Monday, October 20, 2014

NLS #3, Needles and Pins, where it all begins.

OK, be honest here, when is the last time you changed the needle in your sewing machine? Ah, Mon Dieu! You've never changed it? Excuse me while I run to get the smelling salts..........


I'm back! Such tiny little items like pins and needles that can be so cute, so sharp, so useful, important and sooooo painful if you get stuck with one.  Are there differences in pins? You bet! There are tons of "cute" pins which could be kind of sweet tucked in a hat. You can find loads on Etsy that are made by some very talented craftspeople. They make nice stocking stuffers for sewing friends. While they  are really cute, they are not too practical other than they are harder to lose. You won't find those suckers hiding in the carpet!  Seriously......there are all sorts of pins so let's see what we have here. 


I call these fork pins. So does Clover! Would you believe they are 10.99 for 35 pins at Joann's and 5.99 for the same amount at Wawak?   And why would you need  fork pins? Matching plaids, lining up seamlines for stitching across, getting that waistline seam to match across the zipper. They have great holding power and you will wonder how you lived without them. They are very handy.



Then there are silk pins. There are two kinds, cheap, lousy silk pins and good strong silk pins that will last you years. On the left you can see Dritz silk pins. They bend and nothing is more frustrating than reaching for a pin and getting a bent piece of crap. On the right is a box I picked up at Claire Shaeffer's "store". They are from Clotilde who, sadly, I don't think is in business any longer. But you can get Iris pins which are similar and have a great reputation. They are available from Nancy's Notions. When do you use silk pins,aka, super fine pins? They are great for delicate fabrics like silk organza, organdy or handkerchief linen when a larger pin might leave a hole. When using delicate fabrics its a good habit to pin in the seam allowance. Pins can and will mark delicate fabrics. These pins are not what you use when making jeans, wool coats, etc. They are just too fine and usually  a bit shorter than other pins. Then there are glass head silk pins, too.............


On the left are glass head silk pins. Why these? Glass heads can be ironed over without melting the little head. But these, by Dritz also are pretty weak and bend and frustrate. But their little blue heads make me smile so I keep them around. Glass heads come on nearly every type of pin, making them great to have on hand for those hot ironing moments. Annie's craft store carries a big selection  glass headed IBC pins, the brand Clothilde sold.

The pins on the right are my basic go to pin for most projects that aren't delicate. They have plastic heads but I don't make a habit of ironing over pins. That can sometimes leave indentations that won't come out after so I just don't do it. So why would I want thes big headed, longer than normal pins? Because they are easy to see and their length gives them great holding strength! They also show right up on the floor when they fall. They are quite strong and work well for heavier projects like coats and jeans and such. I use them a lot. Most importantly, they stack up nicely in my egg cups and make me smile when I look at them. But they are little work horses. On to that more interesting subject.............................needles!

If you are one of those who never changes your needle in the machine, for shame! Maybe you are lucky and never have pulled threads from a dull old needle with a blunt hole or a burr on the shaft. Maybe you can sew rayon knit with a number 12 universal needle that's 3 years old. Maybe you have a superneedle that is enchanted and will never break no matter what you sew. None of those thing apply to me or most sewists. Different fabrics need different needles.


There are all sorts of needles in many many different sizes. Most of my sewing is done with a Microtex needle, Size 11. I rarely rarely use a universal needle anymore for anything. The rest of my sewing uses HS stretch needles. They are great on knits and vinyls and faux leathers. Ever sew faux leather? I don't own a roller foot or teflon foot. Instead I have a bottle of "Sewer's Aid" a silicone lubricant for sewing. I put the tiniest film of the stuff on my finger and rub down the needle shaft, the bottom of the presser foot, and the needle plate, The faux leather flies through beautifully and makes a very nice stitch as well. A bottle will last for years. But make sure you use that HS needle for your fauxs. 

My needle box sideways for easier reading for you. 

