Sewing Machine Needles
Needles are sized with the smaller numbers signifying smaller needles. For example a size 9 needle has a smaller shaft with a smaller eye. A size 18 needle has a larger shaft and a larger eye. As the size of the needle is increased the eye is larger so heavier threads can be used in larger needles. Machine needles come in sizes 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, and 18.
The size of the needle you use depends on the size of the yarns in the fabric you are sewing. If you are using very fine lingerie thread and sewing on very light weight delicate fabric you would want to use a size 9 needle. And if you are sewing very heavy fabrics such as denim or heavy upholstery fabrics you would need to use a size 16 or 18 needle.
Needles come in two basic styles. There are Universal Sharp needles and Ball Point needles. Universal are best for woven fabrics as they pierce the fabric. Ball Point needles are best for knits because they actually go into the fabric between the yarns. Ball point needles are not recommended for machine piecing or machine quilting because the fabrics used are woven.
The higher the number on the thread the finer it is. A size 30 embroidery thread is heavier than a size 40 embroidery thread. The average size thread and the most common in use for general sewing and piecing quilts is size 50. Some quilting books recommend using size 60 thread for piecing because it is finer than size 50. Size 60 thread is not as readily available and size 50 is a good size for machine piecing and machine quilting.
Regular size 50 thread can be used in almost all the needles available. Needles in size 11 and 12 are usually used for general sewing and patchwork piecing with size 40, 50 or 60 weight thread. A size 14 needle is recommended for machine quilting.
If you are machine quilting with a very closely woven cotton fabric and a dense batting you may find the size 16 needle keeps your thread from breaking. You may wish a larger needle if you are quilting with 30 weight embroidery thread.
I recommend size 11 or 12 Universal needles with size 50 cotton thread or cotton covered polyester thread for piecing. For quilting I recommend size 14 Universal needles with cotton thread. Some battings need a size 16 needle and if you are stitching on denim you would want a size 16 or 18 or a special "jean's" needle.
There are special machine quilting needles available and a microtex needle that some say work better with specialty threads. If you wish to quilt and embellish with specialty threads, ask your sewing machine dealer for the best type of needles recommended for your specific project and brand of machine.
When a sewing machine is making stitches the thread in the needle goes through the needle many times before it is actually made into the stitch. If the needle hole is too small for a specific thread, the thread will shred or break as it goes through the needle so many times as the machine sews. If the fabric or batting is too thick it will also cause the thread to shred or break.
Be sure to change your machine needle frequently. Some needle manufacturers say you should change your needle after eight hours of stitching. If you sew over a pin and the needle hits the pin, change the needle. Even if the needle is bent only slightly, it could cause skipped stitches. When machine quilting, I change my needle before beginning a new quilt or more often if they break!
In general, regular universal needles in a size 11, 12 or 14 work well for machine piecing quilting cotton fabric with size 50 thread and a size 14 or 16 needle works well for machine quilting.
Caring For Hand Dyed And Batik Fabrics
Hand dyed and batik fabrics are immersed in water for the dying process, are treated with chemicals to retain the color, and then are rinsed in several changes of water until the water runs clear. This is stated in the advertising of many hand dye and batik fabric makers.
Many quilters do not wash these fabrics before using them in a quilt because they feel that the fabric has been wet and dry enough that it has already been pre-shrunk. By the time hand dyed and batik fabric has been through this process, it is has shrunk the maximum amount. But the dyes of your fabric have not been tested in your water with your detergents.
While most hand dyed and batik fabrics are advertised to be colorfast and pre-shrunk, you will find that your water and washing chemicals will differ from what was used in the dying or batik process. Many hand dyers and batik manufacturers recommend the fabrics purchased from them should be washed at home in your water using the mild soap or detergent that you usually use. The theory is it can't hurt to wash them one more time to be sure that the dyes don't react with the chemistry of your household water and soaps.
All purchased fabrics that are hand dyed or batiks need to be washed in your water and your own mild laundry products. Be sure to use a laundry product without any bleach additives. If your water is treated with chlorine or softeners either before coming into your home or after coming into your home, be sure to keep that in mind when washing hand dyed or batik fabrics. Chlorine treatment added to water will cause fabrics to loose color just as using a laundry product that contains chlorine bleach.
Manufacturers recommend washing hand dyed and batik fabrics in the regular cycle of the washing machine using cold water. Use a light detergent, rinse, spin, and tumble dry. Be sure to iron your fabric before cutting.
When you have finished your quilt, wash it in the same water and detergent that you originally washed the fabric. This way your hand dyed fabric and batiks will retain their beautiful color for many years.