Sewing Machine Needles
This is a massive subject! So I have decided to concentrate on the basics of domestic sewing machine needles.
Needle Sizes and their uses.
Needles are sized in metric and imperial. The smaller the numbers the finer the needle. The size of a needle is calculated by its diameter, thus a 90 needle is 0.9mm in diameter.
Size 8 = 60,
Size 18= 110,
Size 20 = 120.
No.60 – Silks, cotton lawn, organza and sheer fabrics
No.70 – cotton lawn, lining fabrics
No.80 – cotton shirting, quilting cotton,
No.90 – linen, linen union curtain fabrics, cushion fabrics, cotton sateen curtain linings,
No.100 - Denim
No.110 - Upholstery fabrics and canvas weight fabrics, leather, pvc and vinyls
No. 120 –thick Denim and Heavy Canvas, thick leather
Within the different sizes are different types of needles.
Natural materials i.e. cotton, linen, wool, cotton jersey you will need to use a ‘sharp’ needle. Now I’m not being funny they are referred to as sharps!
Stretch needles are ballpoint needles that are coated to allow them to slip through difficult fabrics. Stretchy fabrics are tricky for the needle to separate the fibres and sew well. The result is puckering and or missed stitches in a seam. The coating on the stretch needles just enables them to slide through the fibres and maintain a good stitch
Leather needles are spear shaped to help cut the leather as the stitch is being formed. If you try to sew leather and faux leather with for example an ordinary size 110 needle the machine will struggle. So by using a leather needle the machine will be able to sew more easily.
Machine Embroidery Needles
These are again available in a variety of sizes and are generally used in the top end embroidery machines. These machines produce intricate designs at a significant speed. The needles enable the machine to sew dense designs without snagging at the fabric or breaking the needle. More recently Titanium needles have become available. The titanium needles are able to cope with the intense heat that is created by the rapid movement machine to create these designs and not break as an ‘ordinary’ needle would. Embroidery needles also have larger eye’s to accommodate the slightly thicker nature of embroidery thread.
These are usually the cure all for all problems! Either with stetchy fabric or embroidery or waterproofed fabric, it is the get out of gaol needle!
Why do Needles Break?
Needles break because they are not right for the application that you are doing. If you tried to sew Denim with a size 70 needle it would just break. Denim needles are slightly angled at the end so that instead of penetrating the fabric at a 90 degree angle it does it at a reduced angle thus going through the layers at slightly less tension.
How often should I change my needle?
Needles should be changed after 6 hours of sewing or at the end of a project, whichever comes first. If ever you have a stitching problem, the first thing you should do is to change your needle.
Written by Ann Haughton of Suffolk Sewing School providers of expert one to one sewing tuition plus check out their Facebook page for more great tips and competitions.
Images from www.quiltdirect.co.uk/