The Sizing of the Sewing Machine Needle

In 1942 the sizing of machine needles became regulated and fixed individual metric sizes were introduced, leaving behind an antiquated system of more than 40 different individual sizes. Sewing machine needles are sized in metric, however the equivalent imperial size is also shown, which appears adjacent to the metric size. For instance: 90/14 means that 90 is the metric size and 14 is the imperial size.

The size of the sewing machine needle is dictated by the diameter of the needle blade, which is measured above the “scarf” of the needle. The measurement is in one hundredths of a millimetre, the same as a hand sewing needle and therefore, for example, a size 90 sewing machine needle means that the needle diameter, just above the “scarf” area, measures 0.90mm.

Remember the bigger or larger the number size – the larger the diameter of the sewing machine needle and therefore this denotes which fabric to use.  For example: a size 70/10 is a fine needle and this is used on lightweight cottons, whereas a size 110/18 which is thicker than a size 70/10 and is used on heavy brocade fabrics.

The most popular size of a sewing machine needle is a size 80/12. It is a middle size, not too large and not too fine.

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The eye of the sewing machine needle can differ depending upon the brand and indeed upon the application for which the needle is designed. It is worth noting that domestic sewing machine needles are identified by the 130 / 705H system, which is universally designed to fit all electric domestic home sewing machines. Therefore Schmetz sewing machine needles, the best quality and the Rolls Royce of machine needles, are interchangeable and should fit all brands of sewing machines.

130 / 705H needles feature a flat shank and round front. They also have a “scarf” which is an indentation just above the eye that allows the bobbin hook to smoothly grab the thread from under the throat plate in order to create a stitch. The “scarf” shape and size can vary depending upon the type of needle even though each needle type may have the same shape of eye. The shape of the eye should not be confused with the “scarf” of the needle.

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Life Expectancy of a Sewing Machine Needle

During my Needle and Pin Knowhow Talks one of the most popular subjects we speak about is sewing machine needles and why we should regularly replace our needle. This always receives a gasp from the audience and sometimes with murmurs of “I change my needle when it breaks.” Here I delve into the mysteries of how long my machine needle last and why should I replace it.

Sewing Machine Needles

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W.Williams & Son: The period of the first world war...

The period leading up to 1914 was one of almost constant success despite various changes in fashion. When war broke out there was considerable nervousness throughout the textile trade and at first a great reduction in business. After some months trade adjusted itself accordingly. In 1914 most of the men in key positions at W Williams were exempt from military service and therefore the business ran on with its main methods unchanged. In May 1918 during the height of the war the staff at W Williams & Son, Bread Street numbered 436.

There were a few minor air-raids between 1917 – 1918 and as a consequence W Williams & Son had the roofs of each warehouse covered with steel netting attached to steel supports to protect the buildings and roll the bombs off the roof and onto the street. Thankfully this system was never tested.

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The early years of advertising and the commencement of the sale, commonly known today as Black Friday…..

In February 1902 W. Williams & Son was converted into a private limited company, with an authorised capital of £250,000. As the business continued to grow W.Williams & Son subsequently made additions to the premises, which at the time was seen as exceptional to have builders or carpenters carrying out improvements, enlargements and alterations. This is a testament indeed to the strength and confidence within the haberdashery industry.

Even in the early 1900’s advertising was as important then as it is today and it is on record that in 1902 W Williams & Son took the first twenty pages of the Drapers Record to advertise various specialities. Drapers Record charged £8 per page plus the artists and the photographers charges, which were more costly than the page. 

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The city of London was the main focus area for the Textile Distributing Houses responsible for the surge in haberdashery and textile products as we know them today. From the middle of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century these houses occupied a substantial part of the city of London spanning from Basinghall Street and King Street in the east to St.Paul’s Churchyard and Aldergate Street in the west and from Chiswell Street in the north to Cannon Street in the south.

One such company responsible in the early 1800’s for the introduction of countless haberdashery items and a trend setter of textiles and trimmings and founded in 1819 by William Williams was W. Williams, originally a ladies dress trimming manufacturer based in Bethnal Green. In 1825 the business continued to grow and under the guidance of Mr Leslie Williams, the son of the founder of the company, the company moved premises to Hackney.

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