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Needles for shoemaking

Examining the anatomy of the stitching needle used in footwear production.

by Stuart Morgan

While the individual stitching machine needle may have one of the lowest unit costs for any item of equipment used in the production of footwear, it is one of the most important. Many styles of shoe or boot could not be made without a correct needle. In this article, we will briefly investigate the different parts of the needle.

The parts of a stitching machine needle

Butt: The butt of the stitching machine needle is the uppermost end of the needle. This often features a bevelled end to allow the needle to be fitted into the needle bar with ease.

Shank: The needle shank is the largest part of the needle which is inserted into the needle bar of the stitching machine for clamping. The shank can be of different diameters to fit different types of machine. The shank will also have the size and type of needle stamped onto it.

Shoulder: This is the part of the needle which transitions from the shank diameter to the blade diameter.

Blade: Sometimes also known as the ‘shaft’, the blade can be of different lengths according to the machine it is made for. It is the main part of the needle in contact with the thread and the material. The size of the needle is determined by the diameter of the blade.

Long groove: The long grove can be found on one side of the needle, from the shoulder and the point. This groove provides protection for the thread during stitching. The thread should be the correct size to fit into the groove, allowing the thread to move freely when the needle is in the material. Having the correct thread size for the particular needle is very important for the stitching process.

Short groove: There is also a short groove on the opposite side of the needle to the long grove, to protect the thread during stitching.

Eye: The eye is located at the functional end of the needle, and allows the thread to pass from one side to the other. The eye is a very important part of the needle and must be completely smooth to permit the thread to pass through it many times during the stitching process. Any burrs or sharp edges will cut or fray the thread.

Scarf: The scarf can be found on the opposite side to the long groove, just above the needle eye. A flat indentation on the needle, this allows the hook to pass close to the needle to collect the thread before forming a stitch. The combination of long groove, short groove and blade creates a small loop at this area, permitting the hook to gather the thread.

Point/tip: This is the area of the needle that will penetrate the material. It can be found in many different shapes, according to the material being stitched. For example, if a cloth material is being stitched, a round point will be used, as this will part the fibres of the material without cutting them. A cutting point will be used to stitch leather, as it will create a clean entry for the needle into the material.

There are many different types and designs of needle point which create stitching of different appearances. Specific points can be selected from the great variety available to fix many stitching problems created by different materials.

The point or tip of the needle can become damaged or worn during use due to the material it must pass through. Therefore, the needle should be checked at regular intervals and changed if necessary, in order to maintain good quality stitching.

How can we help?

Please email for further information on the use of needles in footwear production.

Publishing Data

This article was originally published on page 38 of the April 2020 issue of SATRA Bulletin.

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