Needle Knowledge

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Know Your Needles for machine or hand stitching
Know Your Needles booklet available on our Needles & Threads page.

As a seller of home sewing machines for over 40 years, we have seen many changes.  Machines have more capabilities and we have more choices in fabrics and thread.  With these new choices, we need different needles for different jobs.  We are not talking about industrial machines or long arm quilting machines….we know home sewing machines!

We stock over 10 types of needles and about 5 sizes in each type.  It can be very intimidating when trying to decide which needle and size to use.

Sizes of needles typically range from 70 – 110. This is a metric measurement having to do with the size of the shaft, but it roughly equates to the 10 – 18 size that might be more familiar.  If you look on the needle package it shows both numbers, ie: 80/12.  Regardless of the type of needle you select, the larger the size of the needle, the larger the needle.  You will use the small sizes for lightweight fabric and thin thread. The large sizes work with heavier fabrics and thick thread. Simple enough.

We are often asked for an “all purpose needle”.  Unfortunately, there is no such needle as there are so many fabrics and threads available.  The “Know Your Needles” booklet lists needles for both machine and hand sewing.  It is a great reference for needles.  We have some suggestions that will help you decide which needle to use.

First question: Are you sewing knits or wovens?  Sewing with knits requires a Universal Needle or Stretch Needle.  The size depends on the thickness of the knit.   If you are a quilter, you have just eliminated two types of needles.

Schmetz Microtex Needles
Schmetz Microtex Needles


If you are a quilter using woven fabrics and batiks, we suggest the Microtex needle size 80.  It has a very thin sharp point and a narrow shaft.  If you want to keep it simple, use the Microtex 80 needle for all your quilt piecing.

As a side note, selecting the correct needle also means selecting the correct thread. We tell our customers to purchase a top quality thread and needle, then sew on whatever fabric you want.  Top quality thread would be Aurifil or the finer DMC 50wt.

Now, back to needles…..

Schmetz Embroidery Needles
Schmetz Embroidery Needles


If you are going to do free-motion quilting or work with an embroidery machine, you would want to select an Embroidery needle.  They are designed to stitch in many directions making them great for machine embroidery, free motion quilting or thread painting.  We typically use the 75/11 size unless we are using a heavy thread in which case you will want to use a 90/14.

Schmetz Jeans Needles
Schmetz Jeans Needles


If you find yourself working on densely woven materials such as denim, canvas, or upholstery fabric, then your choice would be the Jeans needle.  This one comes in sizes 70,80,90,100,110.  These are great needles for making tote bags. Remember, the size of the needle gets larger as your fabric gets heavier.

Schmetz Topstitch Needles
Schmetz Topstitch Needles


Another favorite needle of ours is the Topstitch needle.  This needle has a large shaft and very long eye with deep groves to allow heavier threads to stitch.  We use these primarily for decorative stitching with 12 weight threads.  Our favorite size is the 100 Topstich because we love to use 12wt thread.  If you want to try metallic threads, there is a Metallic needle with a fine shaft and large elongated eye.

In a nutshell, you don’t need an arsenal of needles….start with  Microtex 80, Embroidery 75/11 and 90, Jeans 80 and 90, and Topstitch 100. (If you don’t do decorative stitching, you could wait on the Topstitch 100)

There are always special jobs when you will need a smaller needle and finer thread, but we are talking about piecing with woven fabrics.  Add needle types and sizes as you try decorative stitching or venture into garment sewing.

Probably the most important bit of advice is to change your needle often.  Our advice:  new project = new needle.   Lesson learned:  A customer brought in her machine complaining of skipping stitches.   Her needle was badly bent.  The damage the  needle did to the bobbin case and hook on her machine was a $100.00 repair.  A new needle is about $1.25.

Although we carry several brands of sewing machine needles, our favorite is Schmetz.  They have great packaging to hold your needles, and now their needles are color coordinated for the type and the size. The top color is the type of needle and the bottom color is the size. You can see the two colors on the needles shown above.

Needle types: Microtex = purple; Embroidery = red; Jeans = Blue; Topstitch = Aqua; Metallic = Pink

Needle sizes:  70/10 = green; 80/12 = orange; 90/14 = blue; 100/16 = purple; 110/18 = yellow

We hope this will help you get the best needle for the job.  We have the needles and booklet available for order on our website at “Needles and Thread” 

Log Cabin Trim Tool by Creative Grids

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We are at it again!! Everyone has been very supportive for our first efforts so we decided to do another video.  This time we will show one of our favorite Creative Grids “trim tools” for the Log Cabin quilt block.

We love “trim tools” because you get to trim to the correct size after stitching. The Log Cabin is one of our favorite quilts, but each block has lots of small pieces.  To pre-cut the strips, it takes accurate cutting.  Stitching with pre-cut strips also requires accurate sewing to keep all the blocks the same size.  It can really take the fun out of making lots of blocks if they aren’t the same size when you are finished.  Using the trim tool, you are practically guaranteed they will be the same size.

Another reason to use the trim tool is that multiple people can work on the same quilt as all the blocks will be same size when finished.  It makes a fun “group quilt”.

The Creative Grids trim tool for the log cabin comes in sizes 8″ , 6″ and 4″.  Even the tiny blocks will be the same size with the trim tool.  Each tool tells you what size to cut the center block and the size to cut the strips.

Just a note:  We are using the trim tool for the log cabin.  They also make a trim tool for a “curvy” log cabin where strips are cut different widths to creative a curved appearance.  They are simple to use, but our video is showing the original trim too.

Enjoy the video and be kind with your comments…’s intimidating to be in front of a camera!!


Once you’ve seen the video, click the links below to find these Log Cabin Trim Tools on our website. You can find both the Log Cabin Trim Tool and the Curvy Log Cabin Rulers there. Or use these specific links to the 4″ Log Cabin Trim Tool, the 6″ Log Cabin Trim Tool, and the 8″ Log Cabin Trim Tool.

This video below can be viewed at full screen size, just hover over the lower right of the video, then click the [ ] icon.