Which Needle for What Fabric

Soft stretch velvet needs to be sewn with a ball point needle (Vogue Pattern 1520)
Soft stretch velvet needs to be sewn with a ball point needle (Vogue Pattern 1520)

Ensure your outfits are perfectly stitched every time – use the right sort of needle! Problems with stitching are rarely caused by the wrong tension and more often caused by blunt or the wrong type of needle. Having the right sewing machine needle helps stitch evenly, prevents snags, unwanted gathering or visible needle holes etc.  And blunt needles can snag fabric or cause skipped or uneven stitches. So here is my guide on which needle goes with which type of fabric.

NEEDLE imageNeedle choices
There are lots of different types of needles to suit all types of fabric, from Universal needles for general purpose sewing of woven fabrics to specialist needles for fine fabrics, leather, jeans, stretchy fabrics and embroidery. They also come in different sizes (strength/thickness) to suit the weight of the fabric – ranging from 60-120 (or American sizing 9-20). The lower the number, the finer the needle. Most needle packs will have both the European and the American sizing listed.

It is important that the needle is changed regularly as blunt needles will cause stitch problems. If your machine is starting to sound a bit clunky – change the needle and clean out the bobbin race. This should be done every 8 hours of sewing or with every new project anyway.

WOVEN FABRICS

Use a Universal needle with woven fabrics such as challis, cotton, gaberdine etc (Butterick 5893)
Use a Universal needle with woven fabrics such as challis, cotton, gaberdine etc (Butterick 5893)

Wools, gabardine, cotton, polyester, challis, brocades, satins etc
Use a general purpose universal needle, the size to suit the fabric weight. So for a lightweight blouse or skirt, use a 70/9 or for  a twill fabric use a 90/14.

A fine floaty fabric is best sewn with a Sharps needle (Butterick 5892)
A fine floaty fabric is best sewn with a Sharps needle (Butterick 5892)

Fine silks, voiles, chiffons
Try a Sharps –also known as microfiber needles, these have sharp tips and are ideal for sewing silks, microfiber fabrics and densely woven fabrics. They are also great for top-stitching and sewing buttonholes.

Sew denim and other heavyweight fabrics with a Jeans needle (Butterick 5682)
Sew denim and other heavyweight fabrics with a Jeans needle (Butterick 5682)

Denim, Canvas and heavy duty fabrics
Use a Jeans needle  – these are robust, thicker shafted needles suitable for any type of heavy, dense fabric such as canvas, upholstery fabric and of course denim. Great when sewing thick layers too and as with other needles, they come in different sizes for the different weights of these heavier fabrics.

 

One of my favourite dresses this year - use a ball point needle (Vogue Pattern 1520)
One of my favourite dresses this year – use a ball point needle (Vogue Pattern 1520)

STRETCH FABRICS 

Single Knit, Double Knit and Jersey fabrics
It’s important to use a Ball point needle with stretch fabrics.  These have rounded tips designed for sewing, stretch knits, velvets and fleece. The needle tip parts the fibres, rather than pierces them. Using a universal needle on stretchy fabric can result in skipped or broken stitching.

Two or four way stretch with lots of Lycra or Spandex need a Stretch needle for successful sewing (Kwik Sew 4163)
Two or four way stretch with lots of Lycra or Spandex need a Stretch needle for successful sewing (Kwik Sew 4163)

Two-way or four-way stretch fabrics
If you are sewing with stretchy fabrics that have a high content of Lycra or Spandex, such as lingerie or swimwear fabric, you will need a Stretch needle. These have a specially designed ‘scarf’ to help stitch two-way stretch fabrics evenly and neatly. Again if you use a universal or even a ball point needle you can get skipped or tiny bunched stitches.

When sewing with leather or suede use a Leather needle (Vogue Pattern 9074)
When sewing with leather or suede use a Leather needle (Vogue Pattern 9074)

LEATHER AND SUEDE

A leather needle has a chisel point to help penetrate real leather and suede and other non-woven materials. Take care though as the point can leave definite holes, so unpicking is not advised!

TOP TIPS

  • Use a new needle with every new project, or change it every 8 hours of sewing.
  • Make sure you insert the needle as far as possible, with flat part of shank towards back of sewing machine, and then tighten it with the screwdriver tool provided (which will prevent it working loose as you stitch).
  • Use a needle size appropriate for the fabric or number of layers. Generally small size (lower number) needles are for lightweight fabrics and larger size for heavyweight or multi-layers.
  • Keep a pack of mixed size universal needles in the workbox so you are ready to start whatever project you are working on. Universal needles are suitable for most woven fabrics, synthetics and knits.

    Other specialist needles include:
    Quilting
    – these generally have a longer sharper point, to pierce layers of fabric and wadding easily whilst maintaining a straight stitch. Use a quilting needle if making a padded quilted jacket or coat and of course, when quilting.

    Embroidery
    – the larger eye, sometimes with special coating makes these suitable for machine embroidery – which is generally a highly concentrated amount of stitching.

    Metallic
    – these have a specially coated eye to cope with the metallic threads that can otherwise shred as you sew and bore a notch into the needle eye of a universal needle.

    Top Stitch needles
    – again these have a larger eye, so are useful for sewing thicker threads and top stitching as the name suggests.

Twin – one shank, two needles, which will stitch two parallel rows of stitching in one pass. Great for decorative heirloom, stitching or topstitching and creating tiny pin tucks, the gap between the needles can vary from approximately 1.6 – 6mm. Twin needles are also available as ball point, universal, stretch and embroidery needles.

