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What size sewing machine needle do I need?

How do I know what size needle to use with what size thread.

New to the game!


Welcome to the wonderful world of quilting! You are in for a lot of fun!

As you've guessed, the needle size changes with the thread size. And as you've probably already realized, the numbers mean opposite things. The higher the needle size number, the larger the needle. For thread, the higher the number, the finer the thread.

Thread will shred when it goes through a needle eye that's too small. All the extra friction as it goes through the eye is hard on the thread fibers.

Move to a larger needle size if this is happening. So if you're using an 80/12 and your thread is shredding, change to a size 90/14.

The rule of thumb is that the thread should fill 1/3 to 1/2 of the needle eye.

General Quilting

I prefer the Microtex Sharp needle for both quilting and piecing. It has a nice sharp point for making good stitches through woven, 100% cotton fabrics.

The Universal needle is engineered to go through a variety of fabrics, and is what many garment sewers use. But the point is 'blunter' and I don't use it at all for any part of quilting (piecing, machine applique or machine quilting). I just don't think it makes as nice a stitch.

As a beginner, use an 80/12 size needle. This will work for any of the quality 50 wt 100% cotton threads (Aurifil, Masterpiece, Prescenia). It's a good, general all-purpose size. Size 80/12 is readily available in the quilt stores and big box stores like Joann's.

As you gain experience and expand your sewing machine needle stash, you may want a smaller size for these 50 wt cottons. I use a 70/10 regularly for piecing. The smaller, finer needles are easier to break, so that's why I recommend the 80/12's to start with.

Metallic Threads

If you use metallic threads, use a Metallic needle.

The groove down the front of the needle is deeper, the eye one of the largest of all needles (2mm) and the eye is polished...all to baby this 'princess' thread as it passes through the needle. (It is significantly more expensive than other types of needles.)

There are several pages on this website about needles that may be of interest to you:

And don't forget to...

...double check your sewing machine manual.

Some machines, like Singers, need to use a special or proprietary brand of sewing machine needle. If your instruction manual is specific about the brand of needle, use it. Some brands are longer than others, or the shank is a different shape and won't fit your machine's needle clamp. Follow their recommendations for the best stitch quality (and safety).

If you enjoy quilting, as you add threads to your stash (yes, I've got a thread stash and a needle stash, too) you will also add needles in different sizes and types. You'll try different needle types and settle on what you like the best.

But for now, an 80/12 Microtex Sharp needle will get you through most of your quilting needs.


Julie Baird

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