Here's something I didn't know. Quality needles are made to break. Really.
Klassé needles, an industry standard for a century and a quarter, are designed to break in the event of a problem. Why? A bent needle does a lot of damage to expensive equipment and hooped fabrics.
Normally, you would think a broken needle means poor manufacturing. While that may be true with inferior brands, quality needle breakage means a problem elsewhere: wrong type for the fabric, bad tension, improper alignment, or damaged tip.
A needle is to the machine embroiderer what the paintbrush was to Picasso. The right tools create beautiful works on canvas and on fabric.
Sizes: Too Big, Too Little, or Just Right?
Needles range in size from 60/8 to 120/16 (metric/U.S. shaft diameter). The lower the numbers, the finer the needle. Why does that matter? It is important to know how threads and needles work together.
Thread numbers are just the opposite of needle numbers. The larger the thread number, the more fine the thread. If you use a large diameter thread (12 wt.) in a needle with a small shaft diameter or small eye (75/11), it will shred and break. Likewise, if you use a fine, heirloom thread (60 wt.) in a needle with a large eye, it will swim. Stitches will not be uniform, the hole will be too large for the thread, and coverage will be inconsistent.
A general rule of thumb is that the thread diameter should be 40 percent of the needle size. Needle grooves are designed to best stitch within this ratio.
Types: A Needle for All Purposes
One needle does not fit all. Needles are constructed differently according to how they should be used. You wouldn't use the same type of needle when sewing leather and satin. Points are more rounded for stretch fabrics and sharper for quilting. Eyes are longer for topstitching or when using metallic threads.
Many embroiderers use topstitch needles for everything: piecing, quilting, embroidery, and applique. Often, it is a matter of preference. Klassé has an excellent reference for determining the needle type needed and sizes available.
A unique curve above the eye makes the Klassé needle stronger than its counterparts and encourages a longer lifespan than traditional needles.
Some embroiderers recommend changing needles every 8-10 hours, others say 20 hours, and some say change it when you are experiencing problems. At any rate, when in doubt, change it out. You've spent thousands of dollars on an embroidery machine and good money on fabric; it doesn't make sense to skimp on the needles.
The Klassé needle bundle provides a great selection of needle types for a variety of embroidery and heirloom projects.
Check back for articles and projects featuring wing needles, hemstitch needles, and twin needles.