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How often do you change your needle?

Helen G

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  • 8 years later...

When I had my new owner training, I was advised to put in a new needle at the start of each quilt, but my dealer said that sometimes if they are small quilts you can wait until after 2 or 3 quilts if you're not experiencing problems.  That's great advice if you're doing typical pantograph quilting, but I've learned the hard way that dense custom quilting through lots of thick seam allowances wears out a needle a lot faster.  I put in a new needle at the beginning of this quilt, did all of the SID, and then got about a third of the way through with ruler work and FMQ when I started thinking that the stitching sounded different, like the needle was punching through the quilt sandwich instead of gliding through easily.  If I'd been on my domestic machine I would have changed the needle right away, but I thought I must be imagining things since my APQS uses "industrial" needles that are so much stronger...  And I was remembering that "new needle with each new quilt" advice, so I thought I was imagining that the stitching sounded different and kept quilting.  Well, within another hour or so of quilting, I started getting white threads showing up on this purple print as I was quilting it, from the dull needle twisting the fabric yarns as it struggled to get through the quilt (this was most noticeable on fabrics that were significantly lighter on the wrong side compared to the right side of the fabric).  And then, when I advanced the quilt, I saw batting pokies where the dull needle point pushed batting right through the needle hole.  Lesson learned!  

I'm still very much a beginner, and this is my first quilt that I'm quilting so heavily.  So I'm curious -- those of you who do a lot of heavy custom/heirloom quilting, how many needles do you go through on a single quilt?  Is it normal to wear out multiple needles on one custom quilt?  I'm not using the titanium needles -- my dealer advised against them because she said they cause more damage to the machine if/when they do break or something like that.



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I'm surprised that you dulled a needle so quickly.  I think I probably get a dozen or more quilts out of a one.  What kind of fabric and batting were you using?  I'll have to admit that I don't do dense custom quilting with lots and lots of seams, and I don't use cotton batting much anymore.  Batiks dull needles more quickly as well.  But still....

What brand needles are you using?  It sounds like you might benefit from titanium coated ones.  I used to have trouble dulling needles, but discovered it was really a timing issue.  Flex of the needle allowed it to occasionally hit the hook, and that dulled them in a hurry.  Re-timed, and switched to Schmetz  needles which are stiffer than the Groz-Beckerts.  What size needle are you using?  Small ones flex more than larger ones, so they're more likely the hit the hook as well.  Schmetz advertises you can use one size smaller and maintain the stiffness of the larger MR needle.  Take a look at your timing, and hook/needle clearance.  Pay particular attention to your needle bar height.  Good luck.  Jim

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Hi, Jim.  My quilt top is very heavily pieced and scrappy, so lots and lots of seams and seam intersections to stitch through for the SID (see photo below).  Fabrics in the quilt top are mostly Free Spirit Fabrics printed cottons like Kaffe Fassett Collective and Anna Maria Horner, etc, with a few hand marbled fabrics from Marjorie Lee Bevis mixed in here and there -- those are similar to batiks.  My quilt top is also heavily starched throughout the piecing process, not sure if that makes a difference for dulling needles (but it definitely makes a difference in helping me piece a square, accurate quilt top with nice, sharp points).  Quilt batting is Quilter's Dream Select Cotton, and the backing is another print from Free Spirit Fabrics.  Nothing crazy there, either.  I'm using a 4.0 Groz-Beckert needle, regular kind -- my APQS dealer advised against the titanium needles on the grounds that IF they do break, they can cause more damage than the regular needles.  The only thing I can think that would have dulled my needle faster than normal is SID through all of those thick seam allowances.  Also, since this quilt is a skill-builder for me, I'm quilting it a lot more heavily than i would if it was a customer quilt.  In the photo below, only the SID has been done in the area you can see but after that I started adding ruler work and FM.  I know this would look great with a panto and it would be a lot faster and easier to do it that way, but I specifically wanted to practice and improve SID, ruler work, and free motion fills, so I'm in the process of "quilting it to death," as they say.  Using Bottom Line in the bobbin with So Fine in the needle, if that makes a difference.  And I know that the timing, hook/needle bar etc are good because we just went through the whole battery of Spa Maintenance with Tech Support before this quilt, when we changed my hook from the L to the M and retimed.  Everything that can possibly be checked, adjusted, worn out or replaced has been done to this machine and she is purring along like a happy kitten!  :-). Of course, it's possible that the needle was a dud right out of the package, too...


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What you quilted is probably why the needle went dull.  If you still have the worn out needle, check the tip for damage.  Run your fingernail up and down the point feeling for a burr.  If you feel one, the needle was damaged by hitting something.  If there is no burr, it's just dull.

I've heard the story about the chrome vs titanium needle and damage.  In my experience, and I've used both type MR needles, there's nothing to it.  They both bend and break the same way.  Use titanium if you want them to last longer, replace them more often if you don't.  I don't think you would have had a bad needle.  The Groz-Beckert are high quality needles, and I don't think their quality control would let bad needles leave the factory.  Jim

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