I believe that it is important for me to purchase SOMETHING whenever I go into a quilt shop in hopes that this on-going support will ensure that the shop is there when I need something they sell. Subsequently, I have a pretty good selection of different brands of needles for both quilting and applique. When I ordered my new set of silk thread, I also decided to try a new brand of needles by Jean Lyle. When they arrived Saturday, I decided to do a controlled test to see which needles I REALLY like best.
The quilting contenders were:
Regal Ergonomically Superior Needles, size 9, Japan
Colonial Quilting Betweens, size 10, England
Jean S. Lyle, Quilting, size 10
Colonial Quilting/Betweens, size 11
Richard Hemming & Son, Large Eye Betweens, size 11, England
Jean S. Lyle, Quilting, size 11
John James, Gold n Glide Quilting, Size 12
The conditions: The Hawaiian applique quilt, going through 2 layers of batik, 1 layer of Kona cotton, and 100% cotton batting. Hooped, so fairly taught. Guterman 100% cotton hand quilting thread...the kind with the finish on it that makes it stiff and somewhat tangle resistant. I stitched approximately 2" then on the same thread, switched needles.
The results: I will be giving away the Regal size 9s. The sharp tip does a good job grabbing the fabric, but the bigger needle means having to push harder to get the needle through. I also, somehow managed to snap the tip off the needle in the 2" of stitching that I did. Both of the 10's were OK, but needed more pressure than the 11's. That's a problem if I'm doing more than 30 minutes of stitching in a sitting since it makes my hands tired. Maybe I'll save those for stitching on looser woven cottons and single layers. I loved all the 11's and didn't notice much difference between the brands when it came to performance. The eyes in the Colonial might be slightly smaller...but I'd need a magnifying glass to know for sure. The Lyle needles come in a wooden needle case which looks cool, and makes it easier to get them out than the other display cases. The 12s were just way too small. I could barely get it threaded. It glided nicely through the fabric, but where the thread went through they eye, it became frayed within a couple inches of stitching. It might work with a thinner thread, or one that isn't glazed.
The winner: Any size 11 quilting needle, with Lyle winning extra points for packaging.
I took pics of the needles, but my computer isn't reading the camera card...will try later from a different computer.