Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Tip 2 - match your needles to your thread!

Its been a blustery old day here in Blighty - very cold and lots and lots of rain - so much heavy, heavy, heavy rain in fact I thought I was going to be marooned in my studio... which would be heaven IF I had a loo in it! So the first of todays tips is (tongue in cheek) a note to self .... make sure you have a wee before you go to work!

On a slightly more serious note I want to chat about NEEDLES today !

If you are new to sewing it is recommended that you change your machine needle at least every 8 hours of sewing. Some people even recommend changing it every project, which is sound advice if you can afford it. In the general scheme of things needles are cheap in comparison to fabric BUT they can be expensive, particularly the ones I like to use ... which is a Schmetz Metallic 80/12. I use this needle as a general all rounder because it is good for general piecing, good for embroidery work like satin stitch and it is good for quilting. It has a large eye, a stiff shaft and a generous groove down the front as well as a reasonable size scarf at the back. The anatomical parts of the needle all have a function and I will come back to these in later posts, but if there is one tip I can give you about needles today ... it is this :

TIP : Choose your needle to suit your choice of thread (as well as the fabric)

In fact I would say that your selection of machine needle in relation to your choice of thread is probably THE key success element in any sewing project.

A bold statement perhaps and one that contradicts popular sewing manuals where we are told to choose a needle that suits our fabric. Well yes .. we do need to consider the fabric as well... you wouldn't want to choose a big heavyweight needle (say a size 18 plus) to sew a fine sheer fabric or indeed a flimsy lightweight needle (size 9) to sew a denim. We may even be told to select a thread that is similar in weight to the fabric BUT we are rarely told to select a needle that suits the thread !

The relationship between the sewing needle, fabric and thead are quite complex but in the simplest of terms all we really want is for the sewing needle to open apart the fibres of the fabric JUST enough for the thread to glide easily through it without making a hole or damaging the fibres of the fabric itself. If we can do this then we stand a better chance of getting a good stitch formation and avoiding skipped stitches and poor tension.

So, take a good look at your needle and your thread. Look at the eye of the needle first. How big is it? Can you get at least 3 strands of your thread through the eye ? No ... the needle eye is too small and your thread will struggle to pass through easily .. even resulting in it fraying and breaking.

Now look at the shaft of the needle and find the groove that runs down the front of it. When the needle is in the machine this groove will be facing you. Thread your needle as normal and look to see how the thread lies in the groove. Does the thread sit comfortably in the groove? No... your needle is too small for the thread and the needle will not be able to carry the thread smoothly through the fabric. This may result in the fabric puckering or even skipped stitches as the needle is unable to create a wide enough passage for the thread to pass through. The stitch formation will not be good and you may even experience tension issues. To avoid these problems, try a larger needle.

So .. lets recap ... if your needle has an eye large enough to take 3 strands of thread AND a groove deep enough to allow the thread to sit in it you have made a good needle choice. The needle will now pierce your fabric and create an opening between the fabric fibres just the right size to accommodate your thread and allow it to glide smoothly through.

So todays tip again is : Choose your needle to suit your thread (as well as your fabric).


Diane J. Evans said...

Great advice! Many thanks for sharing, Tracey!


Trudi said...

I concur! Great advice Tracey! Thanks :o)

Mona said...

I'm thrilled to have found your site.. Thanks for sharing great information and your craft!