How to Choose a Needle for Machine Sewing

    by eHow Contributor

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    Sewing machine needles, like their hand-sewing counterparts, should be chosen according to the weight and texture of the fabric to be sewn. A little education about machine needles will help you avoid damaging your machine and your fabric or -- even worse -- yourself when the needle breaks and flies out of the machine. Write down the make and model of your sewing machine and take the information with you when you purchase needles in order to verify compatibility.

    Know that most readily available machine needles are sized from 9 to 18 -- the smaller the number, the smaller the needle. This remains true, even if the needles you purchase use a different numbering system. Check the label on the needle package before you make a purchase. For most brands, there will be a sizing guide that will tell you which fabrics can be sewn with the enclosed needles.

    Use standard sharp sewing machine needles in sizes 11 to 14 for most sewing projects. A smaller-sized needle is best for sheer or lightweight fabrics. Sizes 16 to 18 are used for heavyweight fabrics like denim or canvas.

    Use ball-point machine needles to sew knits or other stretchy fabrics. Their blunt edges allow the thread to pass between the fabric's fibers rather than through them. This is crucial for maintaining the fabric's elasticity.

    Use wedge-point machine needles to sew leather, suede and vinyl. The shape of this needle will create a slit (rather than a large hole) through which the thread will pass.

    Change your needle at the start of each project. A worn or damaged needle will cause skipped or uneven stitches and may damage your fabric.

    Purchase a package of assorted needle sizes if you are unsure which is appropriate for your fabric. Test the various sizes on some scrap fabric until you determine the correct size to use.

    • Refer to your sewing machine manual to determine which needles are compatible with your machine model.
    • Know that both ball-point and wedge-point needles are sized in the same manner as the standard variety -- the higher the size number, the larger the needle.
    • Use sewing machine needles for most sergers. Check your serger manual, however, to make sure that a special needle is not required.