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What is a sewing machine needle? It is a slender
strand of wire, shaped to precision that delivers
thread to the machine to create a stitch. Sewing
machine needles have become more sophisticated
because of new sewing threads and novel fabrics
available in the marketplace. Needles are found in
various sizes, with different shapes and with
more than one needle on a single crossbar.

Needle Sizes
Needles range is size from very fine 60\8 to a
heavy duty needle 120/19. Most needles use the
two number measuring system. The higher
number relates to the metric system used in
foreign counties. It defines the needle shaft
diameter in fractions of a millimeter. The lower
number relates to the system in the U.S and is
used to indicate needle shaft diameter.

Type of Needles
Ballpoint Needle
The rounded tip slips between yarns rather than
piercing them to eliminate damage in knit fabrics.
Use this needle when working on coarse knits,
mesh fabrics, interlock knits and other fabrics
that tend to run if snagged. You may find a
universal point needle is better for finer knits.
Denim Needle
It has an acute point, slender eye and a stronger
shaft. Use when sewing tough, heavyweight
fabrics such as denim, duck and canvas. A regular
sharp-point needle can cause crooked stitches in
dense fabric.
Embroidery Needle
This needle has a larger eye and a special scarf (
groove above the eye) to protect decorative
threads (lustrous rayons and acrylics) from
shredding or breaking.
Leather Needle
It has the shape like a wedge at the point which
gives it superior piercing power for unyielding
fabric such as real leather, suede or heavy vinyl.
This needle makes a clean, large hole as it enters
the fabric. It is better to tie or seal thread ends
rather than backstitching to secure. Sew
accurately since removing stitches and restitching
will leave hole markings. Synthetic leathers and
suedes can and should be sewn with standard
needles. A leather needle leaves unnecessarily
large holes and weakens seams.
Metallic Thread Needle
The larger eye accommodates heavier threads,
pampers delicate metallics that tend to shred and
split and makes needle threading easier.
Quilting Needle
A tapered point for stitching through multiple
fabric layers and across intersecting seams
makes this needle unique. It prevents damage to
sensitive, expensive materials used in quilting.
Self-threading Needle
This needle has a slotted eye so sewers with
limited vision or dexterity can easily set up the
machine. Sew slowly to keep the thread where it
belongs.
Sharp Point Needle
It is sharper than the universal point and more
slender through the shaft. Some companies use
the term microtex on the label. Use it when
sewing on finely woven fabrics, edgestitching on
woven fabrics, heirloom stitching on very fine
fabrics and sewing on synthetic suede. It is a
good choice for smooth stitches on chintz.
Stretch Needle
A rounded tip and a specially shaped shank
creates good stitch formation on highly elasticized
fabrics such as spandex activewear knits, and
two way stretch swimwear knits or when sewing
through elastic for direct application to a garment.
Topstitching Needle
It has an extra-large eye and deeper groove for
use with heavier topstitching thread such as
buttonhole twist, 30-weight rayon and cordonnet,
or when using a double thread through the needle
for more pronounced stitching.
Universal Point Needles
This needle type has a very slightly rounded point
that is quite sharp and used for general sewing of
most knit and woven fabrics. The 14/90 size is
the top-selling needle on the market. The next
best seller is size 11/75.

Special-purpose Needles

Spring needle
This needle has a wire spring above the point to
prevent fabrics from riding up onto the needle
when the presser foot is removed and the feed
dogs are dropped for free-motion stitching.
Spring needles can be purchased in universal,
stretch, denim, embroidery and quilting types.
Twin and Triple Needles
Two or three needles are put on a single crossbar.
They can be found in denim, stretch or
embroidery type needles. Their purpose is to
create perfectly parallel, multiple rows of
stitching in one pass using a single bobbin thread.
Spacing between the needles varies from 1.6mm
to 8mm wide. They are numbered first by the
distance in millimeters between the needles and
second by the size of the needle. Generally the
finer the fabric the more closely spaced the
needles should be. Use these needles with an
oblong throat-plate opening such as those found
on every zig-zag machine.
Wing Needles
Fins on the sides of the shank create large holes
in tightly woven fabrics such as linen and batiste.
Another name used is Hemstitch needle. It is used
for hemstitching, heirloom embroidery and other
decorative techniques. Wing needles are available
as singles or as twins that have a wing needle and
a standard needle on a single crossbar.
Serger Needles
Conventional sewing machine needles are
standardized by manufacturers, but not so with
serger needles. There are about 13 needle
systems available for sergers. Always consult
your serger machine manual when replenishing
your needle supply.

A serger may take a special needle such as an
industrial needle with a flat or round shank. Other
sergers may use the standard machine needle
sizes 11/75 or 12/80 as well as special needles
such as ballpoint, metallic or embroidery. Test the
stitch formation by manually turning the wheel to
be sure the loopers and needles interact properly.

When two needles are used with the serger, the
needles are set at slightly different heights. This
is the correct configuration. Check your manual to
be sure the right needle is supposed to be lower
than the left needle on a 2-thread serger. This
height difference is due to the rising arc of the
upper looper as it comes up and over the fabric.

Changing Needles for Conventional and Sergers
Machines
A guide to follow for conventional sewing
machines is to insert a fresh needle after every 10
to 12 hours of sewing or after every two
garments. Select the needle size according to the
fabric you are using. Another sign that it may be
best to try a new needle is when you encounter
stitching problems with a new type of sewing
thread or a new sewing technique.

For serger machines, consider changing the
needle after eight or ten garments. Since serger
thread doesn't slide back and forth through the
eye of the needle, changing the needle may not
occur as often. If the serger does begin to skip,
try changing the needle.  
Problems, such as skipped stitches, thread
breakage and needle breakage, happen when the
needles and thread sizes used do not conform
with the particular texture of the cloth being
produced, making it impossible to create beautiful
stitch patterns as a result. Therefore, please
select the appropriate combination of needle and
thread sizes.

Reg. General Purpose or
Universal Needles
Sz. 11, 14, 16
Package of 10 Needles
Reg. $5.98
Special Internet $5.00

Titanium Needles for
Embroidery Machines  
Last longer, runs cooler and has less sticky
build-up. Five needles per pack.
Reg. $6.99
Special Internet $5.99


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