How to Choose a Needle for Free Motion Quilting


Needle Choices for Free Motion Quilting

 Are you confused about the myriad of needles available today?  Do you have a system for choosing your needle for each project?  Or, do you use whichever needle is already in your sewing machine?

If you are confused about needle selection, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!  Today, on Open Line Friday, we will begin our discussion of needles.  We are looking for everyone’s input on this important topic-so please tell us what works (and doesn’t work) for you!

Let’s start with two guidelines:

  1.  Choose the size of the needle by the weight of the thread  A general rule of thumb is 40 wt thread requires a size 75 needle.  If your thread is heavier (smaller number), increase your needle size (larger number)–and vice versa.
  2.  Choose the type of needle by the type of thread and the type of fabric.  Here is where things get a bit more complicated.

First–What type of thread are you using?  If it is a specialty thread of any kind, consider a Topstitch or Embroidery Needle-The both have larger eyes.

Second–Do you want a sharp point or a slightly rounded needle point.  A slightly rounded point allows the needle to stitch between the thread fibers, and doesn’t damage the fiber.  A sharp needle is necessary to penetrate fabrics with high thread counts such as batik, some hand dyed fabrics and fabrics that have any coated design on them–like white on white fabrics.  The downside .. this needle penetrates the fiber causing micro-tears to the textile.

The sharp needles:

  • Topstitch
  • Microtex

The slightly rounded needles: 

  • Universal
  • Embroidery
  • Quilting

Needle Choices for Free Motion Quilting

 My Choice for FMQ and Why

When I free motion quilt, I most frequently use Aurifil 50wt and Sulky 45 wt threads and I have found the Universal 80 to work quite well most of the time.  I like the rounded point of the Universal needle because it does not stitch through the fibers, but rather it  stitches between them.  That means the fibers are not damaged.  I also like the Universal needle because it is the least expensive.  (Though the needle is the least expensive part of any quilting project and we should not be penny-wise and pound-foolish!)

If I am stitching on tightly woven fabrics such as batik or hand dyed or if I am experiencing any problems, I switch to the Topstitch needle.

My two favorite needles are The Universal and The Topstitch (usually size 80).  

Needle Choices for Free Motion Quilting

We will be discussing a lot more about needles in the weeks ahead.  There is a great deal of information available on the web about needles and needle selection.  Schmetz Needles has a great deal of educational information available.  I particularly like their iPhone app which has a trouble shooting guide and a needle type guide--look for that on your smartphone.  Schmetz has a very succinct needle guide  PDF HERE.

Also, Superior Threads offers a great YouTube Video HERE--Thank you to Melody for bringing this to my attention.

Finally, we have a reader that is really struggling with monofilament thread and needles breaking–Can anyone recommend a monofilament thread--and does anyone have trouble with the thread breaking their needles?  I open this up to the group as I have little experience with this thread type.

What are YOUR favorite needles and WHY?  Do you have any needle tips you’d like to share?

Stitching safely,



Embellished Wool Leaves

Embellished Wool Leaves

I know Christmas is less than six weeks away, but I’m not quite ready to give up on the gorgeous colors that Autumn so generously shares with us.

Embellished Wool Leaves

Yesterday, I did a little experimentation with materials and techniques I don’t use very often:  wool, yarn and the Bernina #21 Braiding foot.

Embellished Wool Leaves

While I have a few things to work out, I think this technique has a lot of possibilities.  I wish the Braiding foot moved more like free motion quilting…

Embellished Wool Leaves

 I hope you have time to wander down a new path today.  Never know what (or who) you’ll find!