Beginning Quilting

Things I Wish I Knew – More on Needles

January 20, 2024


We started last week with basic information about needles. Because needles are such an integral part of quilting, this week we have even more on needles.

I will define the important details to think about when choosing which needle to use for a particular project. If you choose the right needle you’ll sail through the quilting with nary an issue and you’ll get beautiful stitches. The right needle makes setting tension a breeze and makes thread shredding and breaks a thing of the past. The needle does all the work and the thread gets all the credit.

1. Size

The thread you use determines the needle size.  Use a chart to choose the right needle for your thread, at least until you learn the correct needle for the threads you use most often.

What sizes are available?

Handi Quilter needles sizes are 80/12, 90/14, 100/16, 110/18, and 120/20. The bigger the number, the bigger the needle. We, in the US, usually refer to the second number when we talk about needle sizes.

Size 16 and 18 will be the ones you use most often. Size 12 and 14 are for finer threads like 100 wt silk, or 100 wt MicroQuilter thread.  20’s would be used for a thicker 12 wt thread, like Sew Sassy. Check the size of your thread on the spool or cone label, then refer to the Thread Reference Guide. Pretty soon you’ll get to know your needle sizes without looking at the chart. Here’s a quick abbreviated chart you can refer to:

You can find a printable PDF version of this chart as part of the Threads, Needles and Tension poster on the Handi Quilter website, here.

Find the size in the upper right corner of the needle package.

2. Type

You also need to choose the type of needle to use. Generally, the type depends on the fabrics or your style of quilting.

What types are available?

Handi Quilter offers 3 different options.

1. Standard needles

These needles have a sharp point which penetrates the layers effectively and should be used for most quilting. You will find the designation R on the package indicating sharp point.

2. Ball Point Needles

These needles have a rounded or ball point. They can be used on knits. Like the plush fabrics, such as Cuddle, that are popular for quilt backs; or T-shirt quilts. If your T-shirts have a lot of coated images on them, however, you may want to stick with sharps to penetrate that coating and avoid skipped stitches. The letters FG or FFG will be on ball point needle packages.

3. High-speed Needles

These needles have a different scarf configuration that makes them especially suited to high speed quilting. If you quilt fast and find that you break a lot of needles, switch to a high-speed needle and it may solve your problem. The designation for high-speed needles is MR on the package.

3. Brand

Handi Quilter has chosen Groz Beckert to supply with our quilting machines. Groz Beckert is the world’s leading provider of industrial machine needles. There are other companies that manufacture needles for longarm machines. Using high-quality needles is crucial for a longarm quilter to ensure optimal results, so be sure to purchase from a well-known needle company and by all means get the correct needle system 134.

4. Broken needles

It can happen for lots of reasons. When it does, there are 2 things you need to do.

1. Make sure you find all the pieces of the broken needle. If a small piece gets wedged in your bobbin race it can do a lot of expensive damage. You might even find a tiny piece of needle in the quilt sandwich. Be sure to hunt for all the pieces of a broken needle before you start to quilt again.

2. Dispose of broken or used needles safely. I use this small Tums container. It is just a bit taller than a needle and it has an easy flip top and a small opening to put the needles in.

It’s also a good place for bent or damaged pins. An old prescription bottle works well too.  Once it is full, I will tape it shut securely and toss it in the trash.


Quilt Every Day!

by Mary Beth Krapil






Written by

January 20th, 2024

We started last week with basic information about needles. Because needles are such an integral part of quilting, this week we have even more on needles. I will define the […]

3 responses to “Things I Wish I Knew – More on Needles”

  1. Thank you for the designation between R and MR. I was holding off purchasing a 100 count box of 100/16 because I didn’t know the difference.

  2. This blog was quite informative. After asking several quilters/longarmers about the needle size they use, I discovered most are winging it. Now, I feel more knowledgeable and confident. Having the right tool makes the job easier and more professional-looking. Thank You!

  3. Thanks for the information about needles. I’ve been using 16 needles, but I didn’t know much about them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *