How To Home Sew – Choosing A Needle
The sharp points or regular size of sewing machine needle (usually from size 9 to size 18 depending on the types of material you are working with) usually are good for use with woven fabrics. These needles (in my experience) cause a minimum amount of puckering and produce an even stitch without damaging the fabric. The sharp points tend to cause skipped stitches in knit fabrics. To basically describe the looks of a sharp sewing machine needle, the points are more slender through the shaft. This is an excellent choice when you are sewing with synthetic suede.
The universal point needles usually come in sizes ranging from 14/90 and 11/75. These, in my experience are some of the most popular needles. These needles have a slightly rounded point similar to the ball point needle. Another point to note is that these needles are generally used for general, every day sewing of most woven or knit fabrics and are among the first needles that your local retailer will run out of, so I recommend always having some extra on hand for those occasions. The needle is tapered so that is slips through the fabric of the knit easily while still retaining enough sharpness to pierce the cloth. As a rule of thumb, when you purchase a sewing machine, it is these universal point needles that come with your new sewing machine.
Ball point needles range in sizes from 9 to 16 and are designed for use with knit and stretch fabrics. Instead of a sharp point, these needles have a rounded point – the larger the needle, the more rounded the point. These needles push between the fabric rather than piercing them the way a sharp needle tends to do. These are designed for interlock knits, coarse knits and other fabrics that will run if snagged.
Embroidery needles have a larger needle eye for the thicker embroidery threads. They are designed to protect that costly embroidery thread from breaking while you are sewing.
Quilting needles come in sizes 9, 10, 11 and 12 are sometimes called betweens. These have a tapered point allowing you to stitch through many layers of fabric and across intersecting seams. They have a tapered point to prevent damaging the fabrics used in quilting. In my experience, these needles are usually smaller and stronger than normal needles with a small eye.
Topstitching needles are usually used with heavier topstitching thread – they possess a bigger eye and a bigger grove for this reason. If you are going to be topstitching, the proper needle can make a huge difference in the finished topstitching look you are trying to achieve.
The wedge point needles are designed for use with leather and vinyl. These needles easily pierce the fabrics and create a hole that will close back up on itself. They possess a wedge shape which makes this a superior needle for piercing tough, unyielding fabrics like leather and/or suede. These needles come in sizes from 11 to 18.
When I first started home sewing, there were no so such things as classifications of needles such as topstitching needles. You just knew from the size what kind of fabric they would cover and you sometimes had to do a bit of guesswork, but it generally worked out in the end. I still know that system better than the one in place today. In my world, we should have that kind of information to fall back on when we are home sewing.
For example, a delicate fabric would be requiring a size 9 needle (e.g., silk, chiffon, voile, fine lace or organza).
Any lightweight fabrics would require a size 11 needle (e.g., synthetic sheers, batiste, taffeta or velvet).
The medium weight fabrics would need a size 14 needle (e.g., gingham, poplin, linen, muslin, chambray, wool crepe, flannel, knits, jersey, wool, wool suiting or stitch fabrics).
Heavy fabrics called for a size 18 needle and you had to use this size of needle for any kind of success (denim, ticking, upholstery or canvas).
If your sewing machine can handle the fabric you are attempting to sew (for example, some sewing machines on the market today will only sew a light denim instead of a heavy denim), make sure to change your needle often. A dull needle is like a tired child – the fabric will tend to run and you may even experience a few slipped stitches. You may cause your sewing machine damage if you use a dull needle – if the needles nick the bobbin case, this is just some of the damage a dull needle can cause.
A general rule of thumb is to change your sewing machine needle each time you start a new project – some home sewers are religious about this small detail.
Will this help to take away some of your fears and let you get away from the universal needles that come with your sewing machine with confidence?
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