Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pins and Needles!

Not that I expect you to be on pins and needles...........

     Pins and (sewing machine) needles are the topic for the day!  As basic as you can get as far as sewing supplies, they come in a WIDE variety of styles and sizes.  Knowing what you need them for is paramount!
      I am going to start with pins first.  Over the years, I have used many different types of pins.  Some choices were out of stupidity ( I didn't know any better), some out of necessity (couldn't find anything else) and thankfully, some out of knowledgeable experience!  

     When I was little, my dad worked at a chain store called W.T. Grants.  It was like a cross between a Target and a Micheal's.  They had labeling guns that shot straight pins into the garments, attaching a price tag.  It used a roll of short, thick straight pins that came on a roll of paper.  Guess what kind of straight pins we used at home?! You've got it!  They were short and think, hard to put in and hard to get out, but it was what we had!

     As I grew, both in years and in sewing experience, I learned about different kinds of pins!  Still, mostly what I used was what I had on hand.  I remember a HUGE box of pins with yellow heads (what I now know as quilting pins - long, thick and with plastic heads).  Not the best for heirloom sewing, but better than the label pins!

     As I started smocking and doing heirloom sewing, I expanded my (pin) horizons a bit more, and learned about glass head pins.  That is what I typically use now, and what you will find in my magnetic pin caddy (and yes, it has a lid, so my pins do not spill when I travel).  These glass head pins are long - 1 3/8 inches and .5mm thick.  The glass heads allow you to iron over them without melting.  This comes in handy for lace shaping as well as pressing a hem, etc.

     I have pins with both the white heads and the red heads.  I sue these for marking as well - I can tell the right and the wrong side of the fabric by looking at the pins:

                    White is Right and Red is Wrong

When I am using a fabric that does not have an obvious right and wrong side, I use the white pins on the right side and the red pins on the wrong side.

A note:  Try not to sew over pins - your machine is not made to do that, and it can damage your needle as well as the pins.  If you have a bent pin, throw it away!!!

Machine Needles

     The first thing to remember about machine needles is that the numbering scheme is the opposite of hand needles.  The LARGER the number, the LARGER the needle (a 60 is smaller than an 80).

     The next thing to know is that machine needles wear out!  When I learned how to sew, you changed your needle.................... when it broke!  This made for some very dull needles, and dell needles = poor stitch quality.  Fabric wears the needle every time it is pierced.  Needles can become dull or develop burrs.  General rule of thumb is that you should change your needle about every garment.  If you are making something small, a bonnet, for instance, then you can wait.  I would say every 6 hours or so of sewing.

     The third thing to keep in mind that the needle you use should match the fabric you are sewing.  That means CHOICES!  When I started sewing, everyone used Universal needles.  This is a generic type needle that does exactly what it says:  it is made to use universally on most types of fabric.  However, we are better educated about fabric and needles and we have more readily available choices today. 

      If you are sewing on woven fabrics (and this is what most heirloom/smocking fabrics are), then I recommend a Microtex/Sharp needle.  This type of needle is made specifically to stitch on woven fabrics.  It has a finer point than a Universal needle and makes a clean piece of the fabric, resulting in a nice, even stitch. I typically use a size 60 on Swiss voile, Swiss flannel, Swiss lawn, and Swiss and Satin batistes.  I use a size 70 on fabric that is a bit heavier - sheetings and shirtings (think quiting cotton weight).

   *** If you are sewing on a knit fabric, then use a Ball Point needle.  This needle has a rounded point and moves the threads of the fabric rather than piercing them, which is better for knits. I don't usually have these in my caddy, as I don't sew that often with knits, but I do have them in my sewing room.***

     The third type of needles that I have in my caddy are Twin Needles.  They usually Universal needles, and they have 2 numbers on package.  The first number is the distance between the 2 needles, and the 2nd number is the size of the needles.  Typically, the wider the distance, the bigger the needle.  I  usually have the 1.6 and the 2.0 sizes with me, as most of the pintucks that I make are small, but you can get twin needles as wide as an 8.0.

     Schmetz makes a great needle guide that gives info on needles, as well as the different types of needles that they manufacture and what each is one is designed for.


I have started using Klaus needles as well the quality is excellent and they have a great price!

Hope you are learning or 'remembering' some of this info!   More next time!

Happy Stitching,

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