You get to unplug and descend into the mind-cleansing joy of creating directly with your hands.
As with all things quilting, the right needles matter.
They reduce hand strain and produce better results.
At first glance, the styles and sizes of hand quilting needles can be a little overwhelming.
Which needle you choose will boil down to personal preference and the materials that you’re working with.
What is hand quilting?
Hand quilting is the process of putting the final stitch design into all layers of the quilt. This can be accomplished with a sewing machines as well, but hand quilting excels when you want to create delicate and intricate design or simply produce a project with the ultimate in handmade quality.
What is better to hand quit with — a short or long needle?
Hand quilting needle sizes reflect the needs of different quilts and threads. Thick quilts with heavy batting and thicker fabrics lend themselves to choosing longer needles. Longer needles can pass through the layers while still giving you enough needle to hold and maintain control. More needle length also helps you make running stitches.
Shorter needles have the advantage when you need maneuverability. You may need a short needle to make a fancy design with small details. A smooth eye design that does not create a bulge at the end of the needle also results in easy fabric penetration that eliminates fabric bunching.
What to consider when selecting a hand quilting needle:
Types of Needles for Hand Quilting
With a few exceptions, most hand quilting needle sizes range from 1 to 12. The sizing system uses smaller numbers to denote larger needles and larger numbers to label smaller needles.
You’ll see these short needles in sizes 3 to 12. Their narrow and sharp design enables them to slip through fabrics easily and smoothly. They work best with quilting thread, which has a narrower gauge than heavier weight pearl (or perle) cotton threads.
If betweens are too small for your fingers, try using sharps. They are similar to betweens except for being a bit longer. You’ll see these sold in sizes 1 through 12.
With lengths in excess of 3 inches, longs are meant for basting quilt layers together or tying quilts. They are sturdy and unlikely to bend. Their size and length help you make many stitches quickly through all of the layers. Longs meant for tying have large eyes so that you can thread yarn.
When you want to hand quilt with a heavier thread, choose embroidery needles. They have bigger eyes that can accommodate a thicker thread. They are also ideal when you desire larger stitches for a bold, hand quilted design.
These long and sharp needles come from the hat making world. You might also see them referred to as straw needles. They give you more needle length than sharps and come in sizes 1 through 10.
These are long needles with lengths at 2 inches or more. However, they have very small eyes and are therefore meant for finer threads. They emerged from the Japanese Sashiko embroidery tradition that places designs of reinforcing stitches across fabric.
7 Best Hand Quilting Needles
This 30-pack of needles is an excellent place to start when choosing hand quilting tools. A guide on the back of the storage case helps you determine needle size and style. As an assortment of betweens and sharps, the needle collection places plenty of options at your fingertips so that you can learn which needles work best with the fabrics that you’re working on. Case contains betweens in sizes 10/11, 8/9, 6/7, and 4/5 along with sharps is size 4/5.
English manufacturer John James has a reputation for quality hand quilting needles. This 20-count package contains needles in sizes 3 through 9 with the shortest measuring 1-1/8 inches long. Needles are constructed of nickel-plated iron alloys.
Hand quilters have reported great satisfaction with these needles from John James Pebble. The case fits in the hand easily and keeps 16 different needles neatly organized. Case contains quilting needles in sizes 3 through 9. Size range offers sufficient options so that you can find the right size for your project.
Although developed in Japan for that culture’s Sashiko embroidery craft, these longer needles adapt to a variety of uses. Not all hand quilters can manage to stitch with smaller needles, which makes these a good alternative because they are over 2 inches long. They are designed to work as a tapestry needle and can pierce tightly woven fabrics.
This package of 45 quilting needles gives you an opportunity to test out multiple styles and sizes while hand sewing. Kit contains betweens, chenille needles, darners, embroidery, sharps, and tapestry needles. In addition to quilting, they will be handy for mending clothes, embroidery, and hemming. Nickel-plated steel construction supplies strength and rust resistance.
A milliners needle excels at performing multiple stitches at once. When you’re working on large sections of fabric, you can make fast progress with a size 11 needle. This packages contains 10 needles made of high-quality steel. Narrow shaft reduces chances of bunching the fabric and slowing you down.
Assortment of embroidery needles provides you with 2 needles each in sizes 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, and 3 needles each sizes 8 and 9. Having multiple needles on hand allows you to pre-thread them with different colors and change colors quickly as you work on your design. Long eyes can hold two threads at a time.
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Hand quilting will seem a little daunting at first. The process definitely takes longer than machine stitching, but you gain more opportunities to express yourself through fine artistry.
Beginners should try betweens in sizes 8 or 9 unless your project calls for a heavier weight thread. As you develop your skill with these needles, you can try switching down to a smaller needle. If betweens feel too awkward, then step up to sharps or embroidery needles.
Experimenting with a small quilt piece would be a good idea before jumping into a major project. You can try different needles with various threads to see how they perform and decide which ones are best suited to your project.