There are so many different needles and using the right one will make your sewing so much less frustrating and your stitch quality that much better. A disclaimer here: I do not do any machine embroidery. that has it's own special needles, Organs and titaniums and other such that I know nothing about. You will have to find that info elsewhere. If you don't know that you may need a different needle for your latest project you might want to invest in either Sandra Betzina's "More Fabric Savvy" or Claire Shaeffer's Fabric Guide. You look up the fabric and they tell you exactly what needle, thread and stitch to use. Both are wonderful resources and that's where I learned to use the HS needle for the vinyls and fauxs. 

Once you start buying those various needles, you need to organize them. I keep mine in a 7 day pill dispenser. Make sure you bring one of your Schmetz needle cases with you when shopping for your  pill organizer. It doesn't fit in most but if you keep looking you will find one. I got mine I think at WM. Some mailing labels and a bit of time in Word got me the labels. This organizer is right next to my machine reminding me to use the proper needle and change it often. How often is that? Some say every 8 hours of sewing. I put in a new needle with each garment.  You can stock up on those 50% off sales at the chains. 

Listen to your needle, really! They will talk to you. Before you start any new garment do some stitch samples with the scraps. Make a sample with your chosen needle and stitch away. Listen carefully. If the needle makes a click or pop or sticks and moves the fabric up and down, or just sounds "heavier", you need a different size needle or a different kind. I don't think I have used a ball point needle in 20 years and I haven't missed it at all. Those will often make the tiny little pop sound. That means they are to fat for your fabric and you need something sharper, a universal or microtex.  Today I worked on a top of almost sheer rayon knit. I thought for sure my microtex 11 would be perfect. Wrong! the fabric and thread would get sucked down into the bobbin case, the machine would lock up and threads would break and jam around the bobbin mechanism. I changed to a straight stitch foot, no good. I stitched on Solvy, no help. But when I changed to a Size 11 HS stretch needle, Alleluia! Momma's happy. Your machine, fabric and thread will all affect how your needle choice works and often I have to try a couple of needles on my samples before I get the stitch I want. 



I like to do heirloom pin stitching. Some use a wing needle for this application. I prefer a size 18 sharp needle. I find the wing, which is very sharp on it's edges, can cut delicate fabrics and the round shaft of the universal or microtex needle will make a big hole and not damage the delicate heirloom fabric. I know some disagree with me and that's OK. 

Schmetz has a great site to give you much more technical information on needles than I know and I think it is good to take a read of it. Their Learning Center is loaded with info, a bit dry reading but expert knowledge from those who know needles best. 


Did you think I would forget the hand needle? Heck no!  This little box above measure about 3x5 inches, a tiny tote! I've turned it into a little file cabinet of sorts  for my hand needles. If you sew, quilt, embroider, do heirloom sewing, you need ALL SORTS of hand needles and keeping track of them can get messy. This system has worked well for me. 


Milliner's are my go to for sewing bullions. Bullions are such fun to sew! That big file in the front is all embroidery needles, different sizes for different threads. I use to do a lot of crewel and have tons of crewel needles. There is a hand sewing needle for every sort of stitching imaginable and using the right needle will make it all easier to stitch and give you better results. If you've ever hand quilted you know how a tiny quilting needle will give  you the  most even small stitches. Those itsy bitsy needles, whatever kind they are, or needles with tiny eyes like milliner's and darning needles, can be intimidating. Use them. It takes a bit of getting used to a "different" kind of needle but your improved results will make the effort worthwhile. 

Have trouble threading those multi ply or thicker threads or just have plain old aging eyes? Here's a way, one I learned when I did lots of embroidery, that can make threading your needle a bit easier. In the last post we discussed threading the needle as it comes off the spool. But what do you do if the thread is thick or several plies? Do you lick it and shove it through and all the little fibers go this way and that  and one odd sibling ply refuses to enter they eye? This method has served me well when using regular thread and needles as well. 


Give your thread a nice sharp cut. Lick if the plies are flying every which way. Then with your left hand squeeze the thread between your thumb and index finger, really tightly. You just want to see a tiny dot of thread. While still pinching tightly, shove the eye of the needle on top of thread and push down. Done!


