Friday, May 20, 2011

Needle Know How

Using the right needle for the job will result in a better finished product. Knowing the correct needle to use and using it, is essential. Always be sure to match the thread and the needle type to the fabric and the needle size to the fabric and thread that you are using. The needle eye and thread groove has to be large enough to accommodate the size of the thread to prevent shredding and breaking.

Universal needles have a slightly rounded point and were designed to use on both knits and wovens. In my opinion, why use a hybrid when you can use the type of needle that was made for a specific purpose.

Stretch needles have a medium ball point with a special eye and scarf and are designed to be used on very stretchy knits.

Jersey needles have a medium ball point and are to be used on moderately stretchy knits.

Jeans or denim needles have a sharper point to penetrate thicker fabrics including denim and quilts with little needle deflection (straighter stitching) or skipped stitches.

Microtex needles have a very slim point to allow for smooth penetration into micro fibers and silk.

Quilting needles have a special tapered  point for piecing and machine quilting.

Embroidery needles have a wide eye and a deeper groove. They are made to withstand the higher temperatures which develop when stitching rapidly over a period of time. The scarf, groove and eye protect the specialty threads and reduce friction.

Metallic needles have an elongated eye for use with metallic thread to prevent shredding and breaking.

Topstitch needles are extra sharp with a deeper groove and have an eye that is twice as long for use with heavy threads or multiple threads.

Remember to change your needles to match your current project and/or every 8-12 hours of sewing time. If you hear a popping sound when you stitch, your needle point is damaged and you will damage the fabric if you continue to use it. Shredding of your thread is usually due to using the whole size or type of needle or a damaged one. Change the needle.

Up Next: Tension

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thread Tips and Tricks

A few days ago I gave a talk to my Fiber Frenzy group about thread. I told them that I have had a love affair with thread since the 70's. I have quite a large collection composed of various brands, fibers and weights. I ended the talk after about an hour but there is always more to say. Following are some tips about using thread:

Never moisten the end of your thread before threading the needle. The fibers will expand and make it more difficult. Instead moisten the eye of the needle and it will encourage the thread to pass through.

Cut your thread at an angle instead of a straight cut. This will make threading the needle easier.

If it is difficult to see the eye of the needle when threading, place a piece of white paper behind the needle and it will be easier to see the hole.

When threading the needle with a thread that is hard to see like monofilament nylon or polyester, try darkening the tip of the thread with a black felt tip pen.

Jinny Beyer recommends not using white thread for piecing unless you are sewing a piece of white fabric to another piece of white fabric. Use thread to match the color of the darker piece of fabric. That way your stitches are less likely to show.

When choosing a thread color to match your fabric, choose one shade darker because the thread will look lighter after it is sewn.

When sewing with thread that is stacked (horizontally wound rather than cross-wound), it will probably perform better if the thread is winding off of the back of the spool on a vertical spindle.

Using a 12 inch length of thread, thread through the eye of the needle and hold thread vertical and taut. Spin the needle from the top and if it does not slip down the length of the thread, you need to use a larger needle or a needle with a larger eye such as a topstitch needle.

May all of your sewing be problem free!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Honor those UFO's (and I don't mean unidentified flying objects)

I am determined to finish some of my UFO's. Now I realize that not all unfinished projects need to be completed. Some projects are only samples or practice pieces to try a new technique or color combination while others just don't satisfy our creative muse. Nonetheless I plan to quilt two completed quilt tops this summer. One of the tops is an I Spy quilt that will be fun for my grandchildren to play with when they come to visit. The other quilt is my interpretation of an Amish square in a square.

I was rather nonplused to discover that neither quilt met my normal standards. How could this be? I don't do such a poor job of cutting, piecing and pressing. When were these quilts made? Could it possibly be ten years ago or more? I proceeded to layer and spray baste them along with a third recently completed top while contemplating my surprise. I will find a use for these poorly constructed quilts while rejoicing in the knowledge that I have come a long way in the past ten years toward perfecting my quilting skills. I challenge all of you to get out your UFO's to see how far your skills have progressed.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Reflections on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War

On April 12, 1861 the first shots of the Civil War were fired on Fort Sumter. A long, bloody war ensued and in some ways we are still fighting a civil war today although it seems to be more between political parties than parts of our country.

Reflecting upon what the war meant to southerners and northerners at that time, I was reminded of a book that I read this past year. It was called  "The Lost Quilter" by Jennifer Chiaverini. It is the fourteenth book in a series called Elm Creek Quilts and features a group of quilters who run a quilt retreat. They find an old stack of letters relating the story of their stop on the Underground Railroad (as told in "The Runaway Quilt"). Joanna, one of the runaway slaves, was recaptured and returned to Virginia in 1859 and then relocated to Charleston, South Carolina. The Lost Quilter is her story as a slave. I have read about slavery before but nothing has touched me as deeply as this story told by a woman whose every waking moment was controlled by others. When you go to bed and arise, what and when you eat, what work you do and where and how and when, who you can marry, if you can marry, where you live and with whom. Husbands are separated from wives, parents from children, and children from siblings at the whim of a master. A powerful and brutal narrative told in the first person gives us a glimpse of the greatest stain on the history of the United States. I felt as though I was living the life of a slave throughout every page of the book. And lest we not forget, there are still parts of the world where slavery exists today.