Do you use different needles for different sewing tasks? Do you date your needles as “1997” and you’re still using it? Do you know what size needle to use and why? These questions are near and dear to my heart. I’m always amazed at the obscene amount of money quilters will spend on machines, fabric, patterns, thread, etc…yet they won’t fork over less than a dollar for a new needle. Let’s see if we can’t change some bad habits…suffer through, there will be a give away at the end!
Different needles for different tasks:
I know there are more than a few of you out there that will put a needle in the machine and just leave it in there until it dies. You will use that needle for every different kind of sewing you do. Let me ask you…do you use one knife in the kitchen for all your different cutting tasks? Of course not, I’m sure you have several knives. Think about it…would you cut a tomato with that big cleaver or carve the turkey with a paring knife? Oh sure, both jobs would get done but wouldn’t it be easier if you had the correct knife? The same holds true for machine needles. Each different type of needle is designed to do a specific task very well. The different anatomical parts of the needle are made to perform their task with ease. Most of them are pretty self explanatory: Embroidery needles for machine embroidery, quilting for quilting, topstitch for stitching on top (embellishment). The ones that confuse people the most are the microtex/sharp needles and the universals. Microtex have a very pointy point and they pierce the fabric very well. I recommend these for piecing, especially with batiks because of their higher thread count. Universals are not meant to do any ONE task well but to do an okie dokie job at most tasks. They are less expensive than the other needles so people usually grab those. The other types of needles are not really that much more. The most popular needle I sell (beside universals) are only $.88 per needle while universals are $.57 each. Are you really going to carve your turkey with a paring knife to save $.31?
Change your needles!
Needles can get nicks and burrs which are unseen but WILL affect their performance. Don’t wait until they break to change them. If your machine manual does not have a recommendation for how often to change your needle you can assume the time honored “every 8 sewing hours” or “every major project”. If you are having problems but can’t figure out why, change your needle.
What size needle to use?
Needles come in different sizes for a reason. You need to pair the needle size with the thread size you’re using and the type of sewing you’re doing. Yes, thread comes in different sizes, you should know what you’re using. I wish there was a magical chart that would tell you what needle to use when. Sadly, there is not. Think of it as matching a drill bit size (the needle) to the screw (the thread) you’re making a hole for. If it’s too big the screw will slosh around in the hole. Too small and the screw will be too tight and bunch up the wood (your quilt).
I’ve taken the needle out of the package…I don’t know what kind/size it is…
It used to be that once the needle was out of the package, good luck figuring out what kind or size it is. Oh sure, it’s stamped but good luck reading it. Schmetz heard our cries and they have now marked all their needles with two colored stripes. The top stripe denotes which type of needle it is and the bottom stripe denotes what size. They even made this handy chart to help you remember.
What about that give away you mentioned?
OK, you’ve suffered enough. If you want to learn more then you need to have your guild contact me to book my presentation “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Needles…but were too afraid to ask…”. Contrary to the dry sounding name, it’s a fun presentation and you may just learn something new. This presentation ALWAYS generates the most questions from the audience!
For everyone else…all orders until 12-31-15 will get a free Schmetz Color Coding Chart printed on card stock, perfect to hang out next to your machine. The first 10 orders will also receive a needle pocket guide. You could also print out the photo above but it won’t be as nice as the one I send you!