Thursday, August 29, 2013

Crafty Tip #4

Before I dive into this week’s tip we have something very special happening at our Christmas market in November. To find out all about it and to see the display make sure you pop by the front desk on Saturday to see what’s happening. Let’s just say it will be interesting, educational, inspiring, interactive and might just help you out with those Christmas presents you need to buy. My lips are sealed, so make sure you make a note of it. You really don’t want to miss out on this.


So with the market only two sleeps away I have for you the last of my 4 crafty tips. Last week’s tip was all about your sewing machine, this week we look at machine needles and why they are so important. I apologise for the lengthy post but there is a lot to cover.

You’ve probably gone into your local craft shop and seen all of those tiny little packets of machine needles and wondered why there are so many. Short answer is because there is a needle for every type of sewing/craft/material out there as well as different machines needing a variety of styles of needle.

So let’s take a look –

There are two styles – flat-backed and round. This is to do with the part of your sewing machine where the needles are attached. The shaft where the needle is inserted can be different from machine to machine. It’s really easy if you think of it like this; domestic sewing machines are usually a flat-backed needle and commercial or industrial machines are round needles. There are some exceptions to that rule but it stands for the majority. Some overlockers also take round needles. If you are ever unsure, check your machine’s manual or take the original needle from when you purchased the machine with you when buying new ones.

This section is where the type of sewing/material comes into play. If you are sewing heavy duty fabric you need a needle that is up to the task – like a jeans or leather needle. If you are sewing fine fabrics like chiffon try a microtex sharp needle. There are types of needles for every task and choosing the right needle makes your sewing job that much easier.

Types of needles: Jeans, Leather, Embroidery, Quilting, Microtex Sharp, Universal, Stretch, Jersey/Ball Point, Metallic

This is a sub-category to Types. Machine needles come in different sizes within the types of needles. This is so you can tailor the thickness of the needle to the type of fabric you are using. Fabric comes in grades; thin, medium, thick and so you need a variety of needles to accommodate those grades. For example a universal needle in a size 80/12 is the most commonly used size as it is as its name implies universal, but the size 80/12 means that it’s the medium size of its type making it the universal needle of the universal needles.

Machine needle sizes go up normally in twos. Example: Universal 70/10, 80/12, then 90/14, 100/16 and lastly 110/18. There are only a few sizes within the needle type as there isn’t much call for sizes smaller or larger and due to manufacturing constraints would be more costly to produce. The bigger the number the bigger the needle (this is opposite in hand-sewing needles, more on that next time).  So if you had a fabric that is and all purpose cotton drill and were folding it over a few times it would be come thicker, because you need a universal needle you would go for the 90, 100 or 110 depending on how thick the folds were. The other rule with needle size is that the bigger the size of the needle also increases the holes that they punch into the fabric as well as the eye of the needle. This is relevant with the next section.

When choosing needles it also pays to have what thread you are using in mind along with your fabric selection. This is because of the size of the eye of the needle. Microtex is the prime example of this; I use a Microtex 70/10 when I am appliqueing as the needle is quite fine and doesn’t leave huge holes in my fabrics, but as the eye is tiny I need to make sure that my threads aren’t too thick. I use machine embroidery threads as they are slippery (rayon, viscose) and slide through the eye with no issue. Decorative metallic threads however need a larger eye so the metallic coating is not stripped off the thread – in this case I would use a metallic thread specific thread or a larger sized embroidery needle.

Parts of a needle
Shank – the uppermost section of the needle, which is inserted into the machine and held in place with a screw.

Shaft – the body of the needle, the thickness determines the size of the needle.

Front Groove – on the round part at the front of the needle, this groove acts as a guide for the threading the eye.

Eye – the hole in the end of the needle through which the thread passes. The eye carries the thread down into the bobbin case to form stitches. The size varies with the size of the needle.

Point – the tip of the needle, which passes through the fabric first. The shape and sharpness of the tip varies depending on type of needle.

Scarf – is a short indentation on the back of the needle. This allows the hook in the bobbin case to get as close as possible to the eye and catch the thread to make your stitches.

See you all on Saturday!

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