thread + needle tutorials?
8 years ago
Does anyone know of a good tutorial about choosing the appropriate thread and sewing machine needle for various projects? I was recently at my local fabric shop and had a good laugh with a fellow shopper as we stood, bewildered, in front of the giant wall of thread. I consider myself an advanced-intermediate sewer (if that makes sense), but I still often wonder, apart from colour, what to choose in this department. If there are no such tutorials, would you, Liesl, consider advising? Thanks!
-Susanne8 years agoJustine J @justmejay
I now only use cotton – which makes sense really I suppose!!
However, cotton will not work when sewing knits – it breaks!!! (I tried!) So you really need to keep a collection of poly cottons too. I’ve now got a seperate bobbin box for my poly cotton bobbins!
Needles – I’m not very good here! I tend to forget to change my needle for the appropriate one, or if I do change it, I forget to change it back again! I’ve read somewhere (?) that a blunt needle can cause poor quality stitching/tension, and that people don’t change them often enough. Ball point for knits, denim for denim, and ordinary for ordinary! (I’m a bit confused by the numbers – can’t remember if it’s a high number for delicate fabrics or a low number – I do know that it’s the opposite for hand sewing needles though!)
Justine8 years ago
I am endlessly confused by needles; I’m glad I’m not the only one! Thanks for your comments — they would explain my constant thread breakage problem. I didn’t know if it was my machine or if I’ve been doing something wrong!8 years agoRpankow @excytin
You’re not the only one in this boat! 🙂 I’ve been quite confused for some time and always have to look stuff up. I guess I use poly thread pretty much exclusively, except for when I’m making potato bags, or something such as that that goes in the microwave. I think I read somewhere that that’s what designers do(?). When it comes to needles, the smaller the size/number, the more delicate the fabric. The two numbers stand for a european size and american size I believe. Most of the time I use a universal size 11, except for when I’ve sewed knits. There I use a ball point or a stretch needle. All of that goes out the window when I want to use a double needle though. I’ve been sewing a lot of toys lately, so I’ve had to go through thick batting and have upped my needle size to a 14 to make sure it’s strong enough to go through it all.
As for forgetting to change the needles, tell me about it!! I had seen somewhere someone organizes their needles by using different colored nail polish on the ends and marks the needle holder in the same color. I think that’s a brilliant idea and wish I was smart enough to come up with something that fantatstic. I hope this helps, I’m by all means no expert and this is just off of what I’ve read8 years agoLoralee @Loralee
Susanne, I checked out a book called ‘The Sewing Answer Book’ by Barbara Weiland Talbert from the library and it’s been extremely helpful. It’s a tiny book with lots of info on all aspects of sewing including a section on knits which I was excited about. That’s where I learned about ball point needles. Uh, yeah, didn’t realize I was using them on wovens and it was making my stitches wonky. That and the wrong bobbin. Also, I think I did a search online for sewing needles and came up with some tutorials.
Double needles?!?!? I’ve been wondering if I should invest in some but can’t figure them out. How does the bobbin thread work with a double needle and what is a good use for them? Thanks.8 years agoLiesl GibsonKeymaster@liesl
Oh, you can get so bogged down in these details if you really want to be. Personally, I don’t worry about it too much. I alternate between cotton and all-purpose thread. In general, the rule is that if strain is put on the garment, the thread should break before the fabric rips. The reason being, I suppose, that it’s easier to re-stitch a seam than to mend the fabric.
However, my mom always uses all-purpose thread when she sews children’s clothing because she says the clothing is more durable. I think that, with five kids, she found herself re-sewing a lot of seams.
And yes, you’ll want all-purpose thread for knits. You need the extra strength with those stretchy seams.
If you’re making something heirloom or that you want to last a long time, I would suggest cotton thread because the polyester in all-purpose thread can eventually break the threads of the fabric. I think this is reasoning behind using cotton thread in quilts.
With regard to needles, I keep an all-purpose needle in my machine almost all the time. If I’m sewing very fine fabric (Liberty lawn) I might switch to a finer needle. Or I’ll just use a new needle. If I’m sewing knits I’ll usually switch to a ball-point needle but have been known to stitch the City Weekend knits with an all-purpose needle to no ill effect.
