N is for Needle

N is for NeedleNeedles are one of the essentials for machine embroidered appliqué. Using the right one can make a big difference.

One of the questions that gets asked is:

Do you choose the needle based on fabric or thread?

The answer is, it depends!

Superior Titanium Top Stitch NeedleFor the majority of my machine embroidery appliqué projects, when I’m using normal weight cotton quilting fabric and my favorite AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 wt thread, I use a Superior Titanium Top Stitch Needle, size 80/12. Here’s why:

  • Top stitch needles have a nice big eye so they are easy to thread
  • Top stitch needles have a nice sharp point which is what I want when stitching onto normal weight cotton quilting fabric
  • Titanium needles last about 10 times longer than regular needles. Machine embroidered appliqué is pretty stitch intensive, and you want to make sure your needle keeps a nice sharp point
  • 80/12 is the correct size to use with AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 wt thread. It’s also the correct size needle to use with polyester threads such as Isacord
  • I can piece with these needles, still using my favorite AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 wt thread
  • I can quilt with these needles, also still using my favorite AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 wt thread

When would I use a different size of needle?

  • If I’m using a heavier thread, such as AURIfil Cotton Mako 28 wt thread. For this thread I’d use a Superior Titanium Top Stitch Needle, size 90/14
  • If I’m using a metallic thread, such as Superior Metallic. For this thread I’d use a Superior Titanium Top Stitch Needle, size 90/14. The key to success with metallic thread is to also use a thread net (it slows the thread down a bit as it comes off the spool and stops it from falling off the spool) and to reduce the top tension on your embroidery machine
  • If I’m using a lighter thread, such as AURIfil Cotton Mako 80 wt thread. For this thread I’d use a Superior Titanium Top Stitch Needle, size 70/10

When would I use a different type of needle?

There are needles for all different kinds of specialty fabrics and so the answer to this question could go on forever. I’ve picked the two situations that I think you’re most likely to want to know about:

  • When using a thick fabric such as canvas or denim use a Jeans needle. These have a slim set needle point to reduce friction as the needle passes through the fabric. They are also more flexible than a top stitch needle, which helps to prevent needle and thread breaks when sewing through thick fabrics
  • When sewing knitted fabric use a ball point or jersey needle. Whereas a top stitch needle with a sharp point punctures the fibers in fabric, a ball point needle has a rounded point which gently separates the fibers, which is better for knitted and stretchy fabrics


Daily Deal

From 12:01am on July 6, 2017 until 11:59pm on July 8, 2017 catch some falling leaves with 25% off A New Leaf

Use promo code “A2Z-N” at the checkout

Add to CartA New Leaf $50.00
(Delivered as a digital download. Optional CD available at the checkout)


What I love about this collection… Back in August of 2013, I went to Olde City Quilts in New Jersey to teach a class. Actually, it was more of a retreat and students used the A New Leaf design collection to create either a table runner or a table topper (both patterns are provided in the design collection).

Spring Table Runner A New Leaf

Spring Table Runner
Stitched on a BERNINA 830
featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 wt thread

A New Leaf

Fall Table Runner
Stitched on a BERNINA 830
featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 wt thread

A New Leaf

Summer Table Topper
Stitched on a BERNINA 830
featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 wt thread

A New Leaf

Winter Table Topper
Stitched on a BERNINA 830
featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 wt thread

A few of weeks ago, a friend and I started a book group (we’re studying The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? ). As we were talking about who we’d like to invite to join our group, my friend told me about a friend of hers, Patti, who is a quilter. She was wondering if I know her. Now there are a LOT of quilters in the Phoenix area, so the chances of me knowing this one are fairly slim.

The day of our first book group meeting came and we met at my house. The doorbell rang and I went to answer it.

“You must be Patti,” I said to the woman who came through the door. “It’s so good to meet you.”

“You’ve already met me,” she replied. “I took your class on A New Leaf which you taught at Olde City Quilts a few years ago.”

What are the chances??? I love the way this art of ours connects us in ways we could never guess about.

While you’re making your A New Leaf table runner or table topper, why not make some matching napkins and tea towels? I love how these turned out using Kaffe Fassett fabric for the appliqué shapes!

A New Leaf

Stitched on a BERNINA 830
featuring AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 wt thread
and fabric from Kaffe Fassett


  1. Love the daily updates! Thank you for sharing.

  2. I look forward to your emails each morning, they are a great inspiration for creating better quilting and embroidery projects. A great reminded of techniques I haven’t thought about in some time. Would there be a way of having the whole series of emails in the end?
    Thank you, what will you create today?

