Before you begin quilting, you have to know if your needle and thread like each other. Do they have a good relationship? Can they play nicely? Will they get along all the way through your quilt? Or do they play nicely for a few inches, and then tear each other apart?
It is very important to follow the thread manufacturer’s recommendations (if they are offered) regarding needle size for the different threads you use. For ‘quilting’ threads, which are thicker than most piecing thread, and metallics with a polyester core, a topstitch needle (sizes 18-21) will often be your best bet. A size 18 will accomodate most, but not all, threads on the market.
If your needle has too small an eye, your top thread will shred. If you are having this problem on either a domestic or longarm machine, get a larger needle.
As a bonus, the bigger your needle the less ‘deflection’ you will have. Deflection is the tendency of the needle to flex while moving, especially when you are changing direction as you stitch. It can mess with your stitch quality, too.
Some people (I am talking about you, my fellow Type As) notice that larger needles leave larger holes, and finer threads don’t fill those holes as nicely. I suspect those people don’t wash their fabrics before quilting. The sizing in fabrics make them papery and the holes won’t ‘heal’ as readily.
One reason I like Superior Threads is that they have a recommended needle size for EVERY thread they sell printed right on the thread cone for both home and longarm machines. How convenient is that?
What size needle do you use?