Category Archives: Notions Know-How FYI

Sewing Machine Needles – Choosing the right type of needle for your projects really does matter….

Hi all!

I’d like to begin this post with a brief anecdote about a girl, her embroidery machine, and a needle….

There once was a girl, a pretty blonde with a very giving heart.  She had recently gotten her very first embroidery machine and was generously doing some free monogramming at a local sewing meet-up before the holidays.  All was going very well, until somehow, she broke a needle.

No worries!  She had spare needles on hand and was able to quickly change it out for a fresh one.  And then disaster struck.  No matter what she tried, the machine was no longer stitching properly.  It was a mess.  The pretty blonde wisely decided that she’d call it a day and try to revive her machine in the privacy of her own home.  But, when she got it home, things didn’t get any better.

That’s when she decided to bring it to me.  The amazing Super Jenny!  In short order, we were able to get to bottom of the problem.  We figured out that when she had changed the needle the other day, she had put in a regular sewing needle instead of an embroidery needle.  So, we put in an embroidery needle, made sure it was in properly etc. and took off like lightning, stitching up a storm of fun projects that day.  Happy Ending!  Yay!

The moral of the story is:  Use the right kind of needle for your project and your machine….. it matters!


Have you ever taken a look at the wide variety of needles available on the notions wall at local fabric shops and sewing machine dealerships?  How does someone decide which ones they need?

I’m posting information here that may help steer you in the right direction the next time you need to get some needles…..

Sewing Machine Needles:
It’s a fact that some fabrics sew out better if you use a special needle to get the job done.
Below is a short list of fabric & thread types and the best needles to use with them:

  1. Cotton and poly-cotton blend fabrics do well with a size 12 to size 14 “universal needle”.  A universal needle is like your all-purpose go-to needle.  It has a very sharp point and is meant to sew well on non-stretchy fabrics.
  2. Denim or other heavyweight fabrics require a “jeans needle”.  The package will say size 16 on it.  It’s a thicker needle meant to handle the strain of sewing through layers of thick fabrics.
  3. T-shirt type fabric – jersey knit, requires a “ball point needle” the package will usually contain sizes 12 and 14.
  4. Lightweight fabrics such as chiffon or silky fabrics will do best with either a “ball point needle” or “universal needle”. If the fabric is very sheer, you will want a very thin needle size 9 or 11.  However, you can use size 12 on most silky fabrics with good results.
  5. Spandex, swim-suit type fabric requires a “stretch needle”.
  6. Leather material requires a “leather needle”.  This needle has a uniquely shaped point, kind of like a miniature double edged sword. This tip allows the needle to “slice” through leather as it sews.  (I would recommend using a slightly longer stitch length for leather projects.)
  7. When you want to use thicker threads to add decorative top stitching to a project, choose a “topstitch needle”.  It has a much larger “eye” hole to accommodate the thicker thread as it passes through.
  8. When you want to use metallic threads for decorative stitching, you will see the best results if you get “metallic needles”.  It has a large eye for the larger thread and a large groove to prevent shredding of the delicate metallic threads as you sew.  Note:  Metallic needles do not crossover well to machine embroidery.  See below for recommended machine embroidery needles.

Of course, my little post is not a comprehensive resource for all things needles.  If you’d like even more info. then….

Click Here for MORE about Needles

Embroidery Machine Needles:

Because of the high speed, high stitch count, and heat created from the friction of machine embroidery, you really should only use embroidery needles in your embroidery machine.

I have a Janome 350E embroidery machine.  And, for the most part, I buy Janome machine embroidery needles.

I have also used the Schmetz Gold Embroidery Needle 130/705 H-ET with no problems in my sewing and also my embroidery machine.  On the front of the package it says in fine print:  Titanium Nitride.  This is a special coating that keeps your thread from shredding as you sew through thick or densely woven fabrics.  And, if you ever try sewing or doing embroidery on a glamour fabric called, “confetti dot”, you’ll need this coated needle for beautiful results.  Confetti dot fabric is covered in little metallic dots of “confetti” that have been glued onto it.  Regular needles get all gummed up and your thread keeps breaking – so it’s worth it to get the coated needles.