Here you see the final obvious results with the thread pushed through the eye of the needle. Due to the lack of a third hand, which would be nice to have when sewing, I couldn't take the picture while shoving on the needle, but trust me, it works. 

Pins and needles are not the most thought provoking topic of sewing but they are one of the most important tools we use. Get to know them and what they can do for you. Your sewing will improve, your frustration level will lower, and your results with be worth it. .....Bunny






56 comments:

  1. I've been meaning to comment on your post about threads, such great information. Same here with needles and pins. I'm pretty good about changing my needles. I love this series! My last make, which I will have up on my blog, I used your suggestion of shortening the stitch size to 1 instead of backstitching. It really does make a huge difference.

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    1. So glad to hear that affirmation. I will go check out your blog, Nicolle, and thanks for posting.

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  2. I love your needle filing systems.

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  3. I had not heard of the fork pins. So glad I read this post. I'm having trouble these days threading the sewing machine needle, even with my readers. Any suggestions? I'm thinking a magnifying glass?

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    1. I own fork pins, which I've used for corduroy. Sometimes I still need to baste or double-baste to keep things from slipping.

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    2. When I get to the step of putting the thread through the needle I lower the presser foot. Then I slip a little piece of white paper or white card stock behind the needle. I try to keep a 1cm X 5cm piece of card stock near the sewing machine. It doesn't slip or collapse while I'm trying to thread the needle. I sometimes set a pocket-sized flashlight on the machine deck so that it shines at the hole if the needle is especially small and/or I'm having an especially hard time threading.

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    3. That's a great idea, Anon. Fork pins would definitely help with the slipping of corduroy and velvet. I agree on the basting for those two fabrics as well.

      Kay, that's a great idea and thanks for helping Trudy.

      Trudy, what I did was take a bottle of white out and painted the shaft behind the needle so that when the foot is up it lines up with the needle hole. Like in Kay's idea, the white helps the hole in the needle be a lot more visible.

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    4. Thanks so much, Kay and Bunny! I will definitely give that a try.

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  4. Thanks a lot, Bunny. :-) Even though I've been sewing on and off for a while, a refresher always helps.

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  5. A magnet on a handle or a magnetic pin cushion is a big help in retrieving wayward pins.

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    1. My son in law gave me one of those telescoping magnets the first Christmas he was married to my daughter. Talk about earning some points with Mom in Law! Thanks, anon.

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    2. I have both of those and they are a tremendous help. I especially like the telescoping thingy because bending over is tough on my hip and back.

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  6. This is such a great series, Bunny. I've been sewing for many years and constantly learn new things. I'm planning to print these out and keep them in a file in my sewing room.

    Last year I discovered top-stitching needles. I can't believe the difference it made while applying double folded bias binding onto some aprons I was making. Well worth the extra cost. In fact, I've been using top stitching needles for more of my regular sewing as well, but I'll be trying the Microtex now, on your recommendation.

    mille mercis!

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    1. Great hint, Lorrie. Thanks and I will give that a try the next time I topstitch. I would love to know if you were using a heavier thread on your aprons.

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    2. I was just using regular Gutermann thread. But the Universal needle clunked through the fabric terribly. When I switched to the top stitching needle I was astounded at the difference. Now I'm eager to try the Microtex needles I purchased yesterday!

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  7. Thanks Bunny. I really need to organize my needles in a better manner. You're a talented seamstress and have a lot to offer when you share your sewing tips.

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    1. You're welcome, Deanna. Thanks for following the series and for any tips you may offer in the future.

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  8. Thank you for running this series. I've been sewing for over 50 years, but I I can't say I upped my game much in the first 40 years. I have come so much farther since I started reading your blog (and others).

    This series is especially instructive. I change needles with each project (and just before sewing buttonholes - thanks Barb!), and I knew the basics of using a sharp needle for wovens and a ballpoint for knits; but the info in this post has opened my eyes.

    I meant to comment on your thread post, but I'll add it here: Your advice to use thread as it comes from the spool is perfect for right-handers, but should be reversed for left-handers. I learned this accidentally when I ran out of spool thread and had to use bobbin thread. Eureka! No tangles! We lefties know to reverse most things, but on something subtle like this we may not think todo so.

