Choosing a Needle for Sewing or Quilting
Posted: December 4th, 2013 | No Comments »
If you’re new to sewing or quilting, one of the first things you’ll learn is that there are a myriad of different needles from which to choose. Varying materials call for different needle shapes and sizes, and sewing machines call for a new type of needle altogether.
If you’re sewing by hand….
- Ensure that your needle tip is small enough to go through the fabric without ruining it. However, it should be large enough for the eye to see.
- For general purpose, go for sharps. These come in a variety of sizes, and they work like gauges. The larger the number is, the smaller the needle is.
- If you plan to sew heavy canvas or leather, go for Glovers. Their large size and sharp ends make penetrating the thick fabrics much easier.
- Tapestry needles are great for, you guessed it, tapestry projects and needlepoint. They slip through canvas mesh with little risk of damaging your project in progress.
- If you’re hand-stitching quilts, opt for a shorter quilt needle. This size will help you work with heavy fabric and multiple layers easily.
If you have a sewing machine…
Simply, know your machine. The sewing machine you use determines which needle type you’ll need. The shank end must fit into the needle bar of the sewing machine. Check out your make and model and consult the manufacturer’s website (or a pro) on which needle to use.
For more on sewing machine needles, check out the infographic below.
Post by Marie Noah
Thread Materials for Quilting
Posted: November 15th, 2013 | No Comments »
As with most projects, the qualities of a finished quilt rely upon a variety of factors. One of these is the fiber material used for the quilt thread, which can affect the appearance, feel, and durability of the quilt. Here are four of the most popular materials used for quilting thread, along with some of the pros and cons that they have traditionally been known for.
Cotton is by far the most common thread used by quilters, and the most traditional choice. It has a soft, natural look that is irreplaceable to many. However, cotton has a few downfalls in its purest form. It is firm and more difficult to stretch than most synthetic fibers, and it may break with too much tension. It also has the habit of fading or shrinking when exposed to the elements. Cotton thread is constructed by spinning cotton fibers together, and works best when used on 100% cotton pieces of fabric. Low quality cotton thread can create residual lint that builds up and affects the performance of machines. Northern Threads carries Mettler silk finished thread that is mercerized, a process that remedies many of the traditional problems with cotton, decreasing snagging, knotting, and breaking. We also carry Sulky Blendables thread, which features subtle color changes every few inches for a very interesting look.
Unlike cotton, polyester is a synthetic thread. It corrects many of the old problems with cotton, making for a stronger, more elastic thread. It also won’t fade or shrink as much as cotton. On the other hand, there are certain drawbacks to polyester as well. It doesn’t work as well with cotton fabrics, having the tendency to cut through cotton quilts over time. Quality of polyester thread varies widely, and certain brands cause bigger problems than others do. At Northern Threads, we carry So Fine Thread from Superior Thread, a super-soft, high-quality thread.
After the big two, there is a variety of other less common quilting threads. Rayon, often used as a cheap replacement for silk, is a thread derived from cellulose. Many quilters appreciate its colorful, decorative properties. However, it’s not particularly effective in all applications, especially patchwork.
Yet another synthetic thread for quilting, nylon is used to make monofilament threads that are often transparent and nearly invisible, especially useful when working with lighter backgrounds. You need to be a little more careful with quilts made from nylon thread though, as it can melt under extreme heat. Nylon thread also doesn’t stand the test of time the same way as cotton and polyester, becoming slightly discolored and weaker with age. Northern Threads carries clear invisible and smoke invisible monofilament thread.
Post by Marie Noah
Man Sets Record for Running While Knitting
Posted: October 28th, 2013 | No Comments »
People are willing to do some pretty strange things to get their name into the record books. One man in Brazil holds the record for removing the most amount of t-shirts while keeping a soccer ball in the air. A German man broke the record for breaking the most concrete blocks while holding a raw egg in 2010. There’s even a spot in the books for the largest gathering of people dressed as sunflowers. On October 19, 2013, David Babcock added his own name to the Guinness Book of World Records for an equally odd yet impressive feat, knitting the longest scarf while running a marathon.
