Sewing Blog

Free Sewing Tip #2: How To Choose the Proper Needles
and Thread for Professional-Looking Garments

Enjoy this tip? Learn more about Sandra Betzina’s online sewing class, Pant Fitting Techniques.


Hi I’m Sandra Betzina and I’m an instructor with Craftsy. How would you like a little information about choosing thread and needles for your project? You may not realize this, but these two are the two things that decide whether a garment’s going to look professional or not. If you have puckered seams, I don’t care how perfect it may be otherwise, it looks homemade.

First, I want you to look closely at the needles. Here is some information that might help you. Schmetz makes really good needles. Down at the bottom, it has a number. This says 70/10. That’s always the number of the needle. The lower the number, the finer the needle. So that means this would be a really good needle for a fine cotton, or I could even use it for silk. But this needle happens to say “jeans/denim.” So, you think, “I can use this for denim.” No! What’ll happen is, if I try to use this with denim, it’ll keep breaking because the needle’s not heavy enough. I need a 90/14 for jeans/denim. So what that really refers to is the kind of point it is. It’s a very fine point, so that’s good for a real fine cotton, fine silk.

Now, that’s for woven. Now let’s say you left this same needle in, and you’re sewing along and now you’re making one of the stretch mesh tops or something. And, oh, it’s coming out great. Then you wear it. If you use that needle, it’s almost like trying to sew a hole in a pair of nylon hose: it’s too sharp, and it actually causes runs. So the needle you want to sew for knits is called 75/11 and it usually has “HS” written there, but sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s 75/11 stretch. That’s the needle you need for the knits. Now there are probably 20 or 30 needles for different applications. This is just an intro to it. I didn’t know any of this either, and then I wrote a book called More Fabric Savvy, and I realized that was why people weren’t getting professional-looking garments: because the needle was wrong. But it wasn’t just because the needle was wrong; the thread was wrong, too.

Now sometimes you think you’re saving money by getting these threads from what I call the thread bins, where it’s five for a dollar. You are may be saving money, but you may be getting totally frustrated, too. What’s wrong with this thread? This thread is made from short fibers. And what they do is put them together. And they have slubs. So, when you thread this on here, and when you’re trying to sew with this, you’ll find that this is the kind of thread that is always breaking. And you think, “Why is that?” Then you keep rethreading, and it keeps breaking. That’s because of the thread. Instead, you can get yourself a better quality thread. These are the long staple. They won’t have as many slubs. And this is better for your machine because, the ones with all the slubs get all this lint in your machine. That’s what causes problems in your machine.

So, there is cotton thread and there is polyester thread. Polyester thread is fine if your sewing on knits or if you’re sewing on fabric that can resist the pull. But if I had sewn with polyester thread when I made this blouse, all of my seams would have puckered because polyester thread stretches a little bit when you press it. Then it goes into the closet, cools off, and it shrinks back up, and you get the puckered seams. So with a fabric like this, which is silk, I can do one of two things: I can sew with a silk thread, or I can sew with 100% cotton thread.

Cotton thread is really nice because it just doesn’t stretch. Most of the factories still use cotton thread for all things they sell. Then there’s silk thread. Silk thread is wonderful because it’s so smooth and it’s a continuous filament. This is wonderful for sewing lightweight fabrics, and it also makes the greatest buttonholes because if you sew buttonholes with cotton thread, it can get too thick in there. So I put silk thread in the bottom and I put it on the top, and I make a buttonhole, and then it’s real soft in keeping with the same fabric.

Now this is a thicker thread. There are a number of threads. I just usually pick them by the feel of them. But you’ll have a 50-weight thread, which is considered your standard. But the silk people make 100-hundred weight thread. Now this is odd: the higher the number, the thinner the thread (it’s the opposite of the needles). So the 100-weight would be very fine, whereas the 50-weight would be thicker. Then they have the 30-weights, which are thicker, still. So you just have to remember, with thread, the higher the number the finer the thread; the lower the number, the thicker the thread.

So maybe that will help you a little bit in your next project because it definitely makes a difference. I’m Sandra Betzina, and hopefully you’ll check out some of my classes on I have one in-depth class on pant fitting, and one in-depth class on pant construction. hope to see you there!

Related Free Sewing Tips:


Rosalie Wright

Great info…thanks for sharing.

Angela Stuart

Where are your classes because I could not open the info thanks Angela. I am in Australia

Sandi Pratt

What the heck? I had no idea about this stuff with threads and needles. I knew about needles but I didn’t
realize that there are that many differences ! I’m going to have to investigate this further.
Thanks for the info, now I know why some of my things look homemade.


would like more info. sounds great Would love to learn more about stitching, kniting.


This is really great information. I’m sure my ladies at the craft group will be interested in this. Thanks

Cassy Howerton

This video tip is EXACTLY what I needed! So many sewists don’t know this info…thank you so much Craftsy!


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