How To Properly Thread Your Sewing Machine Needle

Hello everyone, today we are going to discuss threading the needle on a vintage sewing machine. We are going to delve into the dynamics of the needle design just a little and in doing so we will be able to understand how the thread must go through the needle in order for the hook to be able to catch the loop and form the stitch. And since the needle doesn’t care if it is feeding thread to a vertical hook or a horizontal hook the basic concept will be the same. As long as the timing of the needle places a loop where the hook can catch it, the stitch doesn’t care if it is coming off of a rotary hook or an oscillating hook.

thread sewing needle


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We often get asked which way does the thread go, is it supposed to be threaded from the left or from the right? Well as much as I would love to be able to have all the different makes and models memorized. I find myself in the middle of too many different types and not enough experience with each one of them to be able to trust my memory. So when we receive that question I will either look at the same model sitting on one of our shelves or I will refer back to my notes and database to find the proper response. When I find myself with a new to me machine that is not in my records I will rely on the hook to tell me which way to go simply by watching the relationship of the needle and applying the simple needle design to show me the way.

When we look at the dynamics of the design of the needle the first thing we process in our mind is the needle shank. Very early needles were simply a round shank with no flat sides to orientate the needle position. The front and back of these needles could be identified by a slightly larger eye hole with smoother edges on the front side of the needle. Evolution soon refined the basic design to incorporate the flat side of the shaft being on the back of the needle. Also on the back of the needle, there is a short groove on the shaft and a cutaway section starting just above the eye and ending just below the eye. This cut away is called the “scarf” the purpose of the scarf is to allow the loop to be larger at the eye when the hook passes, making it easier to ensure a positive stitch completion every time the hook meets the needle. On the front side of the needle, there is a long groove to help allow for thread clearance at the edge of the hole created as the needle pierces thru the fabric.

needle back
Needle Back
Loaded with this information we can properly thread any machine without knowing or caring who made it or what model it is. First, we start with an unthreaded machine and the bobbin removed. We insert a needle and gently rotate the hand wheel in the appropriate direction. This is determined by watching the hook rotation and turning the hand wheel so the point of the hook moves towards the eye of the needle. Since we know the needle scarf is on the backside of the needle and that the hook also passes the backside of the needle we automatically know that the thread must enter the needle from the side of the long groove.  Long story made short if the needle scarf meets the hook on the right-hand side of the needle plate opening then the thread must enter the needle from the left-hand side. If it passes on the left-hand side then the needle must be threaded from the right side. And when the hook passes the needle at the back of the opening then we know we need to thread the needle from the front.

This simple understanding of the physics involved when making a lock stitch makes it possible to properly thread the needle regardless of the make or model. I have not yet found a normal lockstitch machine that does not follow this simple principal. You will notice I said I haven’t found one yet. Meaning it may exist somewhere and I haven’t seen it. I haven’t seen them all and I can only refer to the ones I have had personal experience with. I am always ready to learn new things and try very hard to remain constantly open minded. With this in mind, I hope you will experience the same results as I have.

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Until next time enjoy your machines your way, and may your needle plate remain dimple free.

thread any sewing machine needle


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About Melissa Shields

Mel is a 30 something year old quilter, attempting to balance her old school roots with today's trends. When not sewing or shopping for a new sewing machine Mel enjoys reading, reality TV, and Nascar.

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