That’s what I’m calling what I did yesterday. Over the last while, I have heard from several people looking to buy spare needles for their Bellinky linker. And there is a shop that I have directed them to, where I myself bought some of the needles after an internet search, but they are out of the size 22. What I have been using successfully is the size 140/22, in the PYE-2 system from Orange needles. I can find NO ONE else who makes this type of needle, nor can I find anywhere besides that one shop to buy them. (A quick Google will bring them up. They are in the US and still have stock in these needles in different sizes. I would be tempted to try a smaller needle and see if you can get away with it.) Orange has a whole diagram of what they look like on their website, which is helpful. There are a couple of key points: the EM tip, the round shank, and the short length in particular. But since I know what it looks like, I thought I’d try to see if anyone else makes a similar needle, and came up with nothing.
“Well who did you try?” Reader, everyone. I tried Organ, Schmetz, Groz-Beckert, Violin, Flying Tiger, and so many others I can’t remember at this point. The EM tip seems to be made by other companies – Organ specifically mentions it in their catalogue on page 3 – but I can’t find a needle in their catalogue that uses it. All the needles with an EM tip that Groz-Beckert seems to produce are blind stitch needles – huge curved things. I eventually just gave up, but it is possible someone else makes an equivalent system that I couldn’t find. If someone knows – PLEASE comment here and tell me!
I searched Facebook groups for info, and found a woman who mentioned that her Bellinky had come with a different needle, made by Organ, system PYB-1. But of course I can’t find any information about them anywhere on the internet, so I don’t know if they’re still made. If they are, I can’t find them. Interestingly, hers were larger, size 23. I have often thought a larger needle might be nice, and Orange seems to make a size 23 in the PYE-2, but I still come up short on where to buy them. (Trip to Korea, anyone?) Also, I haven’t found ANY needles short enough for the Bellinky, regardless of their tip.
Now, what I’m sure anyone who has ever looked at a Bellinky has noticed, is they look exactly like (and function like) any other hand crank chainstitch machine, except for the fact that there are no feed dogs to move the fabric. I mean I’m sure they look a bit different down below, but they all do basically the same thing. However instead of feed dogs, on the Bellinky, an offset gear engages with the bottom of the comb, and pulls your knitting along with it that way, one stitch at a time. So could you sew knitted fabrics with a regular hand crank chainstitch machine? Sure you could, but unless the machine was designed for knitting with yarn, you’d be limited by the tension assembly as to the thickness of thread you can use for sewing. Of course without the comb holding your stitches perfectly even, you don’t get the linking yarn or thread exactly between stitches, but I have sewn knits with a regular sewing machine before and it is OK.
Why is this important? Well, only because I have been wondering for some time if you had a non-useable Bellinky (there’s lots, unfortunately due to the lack of available combs, and apparently now a needle shortage!) if you could yoink the tension assembly off, and put it onto a vintage hand crank chainstitcher, throw in a bigger needle, and use it to sew with yarn. It might also require changing out the looper, I don’t know if one designed for thread would be able to deal with yarn. Someone who wants to take apart two of these things should really try it and let me know, ha. So I’ve been thinking about vintage chainstitchers a lot lately, and most of the ones I’ve come across seem to be toy models. Small. Bellinky-sized. So some bells went off, and guess what? The vintage toy models use short needles.
I found this page which details various toy machines and their needle specifics. While none have the funky curved tip of the Bellinky needles, the 88×1 type are really close in length, and also round shaft. They are a little smaller in diameter, so I don’t know if the needlebar screw would be long enough, but it might. I have ordered a package of these in a size 22, and I’m going to see if they can be used in the Bellinky. It’s possible they will bash into the looper and not work at all, but I have pliers, so maybe I can bend the tip?? I’m great at bending needles when I don’t want to, so maybe that skill will finally come in handy.
Anyway, that took up a good portion of my day yesterday and I still have no answers besides something that might be MacGyver-able. (That’s a word now.) I will update here as soon as I can try the needles. Hopefully there’s a solution that will keep these little linkers working as long as possible.