Questions & Answers: Needles and Thread

As long as we keep on sewing, we'll always have questions about our needles and threads!

What size sewing needle should I use to hem jeans. I've already broken 3 needles.

Several things could be at work here. First the best needle to use is a 16 denim. Second be sure you aren't 'pulling' the fabric through the feed-dogs - that is certainly easy enough to do without realizing it (speaking from way to much experience here!) Third, be careful to go slow enough when sewing over bulky seams. This is where I usually break most needles. I've even hand turned the sewing machine on some particularly nasty seam overlaps. If you're still having problems, you can use a size 19 - though they're harder to find.

I am sewing handbags made of multi layers of fabric, timtex and foam. I am using an industrial leather sewing machine to accomodate the thickness. However, when we sew thinner fabrics, like silk, the fabric seems to fray out at the seems, making the handbag look worn and old. I am using Schmetz needle system 134-35LR, 2134-35; Canu: 32:10AX; Nm: 120. Should I be using a different needle? I have to use this machine to accomodate the thickness of the bags. The frayed fibers are too small to cut with an embroidery scissor but can be seen.

You're shredding the thinner fabrics. Start with just a size smaller on the needle - if that doesn't work, take it down another size... keep this up until you've got results you can live with. The thinner fabrics such as fine silk don't take kindly to large needles or holes poked into them.

The gold thread I am using for topstitching a Christmas table runner keeps breaking. Any ideas. My friend suggested maybe the tension was too tight haven't tried that yet.

Yes, it can be tension - so lets look at these things: upper tension, lower tension, pulling the fabric, stitch length too short, a burr on the needle hole, the wrong size or type of needle, a burr on the needle plate. Also, you might have to add a bit of thread lubricant - BUT before you do, check with your sewing machine manual to see if you CAN use it; some machine will not take kindly to it.

Another thing you might try is to run a very fine, monofilament thread through the needle at the same time (double thread the needle) to help cushion the metallic more.

And last but not least, your machine might not LIKE that particular thread or brand of thread. I had one machine that flatly refused to sew with a certain metallic thread brand. Nothing, and I do mean nothing would work. I switch brand - no more problems!

What does each number of for example a 90/14 needle stand for and thanks for reading this.

One of the numbers represents the European metric sizing the other the American. The European metric sizing system for sewing machine needles is numbered from 60 to 110. The American sizing system is numbered from 8 to 18. For both numbering systems, the lower the number the finer the needle and the higher the number the larger the needle.

How long does thread last? I have thread that I bought years ago, should I get rid of it, or still use it. Thank you, this is a very informative site..

Thanks! As for thread, it's its 100% cotton the shelf life is shorter than a polyester. Cut off a piece of it and tug - see how long it takes to snap. Sew a short section with a straight stitch and do that same thing - tug on the fabric and see how much it takes to snap. That more than anything else, is going to let you know if the thread is still sewable.

We need a sewing thread which is heat sensitive and the basic colour changes when expose to the Sun light. This is only yarn and not a fabric.

There is a company called Solar Active that has an extensive line of color changing products. You can visit them by clicking here.

I have a new Bernina serger and the only serger thread sold in my area is Maxi-Lock. My dealer told me that other brands are better but that this is fine. I don't know if I should order a "better" brand on-line or use the Maxi-Lock? HELP!

Try the Maxi-lock - if you don't like it (or your serger doesn't) then order a few spools of something else. To be honest, I've used Maxi-lock for years with no problems. On my regular machine, I use a variety of threads; Coats and Clark for only very basic sewing - their just not my favorite. The bottom line is personal preference. Try a few and then decide. It's between you and your machine.

I want to do a satin stitch on a circle, and the inside of the circle contains batting for trapunto. Should I attempt using metallic thread to do the satin stitch, or do you not recommend metallic thread for satin stitching?

Ahh good old metallic thread! Now it really and truly depends on the thread and your sewing machine. Some metallic threads handle satin stitching beautifully; other break every 1/8 of an inch. So, what you need to think about is:

  • 1. How does your machine deal with metallic thread in general?
  • 2. Does it prefer one brand over another (mine refuses to sew with any Sulky Metallic thread - go figure).
  • 3. Are you proficient enough with both sewing with metallic thread AND sewing a smooth satin-stitch circle.
  • 4. Do you have size 16 needles or special metallic sewing needles on hand?
  • 5. Do you have some monofilament thread available? I've run a double strand of metallic and monofilament thread together to help prevent breakage. I'd also suggest, since you're going to be working with enclosed batting, that you run a straight stitch along that circle first to prepare the area: hold the batting into place and stop shifting.
  • 6. Yes you NEED a backing stabilizer; I use a heavy tear-away paper/pellon. Cheap and effective.

The bottom line is: are you comfortable doing it? Is your machine happy with the thread? Do you have the right needles? Are you ready?

I want to identify my hand sewing needles by number and type. How do I achieve this?

Hand-sewing needles come in ten sizes. # 1 very coarse - # 10 very fine (also called a quilting sharp or between). Just remember: small number, thick needle; large number, thin needle. The most common types:

  • Sharps are medium length needles, used for general sewing. Most other hand-sewing needles differ mainly in length.
  • Embroidery needles (crewel) are exactly like Sharps but have a longer eye for easier threading.
  • Betweens are shorter needles, good for handwork - and I use them for delicate beading.
  • Quilting needles normally are from a 7 to 10 Between.
  • Milliners are longer needles. Many people use these for basting and if your eyes aren't quite at good as they use to be :).
  • Beading needles are very fine, long needles.
  • Tapestry needles are heavy needles with a blunt point.
  • Chenille needles are very like tapestry needles but have a sharp point.
  • Clovers needles have a tapered point with three sharp edges to pierce leather without tearing.
  • Darners are long needles- used for basting and darning with cotton.
  • Yarn darners are the heaviest needles with large eyes.

I am making a tulle overskirt for a "princess" dress for my grand daughter. What is the best size needle to use?

A standard size 11 or 12 is fine for the sewing. But you need to either do a double seam (straight line of stitching, trim to 1/4" and then another straight line of stitching); or a narrow zig-zag, or my preference, serge it- a nice narrow or rolled seam. But make sure you test before sewing to control the tension.

My thread is raveling when sewing satin stitch what do i do to prevent this?

Several things could be causing this. 1. Wrong needle - too small. 2. Bad needle - burr on the end. 3. Sewing too fast. Depending on your sewing machine (you'll have to check with your dealer) you can use a product that will help the thread; Sewers Aid. Lastly, I've had this happen more than once, the thread could be just plain bad.

Needle and Thread Question?

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Stupid Thread!