Thursday, October 09, 2008

More on Needles

There are four vintage Singer sewing machines that use needles that are slightly different than the standard 15x1 needle used in 99.9% of all home sewing machines. The models are Singer's first domestic zig zag machine, the 206 and its successors, the 306, 319, and the rare free arm 320. The correct needles for these models is the 206x13. Here is a photo of a 206x13 needle (on the top) and a 15x1 needle (on the bottom):

The first thing to notice is that the two needles are the same length from top to the eye. This means that you could insert a 15x1 needle in a 206/306/319 and the machine will sew, because the hook-to-eye timing is identical. However, it is obvious that the point of the 206x13 is much shorter than the 15x1. What happens if you sew with a 15x1 needle in a 206/306/319 is this:

The point of the longer needle strikes the bobbin case and damages both the bobbin case and the needle. Surprisingly to me, you cannot hear the needle strike the bobbin case, so you don't even realize what is happening until you change the bobbin.

The other problem with using the wrong needle is that, because the point is longer, the needle could be still in the fabric when the feed dog begins to move the fabric. This can mean skipped stitches, puckering, and possibly a bent or broken needle. I can see no problem with using a 206x13 needle in a machine designed for a 15x1 needle, except that the 206x13s are considerably more expensive.

For those who like the 306 Class machines, I will try to keep a stock of 206x13 needles in my Etsy Shop, just click on the link below.

206x13 Needles



Joycelyndl said...

This isn't really about this needle blog, but more generally about sewing machine needles. I have a large collection of vintage sewing needles, most unused. There are 2 issues I have with them, but would like to make use of them if at all possible. Issue #1 is reading the size - do you know of any way to read the size from the needle? I have tried a magnifying glass, & not been really successful. Also tried to get some kind of contrast into the engraved letters (crayon) & didn't succeed. Second issue is the "scarf" you mention in your blog about different brands of needles. What is this & what purpose does it serve? I have a Singer 201, a Singer 221 & a new Viking. Presumably the old Singers wouldn't care about the scarf on a needle.

Anonymous said...

The scarf on the needle is important to any sewing machine It allows the point of the sew hook (looper on a chain stitch machine) to pass as closely as possible to the center of the loop of thread formed at the eye of the needle and pick the top thread off the needle and form the stitch. If the scarf were not there, the point of the hook (or looper) would have to pass farther away from the center of the loop and would tend to miss grabbing the thread or pierce the thread causing skipped stitches or frayed thread.

Lila said...

I have not checked yet, but I suppose that 306M uses that kind of needles too! I will check next time I have the chance to ask my brother (the 306M owner):) thanks for the info!

Az said...

i was given a treadle sewing machine, just the machine. if ever there was a winter project it's fixing this baby. though to my surprise, after oiling and a bit of cleaning the baby looks sweet. it's a standard sewing machine. my question is, what needles if any are needed for this machine. i really do not want to booger it up. i want to find a decent base for it and USE it. i figure kill 2 birds with one stone, get some small bit of exercise from working the peddle. and making pretty stuff.
i just need to know what needle it needs & where to get em.
thanks for your time!
Happy holidays!

Anonymous said...

I have referred to this post more than once and appreciate the pictures. Thanks.

SmellsLikeCrayons said...

I am deciding whether or not to buy a singer 306k today, and this has been VERY helpful!

Pat said...

Question: I just bought a 306M and took it in for service. The technician, who was an in-home repairman for Singer since the 70's, said it made absolutely no difference since the eyes of both needles (206x13 and 15x1) were the same. We left the repair shop with a 15x1 needle installed. I have found a source on ebay for the 206x13 needles. I'm confused now if it's worth the time and trouble to get these specialized needles - and no ball point size either - or if he just wants me to come back to ultimately repair the bobbin case. Can anyone weigh in on this?

Ed Lamoureux said...

