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One of the most frustrating things in sewing is having your needles break. You try to do everything right but yet your needle keeps breaking. I’ve been there many times.

Why do sewing machine needles break? Sewing machine needles can break if 1. the needle is the wrong size or damaged, 2.  the machine needs to be rethreaded 3. the bobbin isn’t inserted correctly 4. the machine needs a good cleaning 5. the timing of your sewing machine needs to be adjusted.

I’ve just listed the top 5 reasons. But there are other things you can consider if these don’t solve your problem.

Let’s look a little deeper into why your sewing machine needle is breaking. It may be a combination of things or just a small adjustment that you can quickly make.

Checklist

1.The #1 reason why a needle will break is because the size of the needle is wrong for the weight of your material.

I know for myself that sometimes I try to sew every project with the same sized needle. Well, I’ve found out that this doesn’t always work. 

Needles are sized from 8 – 20 in the USA. The larger the size the stronger the needle is. So if you are using a small sized needle, it will probably break if you are sewing with heavy fabric like denim.

Here is a handy chart to help you judge the needle size that might work best.

Needle SizeFabric WeightExamples
8 – 10Very LightSheers, chiffon, nylon, fine silk, light knits
11 – 12Lightpoplin, light wool, crepe, silk, spandex,
lycra, polyesters, cotton
14Mediumlinen, cotton, velvet, fleece, flannel, 
quilting fabric, knits, broadcloth, jersey
16HeavyDenim, corduroy, suiting, leather
18Very HeavyHeavy denim, upholstery fabric, leather
20Extremely
Heavy
Heavy upholstery

2. If you are using the correct needle, your problem could be that the needle was getting old. The sewing life of a needle is 6 – 8 hours.

 3. The needle could have been dull or bent. This would have put too much pressure on the needle and caused it to break.

One of the most common ways for a needle to bend is when it hits a pin as you sew a seam. So remember to remove the pins before you get to them.

4. Double-check the position of the needle. Is it to the right or left of the hole in the throat plate. Did you just finish using a zigzag stitch? Make sure that the needle is in the center position for a straight stitch.

5. Check that the needle is inserted all the way. Also, make sure that the screw on the needle clamp is secure.

Check Your Threading and Bobbin

6. After you are sure that the needle is not the problem, check the threading. Even if the thread looks like it is threaded correctly, re-thread it anyway. There may be something not quite right.

Sometimes the thread doesn’t quite go through the tension right. The thread between the tension and the needle should feel loose. If the thread feels tight, the tension will not be right. If the tension is too tight, your stitching won’t be right and it may also snap your needle.

When you re-thread the machine, make sure that the needle is at its highest point. This will help to reset the tension and will keep the needle threaded when you start sewing your seam.

7. Check how the bobbin has been inserted.

If you have a side or front loading bobbin, it’s a good idea to check your manual to make sure everything is right. These are the hardest bobbins to install. Sometimes the bobbin casing can be just a tiny bit out of the groove and cause all kinds of trouble.

***Note – A top loading bobbin is by far the easiest to use. I love them!

If the bobbin casing is not exactly in the right spot, it can cause the needle to hit it. And yes you guessed it. The needle will break.

Keep Your Machine Clean

8. Does your machine need a good cleaning? Do you see any lint or threads or dirt in the area of the bobbin? If so, your machine needs a good cleaning. The lint or dirt can cause some friction in your sewing machine. Which in turn can cause your needle to break.

Try to remember to clean your machine regularly. You might even want to keep track of when you do these cleanings on a note card that you can keep with your sewing supplies.

Here’s a suggested sewing machine cleaning schedule.

Frequency of SewingSuggested Cleaning
Every dayWeekly
Every weekOnce a  month
Couple times per monthEvery 3 months

Last Few Things to Check

9. Are you tugging on the material instead of just guiding it? Tugging on the material especially when the needle is going down into the material will cause the needle to break.

10. Is the throat plate aligned correctly so that the needle can go through the hole without rubbing on the edge?

11. Are you using good quality thread? Is it old? Check to see that your thread is smooth without any fuzz or thick spots. Fuzz and thick spots may cause the thread to get caught in the eye of the needle.

12. Are you sewing too fast?

13. Are you sewing through too many layers?

14. Is the thread getting caught on the spool? Make sure the spool cap is larger than the diameter of the spool or make sure the notched end of the spool is inserted on the spindle first. That way the thread won’t be getting caught on the notch.

There’s still hope

15. If you still haven’t found why your needles are breaking, your sewing machine may need the timing repaired. This is something that you won’t be able to do at home. You will need to bring your machine to a repair shop. It shouldn’t cost too much. But it is always best to get an estimate first.

Related Questions

What Are the Different Types of Sewing Machine Needles?

There are four main types of sewing needles.

  • Universal – an all-purpose needle suitable for all woven fabrics and some thicker knits
  • Ballpoint – has a rounder point that works well for knits. If the needle is skipping stitches while sewing knits, use the stretch needle instead.
  • Stretch – suited for knits and stretchy materials. So if you are sewing a swimsuit or stretch pants, this is the needle to use.
  • Sharp – sharper and more slender than the universal. Great for the more delicate fabrics.

There are several types of specialty needles, also. Their use is pretty much self-explanatory. These types include the denim, leather, embroidery, wing (this one is used to make hems and borders), quilting, serger, metallic (this needle has a larger eye so that thicker and decorative thread can be used),  and topstitching.

How Do I Choose a Needle for My Sewing Machine?

You choose the type of needle by considering the type of fabric and/or the type of sewing you will be doing.

Next, choose the size of the needle by noticing the weight of the material. You can use the chart listed above to help you decide.

What Do the Colors Mean on Sewing Machine Needles?

 Most of the sewing machine needles come with colored bands on the shaft. The upper band tells us the type of needle it is. The lower band lets us know its size.

What a wonderful invention! Now it’s so much easier to figure out which needle is which. Just sort by color and you are all set. When I first started sewing, this wasn’t the case. If I forgot to put a needle back in its case, I just had to guess.

Check the needle case to find out what each color means. If your case is lost, it’s easy enough to check each manufacturer’s website for a color chart.

Are Sewing Machine Needles Interchangeable?

Yes, most sewing machines use a 15 x 1 needle. So if you buy a package of needles that are labeled as 15 x 1 needles, they should fit your machine no matter what brand it is. You don’t need to buy needles made by the manufacturer of your machine. For example, I have an older Singer sewing machine and I find that I can use other brands of needles without any problem.

The exception to this would be a vintage, treadle machine. I believe this machine needs a needle with a round shaft.