Creative articles about sewing

The right needle is essential

Like your machine, the right needle is an indispensable element of a perfect sewing result; unfortunately, they are often all but ignored. Ideally, we shouldn’t wait till we’re plagued by skipped stitches, loops, thread breakage or other poor results before paying them due attention. We are answering some of the most asked questions.

How often should I change the needle?

A blunt needle can cause the thread to fray or break, can cause missed stitches, puckering and louder sewing noises (bear in mind that these problems can also be caused by other factors such as thread tension). It’s best to change needles on a regular basis. We recommend changing after no longer than 8 hours of sewing time, when starting a new project, and in any case if the needle collides with the presser foot or stitchplate. You can tell if a needle is faulty by drawing its point over finely woven material, such as an old pair of nylon tights. If the point gets caught in a burr, the needle must be changed. Or you run your fingernail over the tip. If there is any resistance, the needle must be replaced.

Why does my needle break?

We want it to break, not bend! A bent needle can damage your machine, which is way more expensive to repair then replacing the needle. There are various reasons for a needle to break: If you are sewing through thick spots while also pushing or pulling the fabric, or the needle glides to the side of a thick seam, then it bends and snaps. If the fabric is pulled or pushed while sewing, the needle can no longer pierce the stitch plate correctly or even hits the foot. The same happens if the thread gets caught somewhere, e.g. just before the end of the spool.

Why does my thread break?

You might are using the wrong needle for your thread, your thread is old and brittle, it was exposed to too much sunlight or it is a low quality thread. You might also want to check your thread tension and how your thread falls from the spool. Foil threads for example should always fall from the side of the spool to prevent the thread from twisting and breaking.

How do I recognize a high quality needle?

Quality needles are checked and inspected. They are perfectly straight, have a reasonable polish and smooth surface. One with poor quality may not sew.

Which needle should I use for my fabric?

In general, the trio of fabric, thread and yarn must be well matched to each other. The thinner the fabric, the thinner the needle. This keeps the stitch hole as small as possible. Thicker yarns require larger eyelets, meaning that the thicker needle automatically has a larger eye. As a general rule, it is better to use a thinner needle because this often eliminates the unattractive puckering of the seam and prevents tissue damage.

Which needle suits my thread?

As you sew and embroider, the thread slips repeatedly and at high speed through the eye of the needle. That’s why it’s important to choose the right needle/thread ratio. To check if the eye is the right size for your thread, you can do the following: Thread your needle with your chosen thread, hold both ends of the thread with your hands, move one hand higher so the thread has a 45° degrees slope and let your needle slide down.

  • If your needle freely slides down the slope, then the eye is big enough
  • If your needle does not slide down freely, then the eye is too small and you should choose a bigger size

You want to choose the smallest size of eye which still freely slides down the slope.

Close up of a needle tip with a red thread through its eyelet

 

How to read the colour-code

Most BERNINA and bernette machines use the needle system 130/705 H. Every fabric and application requires a different needle. The colour-coding helps you recognise needle size and type, thereby facilitating choice. The first ( top ) colour band shows the application, the second shows needle size. BERNINA Colour-coding works as follows:

Diagram of how to read the color code of a domestic sewing machine needle.

Please note: The colour coding may vary from provider to provider.

Explanation of needle colour-coding:

  1. Determine your type based on material and application. The various types differ in terms of their point, type of eye, length of thread groove and shank thickness.
  2. With the lower colour bar you can read the needle size without a magnifying glass. The thickness of your thread and the material determine the size of the eye of the needle, and hence needle size ( second coloured band ). The higher the number, the thicker the needle. Normal brand-name polyester sewing thread can be used e.g. with a size-80 without a problem. Fine fabrics are sewn with a thin size-60 or size-70. In any case, it should be possible to guide the thread effortlessly through the eye.

Although the features of the various needles can scarcely be seen by the naked eye, they produce the critical difference in the sewing result, and – especially in the case of jersey – also in the longevity of the finished project. To help you choose your needle, visit the BERNINA needle search with filters and a brochure. It contains many different types of fabric for which the appropriate needle is recommended and the precise descriptions of the needles. If you are using a special thread, you can also visit the thread manufacturer’s website.

Various needle types and tips

Needle types vary not only in their thickness, but also in their tip. The shape of the needle tip determines how well it glides through certain fabrics. Here’s a close up of various types:

Close up views of 10 different needle types, which are described in the list below the picture.

