Is there a difference between the quilting fabric at a chain store and one at a quilt shop?
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Ask the Tech: How often should I change my needle?
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Sewing Machine Needles
Your needle should be changed every 4-6 hours of sewing. The needle is the most inexpensive part in your sewing machine but is one of the most crucial for getting good results. European needles are chrome-plated to glide in and out of fabric easily. Your thread should fit in the groove on the front of the needle. It if isn’t protected by the groove, a needles with a larger groove/eye should be used. Always make sure your needles are fully inserted as high as possible with the flat side to the back.
What Kind of Thread Should I Use?
When you are having problems with your sewing machine, a good technician will first ask you if you've changed your needle recently. The next question is often, are you using a good quality thread? Any reputable sewing machine dealer will tell you to use only high quality thread. Why does it make a difference?
As thread is guided through the sewing machine, it passes through many eye openings and tension disks. All the places that the thread travels have a purpose in maintaining the tension and stitch quality. If you're not purchasing quality thread, you may be
damaging the disks. Eventually you could have problems with the machine maintaining an even tension as you sew.
The quality of thread is determined by the staple length, or the length of the fibers that are twisted together. Look for long staple or extra long staple thread. Ply, roll and twist can also affect your stitch quality. If you run your finger along a strand of thread, it should be smooth. You will be much happier using the highest grade cotton. Although it costs more, it is well worth it. An extra long staple cotton will have very low lint and will be a much stronger thread. This means a cleaner sewing machine and less breakage, frustration, and down time.
Be wary of old spools of thread recovered from grandma's sewing box. The fibers may be so weak and brittle that even if it sews into a seam, it may not hold together. Keep it as a treasure, not a supply!
A guide for helping you plan your next quilt
When learning about color, it is important to learn the language of color. Some frequently used terms regarding color include: Hue - this is another name for color. It refers to the color family such as red, blue, or yellow. Shade - this refers to a color or hue that is mixed with black or gray. Tint - this is a color or hue that is mixed with white. Value - this refers to the relative lightness or darkness of a color.
Temperature, intensity, and undertones also have an impact on how we see color. Generally, reds, yellow and oranges are warm colors; while blues, greens, and violets are cool colors. Intensity refers to the color's purity or brightness. The purer or less gray a color, the more intensity it has. Bright yellow and fire engine red are high intensity colors while lavender and peach are low intensity colors. Intense colors can add energy to your quilt and low intensity can give a quilt a calming effect. Undertones are the underlying color in a hue. With the exception of primary colors, all other colors are a mix of colors. There are no undertones in a primary red because it is a pure color, but the color berry is the color red with blue undertones. Being able to discern undertones will help in putting colors together when planning a quilt.
Color wheels and color tools are invaluable when planning a quilt. Although there are many different color wheels available, we love the "3 in 1 Color Tool" by Joen Wolfrom. It contains a wonderful color guide, value finder and fabric preview window.
Please let us know if we can help you plan your next quilt. We have hundreds of years of combined experience behind us and would be happy to assist you in any way.