Needle Know How

June 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

I wrote and posted a blog for my favorite quilt shop and thought I’d share it with you.

There are quite a few hand sewing needles and sooner or later you’ll need one, but do you know the difference? After some research I realized that I do occasionally (gasp!) use the wrong needle for projects. As long as it works I’m relatively happy, and while I can’t speak for all of you, I suspect you have from time to time been guilty of the same. So, what is the purpose of each needle?

If you are going to pick buy one kind of needle (not that we recommend that) the best needle to buy is a sharp. Sharps are good, all-purpose needles. As the name suggests they have a sharp point and are a medium length, compared to its shorter cousin the between (but we’ll talk about that needle further down). Sharps needles are good all purpose hand sewing needles and work well for attaching bindings or other hand work. Sharps have a rounded eye and come in a variety of sizes.

Betweens were specifically designed for traditional hand quilting. The shorter shank provides good control and the needle is thicker than others, giving it strength to move between the layers of the quilt. The small size of betweens allows the quilter to make small, even stitches. Like a sharp, a between has a rounded eye making it easy for threading. You can buy betweens in several sizes, the smallest of which usually speaks to those that have been hand quilting for a while (or have really small hands).

Straw needles have a narrow shank and the eye of the needle is punched within the existing shank – that makes a straw needle great for hand applique since the eye won’t hesitate when pulled through the fabric. Straw needles are also great for hand basting.

Long needles, or basting needles, are used to hand baste a quilt. The needles are long, hence the name, and the added length makes hand basting faster. The needles have a slender shaft to decrease movement between the three layers while basting. The larger eyes of long needles make them great for tying quilts, too.

Sashiko needles have significantly thicker shafts than traditional needles. The thicker shaft prevents them from bending and a larger eye enables the needle to be easily thread with perle cotton or embroidery floss. Sashiko needles are the perfect needle for big stich, Japanese sashiko or embroidery. Sashiko needles are available in several sizes. The shop typically carries a variety pack.

When choosing a needle size, it’s best to consider the type of fabric you’ll be using. In general, the lighter your fabric, the thinner the needle you’ll want to use with it. We carry variety packs if you are unsure of the best needle. If you’re unsure of the best needle, just try passing a few different-sized needles through an inconspicuous place on the fabric to determine the needle that passes through the fabric most easily and leaves only a small hole. Keep in mind that needle size increases as the number decreases so a 10 is larger than a 12 (I know, seems counter-intuitive to us, too).

Happy stitching!

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More Japanese Taupe Applique

June 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

Blocks three and four (from this book) are complete except for some embroidery. I don’t have the correct color perle cotton and need to order that from here. If I’m lucky I’ll accomplish that in the next day or two. Fingers crossed (sigh). I was planning to mix pieced and appliqued blocks but I love the applique so much that I think I’ll just stick to that.

All in all the blocks have turned out really well – including the 1/4″ bias tape that I made AND the 5/8″ wide yo-yo’s (and quite frankly, it’s kind of fun to make such itty bitty yo-yo’s!).

Monster Pillow

June 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

I have been absolutely in LOVE with the patterns from Don’t Look Now. I think they are adorable and really fresh. While at my favorite local quilt shop the other day I ran across the Little Monsters pattern and knew I just HAD to make it for Q Man. Then I got it home and took a long look at the pattern. Realizing it was a lot of applique I decided that a pillow was a safer option – I can finish a pillow, right? And I did….thank goodness for the satin stitch and fusible applique!

I do worry that the pillow has a white background. I know it’ll be a recipe for disaster one day, but for the time being I’ll just enjoy.

Hooray, Horray for Applique!

June 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

I think applique work is beautiful. It’s even prettier when the person that made the block or quilt is experienced with applique. I’ve always loved what applique adds to quilts and been in awe of those who can beautifully create it. I have, however, been scared to tackle this particular element of quilting for some time though.

I’ve appliqued before but I generally stick to flowing, sweeping curves – circles and such. Yes, I admit it – I’ve been a complete and total scardy cat but I absolutely REFUSED to be someone that made an ugly block. You’d think that I’ve been quilting long enough to just get over it (hello, almost twenty years).  It’s a curse and a blessing that I strive to do the absolute best I can.

On. Everything.

I wanted to do something with my taupe fabrics and wanted to include more than pieced blocks. Enter the applique. I found a few blocks I liked from Susan Bricsoe’s book Japanese Taupe Quilt Blocks. The blocks didn’t seem that scary and I got the first one down without any problems.

See? Sweeping curves. Easy. And the yo-yo added fun!

The second block was a bit intimidating. I can never seem to get my points quite right, which is the reason that I’ve stayed away from this particular method of quilting. I found a great tutorial and Oh! My! Gosh! Got it on the first try. I couldn’t be happier! Seriously? I think I’m addicted now.

I’m trying my hand at a more difficult block. The background of the circle is a Japanese fabric I picked up at City Quilter in New York. I was itching to use it on this quilt. This particular block is just perfect for that fabric! Now, the author suggests using fusible bias tape around the edge of the block. I would have been happy to do that because, let’s face it, it’s easier that way, but I didn’t have any. And my favorite shop didn’t have any. And I didn’t want to order it. So what’s a girl to do? Make her own, of course! I’m a glutton for punishment but think the 1/4″ bias tape I made looks quite nice. I didn’t have bias bars to make it so I cut 3/4″ strips of bias fabric and ironed down a quarter inch on each side. Really, it was quite simple and I’d absolutely do it again if necessary.** See? Looks nice, huh? And yes, the orange thread is just where I’ve basted down all my parts. I find this works rather well for me.

* Yes, some people make ugly applique blocks. Sorry, but they do. I’m not in awe of those folks nor do I want to be one of them.

** Really I’d rather just buy fusible bias tape and likely will, though I won’t use it for this quilt since I’ve already deviated from that particular item.

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