What size needle do you need to do that?

If you’ve been around for a while you may already know that my favorite needles for embroidery are Superior Titanium Topstitch needles, size 80/12. I also use them for all my piecing and most of my free motion quilting – along with my favorite AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight thread.

The other day I had cause to switch to a different needle. Still Superior Titanium Topstitch, but this time size 100/16. A quick tutorial on when to change your needle seemed to be in order!


When doing embroidery, Superior Titanium Topstitch size 80/12 works wonderfully for most embroidery threads – AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight, Isacord and most other 40 weight polyesters and rayons. You will need to change your needle if:

  • it breaks. OK, so that one’s pretty obvious ­čÖé
  • you hear a “popping” sound while stitching. This is probably because the needle has a little burr on the end and the popping sound is the burr catching on the fabric as the needle moves through the fabric.
  • you’re getting a lot of skipped stitches. This usually happens when the needle has come to┬áthe end of its life (it’s not sharp any more). It can also happen when you’re stitching something thicker than usual, in which case you need to switch to a larger needle. If you change your needle and you’re still getting skipped stitches, it can also be an indication that your machine needs a little love and attention – clean all the lint out from the bobbin area and administer a drop or two of oil.
  • you start using a thicker┬áthread. A thicker thread requires a bigger needle. When I switch to AURIfil Cotton Mako 40 weight I switch the needle to a 90/14. If I’m using AURIfil Cotton Mako 28 weight I’ll use either a 90/14 or a 100/16.
  • you’re using a metallic thread. A 90/14 is definitely in order for my favorite Superior Metallic thread. Slow the machine down, reduce the top tension and use a thread net for best results.

When piecing or quilting (free motion or with a walking foot), Superior Titanium Topstitch size 80/12 is still a great choice if using AURIfil Cotton Mako 50 weight thread. I switched up to a 100/16 needle the other day as I was getting skipped stitches. I was stitching through a quilt sandwich (2 pieces of fabric + batting), 2 more pieces of fabric from a binding and 2 more pieces of fabric fused together with fusible webbing. 6 pieces of fabric + batting + fusible webbing is hard work. The 80/12 needle wasn’t able to make a big enough hole in the fabric to catch the bobbin thread – hence the skipped stitches. The 100/16 needle solved the problem – in addition to increasing the stitch length from 2mm (my standard piecing stitch length) to 2.5mm.

The other kind of needles I use in my studio is ball point – but that’s a tutorial for another day!


  1. Thanks another great tutorial

  2. Thanks for the info. I always need to be reminded about using different size needles!

    • The other day one of those titanium needles hit my finger! $$$ later I am fine. Be careful, and guess what? Still my favorite needle!

  3. Thanks, Sarah, for the great information on needles and when to change your needle.

  4. Great advice. Another great tutorial. I have tons of Schmetz needles but when I replace I’m definitely going to try Superior titanium.

  5. What great info!! You explained it so easily.

  6. Sarah, why do you prefer the titanium over regular needles?

  7. Thanks Sarah. Good reminders and refresher.

  8. Sharon Weingardt

    Thanks, Sarah, I always learn so much from you.

  9. Thank you Sarah for the great info. I also use the Titanium Superior Needles and have used the 100/16 and love them. I

  10. Barbara Markland

    Thank you, that’s great to know.

  11. Jeanne Perrone

    Sarah, this is a great bit of information to keep near my needle collection. Thanks for the information.

  12. Suellen Girard

    Thanks Sarah, realy clear explanation.

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