Guest Author - Tamara Bostwick
When you go to select a needle for your new project (you *do* change the needle when you start a new project, right?), it is important to understand the functions of the different parts so that you can correctly choose the appropriate needle for your project. While in much of our daily sewing, we can use a basic needle, there are times when the type of needle that you put in your machine will impact the quality of your sewing depending on the weight and type of fabric being used.
Shank: The shank is the upper part of the needle (opposite the point) that is inserted into your machine. The front is rounded while the back is flat. Depending on your machine, you will loosen a nut or use a screwdriver to change your needle. In my case, my sewing machine uses a nut and my serger uses a screwdriver.
Shaft: The shank ends where the round/flat part tapers and narrows to the uniformly round portion of the needle. The rest of the needle below the shank is called the shaft. The diameter of the shaft is what determines the needle size (80/12, 90/14, etc.). You will notice (if you look closely) that on the shaft there is a groove on the front and an indentation on the back near the eye. The Groove on the front protects the thread from rubbing (and possible stress) against the fabric as the needle goes up and down through the fabric. The dent in the back is called the Scarf and is there to help prevent skipped stitches when the needle passes through the plate to loop the upper and lower threads together.
Eye: The eye is that pesky hole that the thread passes through. The needle eye varies in size to accommodate different sizes and types of thread. Threading the needle can be difficult at times and I have talked to people who don’t like sewing because of this one onerous task. Everyone seems to have a tip: wet the thread, wet the needle, cut the thread at an angle, use a needle threader, close one eye (your own), wait until your grand-daughter can come over, you name it. And, this is definitely a time where you want to abstain from the booze, no matter how irritated you are; seeing two eyes only makes the problem worse. If threading the needle gives you trouble, there are machines with built in threaders that are quite helpful. You can also purchase Handicap needles that are self-threading.
Point: Yes, let us get to the point. It is easy to determine which end is the point of the needle. Aside from it being the end with a hole in it, it is sharp and capable of drawing blood. This is to say you shouldn’t toss a needle into one of the compartments of your drawer organizer to “deal with later”. It will hide in the corner waiting for the right moment to strike. Hypothetically, I mean. *cough, cough* The important thing to know about needle points is that there are different types of points for specific purposes.
When selecting a needle, you need to consider the fabric type and weight and the type of sewing you are planning to do. The weight of the fabric determines the size of needle that you need and the fabric type determines the type of point needed.
TIP: I save my needle cases when they are empty and write “USED” on the front in permanent marker for safe storage of my discarded needles.
To understand what type of needle to select for your project, please read the next page about sewing machine needle types.