Needles: The Need to Know! - The Jolly Jabber Quilting Blog

Needles: The Need to Know!

Tomorrow is National Thread the Needle Day! It’s a day to celebrate the trusty sewing needle by appreciating its history and indispensable place in our crafty endeavors.

The oldest needle discovered is one made of bird bone, estimated to be more than 50,000 years old! The first needle with an eyelet is about 25,000 years old.

Crafters today are familiar with the smooth, extremely thin metal needles that are available almost everywhere you look. Isn’t it amazing that humans continue to embrace and utilize the same tool over hundreds of generations?

These are some of our favorite needles to use when we are quilting or cross stitching!

Now that we’ve taken a look at the past, let’s get into some of our current favorites!

Hand Sewing Needles

When it comes to adding binding or quilting by hand, it’s best to pick the right needle for the job. Are you adding binding to a quilt? A super-thin Between or Straw needle might do the job. Kimberly prefers to use Clover Black Gold Size 9 Quilting Between Needles for hand binding her quilts. A pro tip is to thread several needles at a time with a length of thread as long as your outstretched arm. Try threading them outside in the daylight, where you can easily see the tiny eyes of these needles. Or use a needle threader, which comes in many forms.

Get some hand-binding tips from Kimberly.

When hand-quilting a quilt, choose a needle with a large eye that will accommodate medium-weight thread. With sewing needles, the higher the number, the shorter and finer it is. You may want to choose a size 7 or 8, as the shaft will be longer and easier to work through several layers of your quilt. 

Sewing Machine Needles

Most quilters agree that it’s important to replace sewing machine needles regularly. Keeping a sharp needle cuts down on skipped threads, fabric snags and makes everything so much more enjoyable. Some change the needle with each new quilt, every 2 to 3 bobbins, or a set time frame. Find what works best for you and your machine!

There’s a lot to choose from when it comes to needle types, but our trusty standby is the Schmetz Universal Machine Needles in sizes 80/12 and 90/14. An 80/12 is standard size that works well on piecing and general sewing. When a sturdier needle is needed for machine binding or sewing through several layers, the 90/14 is a good option.

Cross Stitch and Tapestry Needles

Tapestry needles are perfect for cross stitch because they have a blunt tip that glides smoothly through cross stitch fabric, parting the threads at each intersection. An important detail to remember is that the larger the holes in the material, the larger the needle size you’ll need. If the needle is too large for the fabric, it will distort the grid and make a hole that the floss can’t cover.

Needle sizes range from approximately 18 to 28, and the higher the number, the finer the needle. The eye of the needle will also shrink as you go up in number size. Needle sizes can vary from one manufacturer to another, but as a general point of reference, Pat Carson’s Favorite Tapestry Needle in Size 26 works well for Aida 14 count. This is Kimberly’s go-to for stitching

Notice the difference in needle eye sizes and length compared to each needle’s number!

All you need to start cross stitching is floss, fabric, a pair of scissors, and a trusty needle!

Needles allow us to do what we love most at Fat Quarter Shop – sewing and stitching! A good needle makes everything easier. 

Gift Certificate Giveaway!

Now it’s your turn to weigh in! Leave a comment on this blog post to share your favorite needle or tip for threading a needle and be entered to win a $25 gift certificate to Fat Quarter Shop! The contest will end July 27, 2021, and we’ll announce the winner here on the blog!

UPDATE: Congratulations, Betsy Kohl! You were selected as our winner!

Happy Quilting and Stitching!

147 comments

  1. Years ago when I made some denim quilts I tied them with yarn. I discovered it was easier to thread the larger needles with yarn by using dental floss loops (I don’t know what they’re called) as threaders.

    1. I put a sticky note on the side of my machine with the date written of when my machine was cleaned and a new needle put in.

      1. Hallo zusammen, ich verwende für Patchwork und Quiltarbeiten Quiltnadeln Nadelstärke 70 oder 75 von Schmetz oder Microtexnadeln. Geht bei mir mit Aurifilgarn.

        1. I find no matter if I hand stitch or by machine, if i have to thread it, mom always said to cut a new end and then wet it. Still do the same today, it works..

