Which needle should I use when I quilt?

Posted by Maria Kotze on

Throw away those old needles!  We purchase the best machines we can afford and spend our valuable time making wonderful quilts.  Using old needles is not the place to scrimp.

Dull needles can cause skipped stitches, a burr can snag your fabric, and a bent needle can damage the bobbin case.  There is a saying that we should change our needles after a certain amount of hours, but my expert tip would be the one Codey Calitz (technician at QUILTSEW) gives our clients:  Always change your needle after every third bobbin.


“My needle keeps breaking”!! - if you are using a thin needle on ’n project with multiple layers or heavy weight fabric, you could either get skipped stitches or even multiple breakages.

“Why on earth are there such big holes in my project?” - If you use a too thick needle on fine fabrics, it will surely punch holes into your project, damaging and weakening your textile. 

During you planning of a new project, you need to determine the correct needle for your project.

Sewing over pins:  Sewing over pins can cause a blunted tip to your needle.  A blunted point can damage your fabric or cause skipped stitches.  Man-made fibers in fabric and batting will dull your needles quickly, so remember the golden rule of changing your needle frequently.

When you piece your quilt-top:

I personally use the Schmetz Quilting needle, size 75/11.  This specific needle features a special taper to the slightly rounded point and was created especialy for piecing.  This special tapered design of the needle allows easier fabric penetration and helps eliminate skipped stitches.

The Quilting needle was specifically designed for cotton fabrics - patchwork, topstitching and quilt work (size 75 only on very thin batting).

When you applique:

I have got a couple of favourites when I applique.

For raw edge applique I use the Quilting size 90/14 needle. It might feel a bit thick, but believe me, the needle can withstand the complications that comes with me moving my fabric around when the needle might not be completely out of the fabric yet.

You might be surprised to learn that my needle of preference with straight stitch as well as blanket stitch applique is a Universal size 70.  The fine needle does not damage my work with big holes — BUT this I only use with slow speed.  If you drive fast and barefoot, rather use a Titanium Nitrate size 75/11 or a Universal size 80 needle.

When you free-motion quilt and quilt straight lines:

QUILTSEW started stocking the Schmetz Quilting size 90 needles as well as the mixed packets and I am the first client to purchase my packet of dedicated size 90 quilting needles.  The special taper ensures that the batting does not “beard” and also prevents that you stitches skip.

Sewing machine needles are made of high carbon steel wire. To resist corrosion, the needles are plated with either nickel, gold, platinum or titanium alloys - each one with their own special use.

Needle sizes are in given metric (European) and universal (American). With a 80/12 needle, the 80 is the metric size and the 12 is the universal size.

This article was written by: Maria Kotzé
SAQG Accredited Quilt Teacher


  • Many thanks! Glad you enjoyed the info!

    Maria Kotze on

  • Thanks Maria. Very helpful. I liked the tip about changing my machine needle every third bobbin – brilliant …. as well as using a specific quilting needle – makes sense

    Carol Van Dyk on

  • Thank you so much. I found this very interesting.

    Gail Mann on

  • Much thanks for sharing this – more important than often realised – informotion, Maria. Best of all is that it is tested and trusted.
    So much appreciate,
    Kindest regards, nini

    Nini on

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