Thursday, August 15, 2013

Needles Galore!

I took a twenty year hiatus from sewing.  I didn't plan to be away from my sewing machine that long, but that's how it turned out.  Now that I'm back to sewing, I'm amazed at how many different sewing machine needles there are now.

Years ago, I seldom changed the needle in my machine.  When I did, it was usually because I tried to zigzag with the wrong foot and broke a needle.  If I was mending jeans, I knew I needed a bigger needle than when I was sewing lightweight cotton.  At any rate, needle changes were not frequent.

But wow!  Things have changed!  In addition to regular sewing machine needles in various sizes (sometimes called universal needles) there are ball point needles (sometimes called jersey needles), special needles for topstitching, and twin needles (sometimes called double needles).  Since many of the new sewing machines do embroidery, there are special embroidery needles.  All these special needles come in various sizes, too.  (And to complicate things even more, sergers have their own array of needles, but that's another story.)

Needles usually come in little plastic cases - anywhere from four to six per case.  Some cases come with an assortment of sizes.  Once I've used a needle, I don't like to put it back in the case with the new, unused needles.  Needles get dull after so many hours of use, so I like to keep new and used separated.  But once a needle has been out of its case for a while, a question arises.  What kind of needle is this, and what size is it?

Size is usually etched on the shank of the needle, and twenty years ago I could read these tiny numbers.  Not now.  I have a jeweler's loupe that I bought to read information on fountain pen nibs.  I have to use it to see the numbers on needles these days.  But even if I can read a needle's size, I still have to determine what kind it is.  Fortunately, embroidery needles have a red mark at the base of the shank.  Both embroidery and topstitching needles have long eyes.  If a needle has a long eye, but no red mark, I assume it's a topstitching needle.  I don't know how to tell the difference in a regular and a jersey needle.

To try to bring some order to the confusing world of needles, I've made a needle "book" out of felt with different pages for various sizes and types of needles.  I place a special pin (with a blue head) to mark a place for the needle that is currently in my machine.  If - after a few days away from my machine - I forget what needle is in it, this saves me from having to take the needle out just to identify it.  

To make my little book, I cut four pieces of felt with pinking sheers - each one approximately 6 x 8 inches.  I folded each of these in half, making them 4 x 6 inches.  I punched three holes along the folded sides.  A regular paper punch won't work.  I used a hole punch and hammer from my MakingMemories Tool Kit.  I love it when paper crafting and sewing can use some of the same tools.  I cut a 4 x 6 inch piece of chip board, punched matching holes in it, and placed it on the bottom - under the pages - for some stability.  I bound the felt pages and chip board together with ribbon.  I used an alphabet font on my machine to do the lettering.  So there you have it!  Organized needles!  

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