    2. I like using dental floss for threading needles for needle point and I just told the thread tightly for cross stitch. Love using bohin 26 & 28.

      1. I have just discovered the Clover Black Gold needles, and I am smitten. They just might make me an applique fan.

    3. I love Pat Carson needles for cross stitching. If I am having trouble trading my needle I put a little bees wax on the end of the thread.

  2. My favorite sewing needle is the Schmitz Universal 80/20 and my favorite machine embroidery needle is the Organ Titanium Embroidery needle 80/20.

  3. I like the Schmetz sewing machine needles. I use the 90/14 almost all the time as my machine doesn’t like layers much.

  4. Ive been using the Clover Black Gold Size 9 Quilting Between Needles for my hand binding. I’m using them at Kimberley’s suggestion on the hand binding video. I really like how easily they go through the fabric.

  5. My favorite way to thread a needle is still to wet the thread in my mouth, and then cuss until I get the needle threaded..old habits..!!😂😂

    1. I always just buy the tapestry needles from Hobby Lobby as the are inexpensive. I would love the try the Pat Carson needles though.

  6. When threading a needle for hand sewing. I’ve learned that if you hold the thread between your thumb and finger, almost to the point you can’t see the thread that the needle will slid right onto the thread and you thread it.

  7. Kimberley’s suggestions have worked well for me. Thank you! I love using the Pat Carson’s Tapestry Size 28 and the Size 28 Cross Stitch and Tapestry Needles by Bohin.

    1. I like Schmetz for my machines and have followed Kimberly’s suggestions for cross stitch. Using the tight needle for the job makes a difference, I’ve learned from experience.

  8. My grandma taught me to hand sew. She always had a small tin with beeswax and would run the end of the thread through the wax so it was easier for her to thread a needle. I do that now for my embroidery and hand stitching.

    1. Don’t wait to change your needle, whether it’s your sewing machine needle, embroidery needle, cross stitch needle, etc. And dispense the old one safely!

  9. I have used Schmetz needles for all of my machine sewing. My favorite size needle is 26, if the eye is large. Not all eyes are created equal!

  10. I almost always use a needle threader. To me it is quicker. Thank you Kimberly for all your suggestions and tips. So helpful!!

  11. I have recently started using Piecemaker needles for my cross stitching. They seem to just glide through the linen. I’m currently using a size 28 with my 36 count linen project.

  12. For handbinding (with my arthritis) nothing beats the size 3/9 Milliners from John James. Because they are so long my hands grip and sew with them without any issue. I thread my cross stitching needles the way Kimberly Jolly does on her videos. That was eye opening and definitely a game changer for me.

  13. I just started cross-stitching again after 40 years, and so my first return project I just used the needles in my hexie kit. Wow, what a difference Pat Carson tapestry needles make! Using the right needle for the job really maters!

  14. My favorite tip for threading a needle on a sewing machine is to choose a machine with an automatic needle threader! What a sweet blessing it is on my poor ol’ eyes! Worth every penny.
    duchick at gmail dot com

    1. Threading the needle. Someone seeing me struggle with putting the thread end in my mouth and trying to pray it through the hole suggested I do the opposite. Cut with a scissor a nice clean thread edge but wet the needle whole instead. The thread absorbs the moisture and on thru so you can just pull it.i still start the old way just out of 50 years of habit

  15. I like Schmetz 80/20 needles. I don’t change them as often as I should. I’ll have to try harder to remember.

  16. For hand piecing I use straw needles (10/11). For embroidery I like a chenille needle from clover or Robert James usually size 24.

  17. When threading my needle on the sewing machine, I hold a white card behind the needle to help visualize the eye, Thank you for the very well-written review of different needles

  18. I’ve been very satisfied using Schmetz 80/12 for many years, whether on my Viking or Featherweight! My biggest problem is that I try to get every last stitch out of them, and don’t change to a new needle often enough!

  19. I love Schmetz needles and I appreciate great lighting when it’s time to thread. Love the idea of threading them outside or by the window.

