Needles and Thread

Needles and Thread

Today’s Janome Jump Start Blog contribution comes from one of Janome America’s most adored Educators, and one half of the dynamic Janome Duo known as Polka and Dot…… Amy Meek!

Amy has traveled the US and Mexico demonstrating and educating on Janome sewing machines, sergers and software.

Amy has taught basic sewing, garment construction and pattern making at every level from children and adult beginners to advanced techniques in a university setting. Amy has also developed a program as a para-professional therapist teaching sewing and quilting as a skill set for adults with chronic mental illness and traumatic brain injury. 

Sharing her love of sewing, knowledge of machines and accessories to consumers and dealers is the reason Amy loves her job.

You may also recognize Amy from her video on the Janome Sewing Classroom Page on Facebook introducing the Janome CP3000 Professional. Still, today we are delighted to have her incredible experience and input on some of the most overlooked things in sewing. Needles and Thread!!!

Take it away Amy……

The hardest working part of a sewing machine is sometimes the most neglected. We worry about keeping the fuzz out and keeping it moving and happy. But we seldom think about the hardest working parts: the needle and thread.

First, let’s talk about the thread. You have invested in a good machine; the fabric you love (and it likely cost a pretty penny); maybe a pattern; your cutting tools; marking tools; pins, or clips, and then your time to gather all this together. But then you reach in your drawer to pull out Grandma’s stash of thread on wooden spool from the 40s to thread your machine. STOP!!!!!!!

Thread has a shelf life. Thread, like fabrics, has gone through changes in the last few decades. Also, manufacturing has changed over the years. Select a high-quality thread and stock up on neutrals; black, white, off-white, beige, gray in dark and light hues, which are the go-to threads which blend well with many colors of fabric. Matching thread or contrasting colors are purchased according to the project. Then there is always the favorite color that makes you smile when you see them to round out the collection.

Needles are the hardest working part of your machine and really need to be maintained. There are lots of kinds of needles. Most people don’t realize that the bobbin and needle movement are all designed around a specific needle brand. The machine’s movements are calibrated around that needle, this includes the needle threader. Each needle brand may vary by just millimeters, but this is enough to throw your machine into a tizzy. Sometimes you may need a specific type, winged or double-needle, and can only find one brand. Those are specialty needles that are used for techniques that are decorative and not for construction and will be fine. You will want to use the needle suggested by your machine manufacturer for general sewing and construction purposes. Janome’s needle of choice is Janome or Organ needles.

The size of your needle is based on your project. A small needle (10 or smaller) will NOT work with a needle threader, the eye is too small for the threader hook and two strands of thread—the larger the needle, the bigger the eye and the heavier job it is meant to do. 

There are several types of needle scarves (that’s the part of the needle around the eye) that determines the size of the hole in your project. The other is the type of the tip or point of the needle. The Universal or Sharp point on the needle is to pierce natural fibers such as cotton, linen, wool or silk. This will allow the thread to meld into these fibers of the fabric. Ballpoint needles are for knits and man-made fibers that will weaken when pierced. A ballpoint tip moves the fibers out of the way and goes between the strands of the fibers to keep their integrity. 

Needles should be changed by project or every 6 to 8 hours of sewing time. It also needs to be changed if the machine is skipping stitches or when working with heavy fabric or metallic fabric. It is a small price to pay for a machine that works so hard.

So be sure to keep these tips in mind when working with your sewing machine. While today’s sewing machine generally does not require a great deal of maintenance, it is crucial to pay attention to the commonly overlooked yet essential parts such as the Needles and Thread.

We will leave you with the always handy Sewing Machine Reference Guide for your viewing pleasure.

Until Next time…..

