Needles and Thread for Free Motion Quilting

It's time to demystify the sizing systems of needles and thread and pick the perfect pair for your quilt!

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Needles and Thread for Free Motion Quilting with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

Good morning!

In all my classes, my most common questions are about needles and thread! Let's tackle some of these FAQs, shall we?

I went over each of these in the video, but here's a little written refresher for you:

How are needles and threads sized?
Needles are intuitive-- the bigger the number, the thicker the needles. Thread is opposite-- the bigger the number the thinner the thread because thread is measured by weight and thicker thread is heavier.  

What kind of thread is your favorite?
I LOVE Aurifil thread. Their 50 wt is my go-to piecing and quilting thread (2600 is THE most perfect gray for absolutely everything), and I'll use 40 wt when I want my stitches to stand out

Do you ever use other kinds of thread?
When I make tshirt quilts, I use ye old faithful Coats & Clark All Purpose because ain't nothing gonna break those stitches and tshirt quilts get washed a LOT and the stretch of the knit fabrics requires strong stitches

Cotton Vs Poly?
My love of Aurifil probably already gave this away, but I'm a cotton girl. Here's why: 1) natural material 2) I love to quilt densely, and quilting fabric is also made of cotton, so the quilting thread just melts into the fabric and doesn't leave you with that "quilted to cardboard" feeling. Quilts stay soft, even when they have a lot of stitching. At one time, there were concerns that poly thread would actually cut the cotton fabric over time and affect the integrity of your project. I don't believe this is still an issue because of improved manufacturing, so Cotton vs Poly is a matter of personal preference

Needles and Thread for Free Motion Quilting with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story

What about needle size?
My go-to needle is a size 70/11 Universal for both quilting and piecing. If I'm quilting something with bulky seams (aka a Bonnie Hunter quilt), I go up to a size 14, and if I'm making a tshirt quilt, I use a size 16 ballpoint needle

How often do you change your needle?
With every project and between piecing and quilting if it's a big or densely pieced quilt. Change your needle more often with paper piecing (paper dulls the needle more). If I'm bouncing around between projects with no clear "beginning" or "end" point, I'll change my needle at least once a week, usually when I clean my bobbin casing. Needles are SO MUCH CHEAPER than a damaged machine (or eyeball) caused by a broken tip, so be proactive with your needle changing

Speaking of your bobbin casing, how often to you clean your machine?
I clean out my machine AT LEAST once a week, but as often as daily if I'm doing a lot of piecing or quilting or every bobbin if I'm doing a tshirt quilt or working with flannel or minky. ALWAYS brush lint OUT of your machine, never blow it in. 

To make this whole needles and thread thing headache free, I've made a quick little chart reminding you how to pair needle and thread sizes and what tasks to use them for. Just enter your email below, and I'll send the FREE Quick Guide straight to your inbox!

Finally, understanding needles and threads is just the beginning of a wonderful free motion quilting adventure. I'd like to help you with the next steps, too, in my FREE online workshop, Intro to Free Motion quilting. We'll talk about setting up your machine, learn four foundational motifs, and introduce you to making a quilting plan. This class is all about teaching you to quilt with confidence! 

Happy Quilting,

Needles and Thread for FMQ with HollyAnne Knight of String & Story