Thursday, 21 February 2013

more about needles

I saw one of my friends down at the shops recently. She commented on the refashion I did earlier on the cami tops. She had a question about the kind of needle you need for sewing knits. She found her machine didn't want to stitch knit fabric easily.

To be honest, I just used a normal needle. But this wasn't something I was overly worried about. I was rescuing the t-shirts from the bin. But there are a lot of good things to know about sewing machine needles which is wise to follow when you do want your project to last.

Sewing Knits

What you need for sewing knits is a ball point needle.
several different ballpoint types of needles.
the arrow points to the words which are hard to see on that pack
The first one is for an overlocker. The others say what they are specified for. The Schmetz ones say Jersey - which is what t-shirting is, but other companies will just say ballpoint. Plain old ballpoint needles will be fine if you are just sewing t-shirt fabric or knit dress fabric. Super-stretch is for things like swimwear,ice skating and dance wear.

Why a ball point needle?
A sharps or universal needle can cut the thread and then you will get laddering or running in the seam area. A ball point needle will work like a knitting needle to push the threads apart and go between them. Or if you relate to embroidery, it is the difference between embroidery - sharp - and tapestry - ballpoint - hand sewing needles.

Links to more info.
I have a few links to places that tell you more about Machine needles and what type have been formulated for different projects. You will find out much more than I can tell you about the shape of needles and why. For instance, embroidery needles have a larger eye so there is less chance of embroidery thread shedding. Metallic needles also have a deeper channel for the metallic thread to lay in for the same reason. Microtex or Sharps needles have a very sharp point for fabrics with a close weave and for fine fabrics like silk.

Threads magazine has a helpful page with an overview of needles with photos.
There is also another know how page which illustrates the parts of a sewing machine needle and how it works in your machine.

Barnyarns in the UK has a really good page of information about needles. They like Schmetz needles.
some of the different Schmetz needles available
Schmetz puts colour on the shank/scarf of the different needles. If you use them you get used to which colour is used for what needle.
Here is a link to a pdf on the Schmetz site with descriptions and photos of their needles.

I like Schmetz, but I also like Klasse needles. Have a look at their site.
some of the different Klasse needles available
Klasse puts colour on the case, but not on the needle (or I don't recall seeing any). But you can easily take different coloured permanent pens like Sharpies and put colour on yourself. Put it where you can see it, but not where it will go in and out of the fabric. Put a dot of the same colour on the case so you remember which colour goes which which type of needle!

Don't forget that like your kitchen knives, machine needles get dull. They can get burrs on them or even get slightly bent at the tip which can't be seen unless you use a magnifiying glass or the macro lens on your camera.

Sometimes you can 'hear' when it needs changed. you can hear it puncturing the fabric. or if it is toooo long you can hear it go pocka pocka! Change it! you will have more problems with your thread, your tension, snags in the fabric and more! You may think needles cost too much but it isn't a savings that is worth it in the long run.

My friend Sylvia in Italy took a photo of a new needle and and one used for about 8 hours. You can read it here.

If you think about how often they go in and out of the fabric during the time you are sewing with them...then compare to what your kitchen knives would be like if you cut through something repeatedly...well you can see why you need to replace your needle. I had one student who thought the new needle wasn't right for her was too long! But when I took a look I was shocked she even could sew with it! The metal had worn away nearly to the eye of the needle! THAT is a LOT of in and out!
Another lady had never changed her needle since she bought the machine. Something like 20 or 30 years? Yikes! and yet I have heard that story from quite a few sewing teachers.

There are a few views on the frequency.
1- use a new needle with each project and then get rid of it.
My view - Okay, it is good to start with new or nearly new, but if the project didn't involve a great deal of machine sewing, I often save it for something I am going to sew that isn't so precious. and sometimes you need to change the needle in the midst of a project if it develops a problem or if the project takes a lot of sewing.

2- replace the needle every 8-12 hours of use.
My view - this seems reasonable. Some people have a pin cushion with hour sections so they can put the needle in there between jobs and remember how much 'life' is left in it. Because I sew on all sorts of random things, I often save needles that have had a lot of use and sew on things like metal or paper with them. You wouldn't want to go back to fabric after those projects any way!

Any other views you have heard of on how often you change your sewing machine needle? My views are from my experience, but I am open to other ideas and evidence.

One more thought...
When you do machine embroidery, your needle is going in and out a lot more and faster than normal. So, keep that in mind. Sometimes you need to stop to let it cool from the heat the friction has caused. usually you need a break yourself, too...says she who forgets and then pays for the shoulder and upper back twinges.

Okay same thing - taking a break - holds true for being on the computer!
If you are still reading, I didn't expect this to be so long! But I hope it has been helpful. Leave a comment if you think there is something else I should have mentioned. Or if you have another question.

Or if you are my friend I met at the shop, hey! Leave a comment to let me know you are stopping by here now and then!

1 comment:

Kathleen Loomis said...

I don't keep track of hours but after a needle has been used for a while I will retire it to a special place -- pinned through a piece of paper -- after which it can be used in the future for crude projects. Like sewing through paper (which dulls needles REALLY fast) or sewing onto nothing.