Horizontal oscillating hook · Needles · Singer

The secret of Singer needles

No, it isn’t top quality – that’s no secret. 😁 Singer domestic sewing machine needles of type 15×1 (a.k.a. HAx1 or 130/705H) are actually different from needles of the same type made by other manufacturers, both needles of top quality and needles of “great value”.

Here they are – a Singer needle and a different needle. I’m not saying who made it because I have no idea – it’s unbranded. I’ve had it in my box for a while and don’t remember where it came from. It is representative of several common brands, but obviously I didn’t check them all.

Both needles sew perfectly on most machines except my Singer 66K (1906) and Singer 98K (1963) both of which have a side-facing horizontal oscillating hook. On these two Singers the difference is a perfect stitch versus skipping more than sewing. So what’s the problem?

Looking at the two needles above, the first thing you notice is that the scarf is longer on the Singer needle. The scarf is the indentation just above the eye which helps the hook catch the loop.

Here is what happens during sewing. You can see clearly here that the scarf on a Singer needle comes up quite a bit higher at that crucial moment of catching the loop.

But something else is evident too: the Singer needle is rotated counter-clockwise compared to the other needle. This puts the loop further out on the path of the hook and changes the timing. More than that, it also makes a bigger loop and loosens thread twist – all very helpful for catching the loop.

But Singer recommends their needles not only for the machines with the horizontal hook, but for all their machines that take needle type 15×1. Notably, this includes model 15 for which this needle was originally developed (hence the name: 15×1). So what does the needle rotation do for the vertical oscillating hook?

In the original design of Singer 15, the hook catches the loop coming towards the needle from the left. This is the opposite direction compared to the horizontal hook in Singer 66.

Rotating the needle counter-clockwise puts the loop earlier on the path of the hook but still makes a bolder loop because of its orientation. I never noticed any difference in stitch quality between Singer needles and other good needles, so I think it doesn’t really matter for this design.

But then again, it still changes timing. Old Singer 15 machines had a fixed hook timing, that is, the timing was calibrated at the factory and the hook was fixed to the axis with permanent pins rather than removable screws. These machines never needed their timing adjusted because it could not slip (unless you wacked it with a sledgehammer which would effectively put the machine out of business). Obviously, Singer machines were calibrated for Singer needles, and I wonder whether perhaps on some difficult fabrics you would notice the difference.

Singer’s vibrating shuttle machines also use the same 15×1 needles. Here, like in model 15, the shuttle approaches the needle from the left.

Rotating the needle counter-clockwise would throw the loop towards the shuttle and again slightly change the timing. Perhaps something to remember in case of troubles.

On the whole, in my experience only Singer horizontal hook is sensitive to slight needle rotation. It is also not possible to rotate the needle bar in my Singer 66K – thank goodness for that! But from now on I’ll be using Singer needles in all Singer machines, just to be sure. 😊

22 thoughts on “The secret of Singer needles

  1. You have some good observations regarding Singer and other brand needles.

    My personal experience is that other brands work well in our machines, namely Schmetz and Organ needles… In our VS, side loading, and drop in bobbin machines, the stitch quality seems unaffected. One thing about Singer machines opposed to others is that Singers have very tight needle to hook clearance. I wonder if this is a factor. I will pay more attention to needle choice and see if stitch quality is indeed affected.

    Thanks for an informative post!


    1. I was surprised by this as well! I too usually buy Schmetz or Organ needles, and so far never had any problems. But last week I was making some curtains with this Singer 66K, and when I changed the needle, the machine basically stopped sewing. Ok, bad needle, I thought. Changed it again. Not sewing. Again and again – still not sewing! Then I noticed that the old needle was a Singer needle, which I don’t normally stock. But I found another Singer needle in the draw, and immediately the machine was sewing perfectly again. Very odd.

      The 98K was never sewing very well and I don’t use it much. But turns out, with a Singer needle it sews like a dream. So I thought let other people know!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! I like those super close-up views. Jezebel Janome only works well with Janome needles, so it seems the same can be said for Singer. Very interesting post.
    Still having issues with my 66 with the stuck solid stop motion screw and the bobbin winder can’t be released. Now seeing the sledgehammer comment made me wonder – I’ve heard people have taken a hammer to a set of pliers clamped on to the screw – would you recommend it? It has been soaked in oil and WD40 sprayed carefully but while the neck seems to be free, the issue seems further in. I’m thinking baked on grease thanks to an old motor (now removed as I wanted it to go back to treadle mode) – which might be too late. The other working end is in great shape.
    By the way my 201 is now working perfectly and the new pedal is great! Thank you xx


    1. I noticed that Janome needles were also different somehow – but it wasn’t drastic enough to warrant a proper investigation. 🙂 I suppose there too some machines are just more sensitive than others. Out of interest, what kind of hook does your Janome have? Is it vertical or horizontal (with a drop-in bobbin)?

      Regarding sledgehammer, brute force can only be used if the person using it is both strong and skilled with that particular tool, otherwise you won’t be able to control the tool and instead of precision whacking you’ll smash your machine to pieces. I always ask my hubby to do it – he’s a carpenter, so both skilled and strong. For comparison, I tried to use his regular-looking hammer to beat a nail into a wall to hang a picture. Alas, I got the plaster off and hit my finger but still didn’t manage to hit the nail – the hammer was too long and heavy for me to control. And I’m usually quite handy with DIY tools which he calls “toys” because they are so much lighter. So whack with caution. 😀


      1. Must admit I’m a little reluctant to do that! Although apparently “she might not look it, but she’s as strong as an ox” said my husband to a delivery driver with some compost bags! LOL! Thanks dear hubby for that!
        As for Jezebel she’s a Memory Craft 6500 with a drop in bobbin. She is very pernickety about thread too. Aurifil works great as does Gutterman, but the others are a no-go area! I have the bobbin race suitable for quilting which works a little better.


