Sewing machine needle

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Parts of a sewing machine needle and comparison of several types of needle points

A sewing machine needle consists of:[1]

  • shank - clamped by the sewing machine's needle holder
  • shoulder - where the thick shank tapers down to the shaft
  • shaft - a length suitable for driving the eye and thread through the material and down to the bobbin
  • groove - cut in the back of the shaft to release the thread into a loop that aids the hook or shuttle to pick up the thread
  • scarf - provides extra room for the hook or shuttle to pass close by
  • eye - carries the thread
  • point - penetrates the material by either parting the threads or cutting a hole in the fabric


The majority of sewing machine needles are made of various grades of hardened chrome-plated steel, though certain specialty needles are coated with titanium rather than chrome.

Sizes codes[edit]

More than twelve conventions exist for numbering the sizes of sewing machine needles, though only two remain in common use: the American (established and propagated by Singer) and the European (also called the "number metric" or "NM"). The European designation, established in 1942, is considered the uniform fixed size and corresponds to the diameter of the needle in hundredths of a millimeter at a non-reinforced point above the scarf. The following chart gives a comparison of the two sizes. In both cases, a larger number corresponds to a larger, heavier needle.

American European
8 60
9 65
10 70
11 75
12 80
14 90
16 100
18 110
19 120
20 125
21 130

The size of a given needle is often indicated with a pair of these numbers, e.g., "14/90" or "90/14" (the order of the numbers has no significance).


Most currently manufactured needles are designated according to "type", and fall into the following categories:

Type Description
Universal Intended as an all-purpose needle, preferred for woven fabrics where a sharper needle could ruin the fabric. Similar to a ballpoint needle but tapered to allow the needle to slip through without producing a run.
Embroidery These needles come with an extra large eye and a specially shaped scarf to prevent embroidery thread from shredding.
Ballpoint Similar to a universal needle but has rounded edges and is not tapered the same way. Intended for closely woven fabrics where the rounded tip will push the weave out of the way rather than cut through it.
Jeans/ Denim Intended for tightly woven cottons such as canvas. Has a strong, sharp point and very slender eye.
Wing Needle has distinct "wings" on either side of the eye which hold the fabric open. Often used on hems and borders, and for decorative finishing. A larger size needle will leave a larger hole in the final piece of sewn fabric.
Leather These have a distinct triangular point to help the needle make a large, clean hole in non-woven materials like vinyl.
Metallic Similar to an embroidery needle with a large eye and extra long scarf, but also includes a Teflon coating to the eye so that metallic threads will not shred when used.
Quilting Designed with an extra strong shaft and with a tapered point to penetrate multiple layers of woven fabrics without breaking and without shredding either the thread or the fabric being sewn.
Serger/ Industrial These needles can only be used in serger and overlocking machines.
Microtex/ Sharps More slender and sharper than the universal needle. Suitable for fine woven fabrics, but also compatible for quilting and appliqué.
Stretch These needles are intended for use on fabrics with a significant amount of Spandex or similar fabric content. Rounded tip and specialized scarf and eye to prevent skipping.
Topstitching These have exceptionally sharp points and a very large eye to accommodate thick decorative topstitching threads. Very similar to the leather needle.
Twin/ Triple Needles set in pairs or in groups of three on a single shaft designed to sew multiple, usually decorative, threads at once. These require specialized machinery to accommodate the extra needles, as well as multiple thread feeds. The twin or triple designation is usually accompanied by another needle type specification such as "stretch" or "denim", etc.

Singer number and color codes[edit]

Singer colors and numbers its needles with the following system of codes to indicate the needle point type and shaft size:

code and shank color Point type
2000 - uncolored chromium-coated regular point, for high-speed embroidery stitching
2020 - red regular point, for woven fabrics (most common Singer needle type)
2022, 2053, 2054 - uncolored overlock needles, only for overlocking machines
2044 - uncolored embroidery needle
2045 - yellow ball point, for knits
2026 - blue heavy-duty point, for denims
2032 - brown chisel or wedge point, for leathers
2025 - uncolored twin needles
2040 - uncolored hemstitch or wing-needle, for "heirloom" or decorative sewing, best on woven cottons and linens
Shoulder color Shaft size
green 9
orange 11
blue 14
purple 16
gray 18

Kenmore color codes[edit]

Kenmore colors its needles with a different system of color codes which indicate the needle's size:

Shank color Shaft size Shaft size (Europe)
blue 11 75
orange 12 80
red 14 90
purple 16 100
green 18 110

Schmetz Color Codes[edit]

The colored band on some types of Schmetz needles indicates the needle type. [2]

Shank color Type
yellow Stretch
blue Jeans
green Quilting
red Embroidery
purple Microtex (sharp)


  1. ^ Lydia Morgan (November 6, 2008). "Machine-needle know-how". Threads Magazine (94): 59–61. 
  2. ^ Schmetz Needle Chart