Let’s learn about needles – The life of a needle

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All of this information is courtesy of Schmetz.

1 Definition of Needle Life

During the sewing process different forces and influences are attacking the sewing machine needle. There might be

  • Abrasive forces
  • Penetration force
  • Influence of operator
  • Influence of sewing thread
  • Influence of sewing machine

Every one of these forces and influences are the enemies of needle life. They might destroy the point, abrase the needle surface or even break the needle. Some of these influences and forces and their effects are directly visible, e.g. if you get holes in your fabric something has happened to the needle point or if the thread breaks there might be damage to the eye of the sewing machine needle.

As a general definition of the end of needle life we can say

2 Parameters influencing Needle Life

In the previous paragraph we already named a few influencing factors on needle life. If we look closer we will find the following parameters

  • sewing good
  • operator
  • machine setting
  • machine speed
  • thread quality
  • thread size
  • needle size
  • needle point

besides other parameters being specific to every plant like climate, work environment and others. All these parameters are of influence to the needle life and are very individual to every sewing factory. The life of a sewing machine needle has come to an end when the needle looses its proper function.

If we just take the operator as one of the most influencing factors on needle performance we can see that the skills and work experience is a significant parameter. But also here the human factor comes in because not everyday the operator works the same depending on the physical and mental condition. If you put two operators side by side sewing the same workpiece under the same outer conditions like same machine, same speed etc. it can happen that the results are very different, especially when we look into the needle consumption.

From all these influencing parameters it becomes very clear now that they cannot be predetermined because they are individual to the specific sewing factory. Almost every factory has different conditions and setups even if they make the same product.

3 Examples

Broken needle points because the needle has touched some machine parts. The fabric never would cause this type of fault.

Abrasion on eye sidewall because the needle was deflected during sewing and was touching the sides of the needle hole in the throat plate

Total abrasion of eye sidewall. The eye is open. This happened with a very abrasive sewing good containing a flame-retardant chemical.

4 How to find your individual needle life

As the manufacturer of the sewing machine needle we are not able to give a prediction of needle life for the individual plant because it is impossible to know all your individual factors. But a lot of sewing factories have the data available or are able to find the data for every sewing line or even for every sewing machine. It just is a matter of about a month collecting data for every needle change, log the data and categorize by reason for the needle change.

This will give a good basis for quality improvement because if you have these data you will be able to implement a needle change policy in your factory as already a lot of the high quality manufacturers do. You will have the possibility now to change the needle before it starts to abrase or before the needle point gets damaged.


Let’s Learn About Needles – Anatomy

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Last week I talked about the new Chrome sewing needles by Schmetz and why I love them so much.  I decided I want to know more about needles and how they work, so for the next few Saturday’s I plan on learning about sewing needles and want to share that knowledge with you, courtesy of Schmetz!

Just like people, needles have an anatomy.  If you know the parts of the needle, it will help you to understand the different types of needles better.

Butt: The beveled end allows easy insertion in the needle bar.
Shank: Household needles have a flat shank, while commercial and industrial needles have round, threaded, notched or other special shanks. Shanks allow perfect positioning of the needle in the sewing machine.
Shoulder: The sloping area transitioning between the shank and blade. SCHMETZ color codes appear on the shoulder.
Blade: Needle size is determined by the blade diameter (i.e., size 75 is .75mm).
Groove: The groove cradles and guides thread to the eye. The length and size of the groove vary according to needle type.
Scarf: The indentation above the eye that allows the bobbin hook to smoothly grab the thread under the throat plate to create a stitch. The shape and size of the scarf vary according to needle type.
Eye: The hole through which thread passes. The shape and size of the eye vary according to needle type.
Point & Tip: Length, shape and size vary according to needle types.

In addition to these parts of the needle, Schmetz adds two color bands to identify the needle type and needle size.  Next week I will talk about the different types of needles, what you would use them for, and the Schmetz color coding system.

Would you like to save and carry any of this information about needles?  Schmetz has their own app!  It has all of the information we have shared here plus more.  Download it from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

New Schmetz Chrome Needles

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I am a mostly self taught quilter and sewer.  I took a few classes on the basics of quilting when I first started years ago, but since then discovered things on my own.  Because of this, I don’t have a lot of knowledge of sewing and the best tools to use.  I am trying to fix the gaps of my knowledge and over the past year have taken more classes and asked more questions about why things happen.

One of the questions I asked was “why do I get a gunky build up on my needles when I applique”.  The answer was the glue from the applique was building up and causing the needle to stick which caused skipped stitches and uneven stitches.  The answer, a friend told me, was the new Schmetz Chrome needles.

They resist heat, wear, and allow the needle to pass through the fabric with less resistance.  I tried them out this week with the Link Stained Glass Quilt I am making for Nicole and LOVE them.

I used a single needle for the entire quilt top and didn’t have any build up at all. NO BUILD UP AT ALL!  I was pretty amazed and told Schmetz that I don’t think I could ever use any others now!

They are only in Sewing and Quilt stores.  So if you want to try them for yourself check your closest Sewing store.  If you don’t have any Sewing or Quilt store near you, you can buy them on line from Schmetz directly.  Although PLEASE support a local brick and mortar store if you can.

For the next few weeks let’s learn about needles together!   I will be talking about the Anatomy of the needle and how different needles can be used for different projects (and why you would want to).



Paint Your Quilt

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If you’ve been following Toni’s posts about her exploits at the International Quilt Festival in Chicago this week, I assure you that there is more to come! I had the very real pleasure of being (willingly) dragged along for the adventure.

A little wine and a lot of quilting! Tracey Mooney (left) of Sew Supportive was also there to join in the fun at the Iron Quilter Challenge.

A little wine and a lot of quilting! Tracey Mooney (left) of Sew Supportive was also there to join in the fun at the Iron Quilter Challenge.

I got to see a bit of everything fiber art! From the traditional to the modern, from the subtle to the colorful, from the textured to the full 3D, these quilters are simply phenomenal.

A lovely example of quilts to ogle at the fest, taken directly from the official Quilt Fest FB.

A lovely example of quilts to ogle at the fest, taken directly from the official International Quilt Fest FB.

IQF  is not JUST about staring in wonder and awe over the amazing creations, though. Of course there are also the rows upon rows of goodies for sale, events like the Iron Quilter Challenge, demos of new products and techniques but most importantly for newbies like me…the workshops! Toni and I were able to take a class called The Art of the Covered Button with Lorraine Torrence where we were introduced to new techniques in fabric manipulation. I’ll let Toni tell you more about the session (along with our fab results) later but I found myself drawn to a technique I’ve never witnessed before, using oil paint sticks specifically designed for fabric!

This particular example is care of Laura Murray, purveyor of fabric art products and amazing paint techniques.

This particular example is care of Laura Murray, purveyor of fabric art products and amazing paint techniques.

If you have not previously been introduced to paint sticks, allow me to offer my sincerest apologies to your pocket book. These oil based paints look like giant nubby crayons that produce the most lush colors on fabric that I have ever seen. The sticks themselves come in an array of colors and in order to use them, they need to be peeled of the thick “skin” they form after each use. The self healing nature of the sticks allow them to be stored for long periods of time in between uses and still retain their vibrancy. The demonstration we witnessed utilized rubber stamps combined with a metallic stick to create a rubbing of the underlying stamp giving the fabric an embossed look. The beauty of the paint sticks is that once the paint has time to cure and is heat set, the color stays vibrant and the fabric can be washed! Amazing, right?! Now that it’s all over, I simply had to cruise the craft sites for more information. I would definitely point you firstly to Laura Murray Designs (not just because she has a great first name) as her templates, stamps, and supplies were what we got to see in use at the show. She also has a newsletter AND tutorials for using paint sticks on her very handy website!

Stencils will also be your new best friend! You know there are stencil blanks out there to make your own designs, right?

Stencils will also be your new best friend! You know there are stencil blanks out there to make your own designs, right?

