Sewing machine needle

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Parts of a sewing machine needle and comparison of several types of needle points

A sewing machine needle consists of:[1]

  • shank - clamped by the sewing machine's needle holder
  • shoulder - where the thick shank tapers down to the shaft
  • shaft - a length suitable for driving the eye and thread through the material and down to the bobbin
  • groove - cut in the back of the shaft to release the thread into a loop that aids the hook or shuttle to pick up the thread
  • scarf - provides extra room for the hook or shuttle to pass close by
  • eye - carries the thread
  • point - penetrates the material by either parting the threads or cutting a hole in the fabric

Needle point types[edit]

Needles fall into three primary categories [2]-- ball point, sharp, and rounded-sharp. It is important to use the correct needle for the correct type of fabric and project.

Ball point needles are designed to alleviate making holes in knit or loosely woven materials. The cross fibers which constitute the knit or loosely woven materials are relatively far apart as compared to those in tightly woven materials. If a knit strand of thread is cut with a sharp needle, it produces a hole that will enlarge when the loose fibers pull back from the cut. To prevent this, the ball point needle is designed to push aside the individual strands of the knit. This assumes that the ball point needle point is in good condition: such points may become dented or scraped if used to sew over pins, and rough edges on finished embroidery or other irregularities indicate the need for a replacement needle.

Sharp needles are designed for woven fabrics. Because of the tightness of the weave, individual cut fibers will not pull away and make holes. For this exact reason it is important not to use ball point needles on wovens. The blunt force of a ball point will tear through the fibers and pull them in the process, resulting in uneven, irregular embroidery and damage to the fabric. Sharp needles can be used on all wovens as well as dense materials such as leather, vinyl, canvas, etc.

Point types[edit]

Sewing machine needles each have one of several different point types, including the following:

  • regular point, the finest point, for parting the threads of woven fabrics
  • ball point, for knit fabrics; its round point minimizes cut threads by allowing them to move out of the way
  • chisel point, for leather, capable of punching its own holes as it goes

Singer color codes[edit]

Singer colors its needles with a system of color codes which indicate the needle's type:

Shank color Point type
red regular, for woven
yellow ball, for knits
blue heavy-duty, for denim
brown chisel, for leather
Shoulder color Shaft size
green 9 (thinnest)
orange 11
blue 14
purple 16 (thickest)

Kenmore color codes[edit]

Kenmore colors its needles with a different system of color codes which indicate the needle's size:

Shank color Shaft size Shaft size (Europe)
blue 11 75
orange 12 80
red 14 90
purple 16 100
green 18 110

Schmetz Color Codes[edit]

The colored band on some types of Schmetz needles indicates the needle type. [3]

Shank color Type
yellow Stretch
blue Jeans
green Quilting
red Embroidery
purple Microtex (sharp)


  1. ^ Lydia Morgan (November 6, 2008). "Machine-needle know-how". Threads Magazine (94): 59–61. 
  2. ^ Bob Purcell. "Using the Right Needle". Retrieved January 30, 2012. 
  3. ^ Schmetz Needle Chart