If you want to use metallic thread for machine embroidery, get a metallic embroidery needle that has a larger eye hole and that also says it’s got a special teflon coating.  Using metallic threads for machine embroidery can be a real booger, so click this link for more tips on that: using metallic thread

That’s all for now!  Thanks for reading!

Let’s get sewing!

Jenny Gabriel – alter ego: StitchinJenny

Sewing Basics: An Illustrated List of Essential Sewing Supplies

Because I am a sewing instructor, I am frequently asked certain sewing questions.

The number one question from my beginner students is:  “What supplies do I need for sewing?”

I’ve recently created an illustrated  list that I am sharing here.  Feel free to share this list with the beginner sewers in your life –  it may save them some time when they venture out into one of my favorite places on earth:  The Notions Isle!

The Bare Essentials Sewing Kit:

1.  Straight Pins:  They come in a variety of lengths and even gauges of thicker, thinner, sharper, etc.

My personal favorite, multi-purpose pin type is the flat-heat flower one you see to the left of the quarter.  It’s got no-melt technology so if I bump it with my iron, no melting occurs.  Yay!  And, it’s long and very sharp which really saves time when pinning through multiple layers of fabrics or even when working with delicate fabrics.

2.  Pin Cushions:  Gotta have a place to keep all those pins!

But, I must tell you, not all pin cushions are created equal…. let’s look at the magnetic pin cushion verses the traditional “tomato”.

Ever wonder what that little dangling chile pepper you find on tomato pin cushions is for?  Well, it’s filled with sand, and it’s for sharpening your dull pins.  Just jab your dull pins in and out several times to re-sharpen.

That chile is pretty impressive, but wait, I think I hear the magnetic pin cushion talking some smack!

"Hey little tomato! Check out my fully awesome magnetic powers!"

"Hah! I am on a mission to save feet from pins on the floor!"

A Trio of Kai Scissors

3.  Scissors:  Invest in a set of scissors that will be used only for fabric.  Using them to cut paper or plastic will cause them to become dull.

You are looking at a trio of Kai scissors.  Notice the scrap of selvage that I have tied to my scissor’s handles?  This is a gentle reminder telling me, “Fabric Only, Please!”

From left to right:  8″ Dressmaker Shears, a pair of 5″ Scissors for precision cutting, and Curved embroidery scissors (great for cutting threads, and teeny tiny cutting jobs requiring great accuracy).  I love these scissors because they are easy on my hands and are noted for their ability to handle multiple layers of fabric.

4.  Threads:  Most projects will do well with a coordinating poly-cotton blend of thread.

As you can see, I use a variety of brands.  Coats n Clark all-purpose thread, Mettler, Gutermann, etc.  If you inherited someone’s old thread collection, check to make sure it’s still good.  If the thread strand seems fuzzy, has lumps, or breaks easily, it should not be used in your machine.  Thread on a wooden spool is definitely too old and should not be used either.

You may want to get some extra bobbins and a little box to keep them organized. Just make sure you get the right sized bobbins for your particular machine.

Fabric Marking Tools - Mechanical Chalk Pencil with Interchangeable colors

Dressmaker's Tracing Paper and Tracing Wheel

5.  Fabric Marking Tools:  Often times, you will need to transfer marks from your pattern to your fabric and it’s important to use something non-permanent that will wash or rub out.

Choose from chalk pencils, dress maker’s tracing paper, water soluble markers, air soluble markers, etc.  My personal favorite is presently the mechanical chalk pencil that I found in the quilter’s notions at Joann Fabric.

I’m also looking forward to buying the new fine line, heat erasable, Frixion pens… Check out the video link below!