Otherwise I stick with all-purpose needles unless I notice a problem (always test your fabric before you start sewing so you can check these details). My reasoning here is that I sew for pleasure, and it’s not pleasurable to me to get all technical and worried about needle sizes. I’ve never had a problem, and I know that most garment factories don’t get fussy about needle sizes either. It seems to be more of a concern among home sewists, but I think if you are replacing your needles frequently and watching your work you should be fine.
I do replace my needles frequently. I buy in bulk and replace the needle at least once with every garment or every other garment I make. No worries about marking the needle–it just goes into the garbage every so often. I feel no guilt about this–needles aren’t that expensive when you purchase a bunch of them, and a new needle does make a difference.
I hope that helps, but it’s just my opinion. There are plenty of people who feel strongly that needle size makes a difference, too.8 years agoRpankow @excytin
I use double needles when I’m making clothing such as t-shirts and pj pants for my family. I use them as a decorative touch on hems. I only have a sewing machine and I finish off my edges of my hems with my “pseudo serger stitch” and then finish them by folding and using the double needles. I used them on the hopscotch dress and it turned out beautifully. As for the bobbin, you use it like normal and I just set up my machine for using a double needle. You have to run an extra spool of thread up top to put into the second needle. It creates a zig-zag like stitch underneath that works well for knits in my opinion. Things lay flat and don’t bubble up on me when I use it. Oh, and I also lengthen my stitches too to give it more flexibility.8 years agoNicole @motherof5
Thanks for the info on double needles,I have always wondered about those.8 years ago
Thanks for all of the advice! And I am content to continue not being overly fussy after reading your comments in particular, Liesl. I have always used 100% cotton on my quilts, but wasn’t sure what to do with the clothing, especially when I started experiencing a lot of breakage. I’m still suspicious of my 30+-year-old machine. It’s definitely due for a “day at the spa” to tweak things like tension, etc.
One more question for you, Liesl: where do you buy needles in bulk? Thanks again!8 years agoLiesl GibsonKeymaster@liesl
Hmm. I buy from our distributor, so that’s not much help. But I think if you ask at your local fabric store they can order them from you. I’ll try to remember to look when I’m at the studio tomorrow, but I think I purchased a box of 100 or so. You could also purchase from someplace like Steinlauf and Stoller or Pacific Trimming here in NYC. They both have websites (I think?) and take phone orders. But I’m certain that you’ll be able to find them if you start looking. They’re much cheaper than purchasing a few at a time, and I don’t feel so bad when I toss them!8 years ago
Such a great idea. I’ll poke around and see what I find!8 years agoLoralee @Loralee
Excytin, thank you for the info on double needles. They do sound perfect for knits and the hopscotch is the next project I’m working on. Now to find a good source for needles.
Liesl, what brand do you use, if you don’t mind me asking? I got a sample pack of Organ needles with my machine which worked really well. I’ve been trying to locate a source but I think they need to be bought online or bulk?8 years agoAnonymous @
You can order bulk needles here: http://www.allbrands.com/products/abc0610.html
They also have a nice guide here: http://www.allbrands.com/pages/NeedleSelectionGuide.php
Oh – and they also sell Organ needles: http://www.allbrands.com/products/abc0609.html8 years agoApril Henry @April1930s
I uploaded an old-fashioned guide to Needles on my website which gives fabric recommendations and stitches-per-inch:
Of course, the needle size listed is in ‘North American’ numbers – I will see about updating it to include the European/UK equivalent. (e.g. 75/11, 80/12, etc.)
Schmetz is an excellent brand of needles, too – I just try to steer clear of ‘new’ Singer needles because of the poor quality as compared to the vintage Singer needles.
In the future I hope to add a PDF of an old Singer booklet (turn of the century?) that shows how needles were (are?) made – FASCINATING!8 years agoAnonymous @
Oh, yes – I meant to mention the guide on April’s site.
Unfortunately, pretty much everything that is new Singer is not well made.
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