What Do The Colors on Sewing Needles Mean?


A lot of people have trouble when it comes to identifying sewing needles. There are several types of needles, all of which are designed for different purposes. Most of these needles have one or two bands of colors on their shaft.

Most conventional needles will have two color bands on them. The top band of color indicates the type of sewing needles while the bottom band indicates the size of sewing needles.

This article will help you have a better understanding of the colors on sewing needles and what they represent.

Schmetz -color code chart

Parts of sewing needles

1. The shank

This is the part used to mount the needle on the sewing machine. The shank has a flat side and a rounded side.

2. The shoulder

This is where the thick shank tapers down to the shaft

3. The shaft

The shaft is the part from the shoulder to the tip of the needle. It includes the groove, tip and eye of the needle.

4. The groove

The groove of the needle is the rest of the needle from the shaft to the tip of the needle. The groove includes the tip and eye of the needle.

5. The scarf

The scarf provides extra room for the shuttle or hook to pass close by

6. The eye

This is the point of the needle that works with the thread. Needles that work with thicker threads have wider eyes than the ones that work with regular sized threads.

7. The point

Needle points are either sharp or rounded. The point of the needle penetrates fabric by either piercing a hole through the fabric or by parting the threads of the material, depending on the shape of the tip.

Needle type

The top band of color on Schmetz needles indicates the needle type. The band of color on the needles varies depending on the type of needle. There are several types of needles suited for various purposes. Below are the several types of needles and their Schmetz color codes:

1. Universal needles

They are the most commonly used type of sewing needle. Universal needles have a slightly rounded point. They are ideal for many knits, woven fabrics, synthetic suede, and synthetic leather.  They work well on both natural and synthetic fibers. Universal needles don’t have a color code.

2. Ballpoint needles

Ballpoint needles are ideal for knit fabrics and tightly woven fabrics that have a low stretch factor. They can be used on polyester, cotton, and polyester cotton. Ballpoint needles have a rounded tip. This makes it possible for the needle to slip through fibers and fabrics without cutting through them. This makes ballpoint needles the best choice for stretch fabrics that can form holes easily.

3. Stretch needles

As the name suggests, stretch needles are designed specifically for fabrics that have the maximum amount of stretch. These fabrics include swimwear fabric and dance lycra. Stretch needles can also be used for sewing elastics. Stretch needles have a yellow color code.

4. Jersey needles

Jersey needles have a tip that is rounded. This allows the needle to pass through fibers without causing holes or laddering. They are ideal for knit fabrics that have a medium stretch factor.  Jersey needles have an orange color code.

5. Denim needles

Denim needles are specially designed to sew denim, canvas fabric, and jeans. They are heavy, strong, and very durable. They are designed to be strong because the type of fabrics they are made for are tough. They are thick and dense and they come in thicker sizes of sewing machine needles. Denim needles have the color code blue.

6. Twin and triple stitch needles

As the name suggests, twin or double needles have two needles next to each other. These needles are joined together at the top. They have a standard shaft. The needle then branches out into two needles.  They are designed to sew stretch garments and hems. Twin needles sew decorative stitches.

Triple stitch needles, on the other hand, have three needles. They are designed to sew triple decorative stitches.

Both the twin and triple stitch needles have ballpoint needles that make it possible to sew hems on stretchy fabrics.

7. Leather needles

Leather needles are designed specifically for sewing leather or vinyl. The feature a cutting edge that is slightly twisted and a sharp point that is capable of piercing through thick fabrics such as leather, thick non-woven fabric, suede, heavy faux suede, and vinyl. Leather needles leave permanent holes. While sewing with this needle, you should ensure that your stitches are lengthened in conjunction with the leather needle. You should also avoid backstitch when using leather needles so as to avoid perforation of the fabric.  Leather needles have a brown color code.

