For something so small and innocuous needles can have sizeable impact on whether you'll enjoy your sewing project or whether you'll want to chuck it out the window! The thing is, when you look at the needle packet there usually isn't a whole heap of info. This means that newbies are often left in the dark as to which needle is the best for the job and they end up winging it. So in this post I'm going to look at types of needles, sizes and what to use some of them for. (This one's for you Vincent!)
Taken from Schmetz. See what I mean? I'm reading it, but (if I was a newbie) I'm not understanding it!
What the hell do those numbers mean? Why are they written like that?! The answer is very simple (and not nearly exotic enough for the confusion it causes). The numbers actually refer to 2 sizing systems - American & European as can be seen in chart below (taken from About.)
When you see the needle size on a needle it is displayed in both American & European sizes. Sometimes the Euro number is shown first, sometimes the US number is shown first - makes no difference either way. In all cases the smaller the number the lighter/finer the needle.
Now look at the needle packet photo at the top of the post. As you can see it says that the needles are 80/12 so now you know that the needles are Euro=80, US=12 and as this size is in the middle of the above chart the needles are mid-weight - making 'em good for general use.
The lighter the fabric you are sewing with the finer the weave will be, therefore you will need to use a finer needle to sew with because the finer needle will leave smaller (unnoticeable) holes. So of course if you were use a chunky 19/120 needle on some fine sheer silk the results would be none too dainty! And if you were to attempt to sew a layertastic denim bag with an 8/60 you wouldn't get past first base with all that needle snappage going on.
Types of needle
Besides paying attention to needle size you also need to note the needle type because they come in different flavours. Using the wrong needle can easily result in snapped threads, missed stitches and filling up of swear-jar. There are quite a few different types made for different jobs. I'm not going to list them all (because it's nearly my lunch time). Here are some of the more common ones that you might want to use.
- Universal/Regular point - as the name suggests this type of needle is a good all rounder for knits & wovens.
- Stretch/Ball point - These needles have a ball point (ball points slip thru the weave of fabrics so they will not break the fabric fibres) and are great for use on elasticcs and super stretchy knitted fabrics.
- Jersey/Ball point - a ball point needle which is best for jersey fabrics (t-shirt fabric).
- Leather/Wedge knife point - the specially shaped point is designed to pierce leather so the needle can easily pass thru the material. Great for real/faux leather suede or heavy weight non-wovens.
- Jeans/Ball point - these needles have a reinforced shaft to help prevent needle breakage.
- Twin needle - perfect for sewing 2 lines of close parallel decorative stitches, or for decorative pin tucking and topstitching. Note that twin needles are available in various widths, weights and points - check the pack before you buy.
For more see the table below. Click to enlarge (taken from Singer)
What do I use?
I always buy my needles in bulk. It saves me money and I can easily change them without freaking out that I might not have any replacements. It's sooo important to use fresh sharp and straight needles. I personally don't favour any brands.
As a bag making and (dabbling clothes maker) I like to have on hand:
- A range of mid sized universals for sewing up my cotton bag linings or summer tops and lounge bottoms.
- Leather needles for sewing up bags and Iphone cosies, journal covers etc.
- Oilcloth/laminated fabric needles (diff companies call these needle diff things - ask at the shop). These needles are super sharp for piercing the laminate.
- Jersey needles for making cheeky dresses on my overlocker.
There's lots more that we can learn about machine needles, but I reckon the above is enough to set you in good stead for selecting the right needle for the job!
I hope that helped! :0)