Needles are numbered, with the lowest being the finest. American sizes are 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 18 and 19. The number 8 needle is the finest and number 19 is the heaviest and thickest.
European needles are numbered 60, 65, 70, 75 80, 90, 100, 110 and 120. The number 60 is the finest and number 120 is the thickest and heaviest.
There is no need to get confused. The US size 8 is equal to European size 60; US size 19 is equal to European size 120 and so on. It doesn’t matter if the numbers are 8/20 or 20/8; they are the same.
Fabrics and Sewing Machine Needle Sizess
For a sheer window curtain, the finest needles are needed (the 8/60). Using a 19/120 will rip holes in the fabric. For heavier fabrics (i.e., upholstery) 19/120 needles will be necessary. An 8/60 will not be able to pierce through the material.
Now suppose you have a light fabric but want to do some top stitching using heavy thread. If you use the 120/19, it will leave holes in the material. You need to experiment with the other needle types, like the 80/12.
To avoid problems, always try out your threads on fabric scraps instead of the fabric you will work on. This way you can find the right sewing machine needle size without damaging the fabric.
Note that most sewing machine needles are sized 9 to 18. For many sewing projects, the sizes 11 to 14 are adequate. The 16 to 18 are suited for working with denim and other heavy fabrics.
Ball Point and Wedge Point Needles
Use the ball point machine needles for sewing stretchy material. Because they have blunt edges, the thread will go between the fabric fibers instead of through it. This is vital for keeping the fabric elastic.
The wedge point needles are suitable for work on vinyl, suede and also leather. The shape will result in a slit into which the needle can go into.
Replace the needles whenever you start a new project. Uneven stitches will appear if the needle is worn out. The needle may also destroy the fabric. Unless you work with a single fabric type, it is best if you buy different needles. It is much better to have different needles and not need them instead of the other way around.
This is also the best solution if you do not know what needle to use for a particular fabric. Always check your sewing machine to see what sizes can be used with it. Read the needle package too, so you know what the sizes are.
Whatever your sewing project is, there is a sewing machine needle size fit for it. You just need to experiment on scraps to find the right size.