  20. My favorite needle for cross stitching is Pat Carson. It is the only ones I can see to thread easily.

  21. I just bought and used the Clover domed needle caddy while binding my quilt. I threaded 10 #8 between and loaded them all at one time in the caddy. Time saver and no stray needles to chase.

  22. How to thread a needle………………cut the thread at an angle, wet the end then close one eye and thread it. 🧵 🪡

  23. My favorite hand sewing needles are the Hiroshima by Tulip Company. Whether I’m sewing binding, English paper piecing or embroidery. I have to use a needle threader for sure! For machine sewing I prefer Microtex by Schmetz.

  24. I use many different needles depending on the project. The best tip I can give is to try many different types and sizes until you find the one you like the best for that type of sewing. One needle will not do everything. Also since my eyes have been aging, I’ve collected a few needle threaders. Again I have one for wool work, embroidery, quilting and applique needle threading ;o) I find the right tool to help me with the work is well worth the investment…I don’t hassle with the threading and enjoy the process.

  25. I like the Clover Black Gold Size 10 for binding ….. although binding is my least favorite part of the quilting process, this needle at least makes it tolerable! 😂😂😂

  26. For burying thread ends after machine quilting, I love Spiral Eye side-threading needles. They stay threaded, unlike the needles that have their self-threading opening at the top.

  27. The very best tips I can offer about threading a needle are
    1. Thread into the punched side of the needle because it’s the larger side of the eye. And
    2. Wet both the thread AND the needle’s eye to make threading easier. This one I keep forgetting when I’m trying to thread my machine. Poke, poke, poke, the thread won’t go in. Sure enough, as soon as I dampen the needle, in goes the thread.
    Thanks for offering the giveaway.

  28. I have changed my needle choices based on the many years of watching Kimberly. She has been spot on with her recommendations and seeing become easier over the years. I love the Pat Carson needles.

  29. I’m new to quilting and trying embroidery and cross stitch, so I appreciate all the tips and tricks greatly! Thank you!

  30. My favorite needles for cross stitch are the John James short needles. I stitch in hand and tend to use a rocking/sewing stitch on fabrics especially Aida and linen. The shorter needles help me not to waste the more expensive specialty threads that I love to use.

  31. I have been sewing for years and years. I have used many kinds of needles but always thread the same way. I fold the thread(s) over the needle and squeeze the thread between my finger and thumb. Pull the needle out and then set the needle on my fingers right where the thread is and push up the thread still while squeezing through the eye of the needle. This method works for all kinds of threads and yarns. Best part – you have your “tools (i.e. fingers) with you all the time!

    1. Hi Betsy, congratulations! You’re the winner of the Fat Quarter Shop Gift Certificate! I’ll reach out to you by email to get your prize to you. And that is the best tip for threading needles!

  32. I recently bought some Primitive Gatherings binding needles from your wonderful shop! Beginner quilter here and so far I really like hand binding my projects. These needles work great also, got the Clover Dual sided needle threader. Thanks for all you do!

    1. I love straw needles for applique work. They changed my stitching world when I got them. I also like the 26 Pat Carson needle for cross stitch. It is so so smooth to work with.

  33. Replace your needles frequently- machine and hand sewing. It makes a difference. I also thread 3 or 4 at a time, especially when I’m doing EPP.

  34. Working on my first cross stitch in many years and have been going through many needles trying to find the one I like. Can’t wait to get the pat carson ones!

  35. Love using superior threads top stitch and titanium needles for free motion, and for patchwork/piecing. What a rich history on needles—thank you for sharing!

  36. I use the Schmetz Universal 80/12 on my sewing machine, and for Cross Stitch I like size 26.

  37. Floss threaders work well for threading yarn into tapestry needles for tying a quilt. For hand sewing binding, I like to prethread several needles and store them in the domed needle keeper until needed. This keeps the threads from tangling, and saves time while sewing. And Sench side-threading needles are a blessing when working thread endings into a quilt, especially the ends that are too short to thread into a regular needle!

  38. My favorite tip for hand sewing binding is to place a lingerie knot (knicker knot) about every 6 inches. It is nearly invisible, and keeps your binding from coming undone if the thread should ever break in the future.

