Choosing the right needle for your sewing machine can seem like a daunting task for beginner sewists. Fear not! It’s not as difficult a task as it seems at first. The right needle is just as important as the fabric and thread that you choose, so here is a little information to make choosing the right needle a little easier.
Sewing machine needles come in a range of sizes: 8-20 (these are the American sizes) and 60-120 (these are the European sizes). An American 8 is the same as a European 60; 10 is the same as 70; 12 is the same as 80; etc. 8/60 are the smallest and 20/120 are the largest. Generally speaking, the thinner and finer your fabric, the smaller the needle you will choose. The heavier your fabric, the larger the needle size you will need. For instance, when working with a fine chiffon you would choose a small needle such as an 8/60. When working with a heavy upholstery fabric, you would choose a larger needle size like 20/120.
The next step in choosing the right needle is to look at what kind of project you are doing and what kind of fabric you are sewing on.
- Are you working on machine embroidery? Choose an embroidery needle.
- Quilting? Choose a quilting needle.
- Sewing denim? Choose a denim needle.
- Working with leather? There’s a leather needle for that!
- Topstitching? Pick up a topstitch needle for professional looking results.
- Sewing elastic or fabrics with a lot of stretch? Choose a stretch needle.
- Working with knits or woven fabrics? Go for a universal or a jersey/ballpoint needle.
- Microtex/sharp needles have a few very different uses. They are very sharp and are great for fine fabrics like silk and chiffon, but are also the right needle for microfiber and faux leather. They are also good for quilting because their sharp points allow for very straight stitches.
The thread you are using also affects your needle choice, however, if you choose your needle based on the project you generally don’t have to worry about it. For instance, embroidery needles have a larger eye to make sure that specialty embroidery threads don’t fray. Topstitching needles also have a larger eye to allow for the heavier threads you may use.
For more a more in-depth look at choosing the right needle, have a look at the Schmetz Needles website.
What are your favourite tips for choosing the right needle?
It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to write an update here. We had a wonderful trip to Ontario to visit with our two daughters and their husbands there. We started our trip in London where we were so proud to watch our daughter and son-in-law graduate with their masters in music from the University of Western Ontario. We got to spend a few days with them and their two dogs. Then, we drove through the pouring rain (my friends in Ontario always tell me that it only rains in Vancouver – I sure found out that they were wrong!) up to North Bay to see our other daughter and husband. There we got to meet our newest grand-dog, a beautiful puppy Weimaraner named Bentley, and see their new house for the first time. The sun came out in North Bay and Keith and I felt summer for the first time this year – it’s been cool and gray and wet here in Surrey. We had a great visit there and then it was back home and back to work!
Since we returned, everyone here at A Great Notion has been busy, busy, busy preparing for our annual stock-taking. Last Sunday we finished counting in our Abbotsford store and this coming weekend we do our warehouse and our Surrey store – and we’ll finish with a big sigh of relief to have it done for another year. If you come into our Surrey store right now, you’ll find it in a real mess as we try to sort fabrics by codes to keep track of them properly. In Abbotsford, we’re getting back to normal so the store isn’t in as much disarray! The exciting thing is that next week, all our new fabrics will start to come in and we’ll have lots of exciting new fabric lines to choose from. Keep your eyes open both in the stores and on our web site for new fabrics! Pam and I just spent 3 days ordering all kinds of great new fabrics from many fabric companies. Soon you’ll see a great new selection in both stores – here are a few examples: Wildflowers from Northcott Silks, Giselle from Red Rooster fabrics, Funflowers from Lakehouse, Hey Diddle Diddle from Clothworks, Disney fleece and flannel panels and fabrics from David textiles, along with lots more including a great selection of new Batiks from Hoffman, Timeless Treasures and more. You’re just going to have to check back often to see them all!
Keith is now busy working in our local schools to get all their sewing machines running perfectly for the next school year. He asked me to include his top tips here for you to keep your own sewing machine in great running order. Here they are:
- Always use a surged protected power bar to plug your machine into. This will prevent power spikes that can damage your sewing machine. Also, make sure that you unplug your machine before trying any maintenance on it – that way you won’t accidently sew into yourself while you work!
- Wipe down the exterior of your machine with a soft, damp cloth. This will not only keep it looking fresh and clean, but it will also prevent threads from sticking to the surface that could get caught in your flywheel or take up lever.
- Clean the lint build-up out on a regular basis. Use a lint brush or Mini Dust-It (available through our on-line catalogue at http://www.agreatnotion.com/product.php?pName=Mini_Dust-It&productId=1866 ) to clean around and behind your bobbin case. Keep the lint out from around the tension guides and take up lever as well.
- Check your sewing machine manual, and if it recommends oiling your machine, apply it on a regular basis in the spots the manual shows. (Some machines do not recommend lubrication so watch out for that too!) Make sure you use a good quality light machine oil – don’t try to use vegetable oil or other oils – they will just cause your machine to gum up.
- Keep some spare light bulbs and needles on hand for your machine – nothing is worse than having a bulb burn out late at night when you just have to finish that project, and the same goes for needles!
- Change your needle regularly – usually with every project, and make sure you use the right type for the fabric.
- Get in the habit of remembering your sewing machine needs regular upkeep. Some things you can do yourself, such as the things suggested above, others will need attention by a professional. Just like any other tools, if neglected, your sewing machine can cause you grief, but if well-maintained, you’ll love sewing on it for years!