  1. The Universal needle has a slightly rounded point and handles most materials without any problems. It is the standard for domestic sewing machines. Hax1 is alternative name.
  2. A Microtex-needle has a slim acute point tip and creates straight seams with densely woven fabrics or fine materials such as silk, chiffon, lamé and organza. You can also use it with coated fabrics, such as foils or artificial leather (if the leather is too thick, switch to a leather-needle). It is also ideal for quilting.
  3. Topstitch-needle has a slim, slightly rounded point tip and a long needle eye. It is mainly used in quilting, free-motion quilting and topstitching, since it easily penetrates through the three layers of a quilt without damaging the material. The slightly rounded tip glides softer into the material. The particularly long eye enables you to sew with 2 or 3 threads simultaneously and to use thicker threads, such as jeans or cordonnet threads.
  4. The Jersey/Embroidery-needle has a ball point tip which displaces the loops of knits and pushes the stitches of an embroidery out of the way. This prevents damage of your material and embroidery.
  5. If your fabric is highly elastic, use a Stretch-needle which better prevents missing stitches.
  6. The shaft of the Jeans-needle is designed for more stability. This results in less needle breaks, fewer missed stitches and you can sew through thick spots more easily.
  7. Metafil-needle features an elongated eye so the thread glides through the eye with less friction. This is particularly helpful with delicate metallic threads. The larger eyelet creates less friction on the metallic thread and the thread breaks less.
  8. Have you ever heard of a Double Eye-needle? It has two eyes, one above the other, and can be used for decorative effects.
  9. Twin- or Triple-needles are less stable then single needles since they are attached to a piece of plastic instead of having their own shank. They bend more easily, so you should sew through thick spots a lot more careful. They are used for cover- and decorative stitches with sewing machines (f.e. pintucks). When sewing decorative or zigzag stitches with a twin-/tripple-needle, you need to adjust your stitch width. With a 5,5 mm stitch plate on your machine and a twin needle of 3 mm width, you can only use a stitch width of max. 2,5 mm. Anything wider and your needle will collide with your stitch plate. 
  10. The Overlock-needle ELx705 has a slightly rounded point which moves the loops out of the way and features a second thread groove in the back. It ensures the formation of chain stitches, even with low thread tension.
  11. PRO needles are for the highest standards. “PRO” is of course short for “professional” here. The use of PRO needles is primarily recommended for thick, multi-layer fabrics. These needles – specially developed for BERNINA – can be recognised by their fairly long thread groove, which serves to guide the thread to the eye and protects the thread when the needle pierces the project. The length and width of the thread groove depends on the needle system. With PRO needles the thread groove is longer in order to prevent skipped stitches and thread breakage, even with thick, high layers of material. They are available as universal, jeans or jersey/embroidery needles, and have no colour code.

Why does the point tip matter so much?

Ball points have the property of displacing mesh or fabric threads and find their way through the fabric by pushing threads aside without piercing them. This leads to smaller puncture forces, less needle breakage and less damage to the material. It also prevents the ugly displacement puckering that often occurs. Very sharp tips can pierce the tissue threads, causing them to break. This can be observed very well on jerseys after washing them several times. Many puncture holes become larger over time. Therefore, a rounded or round point is usually the better choice, as these tips only displace the tissue threads. These needles have, for example, the designation H SUK or H-S.

I would like to sew a hem made of fabric on my leather skirt

If different materials are to be sewn together, the needle should be used depending on the finest material. Nevertheless, the sewing result will not be quite perfect with such large material differences. Always do a sewing test first.

In spite of everything I keep having skipped stitches, what am I doing wrong?

Skipped stitches are often caused by the fabric being pulled up or pushed down by the needle. This can occur with very thin and very thick materials, as well as with horizontal
seams. We recommend using the straight stitch plate especially for fine fabrics, as these fabrics are usually pulled downwards into the machine. With very thick materials, the needle usually
lifts the material upwards. In this case we recommend, for example, the Jeans Foot #8, because the narrower foot outlet holds a larger area of fabric. When sewing over horizontal seams, it is best to use the Height Compensating Tool provided with the sewing machine or, alternatively, to wrap up enough fabric so that the presser foot can rest parallel to the stitch plate.

Used Products:
BERNINA 590
BERNINA 590
Embroidery Foot #6
Embroidery Foot #6
Piping Foot #38
Piping Foot #38

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  • Joan Weber EditEditing comments on the BERNINA blog is only possible after logging in with a blog user account. Sign up now or create a user account if you do not have one yet.

    If I am understanding correctly, when I sew simple quilting prjects which are mostly table runners or smaller I am fine with the universal needle.  Is that correct?Is this page part of the Berninaland site? I am really unsure how to use the site and found this address when I went into a section called “needles”.  I tried to log in and have to keep asking for a link to log in when I put in my email and my password.  Can you helpo with that?

    • ramonawirthEdited EditEditing comments on the BERNINA blog is only possible after logging in with a blog user account. Sign up now or create a user account if you do not have one yet.

      Dear Joan,

      Welcome to the BERNINA Blog! The English Blog is handled by BERNINA International, we are not part of Berninaland. That is why our login is different and you need to create a new account. This account can be used for this website, the customer portal on https://www.bernina.com , the inspiration Magazine https://inspiration.bernina.com and in the BERNINA app. When you click on “Sign in or register”, it will forward you to a BERNINA login site where you can register a new account.

       

      Regarding your needle question: Yes, for simple quilting projects, the universal needle is okay to use. The Microtex-needle could give you even better results.

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