The 41-year-old graphic design professor wrote on his website that after taking up both running and knitting in the last few years, he found that “by putting the two activities together the time passes easier for both activities”. The setting for his accomplishment was the Kansas City Marathon. Interestingly, Babcock wasn’t the first person to combine running and knitting, as he unseated April Hewer, a British woman who set the record herself earlier this year.
Hewer’s finished scarf measured 6’9”, while Babcock almost doubled that with a 12’1¾” project of his own. In order to qualify for the record, runners are required to finish the race in less than 6 hours. Babcock clocked in at 5 hours and 48 minutes. The Guinness Book also stipulates a 30-stitch wide garter stitch and the use of, at most, size 15 plastic needles.
Since running and knitting on that glorious Fall day, David Babcock has enjoyed a great deal of national media attention. A visit to his website, www.donotstaple.com, brings images and videos of the training process, as well as explanation of his motivation to go for the record. He seems to have committed himself to the charitable cause of the woman whose record he broke, raising money and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease in the United Kingdom and the United States.
While we can’t exactly endorse running around outside with knitting needles, Babcock’s triumph is a testament to the many applications and benefits that can go with knitting. How long of a scarf do you think you could finish? That is, if you’re fit enough to finish a marathon in the first place. Way to go, David!
Post by Marie Noah
Tips for Sewing with Patterns
Posted: October 17th, 2013 | No Comments »
Patterns are great for making garments from scratch without having to design them from the ground up. Even with a pattern, however, it’s not always easy. Follow these tips to improve your results.
Check it Out
The packaging of patterns follows a fairly standard formula, and gives more useful information about the project than you might think. The front of the package provides different “views”, or style variations, of the project. The back should give you basic measurements of the project, as well as a verbal description and a guideline to help you buy the right fabrics for the job.
Measure for Success
Don’t be tempted to wait until you’re started to find out if a garment fits. Gather precise and comprehensive measurements for whoever will be wearing the finished product. This way you can be sure you’re buying the right pattern, and you’ll be ready to calculate which size to sew from the start.
Learn the Terms
The sewing world has an extensive collection of terms to differentiate between things like different parts of the body, stitches, and measurements. Instead of relying on guesswork, do some research on unfamiliar words and abbreviations. Trust me, you don’t want to end up with three legs or a neck without an opening. Symbols, too, can be as confusing as they are important.
Trace a Custom Fit
Tracing your pattern to another sheet of paper will keep you from cutting the original pattern. It will also make it easier to adjust parts of the pattern that might not fit as well as others. Everybody is different, so it’s impossible for a pattern to be truly one-size-fits-all. Be sure to transfer all important symbols and directives as well.
Don’t Lose Direction
It might not seem to matter, but the direction of fabric in a pattern can be the difference between failure and success. When reading the pattern, pay special attention to which way fabric should be sewed on.
Post by Marie Noah
Choosing the Right Zipper
Posted: October 7th, 2013 | No Comments »
A truly underrated invention, the zipper revolutionized the clothing industry, making just about everything easier to put on and take off. The modern sewer can easily learn how to work zippers into their projects. Here are some basic terms and guidelines to get things started.
Parts of a Zipper
Tape – the fabric, often polyester, that the zipper is mounted on. The color of the tape should go well with the project it’s being used for.
Teeth – the two sides that interlock to open and close the zipper.
Slider (or pull) – the moving part that slides up and down, attaching and detaching the teeth.
Stops – located at each end of the teeth to stop the slider from falling off the zipper.
Types of Zippers
Nylon Coil Non-Separating Zipper
A non-separating zipper only opens up completely on one end, making it ideal for dresses, pants, and compartmental accessories like purses.
1-Way Separating Zipper
A separating zipper opens all the way up on both ends. It’s perfect for a jacket or zip-up sweatshirt. We carry YKK Vislon Fastrak zippers that align easier and drop in from the side.
2-Way Separating Zipper
A 2-way zipper has two pulls, which allows you to open a garment from the top and bottom at the same time. This is great for outerwear that you may want to open up at the bottom from time to time for a little extra breathing room.
