Notes on Needles

To the untrained eye, all needles look basically the same. I bet even to some trained eyes they still look the same. When you first start hand-sewing, you may just grab whatever needle you can find and start stitching. That’s what I did! Generally I don’t think using a certain kind of needle over another will make or break your first few sewing projects, but here’s a list of common needle terms to help you identify needles in the store and find what will work best for you. Knowing your needles will make sewing easier and reduce frustration!

  • Sharps and Appliques – Some distinguish between these two, but some use the terms interchangeably. They say that if you only buy one kind of needle for your everyday sewing, make it a sharp. These are medium-length all-purpose needles used for basic stitches.
  • Between or Quilting – Also sometimes used interchangeably and sometimes separately. These are thinner and smaller than your average sharp/applique, so they’re typically used to navigate easily through heavyweight fabrics like denim. They can also be used for tailoring as they are handing for making delicate and precise stitches.
  • Tapestry – Beginners may be tempted to first pick up a tapestry needle because of its large eye which may seem like it would make threading easier. However, these needles are meant for pulling thick threads through thick fabrics, so they of course have to be thick with large eyes. If you were to stab a more lightweight fabric with one of these, it would leave a large hole that would make your seams less secure. Also, the large eye makes thread more likely to come loose as you stitch. So stick with sharps and betweens for now!

Know Before You Sew: Needle sizes start with 1, which is the largest, and as the size number increases the needle actually gets smaller. Sharps are typically sizes 1-10 while betweens are 3-12. Since the easier fabrics to start sewing with are fabrics like broadcloth that are lightweight but not completely delicate, I would recommend gravitating towards smaller needles for now. Also, you may think it helpful to knot your thread to your needle to keep it in place while you sew, but I strongly discourage this! If your knot is strong it will put stress on the fabric as you pull the thread through, and if it’s too loose the fabric will pull it untied anyway. It is best to simply push the end of thread through the eye then fold the thread back and hold it in place with index finger and thumb.

For even more about the different types of needles (and there are so many!) here are a couple of webpages you can visit:
Choosing a Needle // Hand sewing Needles

Happy sewing! – Learn how to sew starting from step one
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What to Buy on Your First Trip to the Fabric Store

So you’ve decided to take up sewing as your new hobby. You head over to the local fabric and craft store, but the selection and variety of products is just overwhelming. Where do you start?

This post is just a handy list of the items you should buy when you first decide to start sewing. The product images will be pulled from, but Jo-Ann is just one of your shopping options that happens to be the one I frequent the most. There’s also Hancock FabricsHobby Lobby, and more.

1. Sewing needles

Needles for hand sewing are an absolute must when first learning to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff
Even when you move to the sewing machine, some stitches can only be done by hand with an old-fashioned needle and thread. For now, you’ll want these as you learn basic stitches and get acquainted with moving thread through fabric. If needed you can also purchase a needle threader, but you’ll get the hang of sticking thread through the eye of a needle faster than you think

2. Thread

Durable thread is a necessity for a beginner learning to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff
The brand pictured (Dual Duty) is what I’ve been using since I started sewing. While you’re learning, you don’t need to worry about matching thread to the fabric, so I would recommend using a bright color that will contrast with most fabrics so that it’s easy to keep track of your stitches. Later when you’re working on garments or accessories, you’ll probably want your thread to blend in, but for now the opposite will benefit you more.

3. New Scissors

A sharp pair of scissors just for cutting fabric will make learning to sew much easier - Sew Me Your Stuff

Scissors that have been used to cut paper will have a hard time cutting through fabric. You should buy a new pair of scissors specifically for cutting thread and fabric and keep that pair separate from your paper-cutting scissors. When you move on to cutting out sewing patterns, you’ll need those paper scissors. But for now use a separate pair for each and start with brand-new scissors for fabric.

4. Remnant Fabric

In most fabric stores, near the cutting station you will find a rack with fabric rolled up and wrapped with a label. This is the remnant rack or remnant table. The fabrics here are too short to be cut (generally less than one yard)  and you can get them for half price. Find a roll of fabric or two that feels easy to manage as you practice your stitches. Alternative: If you have old clothes that are too worn out to donate that you know you won’t be wearing again, those are a great source of scrap fabric as well!

5. Straight Pins

Basic pins will help hold your fabric in place as you practice stitching while learning to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff

These are for holding your fabric in place as you stitch and are necessary for both hand and machine stitching.  You will definitely need these as you progress in your sewing, so it’s best to buy them now.

6. Pin Cushion

A pin cushion will keep your needles within easy reach and minimize frustration as you learn to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff

This one is slightly optional but highly recommended. It is much easier to pull one pin at a time out of a cushion than out of the plastic container, especially in a jam. The attached strawberry is a pin sharpener, which you use by stabbing it repeatedly with the pin.

Completely optional: Pillow Stuffing

When you first learn to sew, pillows are an easy craft for beginners - Sew Me Your Stuff

This is a completely optional object to buy, but I recommend it as one of the earliest crafts I made to practice stitching was small accessory pillows. That way you get the practice and have something to show for it!

These are just the beginning of the tools and accessories you’ll use as you get into sewing, but it’s best to start with the basic necessities rather than overwhelm yourself with things you may or may not actually need right now. And most of these will last as long as you continue sewing, so you could consider them investments.

Once we progress to garment or craft stitching, I’ll share a list of the next batch of accessories you should buy. – Learn how to sew starting from step one
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