    1. Cheryl, what is a knicker knot? I’d love to give this a try when I hand bind my first quilt, Sewcialites!

  39. I use Schmetz 90/14 universal needles for sewing and piecing. I use Pat Carson’s size 26 for cross stitching on 14, 16 or 18 count.

  40. I only use Schmitz for my machine. It’s usually a Universal needle unless I’m sewing something very thick.
    For my cross stitch, I’ve tried Lori Holt, John James and Pat Carson’s. Each are good and each have their own “best qualities”. I feel the easiest to thread are definitely Lori Holt tapestry and Pat Carson’s size 26. I admit, most times I still lick the end of the thread…old habits break hard. But, I like the idea of running end through beeswax before threading (someone commented on that…will try for sure). Thank you Kimberly for all of your great tips, they just don’t always seem to work for me. I do love learning from you though!

  41. Amazing the history behind all of the stuff we craft with. I am enamored by posts like these. We learn so much from each other in this industry. Thank you Kimberly and staff at FQS for all you do for us. You’ve made the past year bearable, especially during the pandemic. Its been great crafting with you all.

  42. I’m a cross stitcher and I’m always at hobby lobby so I use yarnology cross stitch needles size 24. Nice big eye so threading is pretty easy. It’s so fascinating that there’s a National Thread the Needle Day!

  43. I have to say I’m a big fan of Pat Carson since I’ve started cross stitching again after a 30 year break. Thanks To FQS floss tube

  44. My daughter like Icebreakers candy. I save the container to store used needles and rotary blades. It is thick plastic and closes tightly. I never confuse it with the new ones. I wrote used in black Sharpie.

  45. My favorite cross stitch needles are Bohin size 28. I have been a model stitcher for a company specializing in reproduction samplers since 1996, and I have found them to work really well for the samplers I have stitched!

  46. Schmetz and Pat Carson! I have to thank Kimberly for the Pat Carson recommendation. These needles have made all the difference in cross stitching for me

  47. I’ve been using Bohin 26 for cross stitch, but just discovered Pat Carson 26. I think I like Pat Carson a little better. I usually stitch on 14ct Aida.

  48. I took a regular tomato pin cushion and wrote different needle types in each section (70, 80, 90, Jeans, Sharps, etc.). I then store a slightly used needle in the correct section for use later.

  49. I am a newer quilter so I absolutely love these! I absorb so much new info & it lets me become better & better! Thx!

  50. I Love Lori Holt’s tapestry needles. It’s great that there are a variety of sizes to pick from for whatever I’m working on, and the little tube is so handy to tuck in a protect bag or needle book.

  51. Pats favorite needles for cross stitching, and i started threading the way Kimberly does in her crossstitching channel and i love it! So much easier than what i was doing! 🤗

  52. The clover black gold between foe binding is a new addition to my notions this year and I have loved using it for binding! My new favorite.

  53. I started out using Bohlin needles when cross stitching. While I still use Bohlin needles, I predominantly use Pat Carson due to larger eye. Thanks FQS for the knowledge and tutorials you all provide.

  54. After hearing Kimberly talk about Pat Carson needles for almost a year now since I’ve been back to cross stitching, I bought some Pat Carson needles a couple of weeks ago. Wow! What a difference they have made. I am now much faster at threading my needle which means more stitching is getting done. Thanks for all your tips Kimberly! Love watching you every Wednesday morning. You have helped me get my love for cross stitching back on track.

  55. Thank you for the history lesson about needles. It is so interesting to see the pictures of the bone needles. I wonder how easy they were to sew with. I use Bohin needles for hand sewing and Schmetz needles for machine sewing.

  56. When I am stitching EPP, I find a small quilting needle is perfect for getting tiny stitches that can’t be seen on the front. I also use a mid grey thread just in case my stitches come through to the front.

  57. Since finding the Clover Black Gold, size 9 needles, there is no turning back. They have become my favorite needle for doing binding or any hand stitching. Recently, I ordered some for a friend, who is now a believer, also. The Schmidt 90/11 or 14, is my machine most used needle. They give good service.