The technician is both right and wrong. He is correct that the eyes of both style needles is at the same height so the hook will catch the needle thread. He is wrong that it makes no difference which style needle you use - the point of the 206 needle is shorter then the 15x1, the point of the 15x1 needle will hit the bobbin case in a properly timed machine and damage the case. Some technicians try to overcome this by adjusting the timing so the 15x1 needle misses the bobbin case but that throws off the feed dog timing so the machine doesn't feed properly. Go with the original Singer instruction and use 206 style needles for best results. -Ed

Pat said...

Thanks for your help, Ed. Now I have to decide if I have to call the shop and see if he adjusted the timing for 15x1 needles. And thanks again because of your great pictures, I can see a few nicks on the bobbin case in the same spot where your photo shows extreme damage. I'm glad I've been too busy to really have done more damage. Or maybe the bobbin case was already damaged and I didn't know what I was looking at or what to look for ... Getting ready to order some Schmetz needles and hope for the best.

Kurt in Tahoe said...

206x13 needles are now available in less that 100 from a number of sources. It makes them even more expensive, but you can buy packets of 10 of each size now on ebay and various places on the web. Best price I've seen is $23 for 10 each of the 3 available sizes:
It's much cheaper (per needle) to buy 100 from albrands, but lots of people don't need nearly that many.

Ed Lamoureux said...

Or you can do what I did - buy packs of 100, keep 20 of each size and sell the rest on eBay in packs of 10. -Ed

Kai said...

Different Singer 206's -
i have an old Singer 206 from Singer Wittenberge. I tried the Singer manufactoring date site where i got the Date "early 1908".
But it is an ZigZag model. On the veritas Site i found an other date with my Serial # C3169934: 1928
That may be true, perhaps. I know the ZigZag was introduced in Europe before the WW2. But when i couldn't find.
There is no date on my Singer and also no Model#. That she is an 206 i knew only by comparison with pictures in the www.
I just got an old german Manual for "Singer Klasse 206"
In this Manual they write that the Needle System is 15x1 !
I have compared the Picture from the Bobbin Case in this blogg with my Bobbin Case. They are different. There is somewhat like a Window in the Case so the needle can not touch it.
So we have to recognise that there are different 206 Singers in the World!
But i have a big Problem with my 206. It is missing it's timing belt. And because there wasn't anything left from it i do not know wich belt this was.
I am going on to solve this problem with a complete new Toothbelt and new discs.
Then i have to try the needles.
I hope that the 15x1 will fit...

Anonymous said...

I have a 206 which was altered to take industrial needles. it seems to work fine but i have to take extra care sloting the needle in as it has a round shank as opposed to a flat one. if anyone needs to look up old singer parts and numbers go to it has part charts in pdf form for pretty much every singer ever made. cheers Marita

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for the information above, and for the link to the Singer parts list, Marita! Very useful. First thing to do for me is to buy 206X13 needles.
The bobbin case of my 306K (1961) too is pretty damaged. However, when I turn the machine in slow motion (with a needle 15X1 mounted), the needle doesn't hit the case at all!
My question is: how do I find out whether my 306 has been re-timed or not? And, if so, how could I bring it back to its original condition (re-re-timing)? Does anyone know if there is a service manual for this machine?
(sorry for my bad english...)

Ed Lamoureux said...

The 306 Service manual is at

You can use the instructions there to check out your timing. I suggest installing a 206x13 needle before you attempt to change any timing, that way, you will know it's correct. -Ed

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot Ed, I found the manual and I printed it. I ordered 206x13 needles and a new bobbin case as well.
Yesterday I bought my second 306k (Don't ask me why, but I did it..). Same story about a damaged bobbin case.
Still, I can't imagine that using a 15x1 needle is the only cause of the damage. The distance between needle and bobbin case is over 1 mm!
I.m.h.o. I believe there are two possibilities:
1. Because of the longer needle point the feed dog timing isn't correct; the fabric bends the needle, and the crooked needle touches the case (as you described already above).
2. The bobbin case hasn't been properly installed (not pushed far enough until the 'click' has been heard).
I tried this out (in slow motion): in this position the needle hits the case exactly in the damaged spot!
I can imagine, given the inconvenient place of the bobbin, that this might be the principal cause of damaged bobbin cases.

Best regards,

kushami said...

