How Often Should You Change Sewing Machine Needle

Changing the needle with some frequency is necessary, and today I will tell you 3 times when it is mandatory.

While a sewing machine needle may last for hours, days or even weeks of continuous use, there will always come a time when your needle is dull, damaged or needs replacement. The frequency at which you need to change your needle will depend on how often you use it, what type of fabric you sew with and how you care for your machine.

Sewing machines, like any mechanical device, need to be serviced periodically. Changing the needle is one of the most important regular maintenance tasks. The general rule of thumb is that you should change your needle after every 2 hours of sewing time, but this varies depending on what kind of sewing project you’re working on.

Changing needles has many benefits, not the least of which is preventing damage to your machine. A dull or bent needle can catch in the fabric and cause a lot of wear and tear to your machine’s internal parts. This is especially true when sewing with thick fabrics like denim or leather that require a lot of force to push through. A new needle will make these fabrics more comfortable to sew with and help preserve the life of your machine.

Here are some scenarios where you should replace your needle as soon as possible:

When the Needle Breaks the Fabric

This is a classic, and it usually happens when we sew jersey knit fabric with a universal needle.

The situation is as follows: you only have two additional (identical) needles that came with the machine and have always used a size 90 universal needle, which is the one that came with the machine.

The first thing that usually happens is that the needle pushes the knit fabric (which is softer than poplin or canvas) into the machine through the hole in the needle plate.

As a result, the feed is very challenging, the stitches are uneven, and the fabric beneath the stitch is stretched too far. And occasionally even broken, as if a hamster had bit it.

The solution is to switch to an appropriate stockinette stitch needle, size 80 or 90 depending on the weight of the fabric.

When the Needle Skips Stitches

Because the bobbin thread did not embrace the bobbin thread to produce the stitch, the needle skips stitches when it cannot pass through the fabric properly.

If the needle does not go through the fabric correctly, it is usually, almost always, for one of these two reasons.

  • the needle is blunt
  • the needle is not suitable for the type of fabric

You will be able to tell if your situation is the first because the needle skips stitches on any kind of fabric. Simply switch to a similar fresh needle. And discard the garment with missing stitches.

If the second applies to your situation, you will be able to tell because the fabric is unquestionably elastic and you are using a particular needle (jersey or microtex), but the fabric is so elastic and compact that you require a different kind of needle..

When the Needle Makes “Races” in the Fabric

The first time you try sewing with a finer thread, you notice that your stitches don’t look like they should. They’re puckered and wavy, and the needle seems to be pushing the weft threads aside instead of piercing them.

You get frustrated, but you think it’s because you’re not used to sewing with a finer fabric.

You give it another go, only to find that things still aren’t right. It’s clear that something is wrong here.

And then you realize: what’s happening is not your fault at all—it’s the fault of the needle!

This is because different types of fabric sometimes require different types of thread and needles. We need to change our universal needle to a microtex needle.

Microtex needles are used more in everyday clothes than in fabrics that are thicker or more resistant. The microtex will fit us perfectly.

Bonus: When the Needle Touches the Needle Plate

Are you one of those people who still uses the needle without noticing it is bent?

First let’s understand what happens at the tip and until the body of the needle.

The tip is the end of the needle, with which we pierce the fabric and to which we attach thread. It has a very sharp point that helps us pierce without breaking or bending. We should always pay attention to this tiny part because if it is bent, we can not use it.

It is also important to see if there are any dents in the body of the needle, which will also give us problems when sewing, since this will affect both work and thread.

If we notice that either part has been damaged or bent, it should be discarded immediately.

Remember that even though you do not notice this damage in your machine, it affects how well your machine works and how beautiful your finished product will be.

Sewing Machine Needles: Problems and Solutions

All of the factors that must be in harmony to achieve an optimal seam are dependent on the quality of the needle. A bent or worn needle can snag and break the fabric, affect stitch tension, break threads and cause uneven stitches. It can also dent or damage the hook (crab) or a spool. A bent needle will leave behind grooves in the fabric and can even create holes due to friction.

A worn needle will have a flattened point, which will tear and split the fabric, leaving behind long fibers that look fuzzy and make your final product feel stiff.

To prevent these problems, it’s important to use an appropriate needle for your project. For example, hand-embroidery needles are larger than machine needles because they have more eye area to accommodate thicker embroidery threads. If you try to sew with a hand-embroidery needle in your machine, you’ll experience skipped stitches or breakage.

