This section is from the book "School Needlework. A Course of Study in Sewing designed for use in Schools", by Olive C. Hapgood. Also available from Amazon: School Needlework: A Course Of Study In Sewing Designed For Use In Schools.
Needles are of various sizes and shapes, according to the uses for which they are intended.
Three kinds of needles are used in sewing on cotton cloth, - sharps, ground-downs, and betweens; the sizes range from No. 1, the largest, to No. 12, the smallest. Sharps are long needles, ground-downs are shorter, and betweens are still shorter. Ground-downs are excellent for school use, as they do not bend or break easily. Betweens are used for heavy work.
Worsted and darning needles are used for yarn, and are of different sizes. Worsted needles have a long eye, and either a sharp or a blunt point. A very long needle is used in millinery work. A bodkin or tape needle has a long eye, and is used for running tape into a hem or casing.
Let us examine our paper of needles. It is assorted so that we may have needles suitable for all kinds of stitches. To open it, place a finger between the folds of the paper and separate them. Now, opening the sides and short ends which cover the needles, we find twenty-five needles in a secure case. Keep them in their places so that we may know the proper size to use for the thread or stitch. Beginning at the middle, we find three No. 5 needles, which should be used only with very coarse thread; they are suitable for sewing on boot-buttons, etc. The needles on each side are alike, so following down one side, we find two No. 6 needles, used for sewing on coarse materials; next are three No. 7 needles, suitable for hemming on towels, etc.; then there are three No. 8 needles, for stitching; next are two No. 9 needles, used in hemming cotton cloth; and the last is a No. 10 needle, for very fine work.
After taking out a needle, fold and tie up the paper so that none may drop out. Never use a bent needle, as it makes uneven stitches. In passing a needle, hand the eye of the needle to the person, keeping the point towards yourself.
Needles have been used by the women of every country, in every age. Bronze needles have been found in Egyptian tombs, and we have mention of them in the early history of the Greeks and Romans.
The common sewing needle is made from steel wire, and is manufactured almost exclusively in England. Although simple in form, a needle passes through the hands of a hundred workmen before completion. The wire is cut from coils into pieces or blanks of twice the required length of the needle. After being straightened, the blanks are ground to a point at both ends, and flattened in the middle; on this flattened surface the groove for the thread is made, also two small indentations to mark the places for the eyes, which are drilled by machinery. The lengths are now separated, and are hardened by being heated and dipped in oil; then they are tempered by again slowly heating and cooling. After being scoured, rounded and polished, they are sorted, and folded in papers, which, when labelled, are put up in packages.
Machine needles are manufactured in this country by machines invented for the purpose. The work is similar to that done on the common needle, machines being substituted for part of the hand labor.