    I LOVE! your machine needle case! I have a huge pill case from my father's things that I think will be perfect. And I have a box from facial cleanser cloths that will be perfect for a hand needle file box. A little time invested on the front end will save much more time over the course of my sewing 'career'!

    Trust a librarian to know how to organize, and how to present information clearly and concisely. :-)

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    1. Glad you are enjoying the series, Kay. I think the arrival of the blogosphere has made us all better sewists. It's amazing what we can learn from different voices in the sewing world.

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  9. What a great post, Bunny. I also use an 11 Mikrotek for almost everything nowadays, too, and my under-used supply Universal needles will soon be gifted to my niece who sews a lot of costumes. Your organization for SM needles is brilliant! I am definitely copying that!

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  10. I just finished sewing 75 dresses for my chorus. The fabric was a nasty tissue lame under a poly crinkled organza. I tried numerous machine needles and a size 10 Microtex was the only needle that didn't give me pulled threads in the lame. I went through 60 needles! I store my needles in a plastic case similar to your pill box. Thanks for the hand needle threading techique.

    Karen

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    1. That doesn't sound like a project that I would envy you for. I've always said tissue lame is the fabric from hell, the worst. You are a brave soul to have tackled that project. Wow, that's a lot of needles!

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    2. MICROTEX needles are GREAT :) I alter clothing to make a living :) I specialize in bridal and formalwear :) These needles and my method of hemming make it possible for me to LOVE hemming chiffon ;) I also try to educate others :) When a fellow seamstress says her machine WON'T stitch knits, I recommend a JERSEY STRETCH SCHMETZ NEEDLE. I firmly believe it is NOT the machine, it is the choice of needle :) Cheryl Designs :)

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    3. Oh my, I made my daughter a homecoming dress with tissue lame and it nearly cost my sanity about 20 years ago! Wish I'd known about the Microtek needles. I am certain to check them out now!

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  11. Thank you so much for this series! I have never heard of a microtex needle but now I'm going to have to check it out. I never thought of the needle being the culprit when the fabric gets sucked into the bobbin case. I always assumed it was a thread or pressed foot tension problem. So much to learn! I am excited to do some real sewing after I claw my way out of Halloween costume he!! Unfortunately I have a croupy baby, so reading your post will be as close as I get to sewing today.

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  12. Thank you Bunny. This is a great article on pins and needles, and I especially like your suggestion on threading a hand sewing needle. Great tip! Lately, I've been using my fine chenille needle a lot. With it's larger opening it's easier to thread for these old eyes and the tip is very sharp...good for general stitching. One can insert 2 different threads into this long, narrow eye too. Linda S.

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  13. I must admit that I do not change my machine needles as often as I should! I love all of your needle storage ideas - very clever.

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  14. I change my needles based on material so I have a stretch, twin, jersey, etc.

    But it wasn't until the beginning of the year that I learned that I need to change my needles every few hours of sewing instead of every few projects. I was shocked that that information wasn't widely available despite my classes and tons of reading. But super happy I found out. Fortunately I know now. I also learned a handy tip for storing the used needles.

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  15. Wonderful article Bunny I'll be stealing your needle storage idea.

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  16. Great series Bunny - I'm learning such a lot! Thanks, Sue.

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  17. Fantastic series, thank you so much, I am really enjoying it and I am looking forward to each new installment.

    When I am sewing plain old simple cotton, I don't change my machine needle as often as you recommend, and I have noticed no issues. However, whenever I sew anything synthetic or fussy I change often.

    A package (or two) of Microtex size 11 needles is now on my shopping list. Thank you again.

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    1. It would be fun to do a comparison. Before you switch to your Microtex needles sew two strips of cotton and listen closely to the sound. Then change to the microtex needle and list to the sound. I bet you will here a smoother penetration from the microtex needles.

