Thursday, February 2, 2012

Continuing Education from Superior Threads

I get no kick-back from Superior Threads:  I'm just a happy customer.  There are two brands of thread I use exclusively in my studio:  Superior and Aurifil.  Both of these companies are very responsive to their market.  I appreciate that.
The monthly newsletter that comes to my email box from Superior is always informative.  It is worth reading!
With permission, I am sharing some info about needles that is very important.  We often blame our thread or our sewing machine tension when we have repeated thread breakage.  We sometimes neglect the possibility of a faulty needle.  Take a look:

Needles Have you ever wondered what a needle burr is? The eye of a needle is punched out in the manufacturing process.  Sometimes the punch process is not clean and a microscopic fragment of metal is left behind (see photo at left of a new Universal #80/12 needle -- not ours!).  As the thread goes through the needle, the burr snags it and causes problems.  If it is a small burr and you are using a cotton thread, the burr will snag some cotton and pull out a piece of lint while the thread keeps going.  If you are using a smooth polyester thread, the burr will snag the thread and result in breakage.  This explains why sometimes a cotton thread might run well, but a stronger poly thread breaks.  A large burr will cause problems for all threads.  Burrs usually do not develop during use but exist in an imperfect needle. A burr in a smaller-eye needle (most needle styles) will cause more problems than a burr in a larger eye needle (Topstitch style).

During a visit with the largest industrial needle manufacturer in the world, I was surprised to see their catalog.  It was as big as a phone book.  There were hundreds of different needle styles, each offering a variety of sizes.  I estimated a total of 4,000 choices.  For the past 12 years, we have learned much from professional quilters, embroiderers, general sewists (I like this new word better than sewers), and educators. As far as needles are concerned, many tell us the needle they use in home machines is the Topstitch style needle -- regardless if they are piecing, quilting, constructing, or embroidering. (The only exception to this rule is when sewing on knit fabrics, and then a ballpoint needle is used.) FYI, the least favorite needle of professionals is the Universal needle.

There are three main advantages of a Topstitch needle.
1. The point is sharp, but not razor sharp.  It has a very slightly rounded sharp point with allows the needle point to penetrate without cutting the fibers.  Many needles have a similar point.
2. Wider and deeper groove.  All needles have a groove which runs up the shaft of the needle.  The thread lies in the groove rather than along the outside of the needle.  The groove on Topstitch needles is wider and deeper than most other needle styles. This is beneficial especially for medium, heavy, decorative, and sensitive threads.
3. The favorite feature of the Topstitch needle is the extra large eye (see photo below).  It is twice as large as most other needle styles.  The large eye gives much more room for thread as it moves through the needle and greatly reduces stress on thread. (Click on the images to see close up details.)
In our sewing room, we have only four needles:
 1. Topstitch #70/10 for very fine threads such as MonoPoly, #100 Kimono Silk, and Bottom Line.
2. Topstitch #80/12 for fine threads (50 wt.) such as MasterPiece cotton and So Fine #50 polyester.
3. Topstitch #90/14 for medium threads (40 wt.) such as King Tut, Rainbows, Art Studio Colors, Highlights, Metallic, and Glitter. 
4. Topstitch #100/16 for heavier threads (30 wt. and heavier) such as So Fine #30, Perfect Quilter, and Poly Quilter.

But how about metallic needles?  Here is the truth.  The best selling brand of home machine needles in the world packages the Topstitch needle in a green Topstitch needle pack and also packages the same Topstitch needle in a gold pack and labels it as Metallic needles.  They are the identical needle in two different packs.  No wonder those metallic needles work so well! They are Topstitch needles.

How about titanium-coated needles?
  These needles are very similar to regular chrome needles but have a micro-thin coating of titanium nitride (a ceramic-like substance) applied.  This micro-thin coating does not affect the overall strength of the needle, but it does make the needle last longer (5 to 8 times longer than a regular needle) and it costs only 20 cents more.  Most factories around the world use titanium-coated needles due to their durability.  If you have heard the rumor that titanium-coated needles can damage your machine, don't believe it.  They do not create any greater risk than does a regular needle.  Professionals and factories would not use them if there were a greater risk of damage.  Use them and enjoy them.  They really do last a long time. For scientific results of laboratory testing, please view the Organ Needle Company brochure.
Our Topstitch needles, which fit all home machines are titanium-coated.
View Bob's video presentation on needles 


  1. I use their threads too an d I love their titanium needles too.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to share! That is a fantastic summary.

  3. Leslie, Thank you for sharing our education!

  4. Thank YOU for providing us with quality products and educating us about them. It makes so much difference to use quality needles and thread, especially when you are free-motion quilting at 80 mph.

  5. Thank you for sharing this information. I use the titanium coated needles and I love them! I have tried some of the Superior Threads and I love them too. I have learned the hard way how important it is to use good quality needles and threads: they are worth every penny we pay!

  6. Anne-Marie: You are SO right! High quality thread and needles makes all the difference. Both these companies make the best thread I have ever used, and darlin I have used it all.

  7. You actually make it seem so easy together with your presentation however I to find this topic to be actually something that I believe I would by no means understand. It sort of feels too complex and very extensive for me. I'm looking forward for your subsequent post, I will attempt to get the hang of it!
    Genuine Relay


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