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Sewing Machine Needles

Learn The Basics, Tips & Hints, Uncategorized

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You’ve heard that sewing machine needles should be changed frequently, but you’re not totally convinced that this is necessary (after all, you’ve been sewing with the same needle for several projects!).  When you sew, however, you’ve noticed stitches skipping on some fabrics, while at other times you’ve seen little ‘snags’ or ‘pulls’ along the seam lines.  Your thread is shredding, or your needles are breaking. Perhaps you’ve even come to the conclusion that there’s something wrong with your sewing machine!

But did you know that many of these common problems can be fixed by simply using the correct needle in your machine?  Read on and allow us to demystify sewing machine needles!  We’ll explain basic needle parts, styles and sizes, how to choose the right needle for your project and how to avoid some common mistakes so you can sew with success!

Needle Parts

The main parts of the needle are the shank, groove, eye and point.

  • Shank:  The shank is the top part of the needle that fits up into the needle clamp of the sewing machine.  The front side of the shank is rounded, and the back side is flat. The flat side of the needle always goes toward the back of the machine.
  • Groove:  The groove runs down the middle area of the needle, starting below the shank and ending above the needle eye.  The groove helps guide the upper thread as you sew.
  • Eye:  The eye is the hole through which the thread passes.  The size of the eye is proportionate to the needle size.
  • Point:  The shape and size of the needle’s point varies, depending on the type of fabric it is designed to sew.

(Example shown is Style 2020, size 14/90)

Example Needle Parts

Needle Styles

Needle style indicates the type of fabric the needle is designed to sew.  For general sewing, the most commonly used needle styles are SINGER Style 2020 and SINGER Style 2045.

  • The SINGER® Style 2020 is a Regular Point needle, designed for sewing woven (non-stretch) fabrics.  It is usually indicated as a regular point needle by a red color on the top. Regular point needles are sometimes called ‘sharp’ needles.

Regular Point copy

  • The SINGER® Style 2045 is a Ball Point needle, designed for sewing stretch (not woven) fabrics. It is usually indicated as ball point needle by a yellow color on the top. Ball point needles have a rounded tip, allowing them to “push” their way between the fibers of stretch fabrics without snagging.

Untitled-2 copy

After you determine which needle style is right for the general type of fabric you want to sew, then select the size of needle that is appropriate for the weight or thickness of the fabric (see chart below).

Needle Size

Needle size refers to the thickness of the needle’s diameter, which essentially determines the weight or thickness of fabric it can sew.  The smaller size numbers indicate a smaller (thinner) needle size, used for lighter weight fabrics.  The larger size numbers indicate a larger (thicker) needle size, used for heavier weight fabrics.

There is a wide range of sizes available, but the most common sizes used are SINGER® sizes 11/80 (for light weight fabrics), 14/90 (for medium weight fabrics) and 16/100 (for medium to heavier weight fabrics).  There is also a size 9/70 available for very light weight fabrics (chiffon, lace, etc), and a size 18/120 for heavy weight fabrics (upholstery, etc).

Needle sizes are displayed by two numbers, simply due to the use of two measuring systems – American and European (Imperial/Metric).

Choose the Right Needle for Your Project

Here’s a guide to help you select the right needle for sewing some common fabrics.

Choose Needle Chart


Top 10 Needle Troubleshooting Tips

1. For best sewing results, needles should be replaced every 8-10 hours of stitching time.

2. Snags or pulls in woven (non-stretch) fabrics:
This can occur if the needle is either bent or dull, or you are using the wrong style of needle. Use a regular point needle (Style 2020) for woven fabrics.

3. Skipped stitches on woven fabrics:
This can occur when the needle is old, bent or dull.
Remove and discard the old needle. Replace it with a new regular point needle (Style 2020).

4. Skipped stitches on stretch fabrics:
This can occur if you are using a regular point needle instead of a ball point needle.
Switch to a ball point needle (Style 2045) which is specifically designed for sewing stretch fabrics.

5. Popping sound while you are sewing:
This is a good indication that the needle is bent or damaged. Remove and discard the old needle.  Replace it with a new one that is appropriate for the type and weight of fabric.

6. Thread is shredding:
This can mean the needle is too small for the thickness of thread, so change to either a larger size needle or a finer weight thread.
Shredding thread can also occur if the thread is old or poor quality (uneven filament).

7. Needles are breaking:
This can be an indication that the needle size is too small for the thickness of fabric being sewn, so change to a larger size needle. Additionally, when you sew, do not “push” or “pull” the fabric, but rather, let the feed dogs draw the fabric along. If you push or pull the fabric as you sew, the needle could deflect causing it to break.

8. Large holes in the seam line of lighter weight woven fabrics:
This can be an indication that your needle is too large for the weight of the fabric.  Change to a smaller needle size.

9. When removing and inserting needles, it can be helpful to place a small piece of paper over the presser foot area, so that you don’t accidentally drop the needle down into the machine!

10. When inserting a new needle, be sure that is inserted correctly into the machine, or it may not sew properly.  The flat side of the needle should be facing toward the back of the machine. Make sure it is all the way up in the needle clamp, then tighten the needle clamp screw securely. Check your machine manual for specifics on your machine model, or contact SINGER Customer Care at 800.474.6437 for personal assistance, or email them at talktous@singerco.com.