I'm in Australia, and Allbrands wants nearly $50 shipping on a $50 box of needles. Ouch!

Schmetz charges more for the needles but less for the shipping. Also adds up to about $100.

I might try getting them from Germany. Any ideas welcome!

Anonymous said...

Also in Oz.
I was recently given a 306k.
Bobbin case shows a few needle bruises but nothing serious.
My father had used this machine a lot with 15x1 needles, the minimal damage seems to suggest it is a random event.
I tend to agree with Evert.
I think under certain conditions the needle is engaging the material as it is still being fed thereby flexing the needle to the rear.
There seems to be a lot of unsupported needle bar protruding as well [compared to other machines].
This may compound the problem.
The 15x1 needle must also be burying itself in the thread on a full bobbin too?
Creating more clearance by opening up the cut-out in the bobbin case an option?
Shortening 15x1 needles to the correct length?
My preference is to use the correct needle, but not easy to obtain.


Ed Lamoureux said...

It could be that the machine was re-timed to use the 15x1 needles. The 15x1 needles are longer but the eye is in the same place, so the machine will sew with 15x1 needles. However, to stop the needle hitting the bobbin case, the needle bar is raised a bit. Now, the needle eye is too high for the hook to catch the loop, so the hook has to be advanced. Now the hook is out of sync with the feed dog and the thread takeup lever, resulting in poor quality stitches. There must be some dealer in Australia who either stocks or will order 206x13 needles. -Ed

Anonymous said...

Had a closer look and the needle doesn’t enter the bobbin at all.
Have since spoken to the local technician and he said that most 306 machines in Australia had been modified to accept the 15x1 needle.
He didn’t say how they had been modified though…


Anonymous said...

OK, thanks for the explanation Ed.
I reckon you are right, the machine’s performance is certainly disappointing.
It looks like every man and his dog has had a go at it……every screw head mangled.
As the timing mark plate would have been reset when the needle bar was raised I have no idea where the factory position for the needle bar might be.
There is reference to a gauge in the service manual which I don’t have. Is there another means of resetting the correct needle bar height?
I can machine up a gauge block if I have a measurement.

Unfortunately, Australia is often referred to as a ‘second world country’ by visitors.
Even the retailers resort to purchasing their own personal stuff on-line from OS rather than rely on their own supply chain.
There is a mob called Sew Classic that will mail small quantities of the required needle…I shall investigate.


Anonymous said...

In a last ditch effort, enquired of one of the local sewing outlets about 206x13 needles.
I took most of their dust-covered stock. 70,80 and 90 in sharp and ball point….Schmetz and Singer.
“Haven’t sold any of those for 20 years”.
In the meanwhile was given a 306 treadle. The bobbin case in this machine has a section removed where the needle strikes occur.
6mm wide and all the way through…an attempt to provide clearance for 15x1 needles??


Ed Lamoureux said...

Sounds plausible but I have to wonder why, if the cure is that simple, previous sewing machine technicians haven't used that before to trick a 206/306/319 into using the wrong needle instead of re-timing and readjusting. -Ed

parsec said...

Is there anyone in Australia (preferably Adelaide) who would be interested in splitting a 206x13 order from Allbrands. The needle price is ok, but the postage is ridiculous, so sharing postage on a larger order might work out

Richard Beman said...

For the Singer #206-306- 319, you can purchase an "open" bobbin case which eliminates the problem of the needle hitting the case. Years ago the Singer repairmen took a Dremel tool and ground out the area so the needle would not strike the case...

Anonymous said...

I need to find needles for a Singer Sewing machine manufactured in 1881. The serial # or model # is 1845882. The needle # is possibly 120,20 or 300. I am not inquiring for myself but a friend and this is all the info I have. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

A friend has asked me to search for a needle for her 1881 Singer Sewing machine. The model or serial # is 1845882. She thinks the needle needed would be 120, 20 or 300. Can you help. Thank you. This is all the info she gave me.

Jackie Jenkins said...

Replace bobbin case with singer 20u bobbin case and you can use 20x1 needles problem solved.