How to organize needles

needles_by_machineThose who know me well, know that there are two subjects I refuse to discuss. And that would be needles and thread. Reason being, I’ve been stuck in too many social situations with needles and thread being the topic du jour. Want to know what a bunch of garmentos talk about when you get them into a room with whiskey and cigars? Needles and thread. Golf course? Needles and thread. Barbeque? Needles and thread. I’ve yet to meet anybody who has been in this business for 30 years or more, whose eyes didn’t light up like a 5 year old’s on Christmas morning at the prospect of a needle and thread coffee klatch. It could be said that I occasionally exaggerate or am given to hyperbole but I haven’t in this case.

Thoroughly overdosed, a condition of sale for any machine I buy is that it must come with needles so I know what kind to buy for it. I’m fanatical about making sure needles Stay In Their Drawer. Comes such a day when that doesn’t work well anymore because I need several types (ball points, diamond points) and of course, other people pull needles from drawer A and callously deposit them in drawer B. It’s not as though the different types are labeled with Hey! I’m a ball point!; it’s always a list of cryptic string of numbers and letters, and every brand (I have 6) does it differently. And then of course, how can you remember what size and type needle is in what machine? Well, I have that all figured out. Maybe my method will work for you too?

Using my handy label machine, I label each packet according to the machine that uses it. BH stands for button holer (I also have a blind hemmer but those needles can’t be confused with any other). OL stands for overlock, WF is walking foot, SN is single needle (the needle feed uses the same ones) and CS is coverstitch. A photo of this is shown up top. If the needle is special in some way, it gets another label. BP is ball point; DP is diamond point (this is shown in the photo below). By the way, many packets have DP on them. This does not (unto itself) mean diamond point.


As far as knowing which machine needle is in the machine, I stick the needle packet on the head with a magnet. And no, the magnet will not break the machine.


By the way, I had been questing for the perfect magnets and made a couple of bad buys (over the web). These are the ones I’d been looking for. You see these on machine heads everywhere.  They are 3″ long and .75″ wide.

After I organized mine today, I counted 16 packets of needles just for the single needle and the needle feed. That’s about $80. Crazy. Well, no more.

Finding the right needle size in the Haystack pt.1
Finding the right needle size in the Haystack pt.2

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  1. Theresa in Tucson says:

    Since I am a home sewer, all my needles fit all my machines but I do admit to having many varieties; ballpoint, jeans, topstitching, double, single in 5 different sizes, stretch and microtex. They live in the desk drawer to the left of the most used machine. I use a sticky stuck onto the machine if it is anything but an 11 or 12 universal which is my standard in almost every machine but the one used for topstitching. I do have two packs of industrials purchased for the Bernina 950 at school but they are stored with my school stuff. Good idea on the magnet. I will give it a try.

  2. Jen says:

    I take a sharpie and draw horizontal lines across the whole pack of needles, going over the non-point end of each needle. Later I can figure out what kind of needle I’m dealing by matching it to a package that has the same pattern/color of stripes at the top. Primitive, but works for me.

  3. Jessica M. says:

    I definitely agree with keeping the needles in the drawer of the machine they fit. Trouble is, my toddler has started pulling everything out of the drawers and getting them mixed up! At least I had some of the needles in a ziplock bag labeled with a sharpie, so I know which machine they belong to. I used to have a hard time telling the difference between ball points and regular points (and then there are leather points…), so a while back I found and printed out a chart to help decipher the number and letter codes. I can’t find the source to link to the specific chart I use, but you can find a huge amount of info here:

  4. Theresa in Tucson says:

    Another tip is to keep a magnifying glass handy. For those of us with aging eyes it is necessary to read the markings on the shaft. Singer used to color code the shaft so that is maybe another way to identify type ( a drop of nail polish or swipe with a Sharpie). In the home sewing world there are needle organizers and needle pincushions to store lightly used needles but like any method, it must be adhered to, to be effective.

  5. Ramona says:

    Interesting post and very helpful to me. Being a quilter, all I hear is never use old needles. Having sewn for decades and not changing my needle as often as I’m now hearing recommended, I wonder what your take is on that issue. I used to only change when I felt or saw a problem with my stitches.

