Sewing Machine Needles - What a conundrum!

Whenever I do sewing machine shows on Create and Craft, I come home to a slew of queries about certain aspects, like "what is BobbinFill" or "what feet can I get for my new machine", so I find the best thing to do is write a blog post! This week's big question was about sewing machine needles, and what the numbers and colours mean! Once you have taken the needle out of the packet, how do you know what type it is, or what it is for? Where the clue is in the colours on the needle!

The first thing that you may notice on a sewing machine needle is that there are coloured bands on the needle shank. This means that once you have removed the needle from the packet you will still know what it's for!
The top band represents the needle type:
Needle Band
  • Universal (All purpose for wovens & knits) - No colour
  • Embroidery needle (embroidery threads) - Red
  • Quilting Needle (multiple layers of fabric) - Green
  • Microfibre Needle (Woven Fibres)- Purple
  • Stretch Needle (Elastic Fabrics) - Yellow
  • Ballpoint (Knitted fabrics) - Orange
  • Jeans Needle (Denim) - Blue
  • Leather Needle (for leather and vinyl fabrics) - Brown
  • Topstitching (Exposed Stitching) - Light Green
  • Metallic Needle (metallic thread) - Pink
Some specialist needles don't have colours on them because there is no need - you can tell what they are by looking i.e twin needles, winged (hemstitch) needles or twin eyed needles. 
The lower band shows the needle size:
  • Size 60/8: Light green
  • Size 65/9: White
  • Size 70/10: Green
  • Size 75/11: Pink
  • Size 80/12: Orange
  • Size 90/14: Blue
  • Size 100/16: Purple
  • Size 110/18: Yellow
  • Size 120/19: Brown
  • Size 125/20: Black
  • Size 130/21: Red
Not all needles are available in all sizes. So what do the sizes mean?The Metric system for sizing needles runs from 60 -110, while the American system is number 8 to 18. Most makes show both numbers, and the smaller the number the finer the needle. The larger the number, the thicker the needle will be.

There is a very useful guide available from Schmetz  here with more details about needles, and it's a very interesting read. Generally any needle should fit any machine. They have a flat back on the shank (the top part of the needle) so that it will only slot into your machine one way. You can't fit it backwards unless you REALLY try! (Don't do that!!!!)

So do I need a special brand of needles for my machine? The answer is no - because sewing machine needles are standardised across the brands of sewing machine. I personally use Schmetz because I find them good quality, well priced and easily accessible.

So I hope that answers some of your questions about sewing machine needles!


  1. Really appreciate the time trouble you've taken over this - but it has made things so much clearer. Thank you!!

  2. well done, has answered my questions totally xx

    1. Cool, and thank you for your donation. People's support really means a lot!

  3. Fantastic reply Sarah. That's why you are the queen of all things
    Quilting xx

  4. very useful information here wish all needle manufacturers did this I have been buying John James needles and they are not so good at sharuing ehat they are once out of the packet.

    It must be nearly time for your trip best of luck I will try and find the link on your blog to make a donation

  5. Yes, not all companies are so helpful. Perhaps we should email them and let them know 😉
    I dont know if you have already donated as the last one was anonymous, but here is the link just in case.
    Less than 2 weeks to go now eek!
    Sarah x


Feel free to let me know what you think!