Needles & Threads! Oh My! Part 1

As long as I’ve been sewing, the guru has told me that most problems (in the sewing studio, we’re not solving world peace here!) can be fixed with this checklist:
1. Rethread the machine. Are you using the correct thread?
2. Check your bobbin. Take it out, put it in again. Are you using the correct thread?
3. Change your needle. Are you using the correct needle?
4. Clean & Oil your machine! There’s usually an errant thread causing the problem. (I clean and oil my machine EVERY TIME I run a new bobbin. And it purrs:)

Common denominator in all of these? Needles and threads! Most of my knowledge about needles and threads can be traced back to one person, Shirley Bailey, co-owner of Sew Original in Winston-Salem & Boone. She teaches a class to all her new Bernina owners about this very topic. And she’s been gracious enough to let me interview her for my blog and share with you!

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Isn’t she cute?! Shirley is a real blessing to the sewing and quilting community. Her knowledge is incredible; she knows everything about sewing. And is forever willing to share her knowledge! I’ve asked her thousands of questions in the years I’ve known her and she still takes my calls! She’s so amazing that she actually wrote the directions for the YKK zipper package. So next time you’re putting in a zipper, think of her:)
Back to the Needles & Threads! This will be a four part series FULL of information!
Part 1: Needles with Shirley Bailey
Part 2: Threads with Shirley Bailey
Part 3: Quilting Threads with Kelly Wood
Part 4: Application (aka What I Use)
Lets get started!
Choosing the right needle is critical to your project’s success! You’ll take into account what the material is (quilters’ cotton, voile, knit, leather, heirloom, etc) and what you’re doing (piecing, top stitching, quilting, decorative, embroidery, etc).
Needles also come in different sizes: the smaller the number, the thinner the needle and smaller the eye.
General Needle Size:
60: very fine batiste
70: voile
80: quilters’ cotton
90: denim and twill
100-120: canvas
Needles should be changed every 4-6 hours of sewing. Not just when they break!

Universal: These needles come in sizes 60-120. This needle is in between a ballpoint and a sharp. It’s a general purpose needle for woven and knit. Not for knits with Lycra or Spandex.

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Microtex/Sharp: These needles come in sizes 60-90. This needle has a sharp point with a thin shaft. It works well on microfiber, silk and artificial leather. Perfect for precision piecing!

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Stretch/Ballpoint: These needles come in sizes 60-100. This needle has a slightly rounded point for sewing knits. Use a 70 for lingerie, nylon, jersey. Use a 80 for t-shirt weight and 90 for sweatshirt weight.

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Quilting: These needles come in sizes 75 & 90. These needles are for machine quilting. They are designed to go though all the layers and prevent skipped stitches.

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Topstitch/Cordonnet: These needles come in sizes 70-100. This needle has a sharp point with a large eye and deeper groove to accommodate larger threads. Use with heavier fabrics. Great to top stitch on totes with lots of interfacing.

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Leather: These needles come in sizes 80-100. This needle’s point is a sharp cutting wedge. Use with leather only, not synthetic or vinyl.

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Jeans: These needles come in sizes 70-110. They penetrate extra thick woven fabrics like denim. Built for minimal needle breakage because the shaft is less prone to flex.

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Metallic: These needles come in sizes 70-100. Use for metallic and specialty threads. An elongated eye helps to prevent breakage and thread shredding.

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Double Eye: These needles come in size 80. There are two eyes on one shank. Use to blend two threads.

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Twin Needles: These needles come in sizes 1.6/70-8.0/100. This is actually two needles attached to one shank. Use for pintucks, hems and decorative work. Available in Universal, Stretch, Jeans, Metallic & Embroidery.

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Triple Needles: These needles come in sizes 2.5/80-3.0/80. This is actually three needles attached to one shank. Use to create mock smocking and decorative work. Available in Universal.

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Wing/Hemstitch: These needles come in sizes 100 & 110. This needle has a non-cutting metal wedge on each side of the shaft that creates a hole without cutting threads. Use for heirloom sewing.

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Double Hemstitch: These needles come in size 100. This is a double needle with one Wing needle and one Universal attached to one shank. Use for heirloom sewing.

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Embroidery: These needles come in size 75 & 80 and in Sharp & Ballpoint. The titanium coated version lasts five times longer. Use for machine embroidery.

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Some (Schmetz) needles have a colored stripe on the shaft for easier identification.
Stretch: Yellow
Jeans: Blue
Sharp: Purple
Quilting: Green
Embroidery: Red
I also have this handy guide from Schmetz. I keep it in my needle case and use it often. Thanks to Linderella’s, I have a few extras, so let me know if you need one:)

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I jot down notes on certain threads that work well (or don’t work well)!

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Come back tomorrow for Part 2: Threads with Shirley Bailey!
xo LC

4 thoughts on “Needles & Threads! Oh My! Part 1

  1. Lee-what a great post…so helpful! I oil my machine just as you showed me at Sew South and what a difference!! I could totally use a pocket guide if you have extras!

  2. This is so helpful. I’ll be pinning it and saving it for future reference. If there are any needle guides left, I would love one. If not, I’ll be referring to this post as my expert guide. Thank you! I’m looking forward to future installments.

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