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Types of Sewing Needles

Choosing the correct type of needle for your industrial sewing machine can be a daunting task. Different makes and models of machines require specific needles, and the kind of fabric or application will determine which type of needle is suitable for the job. Without proper knowledge and experience, determining which needle you need for your machine, you could end up wasting time and money.      

To clear the air and help point you in the right direction when it comes to correct needle selection, we’ve created this handy guide to industrial sewing machine needles. Let’s take a look at the complex world of sewing machine needles.

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The Anatomy of A Needle

On the surface, industrial sewing needles may look similar – and in a sense they are, as although size, thickness and point shape can vary widely, the general anatomy remains the same.

Butt – The bevelled top end of the needle.

Shank – Usually grooved, threaded or round on industrial and commercial machines, it is inserted into the machine along with the butt.

Shoulder – The slope between the shank and the shaft or blade.

Blade – The body of the needle (sometimes called the shaft) below the shank. The diameter of the blade determines the size of the needle.

Groove – A slit above the needle’s eye. The groove helps to reduce friction, cradling the thread and helping to guide it to the eye.

Scarf – An indentation in the needle above the eye, allowing the thread to be grabbed by the bobbin hook under the throat plate, creating the stitch.

Point – The base of the needle. This varies in shape and sharpness depending on the type of application the needle is for. The point of the needle is what allows it to thread and pass through the material.

The size, width and shape of all the various parts of the needle’s anatomy contribute to determining the type of needle.

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The Needle System

Every class of industrial sewing machine uses different sizes and types of needles. A group of needles that belong to that specific sewing machine class is called the needle system. Attributes such as the length and thickness of a needle will determine which needle system it belongs to. However, there are so many different types of needle available, it is not always possible to identify which system a needle belongs to simply by looking at it or measuring it.

Needle systems are denoted using codes that usually consist of an assortment of numbers and letters. There are various needle systems, and they do not all necessarily follow the same. Some popular stylings for needle systems include:

  • Two groups of numbers with an X separating (e.g. 135 x 17)
  • Two groups of numbers and letters with an X separating them (e.g. DV X 59)
  • A group of numbers followed by a letter (e.g. 1000H)
  • A series of numbers (e.g. 134-35)

It is worth keeping in mind that the numbers used within the needle system do not necessarily correlate with the physical dimensions of the needle. The instruction manual or technical sheet is the best place to determine which needle system is compatible with your machine. If you don’t have either of those to hand, check the machine nameplate or any spare needle packaging you have, or speak to an expert in industrial sewing machines

Needle Sizing

When talking about needle sizing, we’re referring to the thickness/gauge of the needle. In general, the larger the needle size, the thicker the needle will be. This, in turn, affects the size of the hole created by the needle and the thickness of the thread that the needle can accommodate. Larger needle sizes will result in larger holes and be able to use thicker thread.  What size of needle you require will depend on the material you’re working with and the thread you’re using to sew.

There are three main unit systems used to determine needle size – Metric, UK and US, so depending on where you are in the world will determine which system you’re using. There are many helpful conversion charts for commercial sewing machine needles online.

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Needle Points

Once you’ve determined which needle system your industrial sewing machine is compatible with, and you’ve figured out what size of needle is right for your application, you need to think about needle points. Different fabrics require different points, use the wrong points, and you’ll end up with less than desirable results. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular needle points and the materials they are suited for:

Round Point – often referred to as ‘normal’ or ‘standard point. These are suitable for a variety of light to medium-weight fabrics.

Ball Point – these needles have a small, round ball on the tip that slides through the fabric rather than piercing. They come in a variety of sizes. Light ball points are suitable for lightweight woven fabrics like t-shirts. Medium ball points are good for loosely woven elastic products and underwear, and heavy ball points are used for thick, coarse fabrics and garments such as sweatshirts and cardigans.

Leather Needles – sometimes referred to as Glover’s needles, these have a sharp triangular point, allowing them to piece and pass through rigid materials like leather.

Twin Needles – used to create parallel lines of decorative stitching.

There are many more styles of needles available. We hope this article has shed some light on the complex world of industrial sewing needles. If you’re in doubt as to which needles you should be using for your application, or you need advice on any aspect of commercial sewing, contact us today; we’ll be happy to help.