Thursday, February 11, 2010

Talk Back Thursday

Thank you so much to Faye, Webfrau, Linda, Julia, Mary, Amelia, CarlaF, Casserole, Gaylen, Karin, Gwen, Julie, Becky, Shannon, Mamafitz, Summerset, Claire, and Meredith for talking back to my confession last Friday! I admitted that I’m somewhat OCD about changing my sewing machine needle, and asked how often others change theirs.

With some questions, it’s easy to divide people into distinct groups – but this time there was a lot of partial overlap between different people’s responses. So it’s more difficult to get a clean count of how many people do one thing versus how many people do another.

There were three clear motivating factors for a needle change:
Fault-based: A major problem with the old needle, such as it breaks, the fabric starts snagging, the stitches look “off” or it starts making a “punching sound” when it goes through the fabric
Materials-based: A change in the type of fabric being sewn, for example, going from wovens to knits
Time-based: The start of a new major project (not just some mending or a couple of seams) and/or at intermediate stages during a large project

Almost everyone switches needles for major fabric changes – but some use that as an excuse to throw out the previous needle, while others save the old needle and re-use it until it eventually breaks or causes a problem. Similarly, some only change their needles when there is a major fabric change, while others also change regularly whenever they start a new major project, or when they feel they have been working on a single project for a long time.

Amelia mentioned that her shop recommended a more specific time-based approach – they said that a needle should be changed after 8 hours of use. I have never heard this one, but it seems a bit more precise than the rule I heard, which was “every big project”.

So, should we try to err on the side of changing needles well before they start getting dull? Or is it okay to use them until you see a problem? Obviously this is a decision that each person must make for herself...

But we did hear from two “converts” who had experiences that convinced them that it was worth replacing needles frequently – when Julie was working on her wedding dress, she found that this made the sewing easier and eliminated a lot of little problems with her stitching that she had previously been attributing to operator error. And Webfrau came to the same conclusion when she got into creating surface embellishments for quilting projects.

Speaking of changing the needle for different types of fabric, a few people mentioned their policies – and I realized that this seems like an excellent topic for another confession! For today, I’ll just pass on Gwen’s breakdown of her preferences, as it was the most extensive one that anyone laid out:

Use / Needle Type
Most wovens / Sharp (over universal)
Knits / Ballpoints
Lycra / Stretch
Faux suede / Microtex
All purpose / Denim (all sizes from 70 to 110)

Only a few people mentioned serger needles, but the ones who did were in agreement – no one voluntarily changes their serger needles very often! ;)

Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to comment! As always, it was very interesting to read your experiences and I learned a lot! :)


Anonymous said...

This is a bit off topic, but if you're the frugal type, used sewing machine needles make great picture hanging nails. The tip end leaves a tiny hole, but is strong, and the shank end catches the wire nicely. Don't hang mirrors with these, but my small framed pictures are still hanging after 16 years.

Dana said...

In honor of that post I changed my needle last week ;) Thanks for reminding me!

julia said...

Because of your post, I bought new needles and changed mine! I felt guilty!