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  18. Thanks !! really, the needle?? that would explain some issues I've had. I totally agree the right needle for the right job sure makes things easier. I do try to change the needle with each new project, but I just HATE to throw away the old one, and end up keeping them "for an emergency"------ which of course never comes, and I sometimes get them mixed up with the new ones. I must work at organizing them better, Im working on a vest, velvet, and I am using silk thread to baste, pinning only within the seam allowance. So far, so good. I have not been backstitching but, lowering the stitch length as you recommended.......and it is wonderful. I so look forward to Mondays! keep em coming!

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    1. Thanks for the validation, Joyce. Greatly appreciated.

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  19. Yes I agree with Joyce - this is a fabulous series. So well described, detailed, interesting. Needles and pins are so important and often taken for granted. I lose so many. My husband vacuums them up for fear of an accident. Anyway thank you Bunny for teaching me new things and making me smile.

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  20. I have never heard of the Microtexvor HS needles before. I can't wait to use them. Thank you for this wonderful information on pins and needles!

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    1. Microtex and HS needles. Sorry about the typos.

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    2. Typos allowed! I make them all the time. My brain has perfect spelling but it doesn't always translate to my fingers.

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  21. Clothilde's is still around, but they've changed the company name to Annie's, and carry more crafting stuff now, too. Here's their web site: https://www.anniescatalog.com It's hard to navigate, but if you use the Search function and put in "pins," all the usual Clothilde stuff comes up. :)

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  22. Nice summary of pins and needles! My pins and machine needles are somewhat organized, but I need to do something about my hand sewing needles - right now the packages are just tossed in a tin.

    Whenever I have the problem of fabric and thread pulling into the machine, I've been using the old trick of taking a piece of index card cut to fit between the feed dogs and held down with a bit of tape, as a temporary straight stitch plate. I'll try changing needles next time.

    And my favorite tip for threading hand needles - if, no matter what you try, the thread still won't got through the eye, turn the needle around.

    JustGail

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  23. Hi Bunny. Lots of great tips here. Mary

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  24. A discussion about needles and pins should end with a tip about packaging the worn and broken needles and pins for safe disposal. I'm thankful to Stitchers' Guild for having started that topic in the first place. And I filled up the synthetic wine cork I was using with worn broken needles and need a new storage method since I don't know anyone here who drinks and can't ask for another cork. :(

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    1. I put mine in little plastic boxes, fill it up, tape it shut, and put in the trash. Don't want anyone grabbing the trash bag and getting hurt!

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  25. Thank you Bunny,
    Wow ... such wonderful information ... I learned so much from this post ... your efforts to educate and empower us in our sewing is greatly appreciated! Lynda from Toronto

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  26. Any thoughts on pin and needle repair or sharpening? My husband sanded a burr off one of my hand needles the other day. Later, I remembered my old tomato pin cushion with the strawberry attached. While sewing, I found a glass-head pin with another burr and I tried to remedy that with the strawberry but it didn't work. I do a lot of hand basting and prefer a really sharp needle and am wondering if it's worth my finding a process for resharpening the tips of my needles. (PS: Amen to changing the sewing machine needles. I thought my machine was broken because the threads kept bunching up. Changed the needle and voila!)

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    1. I don't have any answer other than what you have already done, Anon. I keep an emery board (paper nail file) at my machine for moments like this. I use the smoother side going in one direction toward the point.

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    2. I have a fine sharpening stone that I got with my Gingher scissors and it works nicely at removing a burr on the needle. I draw the needle tip across the stone in one direction, rolling the needle between thumb and forefinger at the same time. I try to keep the angle with the stone's surface as small as possible and stop when the point is smooth and sharp. Test with a scrap of fabric. It works when you haven't a suitable replacement in the middle of a project.

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  27. Wonderful tutorial! Can't wait to implement your ideas. I discovered your blog via Pinterest and am so glad I did. You write well and the pictures are great....nice blog!

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  28. I also found your blog via Pinterest and am so glad I did. Thank you for so generously sharing your expertise. I must confess I can't figure out what the "HS" abbreviation is for in the Schmetz needles.

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    1. I couldn't find that info on the Schmetz site either. All I can tell you is that is the designation on the stretch needles. If I come across this info I will share on this page.

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