Threading a sewing machine needle

If your middle-aged eyes have trouble seeing the hole to thread your sewing machine needle, try this: hold a scrap of white paper behind the eye of the needle with your other hand while you thread. That hole will look much larger!


Hemming Knits:

Press 5/8" strip of lightweight stitch witchery or steam-a-seam on a roll along inside edge of the hem according to package directions. Carefully press hem temporarily fusing the hem to the height you want. Be careful not to let the fusible web to contact the soleplate of your iron. From the right side, stitch along hem edge using a 4mm. twin needle and a 3 to 3.5mm straight stitch. Your stitches will go through the fusible which acts as a stabilizer. No more wavy hems!


Crisp folds:

When you want to press a hem or facing evenly and cleanly, make a long strip of cardstock or heat-resistant template plastic. Fold up you hem along that straight edge and press for a clean crisp edge. Slide the guide along the fabric as needed.


Quickest Quilt Binding:

This method is, perhaps, not as sturdy as other binding techniques but it is fast fast fast and can work very well on quick and/or small projects. Iron a paper-backed fusible web to your binding fabric. Cut in 1&1/4" strips. Or cut 1 & 1/2" wide but use the wonderful wave blade on your rotary cutter. Remove paper and (if necessary) piece into lengths long enough for each side of the quilt.

Fuse 1/2 of one  binding strip to one back side of quilt. Fold to front. Fuse from the front. Repeat with each side, trimming strip as needed. Edge stitch fused binding. Voila!


Obtaining an accurate 1/4" seam: maybe one of these methods will work for you!

  1. Buy a special presser foot made for quilt piecing. Bernina's 1/4" foot is Number 37; Janome offers Foot "O". For other brands of machines we also sell generic 1/4" feet and the "Little Foot" which is also made for quilters. All these feet are designed to allow you to run your fabric along the edge of the foot and achieve a 1/4" seam.
  2. Use a guide in front of the presser foot to slide your fabric next to. 
    1. The Janome 9000 and 10000 come with a plastic guide that fits right on the machine and can be adjusted in 1/8" increments.
    2. Take a piece of 1/4" graph paper and cut exactly along one of the lines. Set the paper under your needle so that your needle enters exactly on the line 1/4" away from your cut edge. Now, line up a strip of basting tape alongside the paper on the bed of your machine in front of the foot. Layer 2 or 3 more layers of tape so that the edge is built up a bit. Run your fabric alongside the tape.
    3. A variation on (b.) above, cut a strip of adhesive backed moleskin 4" by 1/2" in length. Line that up next to the graph paper. -Press down  very gently (that adhesive is very strong). 
    4. Another variation on (b.): slide a "post-it" note up against that graph paper!
  3. Adjust your needle position. If your machine allows you to move your needle to the right of center; try "de-centering" your needle. --Take a piece of 1/4" graph paper and cut exactly along one of the lines. Set the paper under your presser foot so that the paper runs along the edge of your presser foot. Move your needle to the right so that it pierces the paper exactly on the 1/4" graph line. -Make a note of that needle setting. 

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Sewing with Metallic Threads

If your thread is breaking when you are using metallics here are some tips for you:

  1. First, try some of our favorite metallic threads: Yenmet is made with a nylon core, wrapped (not twisted) with metallic and coated with polyester. We find it doesn't break even using a regular sewing needle. Also if you are looking for silver or gold, stop in for some "Hot Metal", another easy-going metallic.
  2. For help with other metallics and threads like Sulky "Sliver" (a thin, flat ribbon-like polyester film that is metalized with aluminum) try:
    1. A needle with a large eye. Start with a fresh needle. At the store we most often use a 90/14 topstitch needle. Schmetz also makes a dedicated machine embroidery needle. Finally, for fussy metallics, stop buy the store for a package of Sullivan Metafil needles -machine quilters and embroiderers swear by them.
    2. Loosen your needle tension. For regular metallics you may want to loose by 1 (E.g. if "4" is your regular top tension setting  move down to a setting of "3".)  For "Sliver" or other films you may need to loosen your needle tension even more (perhaps 1 or 2).
    3. Set your thread on a separate spool holder behind the machine -This allows the thread to unwind longer and farther from the needle so it has time to relax before it springs into action. Janome and Bernina Make a multi-spool thread holder which attaches to the back of the machine and has a telescoping rod with thread guides. This works like the spool holder idea  above. We also sell the Thread-Pro which is a thread feeding mechanism that also reduces thread breakage.
    4. If you have a Bernina 130 through 180, get a metallic thread holder. It is a little accessory you use with the vertical spool pin to make feeding metallic thread easier.
    5. Slow down. Stitch a little more slowly when using some of those fancy threads! -And don't forget to breathe.
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Shadow work with a twin needle: 