In addition to taking care of your basic sewing needs (fabric, thread, and presser foot), you should also make sure that you select a good sewing machine needle for your project – one that fits your sewing machine’s size and type. The best way to do this is by checking the manufacturer’s manual

The needle breaks, while we are sewing for any of these reasons, could be the cause:

  • Using a poor quality needle: Use good quality brand name needles.
  • Do not pull the fabric while sewing: This puts pressure on the needle and deflects it from its place; therefore, care must be taken to ensure that the fabric is not pulled.
  • The needle does not go in correctly: Check your manual and make sure it is inserted correctly into the machine.
  • The needle is too thin for fabric: Use heavy gauge needles to sew heavier fabrics like denim. The needles for heavy and very heavy fabrics like denim are slightly angled at the end, so instead of penetrating the fabric at a 90-degree angle, it does so at a shallow angle, going through the layers with slightly less tension.
  • The presser foot is loose:  It will cause the needle to hit the foot and bend, so there must be a screw that you can tighten the foot with.

How Often Should the Needle Be Changed?

If you sew frequently, it’s important to change your needle regularly. A needle that is dull or damaged can damage your machine and/or your projects.

-If you are experiencing skipped stitches, or hear a loud clicking sound as the needle penetrates the fabric, it is time to put in a new needle.

-About eight hours of continuous use should be the maximum, but if you are making a large project like drapes or a comforter, the rule of thumb is to change the needle after four hours.

-If you notice that the needle has bent over like a horseshoe or if there are burrs on top of it, then it is time for a replacement.

-Sewing with a dull needle can cause damage to your machine and/or create holes in your fabric. If you have been sewing for some time and have never changed your needles, chances are that you’re working with some old ones!

How to Know If a Needle Is Bad?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether your needle is good or not. If you’ve made sure that the problem isn’t with your machine, and you’ve cleaned the needle several times and everything still looks like this, then it’s possible that the needle itself might be damaged.

How do you know if a needle is damaged? Well, if your machine’s manual says there should be a hole in your fabric after sewing, but there’s not one there, then that could be a sign of a bad needle. If you see fibers or fuzz sticking to your fabric after you finish sewing, that might also be a sign of a bad needle. When this happens, it usually means your needle is damaged and can’t pierce through the material properly, so it just pushes aside the material instead of cutting through it.

As far as I know—and I can’t promise this will work—the best way to check whether a needle is good or not is by covering it with pantyhose and dragging it along the pantyhose. The holes in the pantyhose will show you exactly where on the needle there are problems. In this case I can see here that my needle has completely lost its point!

How to Dispose of or Store a Worn or Broken Needle?

Tape the broken needle and its pieces to masking or framing tape and wrap several times. Worn pins and needles can be stuck in a cork or in the circular packing where the pins come from.  

Always check before you start sewing:

  • Is the needle inserted correctly?
  • Is the needle in contact with any part of the machine?
  • Is the needle bent?
  • Is the eye rough or blocked with melted fiber?
  • Is the point damaged?
  • When in doubt, change the needle!

Three Important Things to Know About Sewing Machine Needles

  • 1: Change needle regularly

The first step is to frequently replace your needle. The lifespan of a sewing machine needle is relatively brief, and you don’t have to wait until it breaks or bends before replacing it. You might be surprised to learn that they typically take 6 to 8 hours to sew. Then they become blunt (less sharp). They cannot be sharpened, unlike kitchen knives, therefore you must replace them. Continued sewing with a worn-out (or, worse, bent) needle can lead to a variety of issues, from simple stitch failure to machine damage.

  • 2: Use a quality brand

For anyone who sews, it’s important to use high quality sewing machine needles. It might be tempting to save a few euros on the price of a pack of needles, but in my opinion, the risk isn’t worth it. Low quality needles can damage the mechanism of your sewing machine, and there’s no knowing how much that could cost you in repairs down the line.

A low-quality needle will ruin the mechanism of your sewing machine.

I’ve experienced this myself, and I don’t want the same thing to happen to you.

High-quality needles keep your sewing machine running smoothly for years at a time.

  • 3: Adapt the needle to your project

Don’t be afraid, this is easier than it looks. There are two selection criteria: needle size and needle tip shape.

Regarding the size: a high number for thick fabric (100/16), a low number for thin fabric (70/10). To sew a 100% cotton fabric ideal for patchwork, you need a medium needle (80/12). There are packs with a mix of sizes or packs with a single size. I mainly sew 100% cotton fabric, so I mostly buy 80/12 packs.

PS: Both numbers 80/12 have the same meaning. One indicates the European size, the other the American size (as on clothes).

The other important criterion is the shape of the needle tip. It is difficult to see this with the naked eye and you should refer to the name on the package. To sew a 100% cotton fabric for a patchwork, you must use an all-purpose needle called “universal” (or “universal” in English). This is the most common type of needle.

If you want to sew very specific fabrics (jeans, leather, stretch), then you can adapt your needle. I may do a separate article for these specific needles.

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