This section is from the "Home And School Sewing" book, by Frances Patton. Also available from Amazon: Home And School Sewing.
Needles are of various sorts and kinds; namely, the surgeon's needle, the upholsterer's needle, the cook's needle, the glover's needle (three-cornered at the point), the sail-maker's needle (which has to be pushed through with a steel or leather palm), the broommaker's needle, the weaver's needle (which has an open eye in the hook for picking up broken threads), the milliner's needle, the darning needle (a needle with a long eye, to be obtained in different sizes), the zephyr needle (which has a long eye and either sharp or blunt point), the bodkin or tape needle, and the ordinary sewing needle, which comes under the head of "sharps," "betweens," and "ground downs," and ranges in size from No. 1, the largest, to No. 12, the smallest.
The common sewing needle is manufactured almost exclusively in England, and requires cast steel wire of superior quality, which must be cut into lengths sufficient to make two at a time.
These pieces are straightened upon an iron table by means of an instrument called a rubbing knife.
The wire is then pointed at each end by automatic machinery provided with a fan and shaft to carry away the steel and grindstone dust.
It is next stamped and grooved, preparatory for eying; the lengths are then divided in two, and after burnishing the eye, they are hardened by being heated in an oven, and subsequently cooled by being plunged into oil.
This rapid cooling of the steel makes it as brittle as glass, and in order to reduce it to a perfect state of elasticity, it has to be again raised to about six hundred degrees and then allowed to cool gradually.
The process of scouring the needles takes about a week. They are mixed with oil, soft soap, and emery powder, wrapped in loose canvas, and placed in a kind of mangle worked by machinery. The scouring process finished, they are washed in hot water and dried in sawdust.
Finally, they are sorted, wrapped, and labeled. For wrapping, purple paper, chemically prepared, is used, because it is supposed to prevent rusting.