Hand quilting involves sewing running stitches through the three layers of a quilt sandwich — the quilt top, batting and backing fabric.
That's a hefty task for a needle. So it's super important to pick the right one for the job, whether you want to quilt tiny stitches or great big ones.
Traditional Hand Quilting
Quilting needles, also known as betweens, are the needles of choice for traditional hand quilting.
Betweens are little, but don't be fooled: They are designed to perform. Because they're short and have a small, rounded eye, they're easy to control while creating tiny, accurate stitches. They're narrow and sharp enough to penetrate multiple layers.
Betweens range in sizes from 3 to 12, with 12 being the smallest needle. Beginners should use an 8 or 9 and go smaller as they become more skilled.
Big Stitch Quilting
Big stitch quilting , also known as pick stitching or perle quilting, has caught on big-time. This technique creates oversize, showy stitches that add texture and color to a quilt.
Most big stitchers use size-8 perle cotton thread or a few strands of embroidery floss. These threads are thicker than standard quilting cotton so they require a needle with a big eye and a sharp point. The answer: embroidery or crewel needles.
The size of the thread or floss determines the size needle; you want the thread to fit comfortably through the eye. For perle 8 cotton I recommend a size 8 or 9 embroidery needle.
More Needle Tips
1. Remember that the larger the size number, the smaller the needle
I know it seems backwards, but that's how it's done.
2. Buy a packet of mixed sizes
If you're a beginner, practice quilting rows with the different needles. Soon you'll know which ones work best for you.
3. Save the packets as a reference
That way you can refer to the brand and sizes the next time you go needle shopping.
4. Replace blunt needles
Needles wear out and become dull or even bent over time. Sewing with a blunt or bent needle is a bummer, both for your hands and your stitches. If you notice that your needle is getting harder to push through the layers, get a new one.
5. Lost a needle? Get out the flashlight
You should see the glint of a shiny needle pretty soon. The flashlight method of finding a lost needle is faster and almost as effective as waiting for someone to step on it!