Saturday, 15 November 2008

The Needle's Eye

When I started out machine quilting, I was mystified by needles. There were so many different sizes and kinds. I wasn't sure which one to use. I wasn't even completely sure how to change the needle on my machine. Yes, I know that this is pathetic! But I'm sure that at least a few other people may find themselves in a similar position.

Experience is a good teacher. Now I know that using the right needle makes all the difference. In my piecing days, when I was just playing with colour and patterns, the needle didn't matter too much. Later when I started to machine quilt and especially when I began to free-motion quilt on a table top frame, I came to realize that the needle was very important. When I started breaking needles, I was forced to find my sewing machine manual and figure out how to change the needle. Then I had to figure out which type of needle would be best for machine quilting and why.

Free-motion quilting puts a lot of strain on the needle and thread. This is because the rate at which the fabric moves under the needle is no longer automatic and consistent. As soon as you lower the feed dogs for free-motion quilting, YOU are the one guiding the movement of the fabric under the needle. And if you're new and unsure, then the fabric movement can be variable and somewhat erratic. This is true for all free-motion quilting whether you move the fabric or the machine.

In this situation, the ideal needle needs a sharp point to pierce through the layers of the quilt sandwich. It needs a deep groove to protect the thread and most importantly, the ideal needle needs a large eye so the thread has room to maneuver as the quilt moves every which way under the needle. If the eye of the needle is too small, it will trap the thread causing the thread to shred or break. This can also cause the needle to bend or break.

Many needles claim to be good for machine quilting but there is only one that meets all these requirements; the Topstitch Needle. The Topstitch needle has a very sharp point and a deep groove to protect the special threads we love to machine quilt with. But most importantly, the eye of the Topstitch Needle is twice as large as an ordinary needle. This means that the thread won't get trapped in the needle's eye, causing it to shred or break.

Now, I only ever use one needle because the Topstitch is ideal for all machine quilting threads and projects. I recommend the Schmetz Topstitch 100/16 for free-motion quilting on or off a frame. If you're a pro using very fine thread, go down to a Schmetz Topstitch 90/14. If you're here in the UK and can't find the right size Topstitch needles at your local shop give us a ring - we keep them in stock. Size matters! With free-motion quilting, the bigger the needle's eye the better!

1 comment:

Trudi said...

Needle size is key to great machine quilting, I always use Shcmetz Topstitch 100/16 needles when machine quilting, whether on or off the frame. When I first started quilting on my table top frame, like so many others, I had my fair share of needle breakages, with the right size needle these are few and far between having mastered the speed of my machine and the pace at which if move it across the fabric. I use a new neelde with each new quilting project.