Wednesday, July 15, 2015


It is just a short post today because I am busy pulling quilts for my trunk shows this weekend at Quilts at the Creek in Toronto, Ontario. I'm also cutting up fabric for the final pale green round of hexagons for my Green Parrot quilt.

I thought I would talk to you able the needles that I use. I was speaking with my friend Babs who is hand quilting her hexagon quilt Yellow Bird's Sister.

Yellow Bird's Sister by Babs

The needles she was using to quilt were betweens and she mentioned that she was struggling with them. It was difficult to get even stitches and the small needles were uncomfortable in her hand. I told her that I use needles that work for me and those may not be the recommended needles for the task. She was shocked and told me that she thought you could only use betweens to quilt. Here is what I say: rules schmules! Rules are just guidelines, not laws and there is no chance of you going to jail or being fined for breaking a rule. What is important is that you get the best possible result and when quilting for me it means nice even stitches with a the needle that is comfortable for the fingers and finger joints. I don't believe that quilting stitches must be small but they should be as evenly spaced and as close to the same size as possible. Babs took my advice and tried some different needles. A Roxanne applique needle gave her the results she wanted and it was much easier on her fingers and hands. An added bonus was that the eye of the needle is a larger and therefore much easier to thread. This is a good thing for eyes that don't function the way they did many moons ago! It seems to me that the eyes of needles used to be much larger. Also I've noticed that when I drop a needle and have to bend over to pick it up the ground seems to be much further away than it was years ago!

When I first began hand quilting I only used betweens but found that they were terribly hard on my finger joints. For certain projects with certain battings they were fine but for others they were just too tiny and fussy so I started using other needles. I've hand quilted with all sorts including embroidery needles and applique needles and had good results with many. So now when I hand quilt I try a variety of needles until I find the one that works best for me at that moment in time. It might be a between or it just might be a different needle.

Here is an assortment of needles that I frequently use.

I apply my philosophy about hand quilting needles to other hand work. I use the needles that gives me the results that I want. I was recently converted to milliners needles when sewing together my patches that were prepared using English paper piecing (EPP). The results are dramatically better than I was getting with other needles. I've tried expensive brands such as Tulip Hiroshima (lovely needles) with less expensive brands such as John James. Both worked well for me so if the more costly needles are not in your budget try another less costly brand.

I use darning needles for basting my EPP patches. I find that the rigid needle doesn't flex so it works much better for me when I am basting from the back.

Basting from the back with a darning needle

My advice to you is try what's recommended but don't be afraid to try other needles. You might just find that you get better results with another and have happier fingers and hands!

Until I post again, happy sewing!
Karen H


  1. Great advise about the needles. I haven't done any hand quilting for about 12 years. Partly because of the needles and arthritic fingers. But mostly because I have not competed something I was willing to give that kind of time to. I started using the longer milliner's needles for needle turn hand applique and love how can push them through with my large and stiff fingers and then pull them out with out strain or using a thimble. I am giving serious consideration to using them for hand quilting as you go without a hoop.

  2. I made my first quilt a year and a half ago. They advised me to use Betweens. I always had pain in my thumb. I 'm going to try different needles to find the best for me. Thanks for your explanation. Have a nice day, groet, Dientje.

  3. I couldn't agree more! Rules are made to be broken :)

  4. I have a certain brand and size of needles I like to use for hand quilting. Something people don't think about is, needles do become dull. When I think a needle starts pulling hard through the quilt, dispose of it and get a sharp one. It is surprising what a difference it makes. Love your EPP projects. I need to start another one, or maybe, finish one I've started.

    1. Good point (no pun intended). It is the same with sewing machine needles. A fresh needle makes a world of difference!

      So glad you like my projects. I do have fun making them!

  5. I use the sharps and the gold n glide - they work for me.

  6. good post-and there are really so many nice needles to choose from these days. when I hand quilt I never liked the betweens, but had found some in an amish store in Indiana at the time that said quilting needles very fine and short I tried out different sizes. now days with my older hands I am liking a longer but fine needle like the straws

  7. Such an interesting post. I too recently switched to a milliners needle for my EPP and was pleased with the results. I used a between for my last hand quilting project but it has been over a year since hand quilting. I am getting ready to start another so it will be interesting to see if something else works better these days!