Sewing Info and Tips

Sewing Machine Thread

Confusingly when choosing sewing thread the lower the number the thicker the thread, the opposite to needle numbers !

The weight e.g. 50wt is the weight per kilometer, so 50 kilometer of 50wt thread is 1 kilo.

The ply e.g 50wt/2ply is the number of twisted strands, a 50wt/3ply thread is stronger than a 50wt/2ply.

My favourites

I'm mostly a quilter and use mostly 100% cotton threads, I use Presencia Thread Finca 60/3 Weight for piecing (available from it is a wonderful strong cotton thread, and also great value for money.  For my quilting I use Gutermann 100% Cotton 50wt thread, this could be used for piecing also and it is widely available. 

Sewing Machine Needles

Your sewing machine guide should provide you with details of the correct needles to use so I won't say too much here but I did think it was worth a quick mention because sometime people under-estimate the importance of the right needle.

Using the correct needle can make a huge difference to how your stitches look, using the wrong needle can cause damage to your machine needle plate and result in broken thread and/or slipped stitches.  

You should ideally change your sewing machine needle for each new project.

Needle Sizes
The lower the number the smaller the needle.  

There is a wonderful guide here if you want to read more

Tips - Choosing a new sewing machine

One of the first things to do when we start sewing is to go out and buy a new machine, so I thought it might be helpful to share my tick list.  

Before you order your machine I would highly recommend that if at all possible you visit a sewing machine store and "test drive" your machine, you may spend many hours sewing :-), the best way to find the machine that suits you is to try it out !

My Check list - please feel free to add more

1.   Must Haves
In my view a good machine is...even, straight stitches which sit nicely on the fabric, turn your test piece over is the tension correct, is the tension easy to adjust (Left to loosen right to tighten).

Next think...what must your machine be able to do now for you, and also what you will want it to do as you sew more. 
 -  If you plan to do lots of dressmaking you might what a 1 step button hole stitch, zipper feet etc. 

- If you plan to quilt you might want an extension table, walking foot attachment etc check these are available.  If you plan to make large quilts check the area to the right of the needle is big enough to roll up your quilt.

- If you plan to make curtains or sew with thicker fabrics you might want a more powerful machine with an advanced feed system. 

2. Stitches
We all like machines that do lots of lovely fancy stitches, but do you need them ? do you want to pay for them ? will you use them ?  You can do lots with a straight stitch :-)  A machine that has more stitches is not a better machine because of this.

3. Feed System
You will probably have read lots about feed systems ! if you want to do free motion embroidery or quilting you want to be able to drop or cover the feed dogs so check this is possible.  Some machines have more feed parts than others if you want to sew thicker fabrics check the feed system and ask the sales person if this would sew through curtain header tape easily. If you plan to quilt a lot some machines have a built in walking foot which might be useful.

4. Speed/Noise  
If you are still learning to sew or a beginner you may prefer a machine that is slower, some machines also have a half speed button.  Different brands vary greatly in terms of "normal" sewing speed.  I once when to sewing classes with a a lady who had a very noisy, fast machine, I must say it was quite scary !  If you have children and plan to sew when they nap a quiet machine is also good !

5. Parts/Accessories
Are extra presser feet, bobbins, needles etc easy to order ? Be careful buying a discontinued or second hand machine as you may find it harder to purchase extra equipment as your sewing knowledge grows.  Check how much accessories are as prices vary between brands.

6. Weight 
Some machines are fairly heavy, I have a lightweight one which I learnt to sew on and took with me to classes.  I've also bought a heavier machine more recently, but I wouldn't be without the lightweight one for classes.  

7. Warranty Period - Check how long and what it covers.

8. Lights - check that the sewing machine light is nice and white and clear to avoid sore eyes !

9. Computerised - if you get a computerised machine don't forget to use a surge protector plug.

10. Don't forget to ask about servicing you may be able to get the first one for free, if you sew lots you should get your machine serviced once a year.

My Machines...........
Just in case you are wondering what machines I use,  I have a Brother ES-2020 (approx £200) & a Bernina Activa 220 (approx £550) both are fairly simple machines, I've been sewing for 20yrs and there's still lots of stitches on both I've never used.   I will be posting a little bit about both soon x


  1. I have a brother like yours and I do like it but would really like a machine that has alphabet stitches and a bigger throat for quilting.

  2. The Bernina 220 above has alphabet Stitches but I have been a little disappointed in them they are very basic looking not very pretty, I was going to make my own quilt labels but they don't look good enough. I shall take some photos of them. The Bernina 220 although only a baby bernina is quite good for sewing/roll up space because it's square and high under the arm so it works well :-)

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