Sewing Fundamentals: Needles and Feet

Oh so boring. All the technical mechanics of a sewing machine. I know. Believe me. But, for any of you beginners out's good information. Today I want to (quickly) go over needles and presser feet. Just to give you a basic understanding of how they work.

Sewing Machine Needles
I have no idea why, but I think these are actually kinda cool. Maybe because they're usually pointy and dangerous? There are all sorts of complicated needles out there, but your most used, basic ones come in one of 3 varieties: sharp, ball-point, or chisel point:

Regular Point: This is your workhorse. Perfect for woven fabrics (such as cotton, linen, denim, etc.) because the tight weave of the fabric will accommodate the force of the sharp needle - meaning that any small cuts to the fibers will not create holes.

Ball Point: Perfect for knit fabrics and loose weaves. This needle enters the fabric and pushes the threads aside to create a hole. This keeps these fabrics from unraveling from having cut threads as would be created by the sharper, regular point needle.

Chisel Point: This needle is the hardcore one of the bunch. You need to sew some leather or some such material...this is what you want. This needle is capable of making a hole on a solid surface (unlike using the weave of something like cotton).

I won't go into the names of all the sections on the shaft of the needle. Suffice it to say, there is an eye for your thread to go through and a shank with a flat side that slips into place and is secured on your machine. PLEASE NOTE: you should change your needle before starting every project. Needles are small and there could be chips in the point or dullness after use. Don't worry, they aren't that expensive.

Presser Feet 
There are as many presser feet as there are stars in the sky. I exaggerate, but it's kinda true. Feet can be easily changed on your sewing machine to accommodate zipper sewing, buttonholes, quilting, blind hems, etc. Your machine comes with a few but there are hundreds you can add to your arsenal. But beginning sewists, don't let all the feet that came with your machine freak you out too much. Seriously. The one you will use most though is the all-purpose foot that comes installed on your machine. It will be your best tool for most basic jobs in a zigzag or straight stitch.

Yer basic, run of the mill, all-purpose presser foot.
The marriage of the right presser foot and needle will really help your sewing experience be enjoyable. Who wants to be frustrated by puckering fabric or breaking threads? Figuring out what tools are most appropriate for the job are just as important as what project you've chosen. Hang in there you newbies, this isn't as complicated as it seems. Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a chisel point needle in my eye.

So, now you can thread your machine, and figure out what needle and foot to use. Let's talk stitches next time!


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