Monday, July 11, 2011

All About Needles - Changing or Replacing

The following tutorial is an exerpt from my book, The ART of Machine Needle Felting, which was written by a needle felter for needle felters.  In it I put a lot of time into explaining how to work the machine, make adjustments for different kinds of work and where and when to change needle sizes.  With the help of my local Babylock Dealer, Ron Spaulding  we worked some things out so that anyone can change and remove the needle clamp head  and individual needles for the purpose of doing different kinds of Embellishing work.  This information can be adapted to other brands of machines.  They all work the same way, it may be that the screws are arranged differently but the basic method of changing needles is the same for any felting machine.

Babylock has developed two kinds of Embellishing machines; the 7 needle and the 12 needle. 

12 Needle Machine

7 Needle Machine

Both have removable needle clamp heads with individual needles that can be replaced or removed.   What is the difference?  Both machines embellish the same way except the 12 needle is twice as fast as the 7 needle at doing the same job.  However, sometimes, the 12 needle can overpower a small or delicate area to be felted and fewer needles are desired for some kinds of work.  For this reason, you can remove needles in whatever combinations you choose.  For example, if you want to felt a thin line of yarn along an edge of a project and don’t want the other 12 needles creating unnecessary holes, you can remove all but 1 or 2 needles.  If you want a narrower range of felting, you can remover 5 or 6 needles on one side of the  needle clamp head and just use the other side, which would give you the felting capacity of the 7 needle machine.  Both machines felt equally well and they are heavier, with all metal housing and more solidly built than felting machines of other brands.  That means they do not move around the worktable as easily while you are felting large areas.  They also have a larger and stronger motor than other brands of felting machines, which means you can felt for hours without stressing the motor. 

7 Needle Head

The posts where the machine needle clamp heads are attached are exactly the same size.  That means, if you have one machine, you can purchase the head of the other machine and it will fit on the post that holds your needle clamp holder.  The 7 needle machine has been discontinued by the company now, but if you have one of those, you can make it into a 12 needle machine by purchasing the 12 needle clamp head and attach it using the following directions.   See your Babylock dealer about this.

12 Needle Head

Why use different sized needles?  Babylock, Bernina, and other companies that make a felting machine or felting attachment all sell replacement needles for their machines. However, these needles are only one size.  They do not sell repacement needles in any other size  but 38 or 40.    To purchase different size needles for your felting machine go to http://www.tryourdesigns/, by Denise  Spanos, and maneuver over to hand cut needle page.  Spend a little time at this site for detailed information about other needle felting information.
I find that I use the size 40 needles most often.  However, because I like to do very fine delicate details in my wool paintings I use the size 42 needles so as not to overwork an area, or to apply very fine lines of wool.  These are just a couple of reasons why I like to change needles.  There is much more information in the form of a description of each size needle and a full page chart on needle sizes and uses in my afore-mentioned book. 

Provincetown - Fine Detail Work

Here are the directions for replacing needles and switching needle clamp holders.
  1.   Open the lint door and the side door to expose the inner works of the machine.

Open both doors

2.    Turn the Cloth Presser Height Adjustment Knob (next to the Yarn Port) at the top left side of the machine so that it is in the highest position.  Raise the Presser foot.

Cloth Presser Height Adjustment Knob on the upper left side of the machine

3.   Loosen and remove the Finger Guard with the small screw driver included in your accessories drawer.

Remove Finger Guard

4.  Turn the hand wheel toward you until the needles are in the lowest position sitting in the holes in the throat plate.  Loosen the red screw on the Needle Clamp Holder or head with the large allen screwdriver included with your accessories until it is completely loose.

Lossen Red Screw on Needle Clamp Holder

5.     Loosen the Cloth Presser Foot with the large allen screwdriver.

Losen Presser Foot

6.   Turn the handwheel toward you again to raise the Needle Clamp post to its highest position, and the clamp should drop down on the throatplate. 

Needle Clamp drpped off of its post

7.   Carefully lift out the complete assembly of Needle Clamp Holder and Cloth Presser, being careful not to bend the needles, which are sitting in the holes in the throat plate. 
Needle Clamp Holder and Cloth Presser

8.   Lay the Needle Head out on the table and loosen the screws in the individual needles with the thinner allen screwdriver that came with your accessories.  It is a really good idea to do this over some type of small container so the tiny screws do not get lost.  Use the lockable tweezers (available from your Babylock Dealer) to hold the needles so you don’t have to use your fingers for this.  Remove or replace as many needles as you need and be sure to tighten each needle screw again so that they do not come loose with the felting action.

Remove Needles by loosening tiny screws

Remove as many needles as you wish
Now here is the really tricky part! You have to coordinate this action so that the needles, the Cloth Presser and the Needle Clamp Head line up with the posts to which they were previously attached. AND you have to get 12 needles back into their respective holes in the Cloth Presser and the throat plate and that is no easy task. Start by replacing the Cloth Presser first. If you think of the Cloth Presser post as a clock, the screw should line up at 9 o’clock on the post where it is attached. Screw this in place.

Tighten screw on Cloth Presser

10. Patiently align the front 3 needles of the Needle Clamp with their corresponding holes at the front of the Cloth Presser and carefully place them into the needle holes in the throat plate.  You may have to work at this few times before you get all 12 needles to align in their corresponding holes.  The more you do this the easier it gets to align everything. 

Align the front 3 needles with the corresponding holes in the Cloth Presser

11. Align the larger red mounting screw on the Needle Clamp with the flat part of the needle bar.  Think of this post as a clock and the red screw should be aligned with the 5 o'clock   postition on the post.  Tighten the red screw in place. 

Push the Needle Clamp up onto its post and screw in place

12.     Lower the Cloth Presser Height Knob to where you need it to be for your next project.
Cloth Presser Height Knob on upper left side of machine

 One more brilliant idea from Ron Spaulding at Pottstown Sewing.  All needles get rusty, especially for those of you who bought this machine and then let it sit for two years because you were too terrified to try it! This product is actually layers of cotton batting enriched with a cleaning product that cleans metal.  

 So you take out a piece of wadding, place it on top of a piece of felt or quilt batting and felt away before every session to keep your needles in tip top shape.  You can use the same piece over and over again to get yourself warmed up and your needles nice and clean.  What could be easier?!

Nevr-Dull Metal Polishing Product

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