  58. I use only SCHMETZ needles for all my machine piecing and sewing projects. I’m thankful for my machine”s ability to thread the needle for me . I’m not much of a hand sewer. It’s not too long ago I finally figured out how to use one of those little wire threader things. However I do break them often. 🤷‍♀️

  59. One of my guilty pleasures is a fresh new Between for hand appliqué… there is nothing better than a nice new sharp needle to sit with a cup of coffee and a block or two to sew … and just relax.

  60. I’ve been experimenting with all kinds of needles lately. I’m just excited to read all these comments!

  61. Hi. I also use Pat Carson #26 for most of my cross stitch. To thread the needle I fold the thread in half, then pinch the loop and in it goes! I use the #24 for stitching on the larger 10 ct. Needles are so important to smooth cross stitching.

  62. After sewing for many years and now cross stitching I find that the needle is the answer to proper stitches…the one thing that makes the difference in sewing is to always use a sharp needle which means to change the machine needle often and you will see a big difference in your stitches.

  63. I really like using the pat Carson needles for cross stitch. Using the right needles in the sewing machine for the fabric type and weight does make a difference in the stitch quality!

  64. I started using the John James straw needles when I began EPP. I learned a long time ago that one does not wet thread before threading a needle as it plumps up the thread. I personally cut my thread at an angle and thread the needle in front of something white. It is much easier for me this way.

  65. I use whatever needle I find handy. :o) I have to agree with Elizabeth. I wet the end of the thread and pray it goes through the eye and silently curse when it doesn’t because I have to look for a needle threader. I like the LORAN one because I’ve broken so many with the little wire!

  66. I started using 28 count Pat Carson needles and love them. They are so easy to thread. I use Kimberlys method. I use to put it in my mouth to moisten the end of the thread and thread the needle but not any more. It works every time to use Kimberly’s method. Thanks for sharing.

  67. I inherited my Mom’s sewing box, which has many size 8 sharps. I find them easy to thread, thin and tapered, perfect for most hand sewing needs. Thanks for the article on needles. I always get confused about how they are sized, and this cleared that up for me.

  68. I’m old school by taking forever to get the thread through the hole, so then I tied a needle threader for the first time and WOW, game changer until I broke about 5 needle threaders! Good thing they are not expensive. I finally tried the metal needle threader and voila! Perfect haven’t broken that one. My tip, don’t bother with the wire ones, buy the metal one right away! Going to order the Pat’s needles too to try out size 26!

  69. Thread has a grain and will be easier to pass through the eye if you thread your needle the way it comes off the spool and then cut it from the spool. If threading multiple strands of floss first strip your threads apart(separate) and then put them back together but be very careful and make sure you keep the ends going the same direction when you strip them. Floss also has a grain and as with all threads if you thread your needle with the grain it will be a lot easier to do. Stripping your threads will also help your threads to lay flatter and give you better coverage. Happy Sewing!

  70. I always change to a new Schmetz machine needle when topstitching something–BUT, if the current needle is still viable, I place it in the Schmetz packaging with the color-banded side to the back. That way, I know which are new and which have been only slightly used. 😉

  71. I thread the needle the way my grandmother taught me. Squint your eyes and push the thread through the needle. Lick the end of the thread and twist with your fingers in a knot.

  72. Interesting history on this useful tool. My favorite cross stitching needle 🪡 is Pat Carson’s favorites in size 26. My favorite needle 🪡 for tacking down quilt bindings is Foxglove Cottage betweens in size 10 (I think). Thank you for your generous giveaway and spreading the love of stitching.

  73. Someone once told me to move the needle, not the thread when threading hand stitching needles. Sometimes I remember to do this and it is indeed an effective way to get the job done.

  74. This is a terrific post, I know I will refer back to it often. Thank you Kinberly!

    P.S. I also use a #26 needle for my cross stitch projects, you have a beautiful selection of patterns

  75. My favorite needle for my sewing machine (90% of the time) is the Schmetz 80/12. And, I use a 24 or 26 needle for my cross stitch. I enjoyed reading the history of the needle….always fun learning some new.

  76. I love my clover needles for hand stitching my bindings to the back of the quilt. I love the look of hand stitched binding.

