Sewing Machine Needles…How to Choose The Right One

How do you know what kind of sewing machine needles to use in your machine?

Well, I prefer to use Schmetz brand needles.

They work.

They work well.

I have been using them for at least 27 years.

Before that, I used my mom’s Singer machine and just used Singer needles on it.

But then, my Dad bought me a Bernina, and the rest is history.

But, when it comes to needles, I like Schmetz because they never let me down.

Here are the types I use on a regular basis:

There’s the Universal, Leather, Microtex, Jersey/Ball Point, Jeans/Denim, Twin, and Stretch.

When I went to write this post about all the different types of needles, their uses and what size/kind you need for different fabrics and applications, I went over to the Schmetz site and found their brochure.

Then, I realized that it would be much better if I just gave you the link to it.

It’s very complete and detailed. There are photos of all the choices of needles.

There’s also this helpful chart.

Also, if you can’t find a certain needle in your local fabric store, (I can never find the Stretch twin needles anymore) you can order them online at this Schmetz site.

I found needles I didn’t even know existed!

So, I will be one of those internet shoppers myself there in a few minutes!

Who knew they had twin denim needles?

Or the extra wide twin needles? Awesome!

How about a quick threading needle? Yep!

A double eyed needle…..again, who knew?

I can’t speak to the embroidery and metallic thread type needles as I don’t sew in those categories.

But, you’ve got to check it out.

The only additional thing I can think to add is this:

If your threads are skipping or coming out as you sew, replace your needle first and see if that takes care of the problem.

Once in awhile, you have a needle that doesn’t cooperate or last as long as it should.

I have been told that you should replace your needle after every 8 hours of sewing.

So, I do.

For those who sew all day every day, that means changing it every day or two at the most.

Since I change my needles for different projects throughout the day, I make sure I put my used needles in one spot and keep my new needles in another. Then, when the time is up, I throw them away.

I bet one of you out there will tell us you sharpen your needles for another 8 hour run.

How do you do it?

That would be a good tip to know.

Until then, we just keep buying them and thanking Schmetz for all the choices.

Happy Sewing!

Hemming With Twin Needles

Have you ever sewn with twin needles?

They are awesome!

Schmetz makes several different kinds.

This is one of them:

You can find them at Joann Fabrics.

Schmetz makes twin needles where the needles are different widths apart, which is really nice.

Do you see the numbers at the bottom of the package of twin needles?

They read: 4.0/80.

This means that these needles are 4.0 cm apart. You can get them 3.0 and 3.5 in the Schmetz brand.

The “80” refers to the needle size. An 80 is also a size 12. The numbers are interchangeable.

Twin needles also come in a 90/14 for heavier fabrics and a “Stretch” twin to use on swimwear and lingerie.

Last week, I took up some sleeves and the hem on a robe.

I first took out the original double row of stitching.

Then, I figured out how much of a hem allowance I would need for the new sleeves. I always try to duplicate what the manufacturer did, if possible.

In this case, the hem was 2 1/2″.

So, I measured out 2 1/2″ beyond the new hemline and cut off the excess.

Then, I serged the edges:

Next, I pressed up the amount of fabric I needed to:

Then, I threaded the twin needles.

You’ll need 2 spools of matching thread to do this.

If you don’t have 2 spools, just wind some onto an empty bobbin and put that bobbin onto one of the thread pins and put the spool on the other.

Thread the machine the same way you normally do (except at the upper tension disc, I put one thread on the left side and one on the right to separate them there).

Then, just thread each of the needles and it should look like this:

Make sure you line up the edge of the hem under the left needle properly.

You want to catch all of the hem with both needles.

So, I’ll measure out 2 3/8″ from the left needle and put a piece of masking tape there, sticking it parallel to the foot.

That way, the hem edge will be caught by both needles.

Begin stitching on the right side of the garment:

I love using twin needles because the stitching will always be perfectly parallel.

No matter how hard I try, I can never get two consecutively sewn lines to look as good as this does.

Here is a view from the underside:

You can see the serged edge at the top of all this stitching.

The zig zag looking stitches below them are from the twin needle.

This technique works great for T-shirts, swimsuits, lingerie, knit garments of all kinds, etc.

Give it a try if you haven’t already.

I think you’ll love the results!

Alterations With a Challenge Attached

I’d like to walk you through how to address an alteration that has a challenge to it.

Most alterations are straight forward. You have a correction to make and there is an answer that suits it best.

Along the way to getting that alteration done, many people have come up with solutions that offer efficiency in the process.

But, sometimes, you run into a challenge that doesn’t fit the “textbook” solution to the problem.

This is one such dress.

For this particular alteration, I needed to take in the side seams at the bust area.

Here is the dress.

Black on one side:

Red on the other:

The fact that it is reversible was not the challenge.

(Although, I will show you how I worked on a totally reversible garment as part of this post.)

The challenge was that the construction of the garment was different than I thought it would be.

