Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Beginner Sewing Series - Choosing the Right Sewing Machine Needles

Even if you have had your sewing machine for some time, you may be new to buying sewing machine needles.  At the first day of my beginner sewing classes, we used to go over the basics of sewing machine needles and I wanted to share this information with you today.

Sewing machine needles will need to be changed often.  You may get about 8 hours of sewing out of each needle.  Needles will also break and bend so they may need to be changed sooner than that.  If you are not sure how to change the sewing machine needle in your machine,  please check out a tutorial that I posted HERE on how to change the needle.

 What type of sewing machine needles should you buy?  There are two types of needles that I encourage beginner students to purchase and have on hand in case one breaks/bends.  When you purchase a sewing machine, you will get a couple of extras but these are easy to pick up on sale when the local sewing store has their sewing notions on sale for half off.  This is one supply you don't want to be caught without because it will halt your sewing to a dead stop.

Universal Needles

Schmetz is a very good brand of needles and can be purchased at almost any sewing store.  Universal needles can be used on woven fabrics and some knits (more on that later).  If you look at the bottom of the package,  you will see numbers like "80/12" and "90/14".  Those are the sizes for the needles.  For medium weight fabrics like quilting cottons, you will need to use a size 80/12 needle (that is the size that is normally in each of my machines for normal use).  If you want to sew on denim or heavier duck fabric or home decor fabric, I would change the needle to a 90/14.  The higher the size numbers, the thicker the fabric and vice versa.  I have size 8 needles for a handkerchief weight fabric that I have. You will probably use universal needles the majority of the time.

Ball Point/Jersey Needles

For sewing with knit fabrics, I prefer to switch over to a ball point/jersey needle.  The universal needle packages say that you can use them on some knits but I just prefer to switch to the ball point.  The size recommendations are the same....I use the 80/12 on most all of the knits that I sew.  I think I own some 90/14's but I couldn't tell you the last time that I used them because I normally don't sew on heavy, stretchy fabrics.  

There are many other types of needles at the store (denim, leather, microtex, embroidery, etc) but Universal and Jersey/Ball Point are the two most common types of needles for home use.  Certainly if you need to repair a leather purse or hem your hubby's heavy work jeans, look for a needle specific to that need.  Honestly, I use a size 14 universal needle when sewing on denim as most denim in fashion clothing nowadays is not real heavy.  

Schmetz has gone ahead and color coded the tops of their needles so we can tell which type of needle we have in the machine (that was really helpful by the way).  All needles do have the size engraved on the top of the needle but it can be hard to see, even with reader glasses (I wouldn't know anything about that though).

And if you are about to start a big project (aka curtains or pillows for every room in your house) and you can't remember the last time you changed the needle, go ahead and change it.  Sewing with a dull needle just isn't worth it.  You will experience skipped stitches and may even have your thread break continuously.  

I hope that these tips help and if you have any sewing machine needle questions, please leave it in the comments below!

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