Japanese Garden

This week, I’d like to introduce you to a fabric collection of mine, entitled ‘Japanese Garden’.

Japanese Garden

This is the ‘hero’ print of the collection. I wanted to suggest a stylised version of a garden in Japan, with beautiful raked paths and cherry trees.

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Little Birds

There is a pair of companion fabrics which repeat the image of the two little birds from the design above. The first is on raspberry pink.

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The second is on aqua.

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Japanese Garden Blossom

This fabric picks up the background grey of the initial design and includes drifts of pink blossom down the length.

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In the Cherry Orchard

This design also features cherry blossom, this time white flowers and buds on a darker aqua background.

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Japanese fish

There are some orange koi carp swimming in an aqua current.

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Japanese Fans

There are two fabrics with a darker background. Here, orange fans float on a navy background.

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This print suggests the bold white thread on navy fabric used in sashiko stitching.

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I think these would make a nice quilt – though it’s one I haven’t designed yet! Maybe later this year…

How to choose a sewing machine needle

Sewing machine needles

Recently, I taught my beginner’s class ‘How to use a sewing machine’ which covered the topic of sewing machine needles and which needle to use for different purposes. (For more information about the class go to the Classes page here.) The photo below shows what a sewing machine needle looks like. It has a sharp point (seen on the right in the photo), an eye (for the thread to go through), a shaft (which goes up and down through the fabric) and a wider shank (seen on the left in the photo, which is inserted into your machine). You can see that the shank has a flat side (which is facing you in the photo). In most sewing machines the flat side of the shank goes towards the back of the sewing machine. (However, in some machines the flat side of the shank goes to the right, so double-check with your machine manual!)

How to change a needle

To remove the sewing machine needle you will need a screwdriver to loosen the screw which holds the needle in place. Tightening the screw by hand will not be enough to secure it properly! Turn the screw to the left to loosen the old needle, insert a new needle and then turn the screw to the right to secure it in place. If you place a piece of card over the feed dogs on the machine before you start to remove the needle, you can stop the old needle dropping down into that area and causing damage.

Universal needles

There is a variety of needles on offer, so where should you begin when you are trying to choose a needle for sewing? Well for general sewing it is sensible to choose a ‘universal’ needle (as seen below), which just indicates that it is suitable for everyday sewing, rather than for a specialist use. You can see that various numbers are printed on this box indicating the size of the needles in the packet: 70, 80 and 90. So let’s look at some of the needles in my collection.

60 needles

These sewing machine needles are very fine. I would use these for sewing very fine, delicate fabrics, such as a lightweight silk or cotton lawn. The figure after the 60 on the packet (8) is simply an alternate numbering system used in the USA. As you look at the needles that follow, you will see how the numbers go up (in both systems) the bigger the needle.

70 needles

You saw some 70 needles in the mixed pack of needles pictured higher up the page. These are also used with lighter-weight fabrics such as lawn and most quilting cottons. The needles pictured below are ‘micro-tex’; they have a particularly sharp point. This is very useful for accurate piecing when you are making patchwork blocks with a quarter-inch seam.

80 needles

This needle size is also good for piecing cottons for quilts, for dressmaking (cotton, wool, mixed fibres fabric for shirts, dresses, trousers, skirts etc). There were two 80 needles in the mixed pack higher up the page – this is a very useful size to have in stock.

90 needles

The next size up is 90. I would not use this needle for piecing patchwork blocks, unless you were using heavier weight calico or denim. This is more suitable for dressmaking purposes when you are making jeans or a thick wool jacket or coat, say.

However, you might well want to use a 90 needle later on when you are making a quilt – you would use it for adding the quilting stitches to quilt once the top is complete and you have it under your machine with the wadding in the middle and the backing fabric underneath. Moving the quilt under the machine needle puts some strain on the needle, especially if it is a large quilt, so having a sturdier needle is a good thing. You will find some needles specially produced for this purpose, designated ‘Quilting Needles’ as shown in the photo below.

Ballpoint needles

If you do dressmaking, you might choose to use a specialist ballpoint needle for some tasks. This needle has a more rounded point which makes it more suitable for knitted fabrics. You would use a finer needle such as a 70 or 80 for a cotton knit T-shirt fabric and a heavier needle (90) for heavier sweatshirt fabric, for example. You can also buy ‘Stretch needles’ which are intended for fabrics which have a lot of stretch, such as elastane (Lycra).

100 needle

This is a really strong needle which you might use for repairing (or making) jeans or for sewing sofa covers or curtains made from furnishing fabric. This needle will deal with very heavy or thick fabric without breaking. It is also possible to buy specialist needles for sewing leather. However, if you are using a regular domestic sewing machine, do take care that this kind of project does not put too much of a strain on your machine!

Titanium needles

These needles come in some of the sizes discussed above (the packet below has 75, 80 and 90 sizes included). The difference here is the material from which the needle is made. The inclusion of titanium makes the needles strong and long-lasting, so the ones shown below could be used for piecing (75 or 80) and quilting (90) if you are making quilts.

Twin needle

Finally, there is one specialist needle to mention, a twin needle. This allows you to stitch two parallel lines of stitching on the top of the fabric. You need to have two reels of upper thread on the machine. Each needle is threaded up with one thread. You must have a regular stitch plate with a wide aperture – don’t use it with a single-hole stitch plate or the needle will break!

Finally, don’t forget to change your sewing machine needle! They don’t last forever. This is a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment and putting in a new needle for a new project is a good idea.

Issue 51 of Make Modern magazine is published this week. This excellent online magazine from Australia is full of patterns for and articles about Modern quilts. I write for Make Modern (two projects published and two projects forthcoming) so I have no hesitation in recommending this publication as an affiliate. If you are interested in making Modern quilts and want to buy a copy of Make Modern or take out an annual subscription (or even a lifetime access subscription), click the link here for the details. (Please note that if you make a purchase, a modest commission helps support my work providing free content on this website and in my monthly newsletters. It is the ONLY affiliate marketing I do!)

Here are some reader reviews of the magazine:

It’s the only magazine I subscribe to and encourage any quilter to do the same. – Kris, Australia

Super customer friendly subscription service and so completely worth it. This is a source and resource, continual inspiration that will keep your mind creating beyond the norm for years to come. Opening each new issue is like giving yourself a modern, quilted gamut of color burst imagination. Can’t recommend it enough! – Connie, Canada

This is a wonderful online magazine! Fresh ideas, bright colorful quilts, clear directions, personal stories, and no paper to pile up or waste, are a “win win” for me! I highly recommend a subscription! – Suzie, USA

Make Modern is my favorite quilting magazine. It’s accessible, personal, fun, and packed with information. I love pictures, but I also love people’s stories, and I find that in Make Modern. There is also a ton of helpful technical help, and a delightfully informal tone that comes with its Australian origins. I became a premium subscriber, and I look forward to going back in the archive, as well as forward with new issues. – Elizabeth, USA

Issue 51 of Make Modern magazine
Issue 51 of Make Modern magazine – photo copyright: Make Modern
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