On Bent Pins and Dull Needles – Basic sewing machine etiquette

If I had to choose an honorable Indian princess craft name, it would be either Sews-Over-Pins or Sews-with-Dull Needle. Today I am going with the latter, as it relates to the frustration I am currently having with my machine and myself– it just seems wussy and skips stitches. During recent sewing binges, I have had issues with it plowing through a normal amount of seam and gathers, not even denim. But rather than do what I know to be good needle etiquette I still kept sewing and sewing not changing, until now, just a small amount of public self-shaming and I have a brand new needle in (all the better to sew over pins with, my dear!). Hey, we all have things that we know aren’t the best, but keep on doing them anyway: walking and chewing gum, playing Candy Crush, wearing your contacts an extra week and eating out of the ice cream container.

Sewing machine needle etiquette

  • Change with every 8-16 hours of sewing time or sooner if your thread is getting fuzzy! (holy moly, I should be going through a barrel of these things)
  • Use the right needle for the type of thread: knit(ballpoint), denim (sturdy and sharp) etc
  • Don’t sew over pins to avoid nicks or bends. ( I will do my best but it just slows me down…I even include a picture of me committing the crime)
  • Use a new needle when sewing buttonholes
  • Don’t try to sharpen needles with sandpaper or tinfoil or any other creative ways
  • I keep a wine cork around to poke bent pins and dull needles into before I throw into trash.
  • Use the right brand of needle. Most machines can use the Schmetz just fine, but some Singers require that you use their brand (check the manual)
  • Check out the fabulous infographic from feathersflights.com. I l-o-v-e infographics…..

Sewing machine threading etiquette

  • Thread machine with pressor foot up, and floss it into the tension disks to avoid the dreaded “birds nest” or “bobbin barf”
  • Use quality thread and a spool cap larger than the spool to avoid breaking or shedding
  • Thread a sewing machine needle the same way it comes off the spool – otherwise it tangles. Thread has grain too you know (actually, I didn’t).
  • Play around with a twin needle sometime. Great for hemming, topstitching and wowing your friends with your parallel-o-ness

Other good tips

  • Periodically you need to clean out the feed dogs, take the throat plate off and clean out all dust, thread and lint. Give it a whirl – but look it up first.
  • Make sure you wind your bobbin according to your machine’s manual and that the thread is nice and tight.
  • Do take it into the shop every once and while to get it aligned and thoroughly cleaned etc. This also allows you to bust out your back up machine and take it for a whirl or tackle that pile of hand sewing.
  • Take some time to pursue the limitless number of Pinterest boards for sewing machine tips. Here’s is my ongoing curation: http://pinterest.com/mmcintyre/my-toolbox/
  • Hid your fabric scissors from family members. They are a sacred thing – non-negotiable.

When in doubt, change your needle and rethread your machine! Solves many common ailments and without taking your baby out of commission and into the shop. Besides a dull needle makes your machine work twice as hard and probably pushes you to push it even more. Now, go change your needle – I mean toss it!

Good to know info

3 thoughts on “On Bent Pins and Dull Needles – Basic sewing machine etiquette

  1. Never been one for following the rules. I’ve always sharpened my catchy needles with an emery board. Somehow thought that the change-the-needle thing was a promo from the needle manufacturers. But in those days I didn’t blog and never made public statements about my bad etiquette. Thanks for putting the rules out there for us. Good to know.

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