What Needle Do I Use?

Posted by on September 18, 2017

I was sewing for literally decades before I knew that there is a groove running down the front of every machine needle!  What is the groove for?  It is where the thread “hides” when the needle is moving in and out of the fabric.  The groove protects the thread from friction, which is a big culprit of breaking thread.  Often, we say that a thread is weak when it actually is experiencing too much heat from friction.  Each size and style needle have different size grooves.  For instance, when using a top stitch needle, it is assumed that you will be using a heavier thread.  Both the eye and groove of the top stitch needle are larger to accommodate the thread size.  The larger the number on the needle size such as 70 or 80, means the larger the needle diameter and groove.

If the groove is too small for the thread, the thread will experience friction and break.  It the groove is too large for the thread, the thread will wiggle around and out of the groove and also break from friction.  If the groove is the correct size for the thread it will glide along and stay cool in the groove.




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  1. Nanette Neider says:

    I did not know there were different size needles for the Tin Lizzie 18. I was having problems with my thread breaking so I tried to change the needle. The screw has gotten cross threaded and I now cannot get it to hold a needle in the machine. What o I do now?

    • Myrl Breinholt says:

      Can you remove the screw and replace it? You should change the needle on a regular basis. Screws like the needle screw can be found at most hardware stores. Take the screw with you for reference.

  2. Margaret says:

    Hi Myrl, I have had my tinlizzie for two weeks. LOve her. I use 60 weitgh superior thread for FMQ .i want my stitches to blend. The salesman said to use 110/18. This is working, but is it the correct size? I also find the needle will turn while I am changing, just a little learning curve. Thank you for your help. Margaret

    • Myrl Breinholt says:

      Margaret, I love my Lizzie, too. My suggestion for 60 wt thread is to use a size 14 needle. 60 wt is very fine and needs the smaller groove I have mentioned in previous posts. When changing the needle, place the old needle in the eye of the new needle to help you see where the needle is facing. I have a small cylindrical magnet I use for that purpose. It is about 3/4″ inch long and about 1/8″ inch in diameter. I place it on the front of the needle above the eye and it helps me see the front of the needle easier. Happy Quilting.

  3. Sherry Smith says:

    After reading the info you provided on the groove in the needles, I did some reading about the Groz-Beckert SAN MR needles. As the groove is shaped differently from traditional needles, I wonder if the size of the needle needs to be adjusted for the width of the thread.
    My TinLizzie18 instructions state that the machine is designed to work with Groz-Beckert 10Nm 110/18 134MR 1955MR 134 SAN 11 DP X 5 MR.
    I prefer to use 50 wt thread rather than 40 wt. What needle do you recommend?

    • Myrl Breinholt says:

      Hello, Sherry. The difference in the Groz-Beckert needle is not the groove but the the scarf. The scarf is the indentation on the back of the needle by the eye. That is where the hook passes very closely to pick up the thread. The Groz-Beckert needle scarf is minimized to reduce the friction heat that happens as the needle moves in and out of the fabric. It also minimizes the hole made by the needle. I use size 16 needles when using 50 wt thread. 16 indicates the diameter of the needle. It also indicates that the groove and eye of the needle will correspond with the size difference. Happy Quilting!!

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