Sewing machine needle
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- 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 front of the shaft to allow the thread to lie more closely to the needle as it passes through the fabric
- 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
Domestic sewing machines, designed for use in homes as opposed to commercial sewing operations, use a common needle type referred to as "Groz-Beckert 130 / 705," "HAx1" or "15x1" needles. Needles labeled as "universal" needles are of this type and are generally the type of needles found in retail sewing supply shops. There are several sizes and types of needles for commercial/industrial sewing machines.
The majority of sewing machine needles are made of various grades of hardened steel coated with either nickel or chromium, though certain specialty needles are coated with titanium nitride on top of chromium. Titanium nitride is a reflective golden-colored ceramic material which reduces abrasion allowing the needle to stay sharper longer and last many times longer than other varieties. The titanium does not make the needle any "stronger", however, and such needles will bend and snap just as easily as any other.
Nickel plating is the least expensive and least durable form of plating. Chrome plating lasts longer and gives better abrasion resistance. Titanium nitride on top of chromium is the most expensive and is superior in performance to both chrome and nickel.
More than a dozen modern conventions exist for numbering the sizes of sewing machine needles, though only two remain in common use: the American (established and propagated by Singer) and the European (also called the "number metric" or "NM"). The European designation, established in 1942, corresponds to the diameter of the needle in hundredths of a millimeter at a non-reinforced point above the scarf. In both cases, a larger number corresponds to a larger, heavier needle.
Most sewing machine needles will have packaging that gives both of these numbers in its size description — (e.g. as either 100/16 or 16/100). The length of all sewing machine needles has been standardized and does not require a separate code.
The following chart gives a comparison of the two systems:
|8||60||Very fine fabrics (silk, chiffon, organza, voile, lace)|
|11||75||Light weight fabrics (cotton, heavier silks, synthetics, spandex, lycra)|
|14||90||Medium weight fabrics (velvet, fine corduroy, linen, muslin, tricot, knits, fleece)|
|16||100||Heavy weight fabrics (denim, leather, canvas, suiting)|
|18||110||Very heavy weight fabrics (heavy denim, upholstery fabric, faux fur)|
|20||125||Extra heavy fabrics|
Most currently manufactured needles are designated according to "type", and fall into the following categories:
|Universal||The universal class of needles are used on domestic machines. "Universal" refers to the shape of the needle shank and length of the needle rather than the actual sewing application or point. The most notable feature of universal needles is the flat face on the needle shank which helps to ensure the needle is inserted correctly. A universal class needle is designed to be used on virtually any domestic sewing machine. They do not fit industrial or commercial machines.|
|Embroidery||These needles come with an extra large eye and a specially shaped scarf to prevent embroidery thread from shredding.|
|Ballpoint||Similar to a universal needle but has rounded edges and is not tapered the same way. Intended for closely knit fabrics where the rounded tip will push the weave out of the way rather than cut through it.|
|Jeans/ Denim||Intended for tightly woven cottons such as canvas. Has a strong, sharp point and very slender eye.|
|Wing||Needle has distinct "wings" on either side of the eye which hold the fabric open. Often used on hems and borders, and for decorative finishing. A larger size needle will leave a larger hole in the final piece of sewn fabric.|
|Leather||These have a distinct triangular point to help the needle make a large, clean hole in non-woven materials like vinyl.|
|Metallic||Similar to an embroidery needle with a large eye and extra long scarf, but also includes a Teflon coating to the eye so that metallic threads will not shred when used.|
|Quilting||Designed with an extra strong shaft and with a tapered point to penetrate multiple layers of woven fabrics without breaking and without shredding either the thread or the fabric being sewn.|
|Serger/ Industrial||These needles can only be used in serger and overlocking machines.|
|Microtex/ Sharps||More slender and sharper than the universal needle. Suitable for fine woven fabrics, but also compatible for quilting and appliqué.|
|Stretch||These needles are intended for use on fabrics with a significant amount of Spandex or similar fabric content. Rounded tip and specialized scarf and eye to prevent skipping.|
|Topstitching||These have exceptionally sharp points and a very large eye to accommodate thick decorative topstitching threads. Very similar to the leather needle.|
|Twin/ Triple||Needles set in pairs or in groups of three on a single shaft designed to sew multiple, usually decorative, threads at once. These require specialized machinery to accommodate the extra needles, as well as multiple thread feeds. The twin or triple designation is usually accompanied by another needle type specification such as "stretch" or "denim", etc.|
Singer number and color codes
Singer colors and numbers its needles with the following system of codes to indicate the needle point type and shaft size:
|code and shank color||Point type|
|2000 - uncolored||chromium-coated regular point, for high-speed embroidery stitching|
|2020 - red||regular point, for woven fabrics (most common Singer needle type)|
|2022, 2053, 2054 - uncolored||overlock needles, only for overlocking machines|
|2044 - uncolored||embroidery needle|
|2045 - yellow||ball point, for knits|
|2026 - blue||heavy-duty point, for denims|
|2032 - brown||chisel or wedge point, for leathers|
|2025 - uncolored||twin needles|
|2040 - uncolored||hemstitch or wing-needle, for "heirloom" or decorative sewing, best on woven cottons and linens|
|Shoulder color||Shaft size|
SVP Worldwide colour codes
The coloured band on some types of Inspira needles indicates the needle type.
Kenmore color codes
Kenmore colors its needles with a different system of color codes which indicate the needle's size:
|Shank color||Shaft size||Shaft size (Europe)|
Schmetz colour codes
The coloured top band on some types of Schmetz needles indicates the needle type.
|Top shoulder colour||Type|