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To the Point The Importance of Needle Choice

An informative discussion on sewing machine needles. Explains the differences in needles so you can make an informed choice when machine quilting. Great tips.

Choosing the correct needle plays a big role in machine quilting. All too often problems like thread breakage, skipped stitches, bad tension and such, are simply the result of selecting the incorrect needle for the quilting job at hand. A bit of knowledge about needles can save a lot of strife.

At first glance, a needle appears to be a sharp thing with a hole in it for the thread. Look closer and you will see that a needle is made of much more:

• The shank is the part that goes into the machine,

• The shaft is how thick the needle is,

• There is a scarf which is a little indent in the back of the needle where the stitch is formed,

• The groove on the front hugs or protects the thread as it goes through fabric (or quilt).

Needle sizes range from 60/8, which is very fine up to 120/19, which is large and heavy duty. Remember, the lower the number the smaller the eye and the finer the needle and the higher the number the larger the eye and the thicker the needle.

Before making your needle choice you need to take into account what thread you will use (is it thick, thin, rough or smooth) and then what the needle will be pushing through (weight and type of fabric, appliqu?).

If you have difficulties when machine quilting consider the following needle suggestions:

Quilting needles have a very thin point and are the best choice for general quilting.

Jeans/Denim needles are very strong needles with a very stiff shaft (for strength), a very sharp point and a slim eye. This needle is a good choice if you will be quilting through something very thick and/or appliqu? pieces that have used Vliesofix to bond them to the quilt top.

Embroidery needles work with embroidery threads (i.e. rayon threads, etc.) The needle has a large eye and a specially designed scarf for these very threads.

Metafil / Metallica needles are meant for metallic threads. Choose this needle if your thread has a rough texture. Does the texture of the thread feel lumpy or bumpy? If so this needle type is the ideal choice as the eye is very large and is Teflon-coated to stop friction.

Topstitch needles are perfect for the heavier weight threads and when all else fails! This needle is extra sharp, the eye is very long and the front groove is deep. Having a very long eye means that the needle shaft is not necessarily thick and therefore does not put large holes in the quilt.

If your quilting stitches don’t have a quality look about them or you have breakage, skipped stitches, tension problems, etc – it might be as simple as changing the needle you use!

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