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The Humble Sewing Machine Needle - Getting to the Point on Quality Matters

Posted on November 12 2020

The Humble sewing machine needle - a jaycotts blog

Many brands of needles are available from many different places but they are all the same right? 
A needle is just a needle so why pay more when you get them cheaper?

The answer to the first question is no, they are not all the same.  The answer to the second question lies in the quality of the needle you want to put in your sewing machine. 

A large proportion of the issues experience with sewing machines are caused by what is put in the machine: bobbins, thread and needles being the main culprits.  The sewing machine needle is not  humble at all. It is a very significant part of the machine and plays a major role in the quality of the stitches your machine produces.  It has the ability to make or break (very literally) the project and your machine.

Let me tell you a story of a needle that caused a lot of problems.

A sewing machine that would cost about £600 (not an insignificant amount of money) came into the workshop because it just wasn’t sewing right.  Typical issues are missed stitches, thread continuously breaking and the tension being ‘off’.  (It rarely is but that’s another story).

The machine was looked at by an expert and when we say expert, someone who has been looking at and repairing machines for 40 years, such is the experience we have at Jaycotts.  The Eagle Eyed expert spotted the issue and was not surprised to see that the issue was not with the machine but one of the usual suspects, this time, the needle.

On close inspection, it was noticed that the needle was out of alignment.  It wasn’t bent but the front was not at the front.  To help, let me give you a little needle anatomy.  Modern domestic sewing machine needles have a flat back. This helps people to put needles into machines the right way around.  The eye of the needle is front to back.  Along the front of the needle is a groove, this is a space for thread to sit while the needle is being pushed into the fabric.  For the stitches to be formed correctly, it is important that the eye and the groove are very accurately positioned on the front of the needle.  If they are not, without going into to too much detail (I can see you nodding off), the machine can not loop the bobbin thread through the top thread and form the stitch.

So what was the problem with our rogue needle? Well, the front was not at the front.  As you can see from the photographs we have taken, with the needle sat on its flat back, the eye is slightly at an angle and so is the groove.  When a stitch is formed, the timing and position of the top thread when the bottom thread is looped through it is crucial and there is very little margin for error.  A needle that has the thread sitting at an angle because the eye does not travel front to back is sufficient to prevent stitches being formed properly and cause the machine problems.

 

In addition, we have put a Schmetz needle on the left of the rogue needle and the difference can be seen very clearly. 

 

 

The rogue needle is rough around the eye and in the groove which means the thread is likely to snag on it as it travels through the needle.  This is going to cause thread breakages and alter the tension the thread is under when the stitch is formed.  In addition, as the thread catches on the needle, it is very likely to bend the needle which may well cause the needle to hit or scrape the bobbin case or shuttle hook, therefore damaging the machine. 

So, having spent £100s, sometimes £1000s on a machine, do you really want to scrimp on needles to save a few pence at the risk of your project or an expensive repair bill on your machine? This is why we recommend quality needles such as Schmetz needles. 
Schmetz have had no involvement in the writing of this blog, it was written by Christi who many of you know teaches sewing, has a lot of sewing knowledge and experience… and only uses Schmetz.