To begin,  first look at the garment from top to bottom, looking for an easy way to get in.

This dress had some topstitching along the center back seam:

Because the fabric is tightly woven (it feels like a cotton chintz) and the black and red sections were sewn together here, I quickly realized that I would never be able to get these two sections back together again perfectly.

If I didn’t sew on the exact same stitching lines, the original needle holes would show and the garment would look like it had been altered. And the chance of sewing on the exact same lines on both the red and black simultaneously, were slim to none.

So, I found an easier “in”:

I began opening up the side seam on the red side of the dress. I chose the red side because I figure she will most likely wear the black side more often.

Once I opened up a few stitches, I took a look inside:

This was interesting to me.

The left side shows that the manufacturer used the selvage (or finished edge of the fabric). Usually that is trimmed off.

The right side shows a raw edge. You can see the slight ravelling going on.

This is a perfect place to go into the dress because it will be easy to close this area up with hand stitching when I am finished with the alteration.

Next, I reached my hand up the side seam to grab the underarm area and turn it inside out.

But in this case, I was stopped at the waist seam:

Most dresses are sewn so that the outer dress is like one dress and the lining (or in this case, the reversible side) is sewn separately.

In this case, they sewed the bodice together and then joined it to the skirt.

Ok, so all I needed to do was take out that waist seam and then proceed to the underarm area:

You can see how all 4 layers were sewn together in that waist seam.

Once I opened that seam up, I noticed I had a challenge:

The bodice area was not sewn in a conventional way either.

Do you see how the seam allowances are all going toward the right?

That means that the side seams were sewn last on this bodice, instead of first.

That also means that the red front of the dress was sewn to the black front.

Then, the red back was sewn to the black back piece.

Then, the side seams were sewn.

This is not a problem unless you have to alter it.

And it’s still not a huge problem. It’s just that I had to make an adjustment in how I altered it.

Follow me as I show you how I figured out what to do, which is what you sometimes have to do when you see something out of the ordinary.

When I turned the underarm area inside out, this is what I saw:

I was hoping I could just sew vertically, from where my thumb is down to meet the side seam at the wasit.

So, I put a pin in the desired area and turned it right side out to see what it would look like after I sewed it.

As you can see, it isn’t lying flat.

So, I can’t just stitch it down like I thought I could.

I needed to take it apart.

Know why?

It’s because the armscye seam (the seam that follows the underarm) has a curve. It isn’t straight across. The front of the dress is higher than the back.

So, that means I had to take this apart and put it back together using the conventional construction method of sewing the side seams first and then the armscye seam.

So, I took it apart down the side seam:

Once I opened that up, I took out a few stitches going along the armscye seam (take out some stitches going toward the front of the dress and some toward the back of the dress):

Next, my goal was to sew the red front to the red back and the black front to the black back. (Remember, the manufacturer sewed the red front to the black front.) That is what made this process a little more challenging.

First, I pinned the black seams along the original seamlines:

Then I stitched a new seamline based on the measurements that needed to be taken in.

To see how I transfer measurements to make the new seam (or to see how I do this alteration in general), look at this post.

Once that new seam is sewn, I trim off the excess seam allowance. I don’t need all that bulk later on.

Here is the new black seam. You can see the original below the new one if you look closely.

Here is the new red seam (the one on the left):

Next, I matched the side seams together at the top because I wanted to stitch the armscye (top of the underarm) closed.

When I got them matched up properly, I noticed that the red seam didn’t lie flat to the black one.

So, I stitched in an additional 1/8″ so they would match:

Then, I ripped out those extra stitches (to the right) because I wanted the seam to lie flat when I stitched them.

Next, I matched the side seams up again and put pins in:

You can see that the stitching lines that run basically horozontal do not match up.

No problem.

Just stitch a new line gradually tapering it to meet both ends of stitching like this:

Pull out the pins and trim the seam allowance:

Go back to the waist seam:

Pull all those layers together and stitch them closed again:

Pull the dress right side out and hand stitch that side seam shut.

Press the dress at the armscye seam:

There you go!

What I wanted to communicate in this post is that you may come across unusual circumstances once in awhile (or maybe several in a week.)

If the conventional approach doesn’t work, try something else.

As long as you don’t cut any material, you can always go back to where you started and start over. The reason I trimmed the seam in one of the steps above, is that I knew I had to take the dress in, no matter what process I used, so that was a given. But you may want to be a little more careful with your particular alteration until you are sure your method will work.

If you are still confused, shoot me an e-mail and I’ll give it my best shot.

Creative Pinning

I’ve got a post coming today or tomorrow concerning how to do a challenging alteration.

But, in the meantime, I just had to show you how creative my customers are when it comes to pinning.

Those of you who sew always have pins on hand.

But have you noticed what happens when people don’t?

They use all manner of ingenuity and some are really creative.

I’ve seen duct tape, clothespins, and needles.

I even had a customer staple her hem to show me where to sew it!

This is what arrived on my doorstep today:


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Works for me!