How to Select the Right Sewing Machine Needle

Something as small as a needle can make a big difference in the actual sewing and outcome of your sewing project, but choosing the right needle for the job can be difficult if you are unfamiliar with the different needle types and sizes.

Here is a simple 3-step process to determine which sewing machine needle is the best fit for your sewing project. Hopefully this will shed some light on sewing machine needles!

Step 1:  Needle System

Identify which needle system fits your machines. Your sewing machine manual should provide the required needle system. Here are the needle systems that are used with our Sailrite sewing machines:

  • 135×16 or 135×17: Ultrafeed, Sailrite 111, Big-N-Tall, Professional
  • System 130: Home sewing machines (flat shank), Yachtsman, Apprentice
  • 135×5, 134DI: Sailrite SR200, Long Arm
  • 16×95 or DBx1: Sailrite Sailmaker

Step 2:  Needle Type

Choose the right needle type for your application:

  1. Round (Sharp) Point: is the most common needle type and can be used for canvas work, sail work, and all general sewing. Sharp point and completely round shanks (without burrs that cause broken stitches and separations in thread strands).
  2. Ball Point: is specifically designed for sewing knit fabrics and stretchy materials like neoprene, Ultrasuede, and mosquito netting. The blunt point preserves the elasticity of the fabric by allowing the thread to pass between the fibers of the fabric rather than through them. Completely round high quality upper shanks.
  3. SD1: is optimized for fine leather, leather clothing, and heavy sailcloth assemblies. Cutting point is smaller than a DI needle. Partially cuts, then pushes fibers out-of-the-way.
  4. DI Leather: is designed and optimized for working with heavy, dry, or hard leather. Blade cuts the fibers so that the needle does not have to separate them.
  5. Serv7: is designed with an optimized scarf shape for sewing through heavy fabrics. Perfect for use with Tenara thread (#14 or #16 recommended). Reinforced blades help avoid skipped stitches and reduce needle breakage. Generally needle size can be one less than normal.

Step 3:  Needle Size

Select the appropriate needle size. Sewing machine needle sizes are listed by size and measurement (in mm x 100 above the scarf). For example, a #12 (80) is a small needle while a #22 (140) is a very large needle. Needle size is directly associated with the type of material being sewn. In general, the heavier or thicker the material, the larger the needle you’ll need. Remember sewing machine needle sizes are the complete opposite of hand sewing needle sizes!

Sailrite has compiled a Thread and Needle Recommendation Guide PDF, if you search (#300032XHT) at, that lists a variety of materials and gives our best suggestions on needle and thread types and sizes.

High quality sewing machine needle are available at

1 comment
  1. Mitch Witt said:

    I just need to see a chart that lists needles diameters in inches…. simple enough ? Mostly for hand needles.

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