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The first time I tried to hem denim jeans with the 75/11 needle on my sewing machine, I was ready to give up after the first few stitches. That poor little needle looked about ready to break, and my machine practically groaned at me with each stitch.
Thankfully, I’ve had some sewing sense knocked into me since the first time I hemmed jeans, and I now know the importance of selecting the correct needle size. And, for sewing jeans hems, that is NOT a 75/11 needle.
Denim and other thick fabrics need much thicker needles, for example, a size 100/16 needle. Here’s what you can sew with a 100/16 needle and why I recommend having several types in your sewing box!
How big are 100/16 needles? (Numbering Conventions Explained)
|How It’s Written
Sewing needles are all described in European and American sizes.
In the case of the beloved 100/16 needle, the European size is 100, whereas the American size is 16.
The bigger the size of a needle, the thicker the needle is at its shaft.
Amazingly, the European size is pretty centered on the 100/16 needle, where the 100 correlates to a needle thickness of 1 mm.
100/16 Needle Uses
A 100/16 needle can be used to stitch medium to heavyweight fabrics, pierce through multiple layers of fabric, or add topstitching using heavy upholstery or topstitching threads.
Examples of fabrics suitable for stitching with a 100/16 needle include heavyweight canvas, thick denim, velour, tweed, bag-making fabrics, leather, gabardine, vinyl, corduroy, upholstery (think curtain fabric), wool, oilcloth, or sailcloth.
Benefits of Using the Right Needle for Thick Fabrics
1. Thick Needles are Strong.
Like my jeans hemming issue, if you have a thick, heavy fabric and use a small needle, you risk that needle breaking or bending as it tries to (unsuccessfully) penetrate the fabric.
Either that or the needle won’t pierce all layers of stacked fabrics, causing skipped and uneven stitches.
Quite simply, you’ll sew faster and more efficiently when you sew with the right type of needle, as you don’t have to worry about sewing machine needle breakage or fabric damage.
2. Bigger Holes Are Created and Can Accommodate Thick Thread.
A bigger needle also creates a bigger hole in the fabric, helping threads pass through more easily.
Thick threads, like those used for topstitching, also don’t fit through the eyes of small needles and can cause friction and thread shedding as they pass through needle eyes that are too small.
Types of 100/16 Needles
Now, even though you know you’ll need a 100/16 needle to stitch heavy fabric, that doesn’t mean that all 100/16 needles are created equal.
As with any sewing needle size, there are many different point types you can choose from.
For example, a 100/16 universal needle works for most non-specialty fabrics.
However, 100/16 ballpoint needles are specially intended for thick, stretchy, knit fabrics.
Meanwhile, 100/16 denim jeans or Microtex sharp needles work best for thick fabrics like denim without stretch.
A 100/16 sharp needle or topstitch needle also works well for thick woven fabrics, and I highly recommend buying titanium-coated needles or needles otherwise created for longevity.
And don’t forget, leather really needs a special leather needle for the best results, as its unique cutting tip ensures good results.
Size 100 is also one of the smaller sizes that hemstitch (wing) needles even come in.
These needles have “wings” on either side of the needle tip, making cuts in fabric when sewing. Having a larger size of wing needle gives a larger cut in the fabric, magnifying the intended effect.
Lastly, if you do want to hem with a sewing machine and stitch truly parallel stitching lines, don’t forget that you can also buy size 100 twin needles with different spacing between the two points.
(Also, size 100/16 needles have fewer types available than the more popular 80/12 or 90/14 sizes. If you’re unsure if the needle point type you want comes in the 100/16 size, check out Schmetz’s helpful needle chart.)
While 110/18 and 120/18 needles exist for even thicker fabrics, I don’t let any of those fabrics near my standard home sewing machine. Those fabrics get the big needles and my heavy-duty sewing machine.
However, for everyday sewing of thick fabric, a 100/16 needle is a perfect choice.
Whether you’re making bags or adding topstitching to heavyweight fabric, you won’t have to worry about needle breakage. Just make sure that your needle tip type is compatible with your fabric’s characteristics!