Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Those hard to find Needles for some classic machines

There are a couple of vintage machines I have talked about in the past that have a special needle that is almost Impossible to find. If you do happen to find some, they can go for as much as $6.00/each.  The Free Westinghouse Rotary and the New Home Rotary are two groups of machines that use these special, short needles. I am basing all of the following information on the New Home model NLB rotary sewing machine.
Below is a picture of a needle for the NLB and along with it, a plain, size 14, Schmetz needle that you can buy at your local retailer.

 I lined the "EYES" up to show that the shank of the normal, Schmetz needle(bottom)  is longer than the New Home(top), CC1221 needle. Now, according to a very knowledgable sewing machine expert named Bill Holman, you can grind the shank down on the Schmetz needle so that the distance from the "shank head" to the top of the eye is the same as the New Home needle.

I have this very convenient, desk top grinder that makes this process very easy.

Here is a picture of the two needles after the grinding process on the Schmetz needle. The "EYES" do line up and the shanks are the same length. The needle point on the Schmetz is a bit longer but that doesn't matter.

When the hook passes the needle on any sewing machine it must be within a proper range from the EYE to be able to pick up the upper thread consistently and at a high rate of speed.  If you try this grinding process yourself, please wear the appropriate safety gear. I have tried this process with great success.
Thank you Bill Holman.

This is a picture of a properly timed NLB and a CC1221 needle. Notice the distance of the "Hook Point" above the "EYE". If the needle shank was longer, that "Eye to hook" distance would be greater.  Too great a distance to pick up that upper thread consistantly with todays standard needle. There are several different Needle part numbers out there that may or may not work consistently with your machine. If you look back at picture 1 and 4, you will notice that the NLB needle (CC1221)  is very close to 1 7/16" in length. There are other needles advertised at this length but the eye is not at the correct location. Here is a 206X13 that is advertised to work.
CC1221 on top and 206X13 on the bottom

The 206X13 needle is about the same length, but it is not a match. The eye is not the same distance from the shank head. It is almost  1/16" too low(pictured). All this information is just my opinion from experience and research. Any additional information is welcome. We should all continue to learn.


  1. Just wanted to say thank you for your post! I just bought an old NLB and if it wasn't for this post I would have left the store without any new needles(thank goodness for smartphones). I do have an idea that I'm going to try and wanted to run it by you.

    I was going to adjust the needle bar to make up the difference of the new needle vs. correct needle. In theory, It would accomplish the same task with much less work over time. I'm going to try it out this week and i'll get back to you on the results. Thank you so much agian, I would have never come to this idea if it weren't for you post.

    I'd be afraid to do it, but after got the machine oiled everything worked except the bobbin action. I took it all apart, adjusted the vertical shaft worm gears, and then had to re-time the machine. So after all that, everything runs smoothly and the next step for me will be that needle bar, with no fear of destroying the machine now. Didn't realize how easy these machines are to work on.


  2. After pondering Chris's theory, I can't think of one issue that would keep the needle bar adjustment from working with a standard needle.

  3. Hello. I was wondering how the needle bar adjustment went, since I am in the same situation myself. It looks like a small screw on the side of the needle shaft my be loosened to increase the space to accommodate modern needles. What I don't know, since I do not have a cc1221 needle to compare, is how much to increase the height. What is the difference in height between the original needles and the modern needles? Thanks.

  4. If you look at the photos provided above, it looks like the adjustment is 1/8" higher to accommodate today's needles. Please let me know if anyone finds an error in my findings :-)

  5. I just picked up a Free-Westinghouse model ALC that takes the CC1221 needle and had one in it. After reading the comment on adjusting the needle bar to accommodate the 15x1 I did it, which was quite easy, and it sews like a champ with the 15x1. I think the deal with the Kenmore model 49 and this machine was just a gimmick to get people to buy their needles.

    Bruce in Bremerton, WA

    1. Can you explain how to adjust the needle bar? I have the NLB type F and I need to find the cord to plug into the outlet but when I do I want to be able to use my machine.

    2. We found a cord at Ace hardware

  6. Yes, I just found one as well and would like to know how to adjust the needle too. Mine didn't come with a needle, pedal or attachments but had the manual.

  7. Has anyone replaced the motor on the new home type f?

  8. I found a cord with the plug in for the light and motor but the cord to the motor is brittle. Has anyone replaced the cord to the motor? Thanks

  9. I have a double needle or single zigzag free westinghouse 1950s??I need to get the double needles for its a single shank thats very thin use a double needle in it years ago but have lost the needle can you tell me the size annd # and where i can get one 2052 fits it but i need the double needle