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14 Responses to Needles and Thread

  1. Fran French says:

    I was surprised to hear thread has a shelf life as I have been using the thread my Mom had. A whole little cabinet full I did purchase Gutterman thread and will continue to use that instead Thank you for the information on both needles and thread eye opening to the novice like me
    I just started to sew after retirement for fun

    Like

    • janomeman says:

      Thank you sew much, Fran. We’re happy you enjoyed the post! It’s always a wise use of time to do some test samples, especially with older thread. If the stitching looks good; tension is fine and the seam or the stitch is strong, then go ahead to use the thread. If there’s any doubt, best not to use it and save it for basting, or hand sewing a button, etc. Enjoy your retirement filled full of wonderful sewing projects! Happy Sewing!

      Like

  2. Susan Kuentzel says:

    You didn’t talk about thread. I was using Gutterman thread 50wt which kept breaking (large cone)
    I am now using Missouri Star Quilt Co. thread which works perfectly. Again, the cone.
    It would be nice to know why certain threads break and others don’t.

    Like

    • janomeman says:

      Hi Susan,
      Sometimes, it’s just a bad spool or cone; something which originated at the manufacturer. Switch to a different spool of the same thread, the same colour, and it’s fine. One of those weird unsolved mysteries, which fortunately doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen. The way the thread is manufactured definitely has an impact on it’s performance, and the process will likely vary from one to the next.
      Other times, using a spool stand, or a thread net helps tame temperamental threads. How the thread was stored will also have an impact on it’s performance. Thread has a shelf life and often becomes dry and brittle over time, especially if stored near sunlight. Using a thread lubricant over the spool can help rehydrate it and help improve the results.
      Thread is definitely a subject we need to explore more deeply. It’s an integral, but sometimes overlooked component. Happy Sewing!

      Like

  3. Barbara Crossman says:

    Thank you for this information. I have accumulated quite a few needles over the years and keep them in old pill vials …..what or how do you recycle or dispose of them?

    Like

    • janomeman says:

      HI Barbara. Many sewists I know do as you do, then either throw the pill bottle in the trash, or put in their metal/plastic recycling bin, for who have that. (that’s what I do) Maybe a pharmacy would take them to put in the “sharps” containers they use to dispose of syringes? Never hurts to ask, especially when thinking of safety. Happy Sewing!

      Like

      • Barbara Crossman says:

        Thank you for replying. I never thought of asking the pharmacy and perhaps that could work! We do have recycling here but I have never been able to find any information on disposal of sewing needles on the website. Thank you again for the suggestions. I enjoy all the Janome posts.

        Like

      • janomeman says:

        I’m happy to help however I can, Barbara. Thank you sew much! Happy Sewing!

        Like

  4. Susan Keegan says:

    Thank you for a very informative post. Often times it’s the smallest details that make the biggest difference.

    Like

    • janomeman says:

      Thank you sew much for your feedback, Susan! Indeed, the needle is the smallest part of the project in terms of size, but the biggest factor in determining what kind of results you’ll have. Happy Sewing!

      Like

  5. Beth says:

    Can you tell us what Janome needle to use for quilting?

    Like

    • janomeman says:

      Hi Beth! I personally use a Janome Red tip 90/14 for most of my sewing, including piecing a quilt. For the actual quilting layers together, I switch to a Janome Purple tip 90/14 which has a flared head just below the eye. This separates the fibres of the fabric so the bobbin and needle thread intersect more readily in the middle of the quilt sandwich. The Purple tip needle eliminates skipped stitches, so it’s a great choice, especially when free motion quilting. Happy Quilting!

      Like

  6. Evelyn Harvey says:

    Thank you for that info. I just inherited some extremely old reels of cotton from aged mum, now 99, and I’m pretty sure some of them belonged to her mother. I’ll just use them for tacking!

    Like

    • janomeman says:

      Thank you for your feedback, Evelyn. It’s wonderful, and bittersweet to have sewing items passed down from one generation to the next. My mother has some of my grandmother’s old wooden spools of threads, too, which are beautiful and sentimental, so it’s great to use them for display, or yes, as you say, to use them for tacking, or basting. Cotton threads in particular loose moisture over time, so they become brittle and harder to manage, so best not to use them for regular sewing. Happy Sewing!

      Like

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