I was going to say, “These are so cool!”  But, maybe I should say, “These pens are so HOT!”

Seam gauge

Measuring Tape

6.  Measuring Tools:  You will need a measuring tape and a seam gauge.  Trust me, these will come in handy many times as you dig in and get sewing.

Seam Ripper - Your Friend and mine!

7.  Seam Ripper:  Last but not least, in your bare essentials sewing kit, you will need a seam ripper.  Think of it as an eraser for thread.  If you stitch something in the wrong place etc., this tool is used to cut individual stitches so you can pull them back out of the fabric.

Bells & Whistles Sewing Kit:

As you sew and try different kinds of projects, your tool box may need to grow.  This is because, there are some jobs that are easier done if you have the gadgets and do-dah’s invented to make them a piece of cake!

For example, when I’m hemming a large area of fabric, I whip out my handy dandy….. Ezy Hem Guide!

Ezy Hem

And, when I’m making straps or fabic tubes, I love to use my awesome….. Tube Turners!

Dritz Quick Turn

When I have a lot of cutting to do, I often use my rotary cutter, rotary ruler, and mat to make quick work of it:

Rotary Cutting Supplies - It's like a pizza cutter for fabric....

If I’m making a pillow, a pocket, or anything that needs crisply shaped and pointed corners, I use my point turners:

Point Turners can be bamboo, plastic, wood, metal, etc. As long as it's "pointy"!

5-in-1 Seam Gauge:  In the beginning, you may be quite content with the traditional seam gauge for most of your measuring needs, but later on, you may want to pamper yourself and get the 5-in-1 Seam Gauge.

It has many features and functions beyond the norm, but one of my favorite things is that the slider clicks into place and does not shift or slide out of place when using it to measure and mark, etc.  Take a few minutes to watch Nancy Zieman demonstrate this versatile little tool in the video clip below!

5-in-1 sliding Gauge

Thanks for reading!  I hope you found this list helpful and that you will share it with your sewing friends.

By the way, what are some of your favorite go-to sewing notions?  I’d love to know about the tools you’d recommend as well!

Have a great week!  The New Year is almost here!

Let’s get sewing!

Jenny Gabriel – alter ego:  StitchinJenny

Tips for Embroidery with Metallic Threads

Machine Embroidery Tips: Using Metallic Thread

Have you ever tried to use metallic thread for machine embroidery and it just keeps breaking over and over and OVER???  Me too!!!  Sooooo, I looked up some tips and I’m posting them here for your review.  I want to be sure to give credit where it’s due so, want to let you know I found this info on a site called:

Let’s Get Sewing!

Jenny Gabriel – alter ego: StitchinJenny

Bias binding with the Adjustable Bias Binding Foot.

Babylock and Husqvarna Viking offer an adjustable bias binding foot.

Attach 1/4” to 3/4” wide bias binding in place with either straight or decorative stitches using this adjustable foot. This is the foot for attaching pre-packaged and pre-pressed binding. It’s capable of handling a variety of binding widths and decorative stitches.


The adjustable bias binder is a clear plastic foot with a screw and markings on the foot that allow for the adjustment of the width of the finished binding. The width of the finished binding is determined and the foot is adjusted to achieve the desired width.

MACHINE SETTINGS Stitch: Straight, zigzag or all forward decorative stitches Stitch length: Pre-set Stitch width: Pre-set Tension: Pre-set

The Baby Lock Adjustable Bias Binder Foot is a useful foot whether you are a beginner or an experienced sewer. When using the Adjustable Bias Binder Foot you are able to use various widths of bias binding. Then, use either straight or decorative stitches to sew the binding in place.

