One of the suggestions from last week when I was feeling dumb really struck a cord and I've been thinking about it a lot.
A few commenters mentioned the need for more information on needles and thread. Specifically on how to choose which needles to use with which threads and for which situations.
Now, I must say from the first that I'm probably the worst person in the world to be writing about this because my opinion on needles and thread would probably make most other quilters cringe.
Or cover their ears.
Or run away screaming.
Here's the truth: I haven't used anything other than Universal 80/12 needles since 2005.
I don't use different needles for piecing. I don't use different needles for quilting. Yes, it's shameful to admit - but I actually use the same needles for almost everything.
Of course, now that I've admitted that, I've probably just flushed my credibility down the drain.
Professional "experts" are supposed to have hoity toity expensive advice, like to only use gold embossed, impossible-to-find needles that cost more than my son's new shoes.
Frankly, I don't have the money and I don't have the time to mess with funky needles. I just want to sew and quilt and I don't want to think about what needle is in the machine, the exact age and stitch history of said needle, and if it could be considered old enough to be thrown away or not.
So I piece, applique, and free motion quilt all with a Schmetz 80/12 Universal Needle.
Here's the important bit: I change needles about 2-4 times a month, depending on how much I'm using the machine.
I personally believe that changing needles regularly is far more important than the type of needle you use.
Needles can become bent or burred, and are often the culprit behind breaking threads and stitch issues. Changing needles more regularly can dramatically improve your stitch quality and your frustration level with your machine.
I should know this from experience - the machine I had growing up had a total of 1 needle change every 5 years. To say it straight - that machine stitched like hell - and that is not an exaggeration!
Now as for threads and needles, the reason why I love the Universal 80/12 is because they work great with both cotton and polyester threads.
For piecing I typically use Gutterman or Mettler cotton thread. For applique I'm now mostly using Isacord, and for free motion quilting, I use Isacord exclusively.
I like being able to use one type of needle, especially on the Horizon, because I can quickly change threads and go from piecing to quilting to applique without having to change needles.
Now there are a few situations I've found that do warrant a potential needle change, but most involve playing with weird threads and really weird situations.
The most common is metallic threads. Whether it's for applique or free motion quilting, unless you're couching the metallic thread on top (meaning it's not going through the needle), you really should use a Metallic Needle.
I've never experienced anything that makes me scream at my machine more often and with more exuberance than metallic thread. While I love them, I truly do, I have a strong suspicion that metallic threads really don't like me very much.
And that is probably due to my use-only-one-type-of-needle thing. Once I've broken thread about 10 times and am seething with anger, I finally go dig up my pack of metallic needles and - Viola! - stitching magic is back in action.
Keep in mind that my opinions on needles is based on my personal experience and is probably due to my economical mindset more than anything else.
My honest opinion is that no one, not me, not your mom, or your next quilt teacher can tell you what needles will work the best for your machine in all situations.
The best thing you can do is try a few different types of needles and experiment, have fun, and try to find needles you can use daily, or for specific tasks like piecing or quilting.
Once you figure out that type of needle, keep the other types on hand just in case you pick up a finicky type of thread, or have an odd situation that your daily use needles doesn't work for.
Let's go quilt!