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The Parts of a Sewing Machine Needle


Learning what the parts are and what they do, will help you understand how they work and why you would use different types of sewing machine needles.
Labeled parts of a sewing machine needle

Parts of a Sewing Machine Needle

Debbie Colgrove, Licensed to About.com
All sewing machine needles have the same basic parts. The variation in needles is caused by the shape of the parts and the length of the parts.


  • The upper thick part of a sewing machine needle is called the shank. This part of the needle is inserted in the machine. Home sewing machine needles are composed of a flat and a round side, to assist in always having the needle in the correct position.

  • Always refer to your sewing machine manual for the correct way to insert the needle in your machine.

  • Industrial machine needles have a completely round shaft and the groove is used to know which direction to put a new needle in the machine.


  • The shaft of a sewing machine needle is the area from the bottom of the shank to the point. The shaft contains the groove, scarf, eye and point of the needle.


  • A groove is in the side of the needle leading to the eye. The groove is a place for the thread to lay into the needle.

  • Use your fingernail and feel the groove of the needle on various sizes to understand why a different size thread would be needed for heavier thread.


  • The scarf is a groove out of one side of the needle. The scarf allows the bobbin case hook to intersect with the upper thread and form stitches.


  • The eye of the needle carries the thread so the machine can keep forming stitches.
  • The size of the eye can vary and works in conjunction with the groove of the needle.
  • Using a needle with an eye that is too small or too large can cause your thread to shred and break.
  • The point of the needle is the first contact with the fabric and responsible for how the needle pierces the fabric.

  • The most common types of point are sharps, ballpoint and universal.

    • Sharp needles are for all woven fabric. The sharp point is especially helpful when sewing straight lines and tasks such as tops stitching.

    • Ballpoint needles are designed for knit fabric so that the point glides between the loops of a knit fabric without disturbing the fibers that make up the fabric. Ball point needles do not form as straight stitching as sharp needles. The non-straight stitching is more apt to stretch with the fabric.

    • Universal needles can be used with woven or knit fabric. The point of a universal needle is sharp yet very slightly rounded giving it the characteristics of a sharp and a ballpoint needle. If you are not happy with the stitches your machine is forming, try switching the needle to either a ball point or sharp.
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