Sizing a Zipper
Sizing the right zipper for a project can be tricky. They’re measured from one stop to the other, not including the surrounding tape. You can shorten a zipper by sewing a stitch for a new stop if need be. This is often necessary for custom projects. The width of the teeth may vary from zipper to zipper.
Check out Northern Thread’s wide selection of zippers and start working them into your sewing!
How Knitting Projects Improve Health
Posted: September 26th, 2013 | No Comments »
Knitting as Therapy
Anyone with an enjoyable hobby, including knitters, will attest to the relaxation and fulfillment they take from it. Yet the community is beginning to realize that the therapeutic effects of knitting run deeper than a temporary escape from the worries and stressors of the day. Enthusiasts are examining the hobby more closely, applying it to real-world medical scenarios to discover what sets knitting apart from other activities as therapy.
One of the aspects they’ve honed in on is the rhythmic structure of the knitting process. Working in a similar way to music, and connecting both sides of the brain, knitting follows a timely pattern that can calm the mind and relieve chronic anxiety and attention deficit disorder. This type of structure can also be effective in alleviating hopelessness brought on by depression.
What really sets knitting apart from other hobbies, however, is its portability. A knitting project is easy to take with you wherever you go, and is never bothersome to others. You can bring it to the dentist to reduce nerves in the waiting room or to work for break-time stress reduction. Sure, musical instruments provide rhythmic structure, but you wouldn’t bring a guitar to the doctor’s office.
The scientific evidence surrounding knitting therapy is overwhelming, and continues to grow. Brain scans show that knitting moves the mind away from chronic pain. It’s used to help keep the fingers nimble in arthritis patients. It has been proven to have a positive effect on heart rate and blood pressure, and has been effective in the treatment of patients with Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, and dementia.
In a sense, researchers are only reporting what knitters have known for years. After all, there’s a reason we keep coming back to the needle. While the discovery of positive medical effects is greeted with cheer, there’s not a doubt in our mind that everyone can benefit from this wonderful hobby.
Sewing Kit Essentials for Beginners
Posted: September 16th, 2013 | No Comments »
While everyone’s looking for a quicker, more advanced way to get things done, sometimes it’s good to take a step back to our roots and use our hands for some creative work. This is why we have things like National Sewing Month, to celebrate our hobbies, and to appreciate life uninterrupted. Sewing is one of oldest, most useful activities and even if this all turns into the Matrix, people will still be sewing.
If you’re just getting into sewing, you have a few sidekicks to work with. Your new best friends are Pinterest, Martha Stewart and the DIY blogosphere that takes up half the internet.
You’ll need a basic sewing kit, with all of the essentials. You can add the custom machinery and accoutrements later.
- Beeswax: You’ll want this, as it stops thread from tangling
- Buttons: Keep a myriad; you’ll be so happy when you can save your favorite item
- Elastic: This is useful and an important element for many projects
- Hand-Sewing Needles: You want to get an array of sizes, as different fabrics call for different needles
- Iron-on Tape/Patch
- Needle Threader
- A Variety of Sewing Machine Needles
- Pin holder/Pin cushion
- Safety Pins: Store them all on one pin, so they’re not scattered about and easily lost
- Scissors: Always have a backup!
- Seam bindings: These are used in a variety of projects, particularly quilting
- Seam ripper: Everyone makes mistakes
- Straight Pins
- Tailors Chalk
- Tape measure
- Thread: Again, you’ll want a variety. Be sure to get all purpose and silk for fine fabrics. Similar to buttons, you want an array of color, for button replacement emergencies on your favorites.
For a deeper look into getting started, Martha Stewart has a great video for a sewing starter kit.
Post by Marie Noah
September 2013 National Sewing Month: Sew for the SKILL of it!
Posted: September 4th, 2013 | No Comments »
September is a month well known for many things including Labor Day, the end of summer/beginning of fall, football season, and the first full month of school for many children, especially here in Alaska.