8. Topstitch needles

Topstitching needles are designed to enable you to sew using thick thread. They have large eyes, usually double the size of an ordinary needle.  This allows the thick thread to pass through. They are also strengthened to make it possible to sew using thick thread without the needle breaking. The strength of the needle also makes it possible for you to sew through several layers. Topstitch needles have a light green color code. 

9. Quilting needles

Quilting needles are designed to be strong to be able to pierce through several layers of fabric and batting. The strength of the needle prevents it from bending or breaking. They can also be used when sewing bags since they are capable of piercing through layers and thicker interfacing. Quilting needles have a green color code.

10. Sharp needles

Sharp needles are a finer and more strengthened version of universal needles. They are also sharper. Sharp needles are used for sewing silks, thin vinyl, applique, and tightly woven fabrics. These needles are used in stitches where precision is paramount. They are also referred to as microtex. Sharp needles have a purple color code.

11. Spring needles

Spring needles are commonly used for embroidery, free motion sewing, and monogramming.

12. Metallic needles

Metallic needles are designed specifically for sewing metallic threads. Their special design makes it possible to sew using metallic and other embroidery threads. They have a large eye that makes it easy to thread the needle. They also have a large groove. This prevents the delicate metallic threads from shredding during stitch formation. Metallic needles have a pink color code.

13. Embroidery needles

Embroidery needles are used for machine embroidery. Embroidery needles have a red color code.

14. Wing needles

Wing needles are characterized by flared wings on either side of the shaft. They are used for decorative stitches and heirloom on linen and batiste.

15. Handicap/self-threaded needles

These are needles designed for people who have a difficult time when threading a needle. They make it easier for you to get the thread through the eye of the needle. This is done by running the thread down the needle. The thread will then jump into the hole.

Needle size

The lower band of color on Schmetz needles indicates the size of the needles. The band of color on the needles varies depending on the size of the needle. The color scheme ranges from 60/8 (the finest) to 120/9 (the biggest).

It is also important to know the needle size that works best for a particular type of fabric. Needle size refers to the diameter of the bottom of the needle at its maximum girth. Sewing machine needles are numbered depending on their size.

There is a difference between the American and European measuring systems. In the European system, the size of the needle is represented as a percentage of a millimeter. For example, a number 60 needle would have a diameter of 0.6 millimeters.

This, however, should not be a matter of confusion since most needles today are labelled with two numbers, representing both the European and American measurements.     

1. 60/8

Needles this size are to be used for very fine fabric such as fine lace, lingerie, silk etc. These needles have a light green color code.

2. 65/9

Used on fabrics such as chiffon, lingerie, voile. These needles have a grey color code.

3. 70/10

Used on fine fabrics such as net, cotton, silk. These needles have a green color code.

4. 75/11

Used on fabrics such as chiffon, voile, organza, satin, lycra, silk, spandex etc. These needles have a pink color code.

5. 80/12

Used on light weight fabrics such as tricot, heavier silks, cotton, synthetics, lycra, spandex. These needles have an orange color code.

6. 90/14

Used on medium weight fabrics such as velvet, linen, fine corduroy, tricot, muslin, poplin, knits, fleece. These needles have a blue color code.

7. 100/16

Used on heavy weight fabrics such as denim, cord, canvas, suiting. These needles have a purple color code.

8. 110/18

Used on fabrics such as leather, heavy suiting, corduroy. These needles have a yellow color code.

9. 120/19

Used on very heavy weight fabrics such as heavy denim, leather, upholstery fabric, faux fur. These needles have a brown color code.

10. 125/20

Used on super heavy fabrics. These needles have a black color code.

11. 130/21

Used on extra heavy fabrics. These needles have a red color code.

Final thoughts

The colors on sewing needles make it easier for you to identify them. Although it may seem overwhelming at first, you will soon learn the colors and the numbers they represent by heart. This will help minimize the risks involved with using the wrong needle size and improve the overall quality of your work.

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author. She enjoys traveling, reading and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC. Connect with her at [email protected]

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