Tips & Tricks

Basics of Needles and Threads

Last week our staff attended the AQS show in Charlotte for a fun field trip. We looked at the marvelous quilt exhibit, as well as shopped the vendors.  Here’s what’s hot in quilting these days: everything!

Things that caught our eyes were the various threads that were being used as well as the resurgence of the big stitch and hand quilting. So many quilts were hand quilted in tiny stitches, or machine quilted in all styles from straight lines to tiny circles. Some quilts were both hand and machine quilted. Big stitches were anywhere from ¼” on bed quilts to 1” on art quilts. Appliques were hand or machine stitched, turned edge or top stitched with everything from fine silk to wool.

With all this fantastic inspiration, we thought we would do a blog post on the basics of needles and threads.

Quilting and thread work is as important as the time you put into the quilt top. It will be the difference between a good quilt and fabulous quilt.

With that said, here is a beginner’s guide to needles & thread. Your choices should match your project.


To quilt in the “big-stitch” style, your thread or pearl cotton will determine your needle. With pearl cotton of 5, you will want to find a Chenille needle of 20 or 24. We use a 22 in this picture. Another very popular style is with embroidery floss. We are showing a 6 strand cotton embroidery floss with an Embroidery 8 needle.

Our favorite is a finer pearl cotton, size 12 or 16, will work with an Embroidery needle size 7. This looks great for a more subtle big stitch and will go through the fabric and batting easily.

If you will be hand-quilting you’ll need the shortest needle you can handle and a glazed quilting thread so it passes smoothly through the batting.  Pick a thread lighter than the fabric to show off your stitches. We like a Glace thread, as it has a slight waxy coating that makes slipping through the batting a breeze. Quilting “betweens” size 8 to 10 is a good start. A tiny size 12 is for experts!

As a beginner’s tip: Always start with an 18” long thread. Any longer and you will have knots, fraying and frustration.

That’s the start…

Next Monday we will take a close up look at hand-piecing.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *