It is a little known fact that the needle was one of human-kinds first tools. Over the centuries it developed from a simple craft item to the precision tool for modern sewing machines, constantly adapted for industrial applications and requirements.
The use of sewing today does not stop at garments and furnishings, but is equally important for car seats and air bags meeting high technical safety standards.
The needle has played a major part in the development of our civilisation and our standard of living.
The most ancient of sewing needles, which date's back to 28,000 BC, did not have an eye but a split thread end that gripped the thread to be sewn (often raffia, gut or sinew). Needles from later than 17,500 BC already had two features characteristics of the hand sewing needle today, the eye at one end and the tapering point at the other end. They were made from the materials available to human society at the time, like bones and antlers.
As people acquired skills in working metal materials, needles were also made from metal (Bronze Age approx. 7000 BC), first from copper, later on iron or bronze.
Although there is no positive evidence as to the precise design of these needles, excellent pieces of embroidery from the pre-christian era suggest they were probably fashioned almost to perfection.
Unfortunately articles with these needles were only partially reserved and there are barley any traces of the needle themselves. This is largely explained by oxidation, which destroys metallic needles after a short time. Even needles made in the 19th Century are now rarely found intact.
The invention of the sewing machine gave rise to the development of the sewing machine needle. The basic form of the hand sewing needle remained the same , though the degree of tapering and the variation of the diameter over the length of the needle were slightly altered over time.
In order to make comparisons, one must study the needle from its very point to just below the eye. Although the eye and the point have moved closer together, as the basic functional elements of the needle, they remain unaltered.
In 1755 , a German named Weisenthal thought he had found the prerequisite for machine sewing in his development of the two point needle. This needle form was also used later on by Madersperger and others and it is even used nowadays in modern industrial machines for sewing shank buttons or for imitating hand made seams.
In 1790 An Englishman called 'Saint', designed a hook needle or protruding needle similar to today's crochet needle. Today, hook needles are used in some single-chain, drop stitch embroidery (cornely) saddle-stitch and linking machines.
Both types of needles however, were of little importance for the further development of the sewing machine needle.
Around 1800, Balthasar Krems (from mayen, Germany) used, for the first time, a needle which had an eye moved close to the point. One should particularly appreciate this invention because of the feature that looks so simple to us today was a sensation at that time. This eye-point needle paved the way for the mechanisation of sewing worldwide.
Since then the sewing machine needle has been developed to the form known today. The needle has accomplished its transition from a hand tool to the precision tool of the sewing machine needle.