Posted on August 18 2015
I was recently in my favourite sewing machine shop, topping up on needles when it occurred to me that the range of needles for different jobs has become rather large. It made me wonder if people really know which needle to use and how often to change their needle. Certainly during workshops, if I ask people when they last changed their needle, there are often lots of blank faces and a few sheepish looks towards the floor.
So, what’s the point? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist)
The point is that the wrong needle is likely to cause you problems and some of those problems can be quite expensive.
For example, if the needle is too fine for the fabric you are sewing, it is likely to break, could ruin your project in the process and worse still, could damage your machine. Alternatively, if the needle is too big, it is likely to leave holes in your fabric, particularly if you are sewing something light like chiffon.
Those are the normal ones that people generally know about but what about the others? There are needles for leather, denim, stretch fabrics, knitted fabrics, top stitching, micro fabrics, quilting, embroidery and more. That’s just in single needles, then you get into the twin needles, triple needles, spring needles, double eye needles, needles for quilting, the list goes on and seems to be growing. Beyond the different types, there is of course, the different brands, always use a quality brand, my favourite are Schmetz and I rarely use anything else. Click here for choice of machine needles
To give you some guidance, the straight forward ones are easy. Generally a size 80 or 90 are right for general sewing of medium weight fabrics, for example, a woven cotton or cotton mix for dressmaking or crafts. If the fabric is light, you could go down to a 70, if it is heavier, such as a canvas, you might go up to a 100. If you are ever unsure, make an educated guess and then try it on scrap fabric from the project. Listen to the machine as it sews, is it struggling to get the needle through the fabric, (a dull thud as the needle hits the fabric is sometimes an indicator of this and this is one way your machine can be damaged or prematurely worn out through using the wrong needles). Look at the stitches, are they formed as they should be? Look at the fabric, are the holes large and noticeable or do they blend in?
During a conversation in the shop about different needles, I became more aware of and was fascinated by the level of technology that goes into making a sewing machine needle. I have to say, I learned a lot (I often do in Jaycotts, such a font of knowledge) about needles particularly for stretch fabrics and the difference between those and needles for knitted fabrics. Sewing knitted fabric with a standard needle is a common mistake. Knitted fabric forms into a hole if a fibre is broken because it unravels. Think of a knitted jumper and how quickly a hole grows, well, knitted fabric is the same. A normal sharp needle going through the fabric will cut the fibres. However, if you use a ball point needle (the name explains it), the fibres are parted and the needle goes between them so they are not broken. The result is no hole.
Because the range is so vast and the technology behind them all is quite detailed, it’s impossible to provide an explanation of them all in one blog, besides, you’d nod off, admit it. Therefore, the best advice is this:
- Have a range of standard needles such as sizes 70 to 100 along with a pack of ball point, stretch and a twin needle in your sewing box. This will provide what you need for most projects and prevent you from being tempted to use the wrong needle. (Jaycotts do a pack which contains a range and is very good value)
- If you are taking on something slightly more out of the ordinary, talk to the very knowledgeable people in Jaycotts (or your local friendly sewing teacher) and find out which is the best needle for the job.
Finally, there is no substitute for the right needle, the quality of your project will be affected by it and if you are investing time and money into making something, don’t risk wasting that investment by scrimping on needles.
Christi’s Stitches provides sewing tuition on a wide range of sewing skills through courses, workshops and one to one. We like to make it easy and a pleasure to learn with us by holding workshops and courses in great locations such as Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden. We also provide sewing machines, sewing box essentials and all of the materials for the courses and workshops so that all you have to do is come along and sew. For more information and bookings, please visit the website www.christisstitches.com or the facebook page www.facebook.com/christisstitches