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Monday, July 28, 2014

All About Needles

I do a lot of sewing and normally I don't have any trouble with my needles but the past two weeks I have broken FOUR needles!

The first needle hadn't been changed recently, the second two were because of dumb little mistakes I made (you mean the needle can't pierce through plastic?!), and the fourth time was because in desperation I had used the wrong needle for the project I was working on. But after a quick trip to the store, I'm all set with new needles and ready to share what I learned!  (Okay, actually I already knew this stuff but somehow I thought that since I was in a hurry I could trick my needles into playing along.)  Many of our new CKC readers may not know the differences in needles and how to take care of them, so let's have that chat! 


First of all, we'll discuss the different types of needles. There's no need to get overwhelmed, we have great news at the end: 

Tip of Ballpoint Needles 
Tip of Sharp Needles

Sharp Needles are ideal for woven fabrics, heirloom quality sewing, and fine fabrics that require delicate stitching. 

Ballpoint Needles have a rounded tip that makes it easy for them to pierce knits, jerseys, lingerie, net, and similar fabrics without destroying the knitted or elasticized fibers.

Stretch Needles can be used when ballpoint needles still cause skipped stitches. They are especially good for elastic, lycra, and other very stretchy fabrics. 

Denim needles have sharp points and stiff shanks that give them the strength to sew through thick and densely woven fabrics. 

Quilting Needles have a sharp, tapered point that can easily pierce multiple layers of cloth. 

Metallic Needles have a longer eye to keep metallic thread from fraying or breaking. They work best with single-strand threads. 

Topstitch Needles have a very sharp point, a large eye, and a deep groove to enable them to accommodate the thicker topstitch thread and sew through thick materials. 

And finally, the good news: 

Universal Needles are rounded enough to be compatible with knits, but sharp enough to pierce woven synthetic and natural fibers. They may not be sharp enough for some heavy woven fabrics like denim. 

So for the most part, you will be fine using Universal Needles. I like to stock up on Universal Needles and Ball Point needles because they work for most of the clothes I sew for my kids. Here's a chart that may be helpful to you in the future: 


You probably noticed that last column in the chart above.  Once you know which needle type you want to buy, you will also need to have an idea of what the needle size means. Most needles you will find will have both an American size (8-19) and a European size (60-120).  The larger the number is, the thicker the needle will be. 

Many brands of needles have color coding to make it easy to recognize the type/size at a glance.  If you have ever tried to read the size on the tiny needle, you know why color coding is helpful! I have really good vision but not THAT good.  (If you buy needles without coding, be sure to keep the package for reference.) 

When you buy a package of needles that uses color coding it will usually have the code explained right on the package, as you can see in the photo above. The colors codes are usually similar from brand to brand, and some will use a single color (photo above) while others use double colors (photo below), noting type and size: 


The chart above is pretty accurate for all brands and I like to keep it handy while sewing. But of course if you're buying a different brand at the store and there is a slight difference, you will want to trust whatever the package says. 

Now one last little fun fact -- Did you know that sewing machine manufacturers recommend changing your needle after six hours of continuous use?  If you let your needles get dull or slightly warped, they are much more likely to damage your fabric and cause problems with your machine.  So in that case, my four broken needles were loooooong overdue!  I will be much more loving toward my needles and machine from now on. How about you?

Let's Create! ~ Kristen 

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