Sewing Machine Needles: How often do you change yours?

The importance of your machine needles

Sewing machine needles are a very important part of your sewing project. Get the wrong needle and it can impact how your finished garment looks and also the stitch quality. When sewing my most recent make I was thinking when was the last time I changed my sewing machine needle and how frequently do others change theirs. It can be quite easy to forget to change it purely because if the needle isn’t broken then you carry on until you notice a problem. So let us start with when to change your sewing needles.

When to change your sewing needles

  • Ideally a machine needle needs to be changed every 6 - 8 hours of continuous use or if starting a new sewing project, but there is a little bit of flexibility in there and it is also dependent on the project. If you are using your sewing machine infrequently it is likely you could get a 1 or 2 hours more with the machine needle. But use the other points below to assist with when to change your needle if you haven’t used it for up to 6 hours. 
  • Your sewing machine needle will also need to be changed depending on the type and weight of the fabric. All sewing machine needles will indicate which fabric they are most suitable for, and I have also included some examples further down this blog post.
  • You start to see uneven or skipped stitches whilst sewing.
  • You notice there are broken threads or pulling on the threads.
  • There is damage or puckering in your fabric.
  • When sewing, the needle is struggling to go through the fabric smoothly.

If you identify any of the above scenarios then I would recommend changing your needle. If it is time to change your needle and want to know how to select the right one, then take a look at the next section.

The main types of sewing machine needles 

Universal Machine Needles - As the name says it is suitable for most woven and some knit fabrics such as cottons, cotton blends and viscose and rayons because the tip of needle has a slightly rounded point. Making it a great general purpose needle. 

Stretch Machine Needles - Suitable for elasticated / stretch fabrics such as jersey, Lycra or spandex. The needle has a slight coating and the needle eye is designed to stop skipped stitches by gliding through the fabric.

Jersey/ Ball Point Needles - Is suitable for jersey knits, french terry fabrics and the ballpoint sewing machine needle works by sliding through the fabric without damaging or breaking the knit fibres. 

Microtex/ Sharp Needles - Suitable for fine or densely woven fabrics including microfibres, natural fibres, silks, quilting fabrics, polyester and coated materials. The needle has a very slim acute point, ensures precise sewing when required, and also assist with beautiful top stitching. 

Jeans/ Denim Needles - It is suitable for denim and similar fabric types. The needle has a reinforced blade with a modified medium ball point tip meaning it can comfortably penetrate extra thick woven fabrics, denim or quilts and reduces the risk of needle breakage and skipped stitches.


Quilting Needles - Suited for machine quilting and the needle has a special taper to the slightly rounded point. The needle design allows the needle to penetrate the fabric more easily when sewing. 

Leather Needles - Are suitable for leather, artificial leather and heavy non-woven synthetics. The needle has a sharp cutting point at the tip, making it easier to get through thick materials.

Let’s talk about the machine needle sizes and the fabrics to match

Please note that universal domestic sewing machine needles which are used on home sewing machines have a common needle system 130 / 705," "HAx1" or "15x1" which refers to the standard length, needle diameter and shank shape.

So you now have an understanding of the main types of domestic sewing machine needles, let’s look at the needle sizes and the fabric that are the most suitable. This is super important and it will definitely be of assistance when you next go shopping for your sewing machine needles and fabric.


International/ European Sizing

American Sizing

Fabric Examples

Fabric Types



Voile, Organza, Silk, Lace

Very Light



Voile, Organza, Silk, Lace

Very Light



Chiffon, Organza, Lace, Silk




Cotton, Spandex, Lycra, Heavier Silks




Cotton, Viscose, Rayons, Gingham, Gauze, Oxford Cloth




Heavier Cotton, Viscose, Double Gauze, Chambray, Quilting Cotton, Fine Corduroy




Denim, Flannel, Tweed, Corduroy, Waffle, Garbardine, Leather

Medium/ Heavy



Wool Coating, Boucle, Leather




Heavy Weight Fabrics, Denim, Canvas, Upholstery, Leather




Heavy Weight Fabrics, Denim, Canvas, Upholstery, Leather




Heavy Weight Fabrics, Denim, Canvas, Upholstery, Leather



To finish I have included a diagram of a sewing machine needle and the key features. 

Sewing Machine Needle Diagram

  • Butt - The bevelled end of the needle
  • Shank - The part of the sewing needle that fits into the needle clamp in the sewing machine.  
  • Shoulder - The sloping section between the shank and blade. This is normally where the colour codes appear for the needle type and size.
  • Shaft - The length of the needle which reflects the needle size. 
  • Groove - which allows the thread to be guided to the needle eye and into the fabric.
  • Scarf - It is the indentation above the needle eye, which provides room for the bobbin hook to catch the thread as it passes close by.
  • Eye - This is where the thread runs through the needle, and the hole size will vary according to the type of needle.
  • Point & Tip - The part of the needle that penetrates the material when sewing.


I hope you found this useful and I am definitely going to be adding to it and include things like the colours on needles which is the other way to indicate what type and size the needle is.

Why not head to our range of fabrics and sewing machine needles 

Happy sewing xx