Sewing Machine | Needle Plate
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Today’s sewing machines have many great features that sew couldn’t even have imagined 30 years ago. Among these is the ability to sew much wider stitches. Some brands offer stitches that are 6 mm wide; others are 10 mm wide. This feature means that manufacturers had to widen the opening in the needle plate and increase the distance between the feed dogs to accommodate these wider stitches. As with many things, you can find pros and cons. The increased stitch width gives beautiful decorative stitches. Straight stitches can be sewn in many more needle positions, giving more options for topstitching.
On the down side, fine fabrics can be pushed down into the needle plate by the needle. Starting
a seam right at the edge of a fabric can be more difficult. Stitching at the point of a triangle can
cause the fabric to be eaten.
Having the feed dogs farther apart means that there will be more situations where you may not
be using the total feeding capability of the machine. An example of this might be piecing with a
¼˝ seam allowance. To ensure that you get the most out of this great feature, manufacturers have made needle plates of varying widths.


For straight stitching on fine fabrics and for generally more precision, there is the straight-stitch plate. The small hole does not allow fabric to be pushed down inside. This plate is great for fine fabrics and will increase your precision. When the needle point meets the fabric, it will penetrate without moving it. The less the fabric moves, the better the stitching and the more accurate the feeding.


On a cautionary note: If you select a stitch that has any width to it or an alternate needle position, the needle can make contact with the plate. This will break the needle and possibly damage the needle plate … not to mention, it’s annoying. To solve this problem, some machines have sensors built in to override the width settings. Some machines allow you to tell them which plate is currently being used. This is a great feature when multiple plates are available. These machines limit the stitch width and needle position to the maximum allowed by the plate.


Another idea that was invented many years ago but has recently made a comeback is a needle plate that converts from zigzag to straight stitch. This is a time-saver because you do not have to change anything.
The caution here is that if you have a needle strike on these plates, the piece that has the small opening can be easily bent. In its bent state, it won’t slide out completely and snugly into place when called upon. At best, the needle will be deflected and stitches will skip. At worst, the needle will strike again and cause damage. It is a nice feature, but check it regularly, especially after you break a needle...

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