My annual blogpost from Salt Spring Island… Customers get creative, All about needles, New wovens

posted Aug 22, 2020, 12:53 AM by Lorna Shapiro

Vacations with grandkids are the best! We’ve been renting the same house on Salt Spring Island with our daughter, son-in-law and grandkids for 6 years now. This annual retreat is a source of many good memories for us all. Here are a couple of photos I’d like to share. We’ve been farm stand shopping, visiting craft stores, and building lego ships… doesn’t get any better than that!

So because I’m taking it easy on Salt Spring, this is a longer than usual blog post… wait to read it until you have a good cup of coffee or tea and time to put your feet up and enjoy.
First, new normal here is that I’m open daily by appointment… any day of the week, but only one customer group at a time (up to 4 people). This seems to work as well for my customers as it does for me… we get time to focus on your projects and we are safe from overcrowding and exposure to Covid. Here’s where you go to book your appointment…
Second… photos of what some of my customers have been up to: 
Shot cottons for grandchildren’s clothes… so soft and drapeable… lots of colours to choose from and they are only $14.95/M… which would be $13.45/Yd which would be $9.95 US/Yd.

Japanese cotton-linens for bags: Sandi H. produced these two lovely bags, both with additional stitching.

Jennifer P. created this lovely bag using Essex linens:

and she also made this sweet pair of shorts using woven cottons from Japan:

I wanted also to show you a couple of quilts made by Wendy M. The first is one of those dreaded T-shirt quilts and I have to say she managed to make one of the best looking T-shirt quilts I’ve seen… so in case you have to make one, check this out. And she also made beautiful use of value making this quilt…

Third, I’d like to refresh your memory about needles… I get a lot of people asking me about needles for their domestic sewing machines… and many of them don’t realize there are just a few simple things you need to know to totally understand how to choose the appropriate needle for your project. Here goes:

Here’s a link to a recent video that came out from National Sewing Circle claiming to demystify needles… This video is an example of unhelpful information — it conflates needle type and needle size… and also doesn’t explain the major variables differentiating types of needles and why they matter.

So here’s my explanation of needles…

There are four things that identify any needle:

  1. Who made it (Schmetz, Organ, Superior, Klasse, etc.) — In my experience, all the well known needle makers make quality needles so this is not of much importance.


  1. What type of needle it is (Universal, Quilting, Jeans/Denim, Topstitch, Microtex (or Sharp), Metallic, Embroidery, Leather) — Different types of needle vary in these ways: shape of point (sharp, very sharp or ball point), size and shape of eye (large or small, oval, rectangular, long oval), depth of groove running down needle face. These differences determine how the needle acts on the fabric and works with the thread… so they are important differences. You want to know what type of needle you are using. My experience, and that of many experienced quilters I’ve spoken to, is that Universal needles are universally mediocre, as are quilting needles. Most piecing and quilting wants to be done with a very sharply pointed needle and those are only Microtex and Topstitch. The Topstitch needle has a bigger eye and a deeper groove, that makes it work better with metallic or heavy threads. The Jeans/Denim has a ball point, which you want for stretch fabrics.


  1. What size the needle is (60/8 to 110/18 for domestic machines) — Smaller sizes are for thinner threads, larger sizes for heavier threads. If your thread is breaking, you likely need a bigger eye and/or a deeper groove. This can be accomplished by going to a larger needle or switching from a Microtex to a Topstitch. To test if the eye is large enough, thread a loose needle onto a 15” stretch of thread. Hold the thread taut and at an angle… if it slides down easily, the eye is large enough (this tip courtesy of Betty at Mason Sewing). If your thread is still breaking and your needle is new (i.e. not chipped), you likely need a deeper groove — so go to a larger needle, or to a topstitch if you are using Microtex. If you are skipping stitches, you likely need a larger needle.


  1. What material the needle is made of (chrome plated steel, titanium coated steel, ceramic coated steel) — titanium and ceramic coatings purport to last longer… I can’t say one way or the other. I’ve used both but have not done extensive testing. Titanium and Ceramic are more expensive by quite a bit. Ceramic is reportedly better for embroidery machines because it heats up less than metal needles.

Here is a link to Schmetz’s needle chart which is worth printing out for reference…

Finally, some photos of the new wovens that have arrived recently… these are great for quilts, for clothing, and for home decor projects. 

The bottom fabric on the right is the same fabric we used to make this kimono jacket.

And these embossed cottons also arrived.

Well, folks, I think that is it for now. I hope you all are staying safe, enjoying the slower pace of things, and appreciating our good fortune to be able to engage in creative activity at home. Stay well… enjoy the rest of this beautiful summer. I look forward to seeing you soon. Thanks for being part of my quilting community.

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