  3. I forgot I have the leaves designs!! I intended to make placemats for my mother, but after she died I never did anything with them. There is another project I need to make!

  4. Sandra E Williamson

    I wonder if you have tried the Schmetz Chrome needles? They’re new & purport to be better than titanium coated needles which they have made for years. I’m enjoying your daily letter issue project.

  5. France Courteau T.

    I love too the daily updates. Makes us rediscover our embroidery and our projects.

  6. Love the idea of putting the leaves on towels. Lots of your designs would work for towels ❤️

  7. Just made the table runner. Used the GO accuquilt cutter. It was so fun!! Love the leave designs. Going to make placemats and napkins next.

  8. Nadine Hogrefe

    PDL…..a Great Book!
    Thanks for all these hints……and your efforts in putting them in a fun format!

  9. I have used the titanium needles but still experienced the other “N” word, Nesting. Frustrating to nearly finish a project only to have a birds nest situation bring things to a stop.

    • Hi Carol,
      Birds nests underneath the stitching are usually caused by the top thread not being settled into the tension disks. It’s a little counter intuitive, but mess on the bottom usually ends up being a problem with the top thread. When you’re threading your machine, make sure that the thread gets in between the tension disks – or firmly on one side of the tension disk if there is only one. Which machine are you stitching with?

      • Just thought I would let you know that I found a wonderful tool on Amazon last year called “Bird’s Nest Tool.” I went six months without needing it at all, to using it 3 times in one day and it was a “quilt saver.” It has a long scapel like knife that you can reach under your fabric and slice off the nest so you can don’t ruin your fabric. If you are embroidering and suddenly have a nest it has a long hook that will reach under your hoop and help you lift so you can use the scapel. It is also sold in Nancy’s Notions. It is a worth while investment

  10. Love this! I ordered the leaf pattern, cant wait to make a table runner for my quilt guild’s table runner basket for our quilt show.

  11. Needle information very helpful.
    Than you Sarah for all the excellent information.

  12. Love the leaves and all the news and thank you so much

    I am now using the correct needle when sewing

  13. Good info about the needles. Thank you

  14. Very timely article. I want to embroider with metallics. Knowing I can do it with my Superior 99/14 needles is encouraging.

  15. I look forward to each letter every morning. Thank you. d

  16. Again, THANK YOU for all the tips & information you are sharing with us. I look forward each day to see what you will be sharing with us!

  17. Good to know. I’ve never used Superior needles, usualy Schmetz or the Oregon. I’ll buy some Superior next time I am in need of needles and give them a try. Thank you for all of the wonderfully informative information that you have given us.

  18. Great information !

  19. Dear Sarah you are a wonderful teacher. I stopped embroidering for almost a year, but after watching your videos I want to embroider even my underwear. Thank you for all the information you give on any of the lessons you have made.Hope you are enjoying your new house & please let us know how’s your daughter doing. Many blessings your way. Thanks again.

    • Hi Susana,
      Thanks for your note. I had a good laugh at the thought of embroidering underwear!!! Heather is doing great – thanks so much for asking. She turned 15.5 on July 4 so you can probably guess what she’s getting ready to do. If you’re in the Gilbert area in the next few months, watch out for my little orange car ‘cos it might not be me behind the wheel 🙂

  20. Sarah I have so enjoyed this series. I have also gotten very valuable information. I would love to have a printed version of all the information days. Perhaps a PDF we could download? I have taken advantage of some of the specials. Thanks for doing that. Unfortunately I’ve wanted them all! Thanks for sharing your great talent.

  21. Wonderful info on needles. Love the design… ok you got me with the Kaffe Fassett fabrics .. I adore them

  22. I found out about Superior needles about a year ago and won’t use anything else!

  23. The Kaffe Fassett fabrics really add a lot of color and movement to the leaves.

  24. Great tutorial on needles Sarah! The right one for the right job will certainly make for good results!

  25. Thanks for the clear and concise explanation of needle choices.

  26. Thank you for your articles. This one has very informative.

  27. Nadine Bukovic

    Thank you Sarah for the great needle info – I always learn something new from you!

  28. Thanks for the info

  29. Thank you so much I really look forward to the next letter to see what I can learn. It would be great if we could get these in a form so that we can save them.

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