Wing – these have wide wings on the shaft that are meant to leave little needle holes in the fabric as they stitch. They are best used on lightweight fabrics for heirloom stitching.

TROUBLE SHOOTING

  • If the machine sounds a bit clunky, change the needle – it might be because it is blunt.
  • If the needle breaks without apparent justification, try a larger size as it may not be robust enough for thick or multi-layers of fabric.
  • If the seam pulls up and gathers or leaves little holes as you sew, the needle may be too large, try a smaller size.
  • If Stitches skip, change the needle, it is probably blunt.

 

So now you are needle wise, get cracking on your next sewing project with confidence!

Spectacular Vintage Sewing Sign Off

group shotThe Big Vintage Sewalong had a spectacular finale with two vintage style tea parties at the Knitting and Stitching Shows in Alexandra Palace, London and then Harrogate. It was so good to mix and mingle with like-minded sewists who were proudly wearing their beautiful creations, chatting together and enjoying the camaraderie that has built up over the year through classes, blogs and news stories in many of the sewing magazines.

Vintage Tea Party26 Vintage Tea Party32It all started in March when the Big Vintage Sewalong was launched through shops and magazines. Many retail shops also organised sewing classes, and indeed, I had the pleasure of running classes all over the country, meeting so many keen sewists along the way. I travelled to Wimbledon Sewing Centre, Wincanton Sew & Sew, Sew Creative in Petersfield, Beccles Sewing and Handicrafts, Exeter Sewing Centre, Tudor Rose Patchwork in Oakley, Crafters Companion in Durham and Coles Sewing Centre in Northampton. Thanks to everyone who made me welcome at these lovely shops. But of course, there were so many other outlets running their own classes, including Alison Smith in Ashby de la Zouch and the Cloth Shop in Warrington.

Vintage Tea Party13 Vintage Tea Party WendyWe also had a series of blogs from sewing bloggers throughout the year, each sharing their make from the 20 designs selected for the Sewalong. I made a few myself of course, and still enjoy wearing them – and indeed will continue to do so next year.

 

 

So to everyone who joined in – congratulations, I hope you enjoyed it all. Over £8000 from the pattern sales was raised and given to The Eve Appeal again this year – which is tremendous.
ladies in red
So what’s the big promotion next year? Well there will be one and again it will be an opportunity to sew and share so watch this space….

Sew your own LBD – Little Black Dress

 

A LBD is a must-have for every woman
A LBD is a must-have for every woman (Vogue Pattern 8904)

Traditionally the Little Black Dress (or LBD as it is now commonly known), was designed by the house of Chanel, and was a simple fitted shift – think Audrey Hepburn. But now, we can use a little imagination and stretch the LBD limits – including making it in vibrant red!

Sassy in red, a great alternative to traditional LBD (Butterick 5814)
Sassy in red, a great alternative to traditional LBD (Butterick 5814)

Remember when choosing a pattern, just because it is not shown in black, don’t discount the design – because you choose the fabric and colour.

Butterick 5814, sizes 6-22  – shown here in sassy red, the front mock tie and gathered bodice add some fabulous designer detailing. Dare to make a LBD in scarlet!

Deciding on the style can be a challenge, but help is on hand. Lots of Vogue patterns have figure flattery guidelines to show which figure types they flatter and which patterns will require minimal adjustment if chosen to suit your figure. These cover:

Triangle – small bust, and/or narrow shoulders with full =hips, the traditional pear shape

Hourglass – proportional bust and hips with small waist

Rectangle – balanced at bust and hips but with little or no waist definition

Inverted triangle – large bust and/or broad shoulders with narrow hips.

I’ve picked my favourites for this year. But don’t be restricted in your choice – go wild and find a style that suits you. Remember a simple style can look stunning in a rich satin, brocade, velvet or shimmering taffeta.

A classic style looks stunning in lacy fabric (Vogue Pattern 9050)
A classic style looks stunning in lacy fabric (Vogue Pattern 9050)

Vogue 8904, designer original by March Tilton, sizes 6-22 

This is a LBD with a difference – it has asymmetrical layers and looks great black on black (as shown above), or in toning fabrics. It’s easy to make and suits all figure shapes.

Vogue Pattern 9050, sizes 6-22 – suitable for all figures shapes, an easy to design to make, it is suitable for all figure shapes.

V8946_full_1
This dress has interesting pleat detail on the front, great for shaping at waist and hiding tummy bumps! (Vogue Pattern 8946)

Vogue Pattern 8946, sizes 8-24 – this dress would look stunning in matt black. The pleated detail at the front is figure flattering for hourglass, rectangle and triangular figure shapes and it has back darts for a fitted silhouette.

 

 

Make the knee skimming version as a LBD (Butterick 5710)
Make the knee skimming version as a LBD (Butterick 5710)

Butterick 5710, sizes 6-22 – although this is usually shown as a Pippa Middleton style bridesmaid dress, the shorter version is the perfect, comfortable to wear, LBD. It is a close fitting, lined bias dress with front self faced drape over the front bodice and back invisible zip. Make it in soft to lightweight crepe or satin.

 

 

More than a LBD but stunning! (Vogue Pattern 1520)
More than a LBD but stunning! (Vogue Pattern 1520)

And if you are looking for a floor length Wow factor dress, consider this new arrival, Vogue Pattern 1520 by Badgley Mischka. It’s a floor draping long dress shown here in rich red velvet, softly gathered to the side and has long sleeves with beaded cuffs. Who says a LBD has to be short!