For us sewing and crafting fanatics, September is National Sewing Month! And what a great month September will be. Dedicated to celebrating a month-long holiday by doing what we love most, September is going to be an exciting and productive month, full of sewing and crafting (let’s just pretend this will be different from any other month!).
More than three decades ago, President Ronald Regan, professed September as National Sewing Month “In recognition of the importance of home sewing to our Nation,” at the request of the American Home Sewing & Craft Association. While there were only a number of proclamations declaring National Sewing Month, with the help of sewing associations and organizations, National Sewing Month has withstood the test of time, promoting and supporting the benefits of sewing and crafting.
This month, at Northern Threads, we challenge you to participate in the event. As the theme of this year’s celebration is “Sew for the SKILL of it!” there is a contest to create something that can be used in two ways. For more contest information, visit the website here.
As always, if you need any guidance or sewing supplies, feel free to contact us at Northern Threads. We love sewing as much as you do and have a wealth of knowledge to offer.
Happy National Sewing Month!
Increase Self-Confidence by Learning How to Sew
Posted: August 29th, 2013 | No Comments »
At one point in time, sewing was a great skill to have, especially for mothers with many children. These days, sewing is a creative outlet in addition to being a less expensive way to fashion and tailor clothes to fit your body.
There’s no question many women feel the pressure to be a certain size, but what is that size? Blogger, Lilli Pascuzzi, questioned, “What is a size 6? And what’s a size 16? And for that matter, what’s a size 26?” Like many women, Lilli believes we are all too caught up in the size of clothes, which is often a reflection of our self-worth and self-confidence. All because of a tiny label on our shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, etc. And of course, we don’t take into account that these sizes vary depending on where you bought the article of clothing and the style of the piece.
While shifting the current paradigm that size matters is quite an undertaking, at Northern Threads, we believe it’s more important to provide women, and men for that matter, with the skill to sew. Instead of focusing on the size on the label, buy clothes that fit your body. We know it’s difficult to find clothes that fit perfectly, with the ability to sew, hem a pair of pants or make minor alterations to your clothes.
So how does this increase self-confidence, you ask? Not only does learning a new skill instill confidence, instead of focusing on a number or a size, you will be able to focus on feel and comfort. By learning how to sew, know that it’s not about a size, but the measurements of your beautiful body. Be a size you, not a size six.
If you live in the Fairbanks, Alaska area, check out our sewing classes for instruction on how to sew or to hone your existing sewing skills!
Post by Marie Noah
The Yarn Bombing Phenomenon
Posted: August 22nd, 2013 | No Comments »
In our last post, we talked about Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Bridge being covered in yarn. The largest “yarn bomb” in the country, the phenomenon and culture of yarn bombing can be seen on a worldwide scale.
Yarn bombing also referred to as yarnbombing, yarn storming, guerrilla knitting, urban knitting and graffiti knitting, is a form of street art using knitted and crocheted yarn and fiber to celebrate an area. Unlike graffiti, yarn bombing does not damage any of the structures, is temporary and easy to remove.
As seen in the yarning of the Andy Warhol Bridge, yarn bombing is all about community and bringing fun and bright colors to an area, as opposed to graffiti which is seen as a detriment (rightfully so) to a community and area.
For knitters and crocheters, this has to be exciting to see around the world. While it has become more popular recently, the first documented yarn bomb creation was nearly ten years ago in May of 2004 in Den Helder, Netherlands. Throughout the past decade, yarn bombing has been seen all over the world in many cities including Copenhagen, Denmark; Mexico City, Mexico; Bali, Indonesia; Vancouver, Canada; and Pairs, France to name a few. From covering trees, to parking meters, benches, statues, stairs and busses, knitting is no longer just for your grandmother!
While many of us may use our knitting and crocheting skills to create blankets, sweaters, scarfs and other knitted designs, to think about this on such a large scale is thrilling. Maybe it’s time Northern Threads starts to think about doing some yarn bombing here in Fairbanks, Alaska. A great way to practice and perfect knitting and crocheting techniques while having a blast, I’m sure we could find the perfect place to spread the joy and magnificence of some yarn graffiti!
Post by Marie Noah