The Right Size Sewing Machine Needle for Cotton

What Size Sewing Machine Needle Should you Use for Cotton?

Knowing the correct size sewing machine needle for cotton is important. Failure to use the correct size can lead to lower quality projects, or even a broken needle. For best results you need a needle size between 60-80.

What Are Sewing Machine Needles?

Sewing machine needles are actually different than regular needles used for hand-sewing. Firstly, the eye of the needle is right above the point, rather than at the top like in regular needles. The most important part of a sewing machine needle is the shank, which has one side flat and one side rounded. This is the part that goes into your machine. The shaft of the needle is the rest of the needle, from the bottom of the shank right to the eye. This is where the measurement of the needle is made. The thicker this area, the more useful your needle is with thicker fabrics.

sewing machine needle

What is Cotton?

Cotton is considered a natural material, similar to wool and linen. To the layman, cotton may seem quite similar to other fabrics such as polyester or mixed fabrics. However, the way that cotton is sewed with a sewing machine must be done differently and carefully. If not, your sewing job could be completed shoddily or your needle may break entirely.

When it comes to thread, cotton is one of the most popular types. The two main kinds of thread are cotton or polyester/nylon mixes. Selecting cotton thread is a better choice when working with cotton fabric or other lighter, more delicate fabrics. It isn’t as stretchy as polyester/nylon thread, so it doesn’t work well with stretchy materials.

There’s a reason that cotton is so commonly used for sewing projects. It’s one of the cheapest varieties of fabric, not to mention unbelievably versatile. Cotton is used for all sorts of sewing projects, and it’s a great fabric to use at home on your sewing machine. Check out these other interesting facts about cotton.

  • Cotton is one of the Eco-friendliest types of material. The entire cotton plant is used during the creation of the fabric, not just the cotton fiber itself.
  • Most fabrics get weaker when they get wet, but cotton actually gets stronger. That is one of the primary reasons it is used to produce things in the medical field and even children’s clothing.
  • Cotton is one of the oldest used fabrics in the world, and the crop itself is a key to economies all over the world.
  • Many other types of fabric, such as denim and even velvet, are made with a base of cotton.

What Are Needle Sizes?

Needle sizes refer to the diameter of the needle and go from 60 to 120, 60 being a diameter of 0.6 millimetres and 120 being 1.2. In general, larger needles are used for thicker fabrics.

For example, needles closer to 120 would be used for projects with canvas or denim. American needle sizing combines these diameter numbers with reference numbers as well. For example, the 120 needles would be marketed as the 120/19.

The American system goes from 8-19 and each of those numbers corresponds to the European sizing system going from 60 to 120 in jumps of 10.

All sewing machines can use the different types of needles, so when buying a sewing machine its always important to buy the best sewing machine and not look specifically for one that has needle compatibility as they all have full compatibility with needles. 

The Correct Needle Sizes for Cotton

So what size sewing machine needle for cotton do I need? Well, when it comes to cotton, here are the needle sizes you should primarily use.

  • Needles between the size of 60 and 80.
  • Cotton is a medium-weight fabric, so if you are using regular cotton- opt for a 70 size needle.
  • If you’re using a more lightweight cotton mix, opt for the 60.
  • If it’s a heavier weight of cotton or a heavier cotton mix, use the 80.

Having a working knowledge of needle sizes, in general, will help you decide which needle to use. Since cotton is a versatile fabric that can be mixed and somewhat varies from a light to a medium-weight, it’s best to use your judgement. Sticking within the range of 60-80 provides the absolute best results.

Why These Sizes?

These needle sizes are perfect for cotton since they are small enough to pierce the material without causing runs or bunching. If you notice that the material starts to gather or snag, this is a sign that the needle you’re using is too big for the cotton.

These smaller sizes of needles are called “sharp” needles. This means, literally, that they have sharper points than most other needles. The larger needles have more rounded tips that allow them to move more strongly through thicker materials without breaking.

These are called “ballpoint” needles, and they usually go in between the loops of fabric rather than piercing it directly. If you use a sharp needle on a material that is too thick or strong, the needle may break.

There are also “universal” needles that are somewhere between the two and can be used for both thin and thick fabrics. These are better used for convenience’s sake- if you are able to choose either a sharp or ballpoint needle, it’s best to do so! Even if serious problems don’t take place when you use the wrong needle sizes, your project certainly won’t turn out exactly the way it is supposed to. Using needles too big for the job may leave holes in the fabric, causing the seams to break apart much more quickly.

Why Choosing the Correct Size Needle for Cotton is Important

Sewing machines are incredibly versatile and useful machines. They can be used with an array of different fabrics, threads, and needles, creating everything from clothing to decorations. The possibilities are truly endless. One of the most common fabrics and types of thread to work with is cotton. So you can see why it is important to choose the correct size needle when sewing cotton.

In conclusion, use this guide as an easy reference to remember what size sewing machine needles to use when sewing cotton. One great tip, if you’re not sure if your needle is right for the job, is to test it out on some scraps of fabric rather than on your actual project.

Get the hang of selecting the right needle, and ensure you’re on the right track before using up your fabric for the project. Using the right size needle the first time around leaves you with less waste, less frustration, and a better turnout for your cotton project. 


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