Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #24

Some of you have written and asked about the needles I used when I quilt.  Following are a few points I would like to share with you about needles:

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.”

My latest completed quilt “Kittens in the Flowers” was quilted using Schmetz Quilting Needles 90/14.

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.

The following was quilted using Schmetz Microtex 70/10 needles:

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.

6.  Don’t be afraid to experiment what works best for you.

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.

I would love to hear any advice on needles you might have!


32 thoughts on “Thread Talk from my Sewing Machine #24

  1. Great advice and yes I use these needles too, they are great.I haven’t used the 90’s before but you have given me new thoughts about maybe using them.
    Some of the students I have only ever put a new needle in when they break one!!

  2. Thank you for a great post, I was very happy to note that I use the same needles, and that I have a brand new first purchase of Aurifil thread to use on my next quilt, Yippee!
    I also really loved your photo’s, your quilting is amazing.

  3. Great advise on changing needles, another tip is to keep your machine cleaned each time you start a new project or change the bobbin. I always use schmetz needles, I use 80/12 denim for piecing as they are sharp. Hugs Bunny

  4. Here in New Zealand, Shirley said that at a recent event in Hamilton one of the recommendations was to use a needle especially for metallic thread when quilting with this type thread A larger eye and different point.I have used Schmetz also and find them very good in my Bernina as well as the brand needles.but the Bernina thrives on Gutterman threads,they just go through so smoothly.Cheers from Jean

  5. I had heard that you choose the needle size dependent on the type and size of thread you were using. Since the Aurifil you said you use is a size 50, and a 90 is a larger needle, I am wondering why you choose that size rather than the smaller 80 or even 70 needles? I was under the impression that the larger needle leaves a bigger hole in the fabric if you don’t have “fat” enough thread to fill it.
    BTW, your photos and quilting are just superb!

    • Hi Nancy,

      You are absolutely right about that… but for some reason, on my machine, my stitches skip when I use the normal 70 or 75 size needle for Aurifil. :( I have used 90 for the Aurifil in the last few months, and haven’t had any negative effects.


    • You are absolutely right about that… but for some reason, on my machine, my stitches skip when I use the normal 70 or 75 size needle for Aurifil. :( I have used 90 for the Aurifil in the last few months, and haven’t had any negative effects.

  6. Thanks for this post. I’m a relative beginner at this quilting thing and when I was piecing my first quilt top this summer on my low-end Singer that had only ever been used for hems and mending, I had a terrible time with skipped stitches and this after having just had my machine serviced with a complete tune-up and with a new needle installed. I switched to another Singer needle and it wasn’t long before I was skipping stitches again. Then it was suggested that I try Schmetz needles. I did and I haven’t had any skipping since and I’ve since made one large quilt top and two baby sized quilt tops.

    Thanks again for this post. It’s very helpful, maybe especially so for a beginner. It would never before have occurred to me that I should change my needle frequently.

  7. Wonderful tips Wendy. I also like Schmetz needles the best. I have not used the Aurifil thread. On the last quilt I quilted I used Guttermann thread and I was less then pleased. It seemed too slippery. Did I need to change the needle size??

  8. Have to argee with you about changing the needles but wish my Viking Emerald 183 liked the Schmetz needles, can’t get the needle up in the needle shaft. Anyway, you mentioned disposing of your needles, I have a safety suggestion; for used needles and rotary cutter blades. Take them to your doctor or dentist, and ask them to dispose of them with their used needles. This way, these sharp items don’t wind up in the landfills that could hurt humans and animals.

  9. I don’t change needles that often. I use Schmetz also and love them. My Janome works really well with them.
    Love your work….so much practice…so little time. I can’t imagine doing this work on a machine. amazing

  10. Hi Wendy, I do use a medicine bottle to keep old needles. Just started, so mine still has LOTS of room. I love your quilting, it looks so delicate and pristine. I’m working on a quilt for a friend who put lace on top of the outside border. It is done so I can lift the lace out of the way and quilt the border. Do you have any tips or quilting design ideas to give the border a “lacy” look when quilted. Love your blog and I read it even on my busiest days!

  11. Wendy your work is outstanding.
    Sometimes a needle is defective and will not work properly right from the start. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. So if things go astray like thread breaking or skipped stitches change the needle again.
    Great post, learn something new all the time.

  12. Great post Wendy. Read your comments about Aurifil and size 90. I use a 75 or 80 for 50wt thread, and 80/90 for 40wt. I’ve never tried the Microtex Sharps, I’ll have to look for them next time. Usually, I use universal for piecing and quilting for the actual quilting. Just checked the stash and I bought 80 and 14 Sharps on my last trip to Joann’s, so I’ll give them a try soon. I change my needle about the same rate as you do. I do find hand dyes and batiks need to be changed more often. My medicine bottle is almost full too. LOL


  13. Thanks for sharing these insights. I do change out my needle frequently, but definitely need to do it more often and also pay more attention to how a new needle vs old needle, as well as size, stitches out.

    Great insights, but I’m totally drooling over the quilts you shared in this post. I’m definitely going to visit this post frequently. I wish I could have your quilts as a screensaver. Beautiful work!


  14. You’ve pretty much reiterated everything I’ve learned about needles, though if I find a shop that sells Klasse quilting needles, I buy them. Another great container for saving up old needles is a film case. Doesn’t everyone have old rolls of film around the house? Toss the outdated film; keep the film case!

  15. Wendy: Being somewhat a beginner I love all the advice you give. I have written all this down in a book about the needles, etc. Thank you again for such wonderful info.

  16. Appreciate your comments re: needles. I don’t think much about them until I hear a “catching”, will change more frequently now. It makes a lot of sense.

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  18. I only use the size 90 needles when I’m using a 40 weight thread. Right now I’m using 75/11 Schmetz quilting needles with Mettler 60 wt cotton embroidery thread top and bottom, and I love that it makes such a tiny hole — no bobbin thread popping up top! With the 90 needles I always see a dot of bobbin thread on the top and vice versa, which is annoying when I’m using a different color on the backing!

  19. Pingback: Trunk Show Tuesday with Wendy of Ivory Spring -

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