as such.   But trust us.   The scarf is also known as the "groove". 

Delving a little bit further into Needle Size (remember, that's the number shown at the bottom of the package), has a chart that you may find very helpful.  The words  "lightest" and "heaviest" are referring to weights of fabric on which you would be sewing.



How do they come up with the number designating needle size?   It is indeed a true measurement.  

The number metric, also referred to as "NM" (European) is the diametre of the needle blade in hundredths of a millimetre measured above the scarf or groove.   For example, if the blade diametre of the sewing machine needle is .80 mm then the needle is a size NM 80 or "size 80" for ease of reference.


Don't worry yourself about the American measurement of "12" that always corresponds with the size NM 80 which is shown on the needle package as "80/12".   That is merely the Singer or US American needle size corresponding to the metric measurement.   In the 1940's the two systems merged and are both recognized today.


Pretty cool stuff when you think about how small a measurement is involved.   It really is a science.   The finer the fabric, the smaller the size of needle should be used


That's probably enough for today.



We recommend a Universal needle type and a 70/10, 80/12 or 90/14 will work just fine.  For general piecing and basic sewing with 100% cotton I always seem to prefer the 80/12.


It may sound silly, but you've invested a lot of money into your fabric and your sewing machine.   Changing your needle often and using the right needle will only protect that investment.   Make no mistake about it.  Using a dull, scratched or ever so slightly bent needle WILL be damaging your sewing machine.  ALWAYS KEEP A COUPLE OF BRAND NEW NEEDLES HANDY!   ALWAYS!  It is such a small price to pay in order to ensure that your hours spent quilting are happy and productive ending with the best results possible.   Very important indeed!!!