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Thornton Company Sewing Machines

Choose the Right Needle for the Fabric

Thanks to Janet Staats, past president of the American Sewing Guild Pittsburgh Chapter, for the following summary.

Today we have more varieties of natural and synthetic fibers to sew with than at any other time in history. Until the last century, only natural materials like leathers, wool, cotton, flax and silks were available for garments. With the large variety of synthetic fabrics on the market, knowing your fiber content, weave and weight of the fabric are all considerations when choosing the right needle for your machine. Needles should be changed every 1-3 garments or immediately after accidentally hitting a pin. Fabric is most often damaged by a bent, blunt or burred needle.

  • Sharps - Woven fabric. Available in sizes 8/60, 10/70, 11/75, 12/80, 14/90 and 16/100.
  • Ball Point - Designed for knits, elastics and stretch fabrics. Available in sizes 10/70, 11/75, 12/80, 14/90, 16/100 and 18/110.
  • Universal - This light ball point needle is more versatile and economical since it can be used for both knits and woven fabrics. Available in sizes 8/60 - 9/65 (very lightest weight - silks, batiste, chiffon, fine lace and transparent fabrics), 10/70 (lightweight - challis, satin, polyesters, interlocks and jersey), 11/75 (light-medium weights - elasticized fabric, percale and 2-way stretch and powder net), 12/80 (medium weights - broadcloth, linen, shantung, woolens and polyester blends), 14/90 (medium heavyweights - twill-weave, corduroy, velour, outerwear and double-knits), 16/100 (heavyweights - canvas and awning fabrics ) and 18/110 (upholstery fabrics).
  • Wedge - Leather and vinyl. Available in size 14/90, 16/100, 18/110 and 20/120.

  • The finest needles have a range of 8/60, 9/65 to 10/70.
  • The medium needles have a range of 11/75, 12/80 to 14/90.
  • The heaviest needles have a range of 16/100 to 20/120.

Specialty Types
  • Stretch Ball Point Needles - Used for knits or machine embroidery where continuous sewing builds up heat and friction causing skipped stitches. Available in sizes 11/75 and 14/90.
  • Denim Sharp Needles - Used for perfectly straight stitches in heavy fabric such as denim. Available in sizes 10/70, 12/80, 14/90, 16/100 and 18/110. The smaller sizes can be used for heirloom sewing on organdy, batiste, etc.
  • Top-Stitch - Large eye and deep scarf in front side of needle prevents fraying of thread. Used for metallic, decorative or 2 strands of all-purpose thread. Available in sizes 12/80, 14/90 and 16/100.
  • Metafil/Metallic - Used for metallic threads it has a long elongated eye, a fine shaft, sharp point and a deep scarf in front side of needle. This needle helps eliminate skipped stitches and fraying of thread. Available in size 12/80.
  • Leather - Wedge shaped with a knife edge to penetrate leather and vinyl without ripping it. Available in size 12/80, 14/90, 16/100, 18/110 and 20/120.
  • Microtex - Finest needle with slim sharp point for silk and microfibers. Available in sizes 8/60, 10/70, 12/80 and 14/90.
  • Quilting - Tapered needle with sharp point to make sewing of multiple seams and layers easier. The acute point also helps prevent "bearding" or migration of the batting through the fabric. Available in sizes 11/75 and 14/90.
  • Embroidery - Larger eye and deeper scarf in front side of needle to prevent skipped stitches and protect fragile threads while they are being pulled into the fabric. Available primarily in sizes 11/75 and 14/90. Titanium needles resist being coated with sticky residue from stabilizers and help prevent thread breaks in designs with many small stitches.
  • Spring - Used on lightweight fabric to keep pressure on fabric when doing free motion machine stitching so fabric doesn't stretch or jump back at you. Available in sizes 11/75, 12/80 and 14/90.
  • Twin - Two needles on a crossbar that can only be used on a zigzag machine that zigzags 6.5 mm. You can sew perfect pin tucks or use for decorative seams, hems and heirloom sewing. Available in sizes 1.6 mm/70, 2.0 mm/80, 2.5 mm/75, 3.0 mm/90 and 4.0 mm/100 plus wider sizes for machines with extra wide openings in the foot and plate.
  • Triple - Three needles on a crossbar so you can stitch 3 rows at once. May be used for machine embroidery and heirloom sewing. Available in size 2.5 mm/80 and 3.0 mm/80.
  • Wing - Needles have side "wings," to create openings in the fabric while stitching. Excellent for heirloom sewing. Available in sizes 2.5 mm/80, 3.0 mm/90, 4.0 mm/100 and 5.0 mm/120.
  • Self-threading - These needles have a slotted-eye to make threading easier for the visually impaired. Available in sizes 11/75, 12/80, 14/90, 16/100 and 18/110.
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