Free Motion Quilting: The 80/50 Rule

Spool and Thread, Free Motion QuiltingNot sure which size needle to use for free motion quilting?  

Instead of consulting those huge charts…

Just remember the 80/50 rule.

THE 80/50 RULE

50 weight thread pairs with a size 80 needle.

If your thread is heavier (smaller number)–40 wt or 30 wt–try a larger needle–90 or above.

For instance…I often use 40 wt  Sulky Rayon and a size 90 needle.

If your thread is finer–60 wt, try a smaller needle:  size 70

Spool and Thread, Free Motion Quilting

Just a rule of thumb…a place to start

This is for all sewing…not just free motion quilting.


Increasingly, I use a Topstitch Needle.

It has sharp point, a large oval eye and a deep groove that protects the thread.

Just a quick tip—and a little “visual aid”…

May your stitches be happy,


LOL–We reached 5,080 followers today!  What a coincidence! 50-80!

PS…All tutorials, images and information are the property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and are intended for personal use only.  Feel free to re-blog, pin, tweet with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other purposes, please contact me at  Thanks!

20 thoughts on “Free Motion Quilting: The 80/50 Rule

  1. Thank you! I just checked, and my favorite quilting thread (from Connecting Threads) is 50 weight, and my needles are 80’s! I feel validated! 😉

  2. Wow, this is great! I’ve already written it on a card and put it on the wall in front of my sewing machine as reference. Thank you.

  3. On my gracious. To make your point you quickly free motioned not one but TWO mini quilts with an 80 in a needle and a 50 on a spool of thread. You’re unbelievable! I now have a visual of those mini quilts in my head, though, which was your intent. Mission accomplished.

    Tavette – S. Florida

  4. Thank you! I think this is just what I need right now because my machine has not wanted to do FMQ lately. I’ve cleaned it, oiled it, changed needle & thread. Everything I could think of but nothing has worked. It does just fine with the walking foot! It this thread/needle combo doesn’t work I will have to take it in to a shop for inspection!

  5. Love how you summarized the numbers to help us remember. Always good to have reminders. That free motion panel is beautiful and will definitely add that to my collections.

  6. Thank you. It is difficult for me to wrap my head around this. When the #’s go down for heavier thread, that doesn’t gibe with me. In my mind, the numbers should go up for heavier thread. I never look at the thread weight but I do know that sometimes I have difficulty. Sewing along. Will start looking at numbers.

  7. I have a question, Lori. I am just basting a quilt, lots of batiks, and it seems I was wondering what needle type and size will leave the smallest hole? A sharp, or universal or ?

  8. Thank you ever so much for the needle and thread info. Like Terri414cb I will be making a little chart for reference. My reference card is going to be taped to my most used sewing machines. And I am going to make one for my daughter also.

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  10. First, your little reminder quilts are DARLING! 🙂 Second — do you follow the 80/50 rule regardless of the thread ply? I do a 75 Quilting or 70 Microtex needle with Aurifil 50 weight 2-ply thread and it seems to be a good pairing.

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