You'll be sewing brightly colored button hole twist, crochet cotton or a similar weight thread in the bobbin under a see-through lightweight batiste. *NOTE:* If you like to use thick threads in your bobbin you may want to invest in a second bobbin case which you can set to a loose tension. Now choose a twin needle.  the size of the needle will be 70, 80 or 90 -the smaller the number the finer the needle. the distance between the 2 needles will range from 1.6 to 6.0 millimeters. For a delicate look try a 1.6mm twin needle. Choose a cording foot or pintucking foot.  Try  the 1.6mm needle  for tiny pintucks. Try the 2.0mm for decorative stitches. Now, Choose a straight stitch or a  decorative stitch that moves forward --actually, a multi-step zigzag works well. *Important* Make sure that you have set the stitch width narrow enough that your needle will not break as it moves through the stitch. Create a delicate band of color.
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Bobbin drawing: 

Loosen your bobbin tension. This takes a little testing. Start with ˝ a turn and continue from there. You shouldn’t have to turn more than 2 revolutions. Be careful –that bobbin screw is very little! Bobbin thread should unwind when you gently pull on it, but there should be tension on the thread. [For sewing machines with a bobbin case, try suspending the bobbin in the case by holding the thread. (It should not unwind.) Give it a little jerk. If the thread drops just a turn that should work.] **NOTE: Most bobbin stitchers buy a second bobbin case: one for regular sewing and one which they adjust for thick threads.

Thread your needle with regular sewing thread to match your bobbin thread or try YLI wonder thread or any other unfussy thread. Use a Schmetz 90/14 topstitching needle or embroidery or metafil needle. With thicker bobbin threads tighten your top tension to help bring the bobbin thread through the fabric (e.g. "6" if your usual tension is "4").

Place your fabric WRONG side up. Make sure your fabric is well stabilized. Bring your Bobbin thread to the top. (If you can’t do that, hold carefully onto the bobbin tail when you begin to sew.)

GO! Hold both threads taut and begin to sew at a medium even speed. At the end of your stitching use a crewel needle and bring your thread tails to the back of your work and knot
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Quilt block thread saver Fold over a 1 to 1 and ˝" square of fabric. Before starting to seam your quilt pieces together. Sew onto this "starter square". Butt your first real pieces up to your starter and sew off on to them. Butt your next pair of pieces up to the first and "chain piece" away!. After stitching your last pair of pieces, sew off onto your starter square and stop. No more long thread tails!

Mexican Tucks: a fun embellishment technique which can be equally attractive on a delicate heirloom garment using batiste, or for a home dec or wearable art look using a wide variety of other fabrics. Try it with a wide striped fabric and make your tucks in line with the stripes. Or, try it with a plaid for another great look. How? Just mark your folds on your fabric with a water soluble pen, "Chaconer ", or other removable marker (test first!) Iron your pleats. Next sew a regular straight line across your folds about an inch away from the edge. Now mark a second line about 2 to 3 inches away from the first (depending on the thickness of the fabric and the look you want). If you have one, now is the time to attach your quilting guide and set it to sew repeated rows of equal distance without marking.) Turn your fabric and sew your second row in the opposite direction pushing your tucks to fold the opposite way as you go. Repeat turning and sewing across the width of your fabric. That’s all there is to it!

Loving your built in needle threader: Here are some tips to help you use your machine's built in needle threader successfully:

  1. Make sure your needle is in the top position. If your machine has automatic "needle down - needle up" use that to position your needle.
  2. Be sure to push the threader down all the way; and to bring the mechanism all the way to the front. Otherwise, the hook will not move through the needle eye.
  3. Once the threader is in position think about sliding your thread up under the threader hook in front of the eye of the needle.
  4. Then as you let go of the needle threader, also let go of the thread -otherwise you might pull the thread loop back out of the eye of the needle.

Keeping your needles straight: Sometimes it is hard to remember whether you last put  a 90/14 or an 80/12 needle into your machine; or what kind of needle that is that you are holding in your hand (saved from a previous project) here are some ideas to avoid being needled by your needles:

  1. Keep a pad of little "Post-it notes" by your machine -when you insert a new needle write it down and stick it on the side of your machine.
  2. Do you use lots of different needles in your work? Make yourself a little needle keeper!  (see needle saver project)
  3. Stop in and treat yourself to a "Needlepack"
  4. many Schmetz needles have a color coded mark or tip. --Stop by Hans' Sewing and Vacuum to pick up a Schmetz needle booklet --keep it by your machine to avoid confusion.
  5. If your favorite needles are not marked, paint the top of your needle with nail polish or permanent marker according to your own code. For example --red-topped needles will always be sharps.

Button hole marking:  Cut a strip of water-soluable stabilizer the length of your buttonhole area. Pin to fabric. Using a pen that will not run, mark the placement of your button holes. After stitching -tear away excess stabilizer. Spritz any whiskers with water to make the stabilizer totally disappear.

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Expanding your vertical spool pin: If a spool of thread wobbles on your sewing machine's vertical spool pin this customer tip may help.  -Slide a piece of narrow-diameter PVC pipe over the spool pin. Choose a diameter that slides easily over the spool pin but narrower than you thread spool opening