    Another unrelated question regarding your Juki…or rather my Juki. I have an 8700 H that I intended to use to sew vinyl in particular. What I didn’t think about was the lack of a walking foot which has rendered the machine useless for that application. My dealer has steered me away from buying a separate walking foot for the machine. He gives me the impression the foot being made of plastic isn’t up to the Juki’s capabilities. Do you have an opinion on that … or a solution? Thanks so much,

  6. Stu Friedberg says:

    Ramona, there are a couple of industrial accessories that may make sewing vinyl or other “sticky” materials on your Juki acceptable. You want a Teflon-coated needle plate and a roller presser foot. There are a couple of types of roller presser feet, and they take different feed dogs and therefore different needle plates. One type is a single, large diameter wheel often called a “leather roller foot”. This type is pretty widely available. The other type looks more like a conventional foot but has multiple small rollers instead of a flat bottom. I’ve only seen this one on eBay, although I’m sure it can be found in somebody’s catalog. Search for “multiple roller presser foot”.

    Avoid a roller presser foot that looks like a normal foot and only has one roller, or one wide roller with two skinny little disk rollers. (These are commonly available for household machines.) You want as much roller and as little flat bottom touching the material as possible, and this style does not provide that.

    I have not had much success with Teflon feet. If the material is sticky enough to require a slippery foot, I’ve had better luck with the roller feet than the Teflon feet.

    The walking foot attachment won’t stand up to production, and might not stand up to the Juki running at full speed even in moderate usage. But if you sew slowly (in industrial terms), the attachment might be useful. I think you’d get more use from a leather roller foot, though.

  7. Molly says:

    This is a great; I really love your blog! Since I don’t have nearly as many different kinds of machines, I’m able to get away with just using a tomato pin cushion to organize my needles. I use a fine point sharpie to label the different wedges of the tomato for different types of needles and then I can divide each of those wedges into sizes vertically. I use pins with colored heads to match the dominant color on each of my machines and I leave a pin in the place of whatever needle I have in the corresponding machine. It has worked out pretty well for me so far!

  8. Rosebud says:

    Good minds think alike! I do the same thing – a magnet to hold the needles and also label the machine with the needle type. Works for me!

  9. David S. says:

    I keep my needles in plastic Plano box (a 3750). It’s got three rows of compartments, two narrow and one wider. The rows have dividers, and I’ve arranged each of the narrow rows into six compartments. Each compartment is dedicated to a needle size (or sizes: I don’t use many ballpoints, so I’ve put them all in one compartment. Same with very small sizes, I don’t use them enough to warrant having many needles, so 9/10/11 are all in the same slot.) The slots hold 10 or 12 packets of typical industrial needles. The rest of the box holds feed dogs, presser feet, bobbin cases, and stuff like that. Much too big for a machine drawer, but it suits my purposes well.

    A used machine I looked at a couple years ago had a sticker from a dealer that listed the needle types it took, the oil it took, and the length of the belt.

  10. Doris W. says:

    I use a Plano bait/tackle box, bought at WalMart fishing department. Lid is removed so the whole business sits inside a shallow drawer. Needle envelopes are arranged by type and size.

    Slightly used “low mileage” needles go on a classic tomato pin cushion that has Fine Sharpie lines drawn on it and each category labeled for type & size. Three different tomato pin cushions (home sewing machine, machine embroidery, coverstitch) to keep the the low mileage pins all organized.

  11. nowak says:

    I have only one home sewing machine, but I have more than 16 packets of needles. :o (32, just counting, but they are not all different, that includes the recharge packages.) Luckily the Organ home sewing needles are cheaper than what your machines use.

    But you are so right: putting them back where they belong is so important!

    Even IF somthing is imprinted in the shaft, figuring out what takes so much more time, you can store your needle 20 times or more often, in what it takes to read and decipher the little numbers of only one needle.

  12. Viggo says:

    Thanks for your remark, Stu

    Actually, I have searched the internet for some comparison on teflon foot, walking foot attachment, large diameter roller foot and foot with small diameter rollers. Stu’s Remark is the only one I got when using Google. All these foots try to reduce the friction against the fabric from above in order to facilitate the movement of the sticky fabric. Stu suggests that the large diameter roller foot is the best to do that. I have no expierience on these foots, but as a mechanical engineer I tend to agree.

    In my search on the internet, these large diameter rollers seems only awailable for Bernina household machines and for industrial machines.

    Have anyone seen these rollers being sold to facilitate other household machines?

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