Thursday, January 8, 2009


Last Saturday when I was at the taping of the DVD for Superior Threads, Bob recommended using a top stitch needle when working on a quilt. I've heard a few ladies here in St. George casually mention the same thing. This is relatively new information for me. When I became a quilter I was told to use a Universal needle, and haven't thought much about needles since then.
Today I decided to get on the Internet and do a little research on my own to see if I want to switch to a top stitch needle. I gathered information for piecing when using a home machine, because that is mainly what I am interested in. Besides that, with a name like Cactus Needle, I figured I better know something about needles!

I thought top stitch needles were required by people using the wide variety of decorative threads on the market, and Universal needles were for traditional piecing. While Universal needles are still adequate for piecing, top stitch needles have some added benefits.
Top stitch needles are extra sharp, have an extra large eye with a large groove to accommodate thread.
Many of the comments I read agreed that a top stitch needle works better than a Universal. One woman said she felt it reduced thread problems significantly. The larger eye and deeper groove relieves the amount of friction placed on the thread as it pierces the fabric in a continual motion. With less friction, the fibers of the thread have less stress and provide more strength to your seams. You also experience less thread breakage.
Our goal after all is sharp, well shaped stitches.

Another question I had was if I wanted to spend the extra money on using a titanium needle.
Most conventional needles are chromium plated. Titanium needles are made of a stronger material. Titanium nitride is layered on the surface of the needles, which extends the life of the needle by at least 5 times.
You may wonder why that is such a big deal.
How often should you change your needle? In the old days the answer was "when it broke"! But now days the rule of thumb is when you start a new project. Considering some projects take longer than others, it's a good idea to change your needle out with every 6-8 hours of sewing. A blunt needle damages the fibers in your fabric, causing snags, puckers and often skipped stitches.
With titanium needles you can sew for up to 50 hours before changing your needle.
I like any quilting idea that means less maintenance. I'll be switching to titanium.
Bob mentioned that there are no titanium top stitch needles on the market at this time. In the spring Superior Threads will be carrying a new line of needles that are both top stitch and titanium. I will be standing in line for some of those!
If you have any other questions about what size needle or thread to use on what project, I'm going to refer you again to Superior Threads web site


Sherri said...

Wow...this was great information. I'm definitely going to change over to a topstitch needle...and start changing them much more often!

Abby and Stephanie said...

Great information. I try to change my needles often but I I wasn't aware of every 6-8 hours of sewing. Better buy stock in schmetz! I had never heard of using a topstitch needle for machine piecing either. I heard they were good to use for sewing totes and bags. Interesting.

Ricci said...

I use nothing but Topstitch needles when piecing and also when machine quilting. The most common sizes are 100/16, 90/14 and 80/12. I have all three sizes and use them depending on the size of the thread. The larger the thread, the bigger the needle. I agree with you, Nedra, Superior Threads is very much into educating the public and they do a great job of doing that on their website.

Karen said...

Well, who knew? Good thing someone did and was willing to share this info. Thanks!

Linda said...

Topstitch needles is all I use too. I can say I have never had a thread problem. I don't even bother to buy Universals anymore.

amy smart said...

OOooo. Good info. Thanks for doing the research for me Nedra. I so appreciate friends who quilt helping me out. :)

Browndirtcottage said...

Thanks for all the info. I guess needles is an important topic. I have known some of this for years..but haven't practiced alot of it. I forget to change my needle and I only use the titanium needle when I use the embroidery part of my machine. I bet it's time for me to change my needle!!

Kim Walus said...

What a great post about needles. Who would've known if you hadn't taken the time to share this information. Thanks. I have some top-stitch needles on hand and I'm going to try them out. I'll have to get some of those titanium needles too when they come out.

I really appreciate your words of love and encouragement on my recent post. It touched my heart. Thanks so much! I love my job and I love the little boy I take care of. He's just a master manipulator and has a hard time staying on task. He's exerting his free agency which is a special gift to all of us but it sure can be difficult encouraging him to do what is required of him in a mainstream class. We talk a lot about choices and how they can make you happy and sad depending on your choice and choices have consequences, too. It's been really interesting and fascinating working with him. It's the best job!!!

Sorry, for the lengthy post but I just wanted to thank you!

Have a great day!

btw: your welcome to use my email anytime too if you need anything.

Di~ said...

Nedra! thanks for the information. This is good. I've been one to use and use and use the same needle~not knowing...
All of your posts are great, I enjoy reading EVERYTHING you say.:)

Nanette Merrill said...

My mom always said to me when I was having a sewing problem - "Did you change your needle?" I do it often now but maybe not often enough. Do you know if the titanium burrs like regular needles?

Eileen said...

This is very interesting information. Thank you Nedra!