Secondly, I found this quick and easy tutorial on Craftsy that takes you through using them specifically on stencils. I can’t wait to try out paint sticks on all sorts of projects! It’s been quite a weekend so I think it’s time to kick back and relax before starting on the next craft adventure.

Enjoy your week, all!

Stay crafty!



Geek Chic Knits

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One of the things I love about crafting is finding materials that have been hand made or hand dyed.  We met Geek Chic Knits at Magfest last year and saw her beautiful hand dyed yarn first hand with amazing names for the colors.


Twilight Sparkle- Gold 40 weight embroidery thread ply-ed with hand spun Corrie-dale wool and kettle dyed in shades of lavender and purple create a yarn reminiscent of everyone’s favorite nerdy unicorn.


Bad Penny – Tones of copper, delphinium, and teal hand painted onto a skein of 2 ply hand-spun blending together to create shades of lilac, brown and cream reminiscent of a copper penny going through oxidation. This colorway is also available as a braid of dyed wool roving.

She doesn’t just offer pretty yarn.  Geek Chic Knits also creates great things with the yarn for you.

yarn4 yarn3

So head over to her websiteFacebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pintrest to see these yarns.


Wonderful World of Worbla

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I’ve been doing some experimenting lately outside of my comfort zone- specifically, I’ve been making things that aren’t fabric based. This might not seem like a big deal for some, but I’m much more comfortable with creating something out of fabric and thread. But in my explorations of the cosplay world, there is only so much you can do before you need to deal with props and armor and other bits that need to be more solid.

When you decide on a project for a costume, one of the first decisions you have to make is what materials will you use? The possibilities are endless, from fabric to foam, paper, metals, or plastics to name just a few. I decided to go the Worbla route and since it isn’t the most usual of materials, I thought there might be some of there out there who haven’t heard of it, but might find it useful. It works well and has a lot of lasting power.

Worbla, or Worbla’s Finest Art to give it its full name, is a thermoplastic which basically means its a plastic that becomes pliable when its heated up. Worbla’s creators say it is made from renewable natural raw materials, which is something I like, and may be why it smells a little like bread when heated up.

FullSizeRenderHeating it to sufficient pliability requires a heatgun, but once there it works almost like clay. It does get quite hot, so I wouldn’t do this with children who could easily burn their fingers, but for the most part, I had no issue with it.

I’ve spent all weekend wrangling with a pair of shinguards, which were the most complicated Worbla project I’ve created to date. I do find that in going for a shape it is easier if I have something to base the Worbla on top of. For these shinguards, I used craft foam, although with Worbla’s pliability, it would certainly work for covering just about anything.

The only difficulty with Worbla is that it isn’t as simple as just form it and paint it. Worbla has a grain to it, with bumps and and bits. Its part of the structure of the material that you can’t get away from. If that’s cool for what you’re creating, then of course its simple enough. But for most of what I use it for, I’m looking for a smooth surface. To that end, I have to spend time priming the Worbla to make it smooth. There are a number of ways of doing this, the two most popular that I’m aware of being wood glue and gesso. Either way, once done, you’ll find you have a solid piece that will take a good deal of abuse.

Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel in explaining how to use Worbla, I thought I’d introduce you to Kamui Cosplay. My forays into Worbla crafting aren’t that impressive yet, but hers certainly are.

Scythes made by Kamui Cosplay out of foam & Worbla.

Kamui Cosplay is, in my opinion, the most impressive Worbla using cosplayer out there. Her talent is jaw-dropping, but her gifts aren’t limited to the actual creation. She has actually gone ahead and created tutorials and books on how to use Worbla that include everything from patterning to finishing. If you’re not interested in the books on fabricating these items, she’s also provided video tutorials that show the whole process.

Alongside Worbla, there is Worbla’s Deco Art which is a user friendly plastic that melts in hot water and becomes mouldable. There is also a new kid in town, called Worbla’s TranspArt, which is designed to be transparent. I haven’t had the chance to play with it yet, but it looks very interesting.

The only drawback I’ve found with Worbla is availability. So for those interested- here are some places you can purchase it:

USA & Canada-


~ eliste