Your sewing machine probably came with a few needles that can be used with most fabrics but you need to get yourself a packet of needles as a reserve. Some packets contain just one size while other will contain a selection.
There are two numbers displayed together on the packet. If you pick up a packet of 70/10 needles the first number is the European sizing and the second smaller number is the American system. This needle would work best for light weight fabrics. You could use this needle for ‘piecing’ your quilting shapes for ‘blocks’, but not for actual ‘quilting’, as you would need to pierce several layers of different fabrics.
A slightly finer needle such as 60/8 would be ideal if you were working with fine lightweight fabric such as silks.
Going heavier – 80/12 would be best for medium weight fabrics; 90/14 for use with a medium heavyweight fabric; 100/16 a heavyweight fabric; 110/18 for fabric you would use for upholstery; 120/20 for denim and heavy canvas.
Initially, you do not need to buy all of the needles. Stick with a couple of 70/10 & 80/12 sizes.
The heavier the fabric you are using the heavier the thread you need and the thicker the needle.
The type of needle you will use most – Beginner
The Universal sewing machine needle has a slightly rounded point. This means that the needle can be used with fine or heavy weight fabrics, (‘knits’ or woven fabric) without piercing the thread in the weave. This type needle can be found in several sizes of the sizes outlined above.
Jeans Needle. This needle is very strong and has a very sharp point. Don’t let it fool you that it is called a ‘Jeans Needle’ as it can be used for all heavyweight tightly woven fabric. More importantly this is the needle that you need to use when you are stitching through several layers of fabric such as for quilting.
Ball Point Needles. These are more rounded than the universal needle. Rather than pierce the threads of the fabric, this needle passes between the threads. This needle is very useful when you are using fabrics that may snag easily such as knitted fabric
Leather Needle. This has a wedge shaped sharp point that enables it to easily stitch leather, suede and other non-woven fabrics. This needle will leave a hole in the fabric so you have to be really accurate with your machining because if you make a mistake it will be very, very visible.
Embroidery Needles. (Machine embroidery), these needles have a larger eye that helps eliminate stress on the thread through breaking or shredding.
Sharps Needles. These are designed so the ‘hook’ of the bobbin can get closer to the needle to avoid ‘skipping’ any stitches when working with finer or even ‘stretchy’ fabrics.
Creative – really fun
Metallic Needles. When you start to use this needle you know that you are going to have some creative and artistic fun with your sewing machine. This needle is fine, with a sharp point but has a much larger eye then the embroidery needle. The size of the eye helps accommodate some of the really exciting metallic thread that are now available.
Sometimes you may need to experiment. If you are working with a fabric that you don’t normally use, when you get to the point where you feel that the sample you have just done has perfect stitching then make a note of the needle you used, the tension and stitch length. Use a note book for the details and also attach a small piece of the fabric. Preferably store with your sewing notions.
Remember your new mantra is ‘New Project, New Needle – every time’.