  77. Using a self threading needle to hide the ends of threads make short order of getting the job done. This is especially true it the thread is very short. Thanks for the giveaway.

    1. Hallo zusammen, ich verwende für Patchwork und Quiltarbeiten Quiltnadeln Nadelstärke 70 oder 75 von Schmetz oder Microtexnadeln. Geht bei mir mit Aurifilgarn. Zum nähen der Bindung bevorzuge ich die Handnähnadeln Stärke 9. Kreuzstich mache ich seit vielen Jahren nicht mehr, da es mit meinen Händen nicht mehr so geht.

  78. My favorite cross stitch needle are the ball tip needles. I have yet to try a Pat Carson needle and need to see what I think.

    1. My favorite needle for cross stitching is Piecemakers size 28 (bigger eye than Bohin, which is my second choice). My favorite for piecing & quilting is Schmetz chrome microtex 90/14. That’s crazy neat that the oldest needle is more than 50,000 years old!

  79. I like Clover sharps for overall sewing, Richard Hemming milliner’s for needle turn /freezer paper applique, Tulip for Sashiko stitching, & it’s a toss up between Pat’s Faborite and Bohin for crossstitching.

  80. For crosstitching, the Sullivan ball point needle was a game changer- I like the 24 best. Thanks !!

  81. Because I’m 83 and my eyes are not what they were a while ago, when I thread my sewing machine needle, I place a white bit of index card behind the back of the needle so that the eye of the needle shows up more easily.

  82. I love Pat Carson needles for my cross stitch, I use a size 26 or 28 the most for my 25, 28, and 32 count fabrics. I’ve used a size 24 for 14 count Aida, but what would you suggest for 10 count Aida?fabrics
    Thanks!

  83. Home run with this blog post! Love everyone’s tips and tricks! Pat Carson needles for xstitch and Janome needles for my machine. Admittedly, I moisten thread in my mouth but trying real hard to use Lori Holt’s bees wax instead!

  84. My favorite needle for cross stitching is Pat Carson’s size 26. I’ve used one so long all the gold is worn off the eye. Time to change to a new needle? Probably, but I’m still using it. 😁

  85. I’m not fond of hand sewing, but I do hand bind my quilts unless it’s for a child, table topper or other item that will get a lot of washings. I do enjoy cross stitching again though, thanks to Kimberly and like the Pat Carson #26 in most cases.

  86. I agree with Kimberly’s fav for my hand quilting, the Clover Black Gold Between needles. Very easy to use.

  87. My favorite cross stitch needles are Pat Carson size 26. My favoite needles for hand binding are Clover Black Gold Size 9 Quilting Between Needle (they are SHARP). I think I have finally figured out my machine likes size 90/14 the best.

  88. A big eye needle PLUS my new Ott light magnifier has been a game changer for me! It’s the little things.

  89. I love reading all the comments! As I get older, I find that a good light helps tremendously when threading the needle. If that doesn’t work, I always can break out my trusty needle threader!
    Thank you for all your help, Kimberly.

  90. I have favorite needles for machine piecing and quilting, but am never satisfied with a needle for binding. Thanks for the suggestions. I have been using Pat Carson needles size 26 for cross stitch.

  91. My favorite tip for threading a needle… get a machine that does it automatically! A whole lot less swearing now. 😀 (I don’t do much by hand anymore, but when I do, I stick with the old lick it and stab it and swear at it until it goes through method.)

  92. My favorite needles for Crosstitch are Pat Carson sizes 24 or 26. They glide through the fabric and are easy to handle.

  93. I like Sue Daly needles. I have a couple different sizes. I like the real thin ones for EPP and size 9 for other things. I also have John James, Tulip and some other brands. I stick by the Sue Daly for EPP. My trick for threading a needle is to stick the needle in my mouth vs the thread. Make sure it’s the correct end though. My eyes are getting older, just this year it is getting harder to see. Never had that problem before. I guess 50 will do that to you.

  94. My favorite needle for a sewing machine is Schmetz Sharps 80/20. For cross stitching my go to needle is Sullivans easy glide ball-tip, either in a 26 or 28. Kimberly, thanks for all your videos. I’ve learned so much from you.

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