Time to go for now. Stay posted – we’ve got lots of new things coming up here!
This past week I’ve been busy teaching both embroidery classes and software classes – four in all! Sometimes I don’t know what I’m thinking when these things are scheduled – I’ll go for a few weeks without any teaching on my schedule, then all of a sudden I find that I’m busy teaching all week. These were classes that I love to teach though, so that makes it all worthwhile. I really enjoy the machine embroidery aspect of sewing and quilting these days, and I get quite excited about everything I can do in my 4D embroidery software so it’s fun to share this with others. I had a group who were just learning the introduction to embroidery software in one class and it was great to see them start to understand how to keep track of their embroidery design collection and some of the things it’s possible to do with it. My more advanced class all have embroidery machines with the new jumbo “Majestic Hoops” that will stitch out an embroidery design up to almost 14” square so they were learning how to create and manipulate designs for these hoops. My Hoopsisters “Embroid-a-Block” class is getting close to being finished their 10 month Block of the Month Quilt-as-you-Go class and their embroidered and quilted creations are looking fabulous. It was a tiring but rewarding week for me in the classroom.
As I passed through the warehouse this week, I couldn’t help but notice a new shipment of fabrics that have just arrived. It seems everyone has loved the new garment knit lines we added a little while ago and we’ve just received lots of new colours in these lines – just in time for spring and summer. I haven’t had a chance to see everything that arrived yet as it hasn’t made it to the sales floor – it’s still being checked in, but I saw some great colours in the bottomweight Ponte di Roma knit that is so good for pants and skirts. We’ve now got a beautiful ivory, a camel and a warm taupe colour that will be great for the coming season, as well as a gorgeous teal, and more of the ever-popular black, brown and charcoal. In the lighter, top-weight knits I saw some lavender and green, and I know that there were more great colours as well. They should all be checked in and in the stores this coming week, and we’ll try to get all the new colours up in the on-line store this week as well. Garment sewing seems to be coming back into fashion again and these knits are easy to sew and really comfortable to wear. I love the t-shirts I have made, and I think I’ll be making some more with these new colours. Here are a few of the Kwik-Sew patterns that we carry that I’ll be using with these knits.
Keith has another tip for you this week to help keep your sewing machine in tip-top shape. This is for those of you who have front loading bobbins with a removeable bobbin case in your machines like the one pictured here. Be careful when you’re inserting the bobbin in the case, it’s easy for your fingers to slip occasionally and have the bobbin case drop to the floor. With enough impact, and sometimes it doesn’t seem like much of an impact at all, the bobbin case can be knocked out of round, even minutely so that it’s hard to see with the naked eye. In this case, your machine may not stitch properly and the bobbin will hang up. This can be one of those frustrating times where it looks like there isn’t anything wrong, yet nothing will work! The only way to fix this is to replace the bobbin case. It’s also a good idea to keep second bobbin case on hand so that if you want to work with an unusually heavy weight thread in your bobbin, you have a bobbin case on hand that you feel free to adjust the tension on. Try not to ever adjust the tension on your m ain bobbin case as it can be hard to get it back to the perfect tension for normal sewing. With a second case, you don’t have to worry about this. If you mark the second one with a drop of nail polish, you’ll always know which one you can adjust freely and which one to leave alone!
Talk to you again soon,
Well, I had a crazy and busy day yesterday. I thought that I’d get up early, write in my blog and carry on with a normal day. Instead, I got up to find that my laptop had crashed, so no blogging for me, and then I carried on to do enough work around the house that it should have taken a week! Boy, was I tired last night. I painted closet doors, cut the grass (and it was a beautiful day to be outside) and then spent the rest of the day unpacking and moving things that had been in storage for the almost two years that my daughter and son-in-law lived with us. All my much loved fabric that I had packed away came to light again – now there are so many projects to sew! I had no idea that I had so much yarn stored away too – I’m not sure when I will find the time to knit all of it up! My sewing room is beautiful again too!
Here at A Great Notion, things are busy too. We have our local Vancouver Sewing and Crafts show this coming weekend at the Tradex in Abbotsford so we’re all busy packing up things to bring and show off there. This is always a great trade show to attend, so if you’ll be anywhere close to Abbotsford on Friday the 16th or Saturday the 16th, you won’t want to miss this show. If you’d like to download the show brochure, please visit http://www.sewingandcraftsshow.com/tradex-seminar-schedule.php. There will be lots of classes to take, fashion shows to see, inspiring samples to make you want to sew even more, and of course lots of great stuff to buy!
Keith asked me to pass on a quick tip from him this week to help make sure that your machines – both sewing machines and sergers – will sew beautifully for you. He has seen a few machines lately in the shop with simple threading issues, so he asked me to remind you that whenever you are having any problems with stitch or tension quality to re-thread first before panicking! He says that he sees machines come in that have been threaded with the presser foot in the down position which almost guarantees that the thread will not completely engage in the tension discs. When the presser foot is in the down position, the tension discs are engaged, which means that they are squeezed close together and it is very hard to pull the thread down between them where it belongs. When the presser foot is up, the tension discs open up so the thread will easily fall right into place. Sometimes when you’re having problems, it’s the easiest or most obvious solution that will fix things!
Thanks to all who have commented here on the blog, and also on Facebook. I’m still getting the hang of it all so probably won’t respond to every one, but appreciate all the feedback!
Talk to you soon!