Needls For Shoe Making

Needles for shoemaking are specialized tools, designed for stitching leather and uppers. They range from flexible to machine needles, catering to various footwear construction techniques.

Curved Needles

Ideal for hard-to-reach areas, curved needles are often used in the final stages of shoe construction, especially when stitching closed the last seam on a shoe upper.They can be with sharp edge or blunt ended.

With these curved needles you can for example sew the opanke sole to the upper and lining like we do in Bespoke Opanka Derby Course.

Straight Needles

A staple in any shoemaker's toolkit, these are versatile and suitable for various stitching tasks, such as sewing uppers or attaching components.

Blunt-end Needles

These are used primarily for hand-sewing welted shoe constructions. The blunt end ensures the needle doesn't pierce through the upper leather but slides between the layers.

Flexible Metal Needles

Generally elongated and more pliable than conventional needles, these flexible needles are particularly favored in shoes crafted with a welted construction. After a shoemaker punctures holes using an awl, they employ two of these flexible needles to seamlessly stitch the components together. Each of these needles features a loop for threading, and their tips are deliberately blunted to ensure smooth operation.

These flexible metal needls are ideal for any shoe constuction with hand sewing techniues, like welted shoes in English Brough Oxford Shoe Course

Pig Bristles

Though not technically needles, pig bristles are an old-school, yet effective tool in shoemaking, particularly in hand-sewn welted constructions. A bristle's natural stiffness, paired with its tapered shape, makes it ideal for threading through tight stitches. Often, shoemakers will attach a thread to a pig bristle's thicker end and use its finer tip to guide the thread through the leather. This method is especially favored in traditional techniques where precision and a tight stitch are paramount.

Synthetic Bristles

While traditional shoemaking often employs natural pig bristles, advancements in materials have given rise to synthetic bristles. These man-made alternatives mimic the natural stiffness and tapered shape of pig bristles.

Leather Machine Needles

Specifically crafted for working with leather, these needles feature a chisel-shaped edge designed to cleanly slice through the material, facilitating the smooth passage of thread. Uniquely, the edge of the needle is twisted at an angle. This design ensures that, when stitched, the thread rests in a slightly offset manner on the leather's surface, optimizing both aesthetics and functionality.

Understanding Sewing Machine Needles for Leather

Sewing machine needles come in a variety of sizes and types, each tailored for specific thread sizes, material thicknesses, and purposes. To delve deeper into thread sizing and its relationship with leather thickness, you might want to read the article: "Threads for shoemaking."

A sewing machine needle's size is often represented by two values, separated by a slash, e.g., 90/14. Generally speaking:

70/10 is thinner than 90/14.
90/14 is thinner than 100/16.
100/16 is thinner than 110/18, and so on.

The two numbers used in a needle size (e.g., 90/14) hail from different measurement systems:

Before the Slash (e.g., 90): This is a metric measurement, depicting the needle's diameter in hundredths of a millimeter. A 90 needle, for instance, has a diameter of 0.9mm.

After the Slash (e.g., 14): Originating from the Singer needle sizing system popular in the U.S., this doesn't directly equate to a metric measure. However, it gives a relative sense of the needle's size, with a higher Singer number indicating a thicker needle.

To illustrate, a 90/14 needle has a 0.9mm diameter (metrically) and is size 14 in the Singer system. Conversely, 100/16 means the needle is 1.0mm in diameter and size 16 in the Singer system.

Identifying Needles for Leather Sewing

When selecting needles for leatherwork, certain designations or markings hint at their suitability for the material:

LR (Left Right): This indicates a needle with a blade that cuts a larger hole in the leather, making room for the thread. Primarily used for topstitching on leather, the "LR" describes the chisel point's direction, cutting a diamond-shaped hole instead of a straight slit.

PCL: Refers to a specific kind of leather point. The exact nature of the point might vary, but it’s intended for piercing through leather without tearing.

Additionally, there might be a system number, like 134, on your needle pack. Such numbers refer to specific needle systems for various sewing machine types:

134 (or 135x5): Widely used in industrial sewing machines, these needles have a round shank and are common in walking foot machines and many other industrial varieties.
DPx5 (or 135x7): Found in smaller industrial machines, they resemble the 134 system but might differ slightly in specifications.
DBx1 (or 16x231 or 1738): These are for high-speed single needle lockstitch machines.
Ux128GAS: Used in blind stitch machines.
B27 (or MY1023): Suited for overlock or serger machines.
29x3: Common in older leather sewing machines, especially for patchwork.
15x1 (or HAx1): This system is prevalent in most home sewing machines.

The prefix letters before system numbers (like "DP", "DB", "HA") often reference the needle's shank, point, or other specific attributes.

Always ensure you use the right needle system for your machine to avoid sewing hiccups or potential machine damage. If in doubt, consult your sewing machine's manual or a technician.

Machine Needle for Fabric

Needles designed for fabric possess a slightly blunted, rounded tip. When used on leather, these needles tend to leave noticeably large holes. Consequently, they are best suited for shoe uppers crafted from fabric materials.

Online shoe making stores

There are several online stores dedicated to shoemaking, and here are a few where you can find some of these needls. Additionally, I'd recommend checking out local stores in your area.

All Shoemaking Supplies 

If you want to make shoes there is no way around it, you will need knifes, hammers, leather, glue, shanks, boards, and everything else to get the job done.
For that purpose I have created a detailed list of everything you need to make shoes.