Hiroshima and Sajou Needles

We love a good machine-sewn project as much as the next person (we use five sewing machines between us!), but sometimes hand sewing is best for finishing, mending, or for special projects. Using the right needle is ⅓ of the battle in using quality materials for your hand work.

We have a theory that a lot of people who “hate to hand sew” haven’t used the right hand needles for them or their task.  If shoes came in one size, everyone outside of that size wouldn’t like shoes very much. Needle length/ type should match the person’s hand size and what they are trying to do.

We currently carry two brands of needles: Sajou and Hiroshima.

Both Sajou and Hiroshima needles are very high quality even though they come from different manufacturing traditions. Sajou needles are made in France by a firm that began in the 1830’s.  They are packaged in cardboard books printed with designs from the 1830’s- 1930’s. The books protect the needles during shipping and in your sewing basket, and make it easy to find the one you want to use. If you practice historical sewing from the 1830’s forward, Sajou is a good choice if you want your sewing kit to have an era-specific look (or if you just love cats, the Eiffel Tower, or any one of the other adorable designs that Sajou produces).

Hiroshima Needles have been made in Japan for more than 300 years by a firm that currently produces about 90% of the needles and pins made in Japan.  Sometimes sold under the Tulip brand name, they are packaged in a plastic tube closed with a cork. This protects the needles and is a sturdy, reliable needle case, but can make pulling the right one from an assortment a good reason to have a magnet handy!

For needles of the same size and type (the two brands produce speciality needles that do not entirely overlap), here is how they compare.

Sajou Hiroshima
Eye Slightly smaller and rounder, with a larger landing area Slightly larger and longer, with a smaller landing area
Polishing All are smoothly polished Most types are polished lengthwise
Flexibility More stiff More flexible
Length Very slightly longer for the same type

#9 sewing is 34 mm long

#9 sewing is 33.3 mm long
Cost for one standard sewing needle $0.20 $1.20
Highest cost per extreme speciality needle Up to $6.75

Heavy-duty mattress needle

250mm X 2mm

Up to $4.80

Leather needle

39.4mm X .96mm

Range of Types Readily Available 15 types 13 types


Do we have a favorite? It depends on the task! That’s why we carry and use them both.

We offer a full assortment of Sajou needles in one lot at

Our Hiroshima needles in their original sets are in the “Notions” section of our shop.


If you want to try a different type of needle or have a favorite you can’t find somewhere else, contact us at and we will try to source it for you.


Check out: to learn more about the Hiroshima brand and to learn more about the Sajou brand needles.


Vintage Machines, Stitch Length, and Stitch Width

by Lara Neel

Sewing machine stitch length can be given in Imperial units (stitches per inch), or in metric (mm). Some machines have both scales, which is great, but not every machine does.

I was sewing a bra with my Singer 626. My instructions were in metric. My machine is in Imperial. I was driving myself nuts trying to divide by st/in and multiply by 25.4 in my head. I’m pretty sure I went down in stitch length when I should have gone up at least once.

So, I made a little scale. It’s upside down, because how the stitch selector on my machine looks. I told Lisa about it and she asked me to have it printed on business cards. Thanks to that, it is now available in our Etsy shop as a downloadable image and as a printed card. The photo at the top of this post is a preview of it. Imperial is on the left and metric is on the right.

Until we run out, we will also tuck a printed card into each order we ship. We hope you find them useful!

Stitch width is a little different. Of course, it only matters in zigzag machines. On my Singer 626, I noticed that the scale for stitch width started at 1 instead of at 0. So, I did a little stitch test on a scrap. To make it easier to see when stitch widths changed, I turned the fabric whenever I changed the settings. This sample goes: 1, 1.5, 2, 3, 4, 5.


You can see a few things on this sample. First of all, I should probably drop my top tension a little (this is easiest to see in samples for settings 3, 4, and 5). The manual for this machine says, “All zig-zag stitching requires less tension than straight stitching…Furthermore, the wider the stitch, the lighter the tension on the thread must be…Notice the stitching on your sample. If the stitching looks too taught, or if the fabric is puckering, lower the needle-thread tension.” As an aside, shorter stitch lengths can also make this problem worse. Thankfully, lowering the top tension is a very easy adjustment!

It’s entirely possible that my top tension is fine for settings 1, 1.5, and 2, but just a little too tight for the wider settings. You can even see the fabric puckering slightly on the widest sample. Reason #27698 to stitch a little test sample before you start in on a project!

Also, why test 1.5? You can hardly see that it zigzags at all – which is the point! This is sometimes called “wobble stitch” and is used when you want a little more give in your seam but you don’t want it to look like a zigzag.

Just in case someone else has a Singer 626 and cares, in this sample, the stitches measure this wide, in mm:

setting 1: 0 mm

setting 1.5: .5 mm (but, let’s be fair, the thread here practically measures .5 mm)

setting 2: 1 mm

setting 3: 2 mm

setting 4: 3 mm

setting 5: 4mm

Pattern Spotlight: Playing with Darts

Are you all reading Barbara Emodi‘s free weekly sewing newsletter? You should be! It’s almost as wonderful as learning from her in person!

One of her recent newsletters was all about darts – how to sew them, why you want them, etc.

Darts are so important for a flattering fit that Angela Wolf teaches methods for adding shaping darts to a finished shirt. Pamela Leggett has tips on sewing darts and serging darts on her website.

If darts have been eliminated from “easy to sew” patterns, they’ve been eliminated even more frequently from patterns for knits. For some applications, you really don’t need them, but there are many styles, fabrics and bodies where a little dart is a big help! Even a tee-shirt sometimes looks better with a bust dart.

Not all knit fabrics will take darts as easily as others. Here’s a quick list I wrote for myself when I first started sewing:

Better for darts: cotton interlock, cotton double knit, wool double knit

Not so great for darts: rayon, bamboo, lycra jersey, mesh, slippery knits, ITY polyester, lycra

Now, I would argue that the “not so great” list could also be the “practice more” list, the “use a stabilizer” list or the “consider using serged darts” list.

Beverly Johnson talked about sewing darts in shapewear in this online class, so if you prefer to learn by watching a video, you may want to check it out.

Here’s a small roundup of sewing patterns for knits that include darts:

Pamela’s Patterns The Perfect T-Shirt

Stretch and Sew 350: Shell, Includes Four Collar Variations

Stretch and Sew 790: Ladies’ Body Blouse

Stretch and Sew 1030: Shawl and Cardigan Jackets

Stretch and Sew 1040: Classic Jackets

Stretch and Sew 1041: Queen Classic Jackets

Stretch and Sew 1050: Set-In Sleeve Jacket

Stretch and Sew 1500: Basic Dress (nylon zipper version)

Stretch and Sew 1500: Basic Dress (invisible zipper or nylon zipper version)

Stretch and Sew 1500: Ladies’ Basic Dress (invisible zipper version)

Stretch and Sew 1510: Ann’s Dress

Stretch and Sew 1535: Jumper

Pattern Spotlight: Cheryl Back Seam Panty Pattern and a Quick Note on Tracing

by Lara Neel

I think you all know this already, but all of my favorite patterns have a few things in common. If I had my way, all patterns would:

1) have a wide size range

2) allow me to make clothes I will wear every day

3) be printed on heavyweight paper, so I can trace them off

I get it that not everyone is into #3. Special equipment, like a light table, Swedish tracing paper, or a double tracing wheel along with carbon paper, can make it easier. But, if you are stubborn determined enough, and have good light, you can trace onto ordinary printer paper, as I’ve shown in the photo above. I like to use a ruler when tracing the grain line, but, other than that, I usually just sketch along with my pencil.

This week, I’m tracing the Cheryl Back Seam Panty Pattern by Beverly Johnson. It checks off all three of the boxes above, so I’m excited to see how it sews up!

Pattern Spotlight: Stretch and Sew 350, The Ladies’ Sleeveless Shell

by Lara Neel

The sleeveless shell is one of my favorite patterns because it is so versatile! The packaging on the 1967 version has a lovely, languid illustration.


I think Ann designed pattern packaging as a visual showcase to project a certain lifestyle, but sometimes artistry got in the way of telling the sewist everything he or she could want to know about the pattern. Can you tell, from this image, that the pattern includes four different collar variations? There’s a little text on the back about them, but I suspect Ann thought you would be shown her pattern by a sales clerk or teacher, so why muck things up with a bunch of illustrations?

The Ladies’ Sleeveless Shell is a versatile top and a favorite to wear with skirts, slacks or shorts. Designed especially for knits, it has bustline darts in front and optional fitting darts in back. With a variety of collars, the wearer may choose between a mandarin, a feminine peter pan, a floppy dog ear, or a pointed collar.

Add to this pattern the many variations of neck and armscye finishes described in Ann Person’s books and the number of combination is unlimited. Because of its basic fit the shell is an excellent choice for the ambitious sewist who designs for themselves.

The 1973 version of this pattern has a little hint about those four collars on the back of the envelope, at least! But…no illustration that shows the optional back fitting darts. Drat.


The front is still pretty cute, too. Points for branding Stretch & Sew, at least, from a marketing perspective!