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Techniques for Good Stitch Formation

   Good stitch formation is fundamental to good sewing. After all, it's what holds sections of fabric together. Problems with  achieving a balanced stitch can be frustrating and often lead sewers to the assumption that there is a bobbin issue.  That is rarely the case. Let's review a few simple steps that can help in setting up the perfect stitch.

  1.    Check the needle threading. Double checking the thread path, even if you're convinced it's correct, is often all that's necessary. While you're at it, brush out any dust or debris that may be clogging the route that the needle thread follows. 
  2.    Choose the correct type of needle for your fabric. There are many sources for this information. Start with your sewing machine manual. There should be at least a minimal chart inside it. There are many types of needles that come in a wide range of sizes. In general, the heavier the fabric, the larger the needle size. Here is a basic guide to needle types and sizes. The point of each needle type has been designed to penetrate the fibers of a particular type of fabric. A universal is too sharp for knits and spandex. A ballpoint or stretch needle will bounce off a woven fabric.
  3. Universal For  woven fabrics. This includes all fiber types: cotton, linen, silk polyester. These needles are not suitable for knit fabrics or synthetic fabrics like scuba or vinyl.

    Ballpoint For  knit fabrics without spandex. Cotton, linen, polyester, rayon and silk fibers can be found in knits. The difference between knit and woven fabric is the way the fibers are linked together to form fabric. The tip of ballpo int needles are rounded and can slip between the loops of knit fabric. Universal needles are sharp and would tear knit fabric.

    Jersey For a particular weave of knit called jersey. It is one of the oldest styles of knit weave, very silky and smooth.

    Stretch For knit fabrics that are a blend of a stretch fiber (spandex or lycra) and a base fiber (cotton, polyester, etc.) Most modern knits have a small percentage of spandex. The point of the stretch needle is designed to slip between the knitted loops of the fabric without damaging the stretch fiber.

    Microtex For tightly wove fabrics like Tencel and Microfiber.

    Topstitching For decorative effects on the outside of a garment. These needles have a large eye to accommodate decorative thread and a long, sharp point that can penetrate multiple layers of fabric. They come in both Universal and Stretch, so read the package carefully.

  4. Choose the correct size needle for your project. In general, the more delicate the fabric, the smaller needle size. Sizing is given in both decimal and metric on the package. For example, a fine chiffon would be sewn with a 60/8 universal needle. The 60 is metric; the 8 is decimal. This is a nod to the global world we live in. Our mothers and grandmothers would only have known the decimal system of 8 - 16. There are many needle manufacturers. My preference is still Schmetz. Stretch needles have a  slightly different sizing system than universal.

  Here is a brief chart for selecting needle size:


Knits   If you invest a few minutes in matching fabric to needle size and type, you'll eliminate so much frustration. A little prep work  saves a lot of time. 

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