1. Thread with sewing thread on top and in the bobbin.
2. Snap on the Adjustable Bias Binder.
3. Use the screw on the right side of the bracket to adjust the width of the opening to fit the bias tape.
4. Cut the end of the bias tape to a 45 degree angle. Insert the bias tape from the outside of the bracket, into the slot that matches its width, and pull it down under the foot.
5. Place the edge to be bound into the groove on the left side of the bracket.
6. Loosen the screw on the top, in the back of the foot and adjust the bracket as needed.
7. Select a narrow zigzag, a straight stitch or a decorative stitch. Sew slowly, keeping the fabric to be bound, snugly in the groove as you sew.

Use the Adjustable Bias Binder Foot when applying bias to vests, placemats, wall hangings, baby bibs or many other things.

Babylock Bias Binder Foot (Adjustable) (ESG-ABB).
Husqvarna Viking Adjustable Bias Binder Foot (412 98 50-45)


Hand Quilting by Machine with your Janome

Hand-Stitched By Machine

Would you liketo create the look of hand-work using your sewing machine? This technique is perfect for attaching a bias binding to finish a garment or craft project. A bias binding can be added to a skirt, top, and pants in place of the hem. If you use a contrasting fabric, or the same fabric, the look will different than the main part of the garment just because the fabric is cut on the bias. bias binding is a great finish for necklines and sleeves, too.

Bias binding (or bias strips from the same or contrasting fabric)
Adjustable Blind Hem “G” foot
Contrasting thread

1. Sew the right side of one raw edge of the bias binding to the wrong side raw edge of your project using straight stitch #1.
2. Fold the bias strip to the front side of your project. Pin in place.
3. Attach the “G” foot to the Memory Craft 11000.
4. Select Stitch Q #18.
5. Set stitch width to 3.0, length to 1.5.
6. Adjust the moveable guide on the “G” foot along the fold so that the straight stitch portion of the stitch lines up next to the outer folded edge of the bias strip. The left swing of the needle should pierce the bias strip.
7. Attach the bias strip in this manner along the entire area to be sewn, producing a hand-stitched look.

To create an invisible appliquè look, use matching thread or invisible thread.

The Janome “G” foot (also known as the “Blind Hem Foot”) fits most top-loading Janome models.

Hand Quilting Stitch
Janome MC11000 Stitch: Q #18
MC6600P Stitch M2 #36
Jem Stitch #40

* This technique can also be done on other Janome sewing machines, Babylock sewing machines, Viking machines, and othe brand machines. The stitch selection will depend on your specific model.


Tips on Using a Wing Needle

I recently did a class where we used a wing needle. We tried different stitches on the machine to see what the results would be. As everyone tried the different stitches, they shared the results with others in the class. Each person kept their samples and made a note of the stitch that they used for that sample. It was a fun to see everyone enjoy creating beautiful stitches with a wing needle.

If you have never used a wing needle, now might be the time to try one. A WING NEEDLE is used to produce beautiful heirloom sewing effects. Use those heirloom stitches on your sewing machine and a natural fabric and fine thread for the best results.  When the needle goes through the fabric, the wings push the yarns of the fabric to the sides, creating holes. The more often the needle goes through the same hole, the more pronounced the opening is. Most machines have decorative stitches that can be used to create even more intricate decorative effects, such as blanket stitch, honeycomb, stars – even stitches designed to produce the look of purchased entredeux. Wing needle stitching is a quick and easy embellishment for purchased items – linen and/or cotton shirts, tablecloths & napkins – anywhere you want a subtle decorative touch.

A wing needle can be used for embroidery too. Use your wing needle for the parts of your design that have running stitches, motif fills, or bean
stitches. Stitch a test design first to make sure that you are happy with the results. When using a wing needle in embroidery, slow down the speed of stitching on your machine.

Tips for using your wing needle:

  1. Do not use your needle threader with a wing needle.
  2. Use a light weight embroidery thread, the same or one shade darker than your fabric.
  3. Use some stabilizer under your fabric, and if the holes are not defined enough, use a double layer.
  4. Go slow, and try not to stop while stitching, this can cause an uneven and misaligned row of stitches.
  5. Natural and loosely woven fabrics work the best.
  6. Have fun!