Using the right needle in your sewing machine really makes a difference. Problems with skipped stitches, fraying or breaking thread, and uneven tension often vanish with a new needle. 8 to 10 hours of sewing time is a reasonable life-expectancy for a needle.

Not only is the size and condition of the needle important, but we sew with a wide variety of fabrics, threads and techniques, and also have a choice of needles designed for specialty fabrics and techniques. Often we use a needle for a short time, and then switch to a different project; it's not a good idea to put a used needle back in the case, since it is no longer new, but there's still use in it. How do we remember which needle is in the machine, and which of those used needles in the pincushion is the Stretch needle?

This project is useful to keep track of the needles we're using, and a welcome gift for a fellow sewer.
The outside can be pieced, embroidered, quilted or otherwise embellished to suit your fancy, or it can be just a fun or pretty fabric. Put a pin in the grid unit representing the needle currently in your machine (a different colour pin for each machine you use).

Directions for the Needle Quilt

Plan the size of the quilt to suit your sewing habits. A sewing machine needle is 1 1/2" long, and you may want to allow for more than one needle in a space. Plan the grid to accommodate size and type of needles you use most frequently. Here, the horizontal grid (at 1 1/2" intervals), identifies Universal, Stretch, N (for Top Stitch), Metallica, Microtex, and Quilting needles, and the vertical grid (at 1" intervals) includes five sizes from 60 to 100; the overall size is 6 1/2" by 15". A needle quilt of this size folds in half and fits neatly in the needle drawer by my machines. If yours will hang on the wall, your scope increases!

Use cotton fabric for the covers, and cotton batting or flannel for the filler; polyester is hard on needles.
1. Prepare the outside cover. Quilt the cover to a layer of cotton batting for stability.
2. Mark the grid on the inside cover, and identify the needle names and sizes. Use the alphabet stitches in your machine, or free-motion embroidery, or a permanent-ink pen.
3. Quilt the inside cover to a layer of batting or flannel along the grid lines.
4. Join the pieces, either by sewing them right sides together, leaving an opening for turning, or serge around the edges, or with a binding.

(c)Perestroika Designs Ltd.

From TanQuility, here's a free pattern for a pair of paper-pieced cats to guard your needle quilt.