      2. This is interesting regarding your Memory Craft. I’ve got an MC 6000, so only a little different, one would think, but mine is extremely well-behaved with any kind of needle or thread – thin, thick, medium, cotton, polyester, viscose, nylon, lurex – you name it, she’ll use it, no tantrums at all. I did find though that for any fancy thread it’s best to use specialised needles – embroidery, top stitch or metallic, as appropriate. The result is much nicer than with standard needles.


      3. Ok, I just googled it. Is it MC 6500P? A modern one? Then in spite of similarity in numbering, it’s a very different machine because mine is from 1987.


      4. Ah yes – I think mine was sometime in the 1990s. I used to have an older Janome but quilting always was troublesome in that it had a little hiccup when starting off – like a mini zigzag! My ex-neighbour has her now, so she has been using her to sew clothes and a lot of repairs and loving the machine. Apart from that, she was a nice little machine – made lots of curtains with her.
        Also Jezebel doesn’t mind the So Fine thread either.


  3. Interesting to know needles aren’t universal! My everyday sewing is on a vintage Bernina, but I have antique Singers, and will remember to use only Singer needles with them. (I have Singer needles onhand, but tend to grab whatever brand is on the rack at the store.)


  4. Hi Elena, We can buy Organ and Singer 15×1 needles in Philippines. Then there are the ones from China/Hong Kong that are odd brands but really cheap. The Mrs. go-to machine is not an industrial but a Singer 201k-23 (external motor 230vac). And…the Singer needles have never worked in her machine. The Organ needles work perfectly. We can see major differences between the Organ and the Singer here. And I’ve had problems with the Singer needles on other machines as well here. I’ve stopped buying Singer and just use Organ or other cheap needles out of China (for example I can buy size 19 15×1 needles out of Hong Kong cheap which is a hard to get size). Best regards, Mike


    1. I think it has much to do with the actual machine and when it was manufactured. The experience with Singer needles that I described here was with that early 66K model – and I never experienced anything like that with any other model, including other 66K. But it is an interesting fact that the Singer needles are slightly different, so if your machine is fine tuned for Organ (for whatever reason), then logically it won’t take Singer needles, and visa versa. I noticed that Janome needles are also minutely different and make Janome machines run with fewer skipped stitches. But I haven’t investigated it in full detail because my own Janome machines are well behaved and don’t skip stitches anyway. 🙂


  5. Nice article and beautiful pics! I believe that the scarf on needles is not constant even for a brand. Some of Schmetz have different scart lengths depending on the potential use of the needle. I like the Microtex, but I can’t remember anything about what the scarf is on that one.


  6. Hi,
    Do you know if Todays’ Singer 15×1 needle meets the ORIGINAL Singer 15×1 NEDDLES -SCARF AREA- SPECIFICATIONS? I am concerned because I am having trouble finding ORIGINAL Singer 15×1 needles.
    I want to feel at ease with purchasing New MODERN 15×1 needles of they are the same scarf size.
    I am new at this. I thank you for helping me.


    1. Hi, I tested modern needles, so they are the same. What do you mean by “original”, by the way? From 1895? This is when they were introduced. 😉


  7. Hi Elena, excellent article. I have a Singer 328K and am having the skipped stitch issue. I purchased
    new Singer brand needles….and still skips. It stitches like a champ when I put in old Singer needles. I’m kind of “getting down there” where the old needles are concerned. Any ideas for me? Thank you so much for a great article!


    1. The needles definitely seem to be the issue. Check your new Singer needles – compare them with your old ones and with other non-Singer needles. I bought Singer needles made in Brazil and they were the same as the old ones (a little turned), but I also have some Singer needles made in China and looking suspiciously as fake (poor quality packet, small logo – not the usual stuff), and these Chinese “Singer” needles are straight, not like proper Singer needles. They also cost a lot less. Never again.

      If the needles look Ok though, then may be it’s something else. Have a look at this post: https://vintagesewingmachinesblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/20/skipped-stitches-and-their-remedies/

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting observation.

    Regarding old needles from Europe. I read somewhere, that the typical needles for household machines before 1950 got the system name 705, and it got no scarf. Later on it became common to use needles system named 130/705H. They got a scarf. This change did also affect how the machines were designed. So machines later on could move the hook somewhat closer to needle. Can you clarify some of this?
    Regarding the Singer 15, it came in a two main versions. The Singer 15-30 had the needle threaded from left. The 15-91 got the needle threaded from the right. Then of cause the needle is turned so the scarf is against the hook in both cases. I got a Pfaff 30 and a Bernina 910 with CB shuttle hook, and they approach the needle in the same geometrical way. But the Singer 66 and Singer 201 is from other side. Due to the fact, that almost all threads used are Z-twisted, I would have guessed that one way would always have been prefered.


    1. Singer 66 is threaded from left to right, while Singer 201 from right to left. I do not believe that Singer 15-91 threads differently than any other Singer 15 model. The hook moves in the opposite direction but threading is the same. You can download every old Singer manual from their website and verify.


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