So since you can’t quilt without needles and thread, I thought I’d do a bit of research and share some interesting facts and some tips! You’ll be surprised that knowing some of these things will help to make your stitching experience more enjoyable. Some of this may be old news to you, but some might not be. It doesn’t hurt to learn something new, right?
Thread Tip & Facts
Know How the Thread is Wound:
Have you ever experienced problems with your thread and not know why? Here’s a handy little fact: the way the thread is wound onto the spool determines how you should use it on your machine. Most sewing machines these days come with horizontal and vertical spool holders. Certain types of spools are meant to be used on one or the other. Using the spool on the correct holder allows the thread to unwind as it should.
First, there are threads that are cross wound. Look at your spool. If it looks like the photo below, that is cross wound:
Notice the zig-zag look. Tip: These spools are best used on the horizontal spindle that allows the thread to unwind from the top. Secure the spool with the spool pin (see photo below) that comes with the machine, making sure it’s snug so thread does not get caught between the spool and spool pin. That could cause tension problems.
The other way thread is wound is horizontally onto the spool. These are called stacked threads.
Tip: These spools perform best on a vertical spool holder so the thread unwinds at a 45 degree angle. This keeps the thread from getting caught in the space between the thread and spool causing tension problems.
How to Read Thread Weights
Thread weight is important to know because different weights of thread perform differently. How do you know what weight your thread is? Most spools will have a number on it that looks like this:
That fraction, 50/2, tells you that the thread is 50 weight and 2 ply. The higher the weight number, the thinner your thread will be. 50 weight is a standard weight that most quilters use for machine piecing and quilting. I recommend a high quality 100% cotton 50 wt thread like Aurifil. It’s best to use at least 2 ply thread. The higher the ply, the stronger the thread. Now, when a project you are starting says “you need 50 wt 3 ply thread” you will know how to find it!
Tip #1: Sewing machine needles need to be changed often, not only when you break one. Needles get dull and develop damage not visible to the naked eye. A good rule of thumb is to change the needle after you finish piecing project. If you sew with a needle that should be changed, you can cause damage to your fabric. A dull or damaged needle can snag fabric and break your thread. Needles are fairly inexpensive so stock up the next time you are at the quilt shop and change it often!
If you have not used up the needle but need to change it to do something else, put the partially used needle back in the case with the flat part of the shaft facing up so you remember which is used.
Tip #2: Use the right needle size. Most piecing of 100% cotton fabrics can be done with a universal 80/12 needle. The two numbers represent the two sizing systems: metric (or European) and Singer (or American). The “80” is the metric and the “12” is the Singer. All you need to know is the numbers refer to the diameter of the needle. The lower the number, the finer the needle. Light to medium weight quilting fabrics can be pieced with a needle from 75/11 to 90/14. Most needles made for machine quilting on your home machine are 90/14.
Tip #3: If you do not have a built in needle threader on your machine, place a bright piece of paper behind the needle when threading it. This will help you to see the eye of the needle better.
Also, snipping your thread at a 45 degree angle helps with the threading. This works with a hand sewing needle as well.
So that’s all for today! If you have any comments or questions, feel free to post below and I will try to answer you as soon as I can.
Deana Fraser says
Thank you for sharing your tips ,I try to read each one .They are very helpful .
thanks for the information . . .
Cheri Stallsmith says
Very informative. Thanks
Thanks so much for that useful information. I see that I have been putting my spool pin on the wrong way round for years! Best wishes from the UK
You advised using a universal needle 80/12 for piecing. Many people advise using a micro Tex 80/12. Do you think they do that because they don’t change the needle very often?
I have not heard that. In my research I found the majority of sewers recommended the universal 80/12. It wouldn’t hurt to try it to see if it lasts longer. They way to tell is you shouldn’t continue using a needle is if it makes an audible “punching” sound going into your fabric or is you are seeing snag lines in your fabric as you are stitching a seam. Most damage to a needle is not visible to the naked eye. I think that’s why sewers have come up with these guidelines.
Nancy Gaffron says
Any tips on using Holoshimmer or Metallic thread?
Sorry, I have no tips on using those threads as I have not used them in my quilting. I would assume the way they are wound still applies like with 100% cotton threads though.