Sewing Machine Needles

From Threads Magazine, Taunton Press:

Anatomy of a needle

The key features of a standard machine needle are called out below. Their configuration varies from needle type to type.

Top of needle that inserts into machine; most often has round front and flat back, which seats needle in right position.

Body of needle below shank. Shaft thickness determines needle size.

Front groove
Slit above needle eye, should be large enough to "cradle" thread for smooth stitches.

Needle tip that penetrates fabric to pass thread to bobbin-hook and form stitch. Shape of point varies among needle types.

Indentation at back of needle. A long scarf helps eliminate skipped stitches by allowing bobbin hook to loop thread more easily. A shorter scarf requires a more perfectly timed machine.

Hole in end of needle through which thread passes. Needle size and type determine size and shape of eye.

 Please refer to the following links for more complete product listing:

Machine Needle Know-How - a Taunton THREADS article - photos & descriptions

Sally Hickerson, owner of The Spirit of Cloth in San Diego, CA (, and is an authorized sewing-machine mechanic. She gives the following tips:

"Change your needles often. I recommend replacing the needle after every four hours of sewing time. When you sew, the needle passes through the fabric thousands of times per minute, and each time it does two things: It makes a hole in the fabric for the thread to glide through, and it forms a loop with the thread to make the actual stitch. The bobbin hook picks up this loop by moving just .05 mm or less behind the needle -- about the thickness of a piece of paper -- so if the needle becomes bent or dull, you may get skipped stitches, broken or looped threads, runs and pulls in the fabric, or even damage to your machine.

When the needle is compatible with your fabric and thread, your machine sews more smoothly. An inappropriate needle will force the thread through the fabric instead of letting it glide cleanly through the needle hole and may cause broken or sheared threads. A common mistake is to use a needle that's too small for the thread. For example, a size 70/10 needle is the right choice for fine fabrics like silk, but use only a size 60 or 65 with fine, lightweight thread, like lingerie thread.

A sharp needle, like a Microtex or Jeans needle, is the better choice when sewing natural-fiber woven fabrics than the Universal needle, which has a slight ballpoint and was developed to glide between synthetic polyester fibers without breaking them. Regular ballpoint needles, however, are still the best for sewing knits, fleece fabrics, and elastic. And now there are needles specially designed for sewing with rayon or metallic threads that have Teflon-coated eyes to reduce friction and thread breakage."






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