Whether you are just starting out on your sewing journey or have been sewing for while we thought we’d write a quick and easy guide about how to choose the right needle for the job!
So, lets get started…
Most brands of machine needles will fit any domestic sewing machine. When you are looking at needles their sizes (ie. 90/14 or 80/12) refers to the thickness of the needle and therefore which fabric they should be used on. The lower the number the finer the needle and the finer the fabric you will sew with that needle.
There are different needles for different types of fabrics too. Jeans needles are especially for working with Denim and densely woven fabrics, Ballpoint needles can be used for jersey fabrics, but also for silk. Stretch needles are for use with Lycra or swimwear fabrics and quilting needles are designed to go through lots of layers at once. Try and stick to using the right needle for the right job.
We advise that you mark up your needles so you know which are which when they are out of their packets. I use nail polish, but you can use coloured sharpies. The sizes are written on the needles but it is so tiny it can be hard to read.
If you have put a specialist needle in, remove it when you have finished the job and put it back in the packet so you don’t forget which needle is in your machine.
I hope that was helpful. Let us know what other guides you would find useful!
I am aware that there are in fact twelve feet in the picture above and even worse there are actually more than ten feet mentioned in this post, I never have been able to stick to a budget! I have been asked alot recently after introducing the Teflon foot in another tutorial, about sewing machine feet. There are lots of different kinds of presser feet depending on what you need to do and which machine you have. I thought today I would just run you through my ten… sorry twelve most used machine feet. I have three machines, a Janome 525s a Babylock 1600 and a mint green John Lewis mini and I am lucky enough that they all take standard low shank snap on feet. I have used contrasting threads to make it easier for you to see what each foot is capable of.
Zig Zag foot The zigzag is the most versatile of all the feet that come with your machine. This is the foot that you cannot live without. With the ability to stitch almost any stitch through the oval opening, you would be lost without this little one.
Zipper footFor sewing zips into anything a zipper foot is essential. Depending on your machine, your foot or your needle will shift from side to side to be able to get up close to the zip coil without the foot veering off the edge of the zip and without damaging the coil, so that you can attach your zips with neat straight stitches.
Concealed zip foot You don’t need a concealed zip foot to insert a concealed zip but it is jolly useful if you do. The foot helps to roll the coil of the zip away whilst you stitch so you can get as close to the edge as possible to make a neat closure with no stitching showing on the outside of the project.
Teflon foot/ Walking foot These two for me count as one foot, as they are both designed to aid in moving sticky, slippery or bulky fabrics through your machine. The Teflon foot is recommended for fabrics like PVC and leatherette where the surface has a tendency to stick to the underside of a metal foot. The walking foot can also help with this issue, but it can also be used for sewing bulky fabrics and slippery fabrics like Minky fleece which tend to shift when sewing with a regular foot. In the photo above you can see the results sewing on Minky fabric with the walking foot on the left and with a regular foot on the right. So much better with the walking foot I think you will agree.
Blind Hem FootThe amazing invisible hem that you can achieve from this foot and its corresponding stitch is brilliant. Sometimes practice is required to truly appreciate what a wonder this foot can be, but once mastered it is a skill you won’t forget.
Embroidery/darning foot If you have a need to be free with your stitching, an embroidery or darning foot will be your best friend. Once you lower the feed dogs (the little rough teeth that move the fabric through with your other feet) the bouncy foot will hold the fabric whilst the stitch is being made but will jump up so you can move the fabric in any direction you wish. Great for creating stitched art, appliqué and free motion quilting.
Gathering foot. Again a rather specific use and a little temperamental but good fun if you are in the mood to play around a little. This foot will stitch and as the name suggests, gather your fabric as it goes. I find that it does better with light weight fabrics and small amounts, but it is a time saver when sewing long lengths of trimmings.
Piping footYou can get different sizes of foot depending on the size of your piping, but basically the groove in the bottom is designed to hold the cord in place whilst you stitch the casing or cover in place. You can also use it when sewing the covered piping between two layers of fabric. Like the zip foot with zips, it is designed to get the stitch as close to the piping as it can, so as little of the stitching is visible on the finished product.
Button hole foot/guide As the name suggests it is there as a guide when sewing a button hole by machine. It usually has markings on it so that it is easy to judge the size you need whilst sewing (if you have a manual button hole stitch). It also holds the fabric in place all the way around the button hole area whilst stitching to get a neat even finish.
Bias binding foot Designed to make the dull task of sewing on bias binding a little easier. It holds the fold of the bias in place with consistency to get a straight line when sewing your binding on the straight or round a curve. You just wheel the guide in to place and sew!
Roll Hemming Foot A simple and efficient way to get a narrow neat finishing edge is to use a roll hemmer. It is a little fiddly at first but once the technique has been mastered you will love it. Really good for finishing edges on silk scarves and fine or sheer fabrics.
There are a couple of things I would suggest if you are thinking of trying or buying any of these feet for your own machine. Make sure you buy the right foot for your brand of machine. Keep all your feet and accessories together in one place and keep it in a safe, clean and dry environment. If you are using a foot for the first time, or for the first time in a while practice on some scrap fabric before you sew on your final project… just in case. Want to find out more about other sewing machine feet and more on how to use any of the feet specifically? You can head over to our friends at the Sewing Directory, where they have more articles about all the feet I have mentioned and more. Do you have a tool or technique that you love? Is there something about sewing or crafts you have always wanted to know about? Let us know, we would love to write some more posts like this. Look out for my much requested ‘Bias Binding’ Top Tips special in a previous blog!