Guide to Sewing Machine Needles for the home dressmaker using a domestic sewing machine

Part Seven

If you are reading this and think, I don’t even know what kind of needle is in my sewing machine, never mind the last time it was changes, then you are not alone! It can be overwhelming working out the difference between all the needles you can get and I know a lot of people probably just stick with the same needle and hope for the best until they hit a problem or the needle breaks.

In this top sewing tips post I hope to make things a bit simpler to understand and get you into a good habit of changing your needle more regularly.

Check out my latest Youtube video to hear my chat about it all and see up close how to change the needle on the sewing machine. 

How to change the needle?

First  I’ll show you how to change the needle. I’m using a Brother Innovis VQ2 machine but on most domestic sewing machines it's going to be very similar. To the right of the needle there is a little knob that you can either twist with your fingers or if you are having trouble getting a good grip, your machine may come with a tool that allows you to turn it.

Once that is loosened the needle will drop out, so get ready to catch it with your left hand. When putting the new needle in, make sure that the flat bit of the shank is facing the back of the machine and push the needle upwards as far as you can. Tighten the little knob at the side really tightly to hold it in place. If you feel like you can’t get that much grip on it then use the little tool again to tighten it so that the needle doesn’t drop out when you are sewing.

When should I change the sewing machine needle?

  • You should change your needle roughly every 3-4 projects (depending on what they are) or when you start to notice problems with the stitch quality or the machine sounds funny.

  • If the needle is blunt the machine will make a louder noise when stitching as its really having to force through the fabric.

  • If you are noticing skipped stitches or are continuing to have tension problems despite checking everything else with the machine.

  • If you sew a bigger project or one that takes a long time with a really thick fabric. Sewing thick bulky seams can sometimes very slightly bend the needle so even if its still sharp it might not form the stitches properly.

  • If you are sewing with a specialised type of fabric. Below I’ll explain what all the different needles are for and what fabric that are best suited too.

  • If you are sewing with a different thread - for example thick top stitch thread

What are the most common sewing machine needles for domestic machines?

This is the range of sewing needles from Prym that we stock in the shop. They are suitable for any domestic machine and all have a flat surface at the back of the needle. We do also have a round shank needle for older machines or some industrial machines.

The different types of needles typically come in a range of sizes and the general rule applies that the thinner or finer the fabric, the smaller the needle that you use.

Standard Universal - These are the most common needles you will use when dressmaking at home. They are suitable for a wide variety of woven fabrics and come in a selection of sizes from 60 -100. Size 60 are for very light weight fabrics such as silk. Size 70 is good for a cotton lawn. Size 80 is the most common one and is suitable for a wide variety of medium weight woven fabrics. Size 90 is also suitable for medium weight fabrics, especially if you have to sew through lots of layers and your size 80 is struggling or breaks. Size 100 is for thicker heavy weight fabrics like upholstery fabrics or heavy weight jacquards.

Jeans needles - These needles have an extra sharp point and a stronger shaft, which makes them able to cope with the thickness of denim and other heavy weight fabric like twill, drill and canvas. They come in a pack of size 90.

Top-stitch needles - These needles are for use with the thick top stitch thread that is commonly used on denim projects. The eye of these needles is bigger is angled in a way that means there is less resistance as the thick thread passes through. It will give you nice even tension and definition to the stitches. They come as a mixed pack so you can alter the size depending on the thickness of fabric you are using it on.

Microtex needles - These needles are also sometimes known as sharps needles as they are extra sharp and have a very fine, slim tip. The are good for fabrics that are very densely woven such as some silks, foils or artificial leather.

Leather needles  - These needles are shaped in a way that they cut the leather as the pass through it and as the name applies they are best suited to stitching leather. Again they come in a variety of sizes that can be matched to the thickness of your leather.

Stretch needles - These needles are for very stretchy fabric that have a high % content of spandex. They have a ball point tip which pushes through the fabric rather than piercing it, which reduces the chances of holes forming in the seams. The eye of the needle is also slightly higher than regular needles so it means that the loop created when the stitch is being formed is a little bigger. This allows the seam to stretch more with the fabric and reduces the chance of the seam popping open. I have also found them useful when top stitching through lots of layers of a thick woollen fabric when making a coat. I kept getting skipped stitches and the stretch needle helped to stop that.

Jersey needles - These needles have a ball point and also push through the fabric rather than piercing it, reducing the chance of a hole forming in the seam. They are suitable for stretchy, jersey fabric that you would use for tops, t-shirts, dresses and jumpers. They come in a mixed pack of sizes so the size 70 would be good for really lightweight viscose jersey that is fine and floppy. The size 80 would be good for more medium weight jersey like cotton or ponte roma or lighter weight sweatshirting. The size 90 would be good for much thicker sweatshirt fabric or when you are sewing though lots of layers of fabric.

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