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Sewing Machine Needle Facts

The correct size and type of Sewing machine needle is essential to the production of quality machine embroidery. There is no such thing as a cheap needle, just needles of inferior quality. The needle is the first point of contact between the machine and your work, so never compromise on quality. It really is not worth it.

I have repeatedly used the phrase Sewing machine needles throughout this text. This term refers to all needle types that fit into a domestic sewing machine for machine embroidery, machine quilting and machine sewing.

Over the years we have had many embroiderers using many different needles but always one name has been associated with quality and that is SCHMETZ of Germany. Schmetz was established in 1851 and is still a family owned company. The Schmetz sewing machine needles are manufactured to the highest possible standards to offer unrivalled performance in just about every application.

All about Sewing Machine Needles.

There are so many different types of Schmetz needles that it can be quite daunting. We stock needles for both industrial and domestic machines. If you require industrial needles with a round shank, please contact us for further information and advice. Industrial needles will not fit domestic machines. Domestic machines require a needle with a flat back on the shank.

The Shank is the upper part of the needle, inserted into the needle bar & locked into place with a needle clamp screw. The needle should only fit in one way for perfect alignment with the flat side facing away from you. Moving down from the shank, the lower part of the needle is called the Shaft. The Groove is the hollowed out area on the front of the needle just above the Eye and the Point is the very tip of the needle that punches the hole in the fabric.

Point Styles

Basically there are four main point styles.

Schmetz Sharps, a standard Needlepoint for most general sewing applications where needle damage is not a problem.

Schmetz Light Ball, used generally in fine and medium needle sizes to prevent needle damage and laddering in light and medium weight man-made and knitted fabrics.

Schmetz Medium Ball used generally in medium size needles and medium weight knitted fabrics to prevent needle damage to the fibres.

Schmetz Cutting point used in the sewing of Leather, PVC, Plastics and similar materials. This cutting point needle makes a small incision when the needle penetrates the fabric making an area in which the thread can travel freely in the sewing cycle. Some points are angled to allow decorative stitching and topstitching of the work piece.

Needle Breaks

Needle Technology has become so advanced now that Schmetz actually produce a specific needle for actual applications. One of the main problems and causes of breakage is the use of an incorrect needle. Needles break because they are too fine for the fabric or have the wrong point. If you are breaking needles, check it is the correct type needle breakage does tend to lead towards component damage and expensive repairs. Generally if you follow these simple guidelines you should reduce your instances of breakages.

There is no such thing as a cheap needle. Cheap is exactly what it means. The needle is one of the most important components in your machine, use a good one.

Always use the correct needle size and point style for the job in hand.

Change your needle regularly, the point and the blade can be easily damaged, especially in difficult applications.

If ever you have a stitching problem, the first thing you should do is change your needle.

Thread Breaks

Some machine embroiderers find that even when using Madeira's high quality threads they experience the thread snapping or shredding. The usual advice given is to 'change the needle' and usually it works. However, if you understand why you change the needle, the advice makes much more sense.

Whilst in use a machine thread runs through the eye of the needle very fast, creating a groove which is unique to that thread. As each type of thread has it's own unique weight and twist, when you change to a different type of thread the groove in the eye of the needle does not match the thread and trouble ensues.

The best needles come in neat plastic boxes and if you stick a label across the box you can note which needle you used for which thread, keep a separate needle for each type (not colour!) of thread that you use. Taking the extra few seconds to change to it's special needle will make life much easier!

Thread tension is also a prime cause of thread breakage. Puckering is a sign of bad tension and you can help eliminate puckering, especially in fine fabrics, by using a fine sharp needle and a straight stitch throat plate. The fine sharp needle will punch through the fabric with less drag and the straight stitch throat plate will give more support to the fabric as the needle punches through it.

A straight stitch throat plate has a round hole for the needle as opposed to the wide hole designed for zigzag sewing. This is often an optional accessory for your machine. You will get the best, even seam, using a Jean/Sharp needle with a straight stitch throat plate. As well as a straight stitch plate, a straight stitch foot is also recommended because, like the throat plate, it has a small round hole instead of a wide rectangular one.

Remember, in machine embroidery, it is important to use a thick enough needle to punch a big enough hole to allow the embroidery thread sufficient access to prevent damage to the thread and thereby shredding and breaking. Therefore the thicker the thread the thicker the needle should be.

Needle Sizes

The size of a needle is calculated by its diameter, thus a 90 needle is 0.9mm in diameter. You will see that the higher the number the thicker the needle will be. A previous method of numbering was from 8 to 20 and those numbers equate to the current system as follows.

Size 8 = 60, Size 10 = 70, Size 11= 75, Size 12 = 80, Size 14 = 90, Size 16= 100, Size 18= 110, Size 20 = 120.

Mb>Quick Guide

No.60 - Silks

No.70 - Lightweight fabrics

No.80 - Medium weight fabrics

No.90 - Medium heavyweight fabrics

No.100 - Heavy weight fabrics

No.110 - Upholstery fabrics.

No. 120 - Denim and Heavy Canvas

If in doubt, it cheaper to buy some new needles than repair your machine!

Specialist Schmetz Needles.

We carry a comprehensive range of specialist needle, covered in the catalogue. Here is a quick preview.

Spring Needle to give complete freedom allowing free machine embroidery without a darning foot or even a hoop. When the needle is withdrawn from the fabric the spring holds the fabric in place preventing any 'popping'. The needle is a size 80. Schmetz Spring Needle

Wing Needle to cuts holes in the fabric when the needle penetrates creating a spoke stitch effect. Schmetz Wing Needle

'N' needles or topstitch needle with a huge eye to allow metallics and thicker threads to pass through smoothly. The 'N' needle will take two or three threads at a time. This is a needle we highly recommend and will always suggest you purchase if using metallic threads. Schmetz Topstitch Needle

'E' Needle, with an elongated eye, although not as big as the 'N' needle, but longer than the standard universals, allowing you to thread thicker threads easier. Schmetz Embroidery Needle

Stretch needle for highly elastic synthetic knitwear like lightweight or silk jerseys. Schmetz Stretch Needle

Microtex for silk and microfibre fabrics.

Jeans for denim and similar densely woven materials, artificial leather, waxed cloth and vinyl.

Leather For leather and artificial leather. Schmetz Leather Needle

Quilting made stronger to be able to cope with layers of fabric and wadding, the quilting needles are also longer from the tip to the eye. Schmetz Quilting Needle

Twin needles are great fun. Before ordering check that the hole in the base plate of your machine is wide enough to take the needle. Use the twin needle for tuck-piping and ornamental seams. Schmetz Twin Needle

Triple Needles are half as much fun again as twin needles. As most machines have only two tension discs your will need to feed one thread on one side and two threads on the other. You will also need to place the third cop of thread in a cup or bowl behind the machine and thread from there. Schmetz Triple Needle

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Jonathan MacPherson
Managing Director
Barnyarns (Ripon) Ltd