It's not as bad as searching through the proverbial haystack, but choosing the correct needle for your sewing project can be a little overwhelming. They all look pretty much the same unless you pull out the magnifying glass. But, different needles DO have different tips, eyes, shanks, groves and shafts; and what you select can make a big difference in how well your machine sews through your fabric.
What the heck are those random numbers? The first thing you see on a needle package is the needle size. This will be shown as one number over another, such as: 70/10, 80/12 or 90/14. These numbers refer to the size of the needle.
There are two numbers because one is the American numbering system and one the European. The American system uses 8 to 19; 8 is a fine, thin needle and 19 is a thick, heavy needle. European sizes range from 60 to 120, 60 is a fine, thin needle and 120 is a thick, heavy needle. Some companies list American first, some list European first.
Here's the rule: the lower the number the finer the needle and the smaller the eye
For example, if you are going to sew a sheer window curtain, you would want a fine needle such as 60/8. Using a 120/19 would leave giant holes in your fabric. On the other hand, if you were to try and sew through upholstery fabric with a 60/8 needle, it would bend or break. Using a 120/19 would give you strength to penetrate your heavy dec fabric and would have an eye large enough to carry the thicker thread you'll need to use.
Test first on a scrap!
When it comes right down to it, a needle can do as much damage to your fabric as a pair of scissors. Always test your needle with the actual thread you've chosen on a scrap of the actual fabric you'll be using for your project.
For the majority of home decor projects, go for the Universal needle. It works well for most woven fabrics, knits and synthetics.
Other home decor needle options:
- Jeans: has a sharp, strong point for denim, canvas and other tightly woven fabrics.
- Leather: has a chisel point for genuine leather only.
- Sharps: good for silks and micro-fibers.
- Metallic: if you are topstitching or embellishing with specialty threads, this needle has a larger eye to allow the thread to flow through without fraying and breaking.
As you become more advanced, you can investigate other unique needle options, like stretch, twin, triple and wing.
Your needle is a very important part of your project. I think of it this way: a good needle in your sewing room is like a good knife in your kitchen.