1. I have always used Schmetz needles.
2. For general quilting purposes, the regular quilting needles do the job beautifully. These are color-coded green. I normally use these needles when I quilt with Aurifil threads. The sizes I use are 75/11 and 90/14. I can’t really tell you when to use which size — it just depends. On Schmetz’ website, this is said about the needles: “Made especially for piecing and machine quilting. The special tapered design allows easier fabric penetration and helps eliminate skipped stitches.”
3. When I quilt with silk threads, my needles of choice are the Microtex (sharp) needles (color coded purple). Schmetz’ official statement on these needles is “Very thin acute point creates beautiful topstitching and perfectly straight stitches for quilt piecing when precision is paramount.” Diane Gaudynski recommends these. I am certainly not going to doubt her advice! I definitely also use these needles to piece, and quilt with Aurifil as well. Normally sizes 70 or 75 work flawlessly for silk threads, and something slightly larger (never bigger than 90) would definitely work for Aurifil threads.
4. I have read recommendation of changing out your needles every three or four hours when you are quilting. I think that’s good advice. I adhere to that practice when I am working on an important piece. For regular work, I probably change mine out every six or seven hours depending on the length of the project. Sometimes it’s one needle per project.
An interesting snippet on the construction of the Royal wedding gown worn by the Duchess of Cambridge: “The RSN worked closely with the Alexander McQueen atelier team, the hand-stitchers washing their hands every thirty minutes to keep the lace and threads pristine, and changing the needles every three hours to keep them sharp.” The point is – changing out your needles frequently ensures quality.
5. Watch the quality of your stitches, if you are stitching along and think that your stitches are not looking quite straight like you expect them to be. More than likely that’s not a figment of our imagination, and not an optical illusion either…. chances are you need to change out your needle.
7. I heard this nifty tip not too long after I started to learn sewing. A lady (I can’t remember whom) at one of the Rogers Sewing Center‘s Bernina Club meetings mentioned that a safe way to dispose of old needles is to place them in old medicine bottles. That way, the little ones can’t get the lids off, and the trash guy won’t get pricked. I still have with me that original medicine bottle I started out with — it’s amazing the number of needles a medicine bottle can hold. Mine is starting to look pretty